Posts Tagged ‘Oddball’

Christopher Nosnibor

I was forewarned. The note which accompanied the debut releases – yes, plural – three separate CDs released simultaneously – but experimental collective kröter – strongly recommended that listening was not (yes, underlined) to be attempted with a clear head. The note’s sender, one Mr Vast, began with an apology. ‘I’m really sorry to do this to you…’ he wrote. I don’t believe him. He knows I like weird, fucked-up shit. Although with this sprawling three-album effort, I can’t help but wonder If he’s testing me. If I struggle, how will anyone else handle this work of ambition beyond sanity?

Things get off to a good start, with a picked guitar, notes bent, weaving a soft melancholy. I suddenly jolt and look around: it sounds like my cats in pain in the next room. No, wait, it’s just the CD. That’s some crazy woodtrumpet noise. ‘Is that the cat?’ my wife calls from the next room. ‘No, it’s just the CD,’ I reply. ‘Thank goodness, it sounded like the cat was really ill.’ Seconds later, my daughter’s at my elbow asking if it’s the cat she can hear in my office. I explain it’s the CD, and she declares that she loves it. We’re less than two minutes in, not even one full track of twenty-seven played, and already these Kröter buggers are causing mayhem and breaking my flow.

The sparse, bass-led spoken-word sleaze of ‘Sebastian’ seems positively commercial by comparison, despite being, in real terms, claustrophobic and vaguely disturbing, the monotone narrative bordering on the psychotic. And the rest of the album is just as weird. All the shades of weird, from dislocated spoken word colliding with off-kilter electro-funk to minimal electro-pop that sounds like it’s melting as beats misfire in all directions and loops stutter and fracture like some kind of sonic seizure, with the lyrics veering from the surreal to the ultra-mundane by the verse.

Wibbly-wobbly weirdness abounds, shuddering, juddering analogue synthiness and all sorts of inexplicable dominate pieces that range from interludes of less than a minute in duration to expansive workouts. On *b, ‘Dogsick’ is a seven-minute spoken-word piece that delivers graphic details about the varying shades of the globules of canine vomit, mutating along the way to find Mr Vast come on like Peter Murphy against a backdrop of whacked-out trumpet action.

There’s wonky, fucked-up funk disco on the menu, too, alongside the 10-minute ultra-sparse blues exploration of ‘Tricky Task’ that goes kinda Pavement, kinda huh? as it progresses. It’s impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, the killer from the filler: this is simply an exercise on experimentalism, and you’ll like it or lump it and maybe like some or lump the rest, or, meh, who cares?

By disc three, my brain’s beyond bent: my daughter’s hassling for more songs that sound like that cat and I’m being battered with tunes from her new Pomsie, which are like cat disco and explaining that there probably isn’t another song on the planet like it isn’t being well-received, which is troublesome, especially as kröter do have some net tunes half-buried in the big mess of weird shit. Then again, ‘Telephone Rag’ starts out quite nicely, but rapidly descends into screaming madness, and ‘Opera Lift’ is all over, a nasally-delivered narrative carried by a slow-building post-rock / krautrock crossover with swelling choral backing vocals. I mean, how do you rationally process this? There is no rationality to the yelping dog loop freakiness of ‘Asumasite Huip’, or the Doors-meets-The-Fall plod of ‘Flageolet Beans’, or, indeed, any of this. And then tings go kinda strangely Bowie on the last track, ‘Awful Light’, which is arguably the best track on the entire set.

Kröter are the epitome, the encapsulation, the embodiment, the definition of niche. They’re the archetype of a band making music for their own entertainment. These three discs – which purport to contain ‘excepts’ from their sessions in Berlin in 2017 – may represent the best of their improvisations, or only a flavour, but nevertheless leave the question ‘just how much material did they get down?’ The questions unasked, perhaps ‘how much more are the likely to release?’ and ‘how much more do we need?’ The truth is, the world is always a better place for artists unconstrained by convention: it doesn’t matter whether or not you, or I, or anyone, like them – it’s about choice. It’s about expression. And commercial success is no measure of artistic merit. And if the artistic merit of the individual pieces on this insanely ambitious, sprawling effort varies immensely, it doesn’t actually matter, because the merit is in the scope, the ambition, and the fact it exists. They may have utterly screwed my brain, but the world is better for the fucked-up weirdness of kröter.

