Posts Tagged ‘Geiger Counter’

One Little Indian – 1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many, Daisy Chainsaw’s incursion into the singles chart with ‘Love Your Money’ in 1992, was my introduction to KatieJane Garside. I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately sold, and it wasn’t until I caught Queenadreena supporting The Rollins Band in the early noughties that I came to appreciate her as a performer, at once captivating and terrifying. Queenadreena, and, subsequently, Ruby Throat charted an artistic and musical progression, and Liar, Flower is a continuation, a new iteration of Ruby Throat, consisting of Garside and multi-instrumentalist Chris Whittingham.

The band moniker intimates the kind of juxtapositionality of Daisy Chainsaw: pretty, delicate, and brutal, and it proves to be most fitting. Geiger Counter is mostly delicate, if not necessarily pretty, and definitely presents those elements of juxtaposition and opposition with serenity colliding with screaming abrasion in a varied set of songs.

‘9N-AFE’ is sparse, eerie, a mesmeric beatless trip-hop backing accompanies a lost, haunting vocal, and it calls to mind early Cranes. It’s followed by the slow-skipping chamber-folk of ‘baby teeth’ and the stark country hues of ‘blood berries’, which finds Garside weaving and soaring stratospheric notes and evoking Kate Bush.

Geiger Counter may be geared toward the quieter, more introspective end of the sonic spectrum, but it’s stylistically varied. The instrumentation is subtle, delicate, and remains very much in the position of accompaniment, placing Garside’s voice to the fore.

There are exceptions: ‘doors locked, oven’s off’ is a lilting acoustic instrumental just a couple of minutes in duration, while the stripped-back vaudeville ‘broken light’ suddenly breaks into jazz-tinged piano discord, and ‘even though the darkest clouds’ goes full electric, sucking hints of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr into its maelstrom of guitars. Garside is on fire, sounding dangerous and demented. The lyrics are often difficult to decipher, but ‘don’t worry darling, I’ve got to wash my hands’ breaks through the chaos and screams OCD. Or maybe that’s just me. They rock it up again on ‘little brown shoes’ too, a scuzzy blues stomper with a solid groove where KatieJane wails like a banshee witch and growls like all the menace. The swampy ‘Mud Stars’ plunges into a miasma of soulful blues that becomes increasingly uncomfortable as it slides into a haze of noise.

The simple acoustic arrangements are understated, Garside’s vocals haunting in a way that slides beneath the skin: the brooding post-rock atmospherics of ‘Hole in my Hand’ are moving, but in an almost imperceptible way. It feels like the reflective calm after protracted spell of emotional turbulence.

There’s a clear and strong arc that carries Geiger Counter, an album which builds in volume and intensity as it progresses, culminating in the all-out abrasion of the no-wave noise rock riot that is ‘My Brain is Lit Like an Airport’. As a journey, it becomes increasingly challenging as it goes on, and as an album it’s stunning.

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