AA

AA

Advertisements

Front & Follow – 26th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

In the last property I rented, I suffered an infestation of moths. It may sound amusing, but it wasn’t. the larvae of said moths devoured chunks of carpet under the bed and in various other places in the bedroom and other spots on the first floor. So, moths, it transpires, consume wool-based material and require Rentokil to halt them. Miraculously, I did get my full deposit back, but was reminded that one sold never trust a creature made of dust. Yes, I fear moths. A body that powders on contact with a heavy blow presents a curious intangibility, a lack of substance, a sense of not really existing in the corporeal world.

This presumably isn’t the kind of scene the title of Sone Institute’s latest offering is attempting to convey, and the connotations of rust are more of slow decay and dilapidation, in keeping with the dark, damp crevices moths are more conventionally associated with inhabiting.

Sone Institute describes Where Moth and Rust Consume, his first new material in six years, as his ‘pop album’, but don’t expect to hear it on R1 any time soon, or ever. 6Music’s Gideon Coe has championed previous work, describing it as ‘delightfully strange,’ which seems a fair summation. Sone Institute inhabits the world of the unheimlich, the uncanny, and this is no more true than of the landscape conjured by these compositions.

Sparse, stuttering beats and even sparser synths provide the backdrop to robotic, monotone vocals on the first track, ‘Only I Exist’. ‘Your wretched anus / discoloured teeth / Tree-trunk legs / A dog on a leash…’ The obtuse, fragmented lyrics follow the trajectory that charts a line from Dada and Surrealism to Burroughs’ cut-up technique. The images layer up, juxtaposed and disconnected, and the album gradually unfurls, pushing a clinical 80s Eurodisco sound that’s centred around crisp, mechanoid beats. It’s the beats that are perhaps the most overtly ‘pop’ aspect of the album, bringing a consistency of structure and solidity to the compositions rarely found in Sone Institute’s work.

‘The Devil Works in ASDA’ judders and thumps along, building a conspicuously linear groove while exploring the dynamics of dance music, and if ‘What’s Bred in the Bone’ pulls back the intensity and volume a couple of notches, the spacious bump and bleep, built around a framework of drum machine evokes the spirit of retro-futurism. Analogue synths modulate rhythmic pulses, but stark angularity and minimal production values give the atmosphere a cold, detached edge.

‘Winter is Dead’ marks something of a departure, venturing into more ambient and also rather weirder territory with its woozy vocals and warping sonic backdrop. And there are times when it all goes Kraftwerk / Tangerine Dream, and if truth be told, that’s pretty cool. There’s creeping tension in the undulating drones and whispered vocal slivers of ‘Oblique Messages’, and the dark heart of Where Moth and Rust Consume beats on through to the final fragments of the crackle-scratched sketch of a closer that is ‘God Bless You’.

We need more of this: and with this release, we get more, lots more. Front & Follow don’t only deliver leftfield albums of quality, but are now, it seems, on a mission to go above and beyond in providing value for money with a bonus album: this release also marks the first volume of a new series on Front & Follow – Ex Post Facto – which, the label explains, ‘seeks to celebrate experimental electronic music in all its forms, showcasing new work and old, exploring the relationship between the current and the past, how they influence and shape each other and our experiences of them.’ And so, a collection of tracks from the Sone Institute archive, including remixes and previously unreleased music offers eighteen tracks lifted from the far reaches of Sone Institute’s career. Not only is it extremely interesting in its own right, but it resents a wide-ranging representation of the sample-riven, string-soaked and analogue-based wibble-tastic work of Sone Institute through the years. It’s not all comfortable, easy -listening, exploring equally areas of introspective elegy, discord, and smooth, rippling mellowness: the chanking ‘4 (Version 3)’ is a discordant guitar blitz over a creepy Theremin / organ shiver, while the stammering robotix vocal loop on ‘Dark Forest – Silver Sea’ hardy says ‘easy to get on with’: and the context is all.

Still reeling from Where Moth and Rust Consume, Past and Spared is the very definition of headfuck not because it’s especially intense, but simply because it is. And that’s cool. Just be prepared.

AA

Sone Institute – Where Moth and Rust Consume

Bearsuit Records – 20th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The word ‘poets’ would seem to imply plural, but according to the accompanying text, The Moth Poets is the work of Edinburgh based musician, Billy Gilbert, who’s played in a few local indie bands and released a split LP with Japanese artist / musician Swamp Sounds, whose presence has graced this site on a previous Bearsuit release, as well as featuring in another Bearsuit-released act, Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai (AWSTS). Yes, once again, Bearsuit is the conduit for all of this uber-fringe creative activity from around the world, but mostly bringing Scotland and Japan together.

Doll is a magnificently idiosyncratic work which assimilates a broad range of styles and influences, and as a consequence, belongs nowhere specific or readily positionable. The eight compositions, in their titles and in their sound, convey a certain sci-fi undercurrent, infused with a twist of surrealism and plain abstraction.

‘A Hole in the Mothship’ starts the album with some spaced-out, opiate prog, a mellow, reverby instrumental which plods ponderously before trickling into the title track, where the drum machine kicks into overdrive and the soporific guitar mutates into a wildly meandering fizz of fuzz that sounds like J Mascis on a cocktail of acid and amphetamine. And this provides the backdrop for a vocal that sits somewhere between shoegaze and slacker, pitched low in the mix so as to render the lyrics indistinct. It doesn’t detract, and if anything, adds to the blurred, lo-fi layering that imbues the song with a hazy, dreamy quality.

As the title suggests, ‘Mothship Song’ is something of a companion to the opener, laying some echo-heavy guitar picking over a muffled heartbeat drum track and low, buzzing synth bass before going a different kind of strange, sort of like the into to ‘Frenz’ by The Fall, but with an oriental vibe and some synth stylings stolen from Stereolab.

‘Orange Peel Teeth’ goes grainy ambient with slanted analogue synth scrapes slipping through the rumbling atmospherics at skewed angles, and it’s this juxtaposition of tones and textures which provides Dolls with a much-needed sense of cohesion. Whether it’s prog, pop, or ambient – all performed with an experimental edge and an overt rejection of convention – Gilbert renders the pieces with an attention to less-obvious details that’s nothing if not distinctive.

All of the album’s disparate elements coalesce on the noodly, whacky weirdo wig-out of ‘Someone Put a Time Bomb in My Submarine’, the vintage drum machine sound – thudding bass, whip-crack treble top end snare – bounce it along nicely and keep things pinned to a groove that’s consistent and insistent. And because of this, however far-out The Moth Poets go, here’s always something to cling to. This is perhaps the key to keeping Doll on the right side of the line of (in)accessibility, and the reason it’s ultimately a success.

AA

The Moth Poets – Doll

Acte – Acte 002

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release provides previous little detail about the release, or the artist, beyond a brief summary of his broad interdisciplinary pursuits which include dance, theatre, live electronics improvisations and audiovisual performances and installations. It’s quite an expansion on his biography last time I encountered his work, back in 2011, when he simply described himself as a ‘sound artist’. That was when he released the ambient-orientated exploration usure.paysage.

Transfert/Futur is a long way from ambient. Heavy on the synths, it’s a beaty work that packs some considerable attack amidst the airy pulses and breezy blossoms of effervescence. It contains two tracks, the first of which, ‘transfert (299 792 458 m/s)’ is the audio element of a touring sound/light installation from 2017. On CD, it’s simply sound without the light, and clearly, the interactive and multisensory aspect of the project is nowhere near fully represented. Nevertheless, musically, it works. Over the course of some eighteen minutes, Bernier builds the atmosphere but above all, builds the beats. Scratchy, stuttering, synthetic, exploding in all directions, the rhythms pop and thrum, marching surges halting abruptly to change direction before powering forwards once more embarking on a propellant trajectory. The surround synths glide, pop and bubble, but mostly click and bleep and elongate, morphing and stretching longways, occasionally plunging into expansive, oceanic depths and venturing into eerie subaquatic territories. With so many false starts, false ends, twists, turns and unpredictable stammers, it’s anything but linear.

The second composition, ‘synthèse (299 792 458 m/s)’ has no such obvious context attached, but again is centred around warping synths and woozy bass tones wrapped around bold beats. Over the course of twelve minutes, it swerves from oblique bleeps and minimalist electronic squiggles and arabesques, via slow-building crescendos, to passages approximating straight-ahead dance music that you can actually get down to. As the track progresses, its form gradually dissolves. The soundscape is increasingly rent with bleeps and whispers and tranquillity always gives way to tension after a few uncountable bars. Microbeats and circuit spasms come to dominate the swell of hyperenergetic electrodes in synaptic collapse. Finally, nothing is left but a quivering whistle which slowly decays to nothing.

What does it all mean? Probably precious little. Transfert / Futur is about the journey, and the algorithms, rather than the meaning. It’s not a journey that traverses from A to B, but burrows its way into its own unique space.

AA

Nicolas Bernier

Bearsuit Records – 20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Try as I might – and I do, I really do – I find it impossible to avoid words like ‘weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ in reviews of anything released on the Edinburgh micro-label Bearsuit Records. This is no reflection of a lack of vocabulary on my part: it’s simply what they do. Every boutique label needs some kind of signature or house style, and a micro-label really needs a niche. Bearsuit specialise in stuff that’s so far out it’s beyond.

Fear of the Horizon is actually pretty conventional by Bearsuit standards – but these things are all relative. ‘Eamon the Destroyer’, the album’s first cut, arrives in a flourish of expansive prog-rock guitar and twittering electronics, all on top of a thumping beat that’s pure dark hip-hop. And then the guitars really takeover and we’re in territory that’s suspiciously close to be being categorizable as ‘rock’. But then ‘The Positive Approach of Talkative Ron’ swings into view in waltz-time and goes all weirdy… and then there’s whistling and another epic guitar solo.

Pancultural influence are infused within the glitching electronic fairground fabric of ‘Woman With the Plastic Hand’, with its stuttering beats and woozy organ sound, while ‘Vandal Schooling’ brings with it a crunch of industrial noise and stabs of bold orchestral brass, taking a sharp turn from abrasive to mellow around the mid-point and locking into a metronomic hard, industrial-disco flavoured groove near the end. For the most part, though, the sounds are soft-edged, mellow, supple, analogue.

‘The Horizon Project’ brings together mellow and woozy, its mellow motifs and nod-along beats cracked with a stylophone break and underlying hiss of distortion. It runs contra to the chilled beats and quite accessible lead melody.

‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’… they’re all entirely appropriate adjectives, but fail to account for the depth and range of Fear Of The Horizon. As hard as it may be to take seriously an act going by the name of Bunny & the Invalid Singers, there’s real merit to this work that goes far beyond the superficial quirkiness. ‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ don’t convey the wistfulness, the melancholy, the nostalgia, range of emotions, moods and mindsets.

This is where I should sign off with a suitably witty flourish, or some pun-based punchline, but such flippancy would be to only further undermine the true merits of an album which clearly shows no fear. Fear Of The Horizon is a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable work but don’t let the oddness and goofiness lead you to believe it isn’t serious, or art. Because it’s most definitely both.

AA

Bunny & the Invalid Singers – Fear Of The Horizon