Stone Tower Temple

Amazing record of 2004 vintage from Sun City Girls…just out from the American label Twenty One Eighty Two, the record Live at the Sky Church – September 3rd 2004 (TWENTY ONE EIGHTY TWO RECORDING COMPANY KHZ 1002LP) comes to us from an abundant period when the Girls were still issuing many CD albums on their own Abduction label, plus there was that vinyl reissue programme going on around that time with Eclipse Records, resulting in many fine “twofers”.

This fairly new Arizona label (started in 2019) claims to have had “a long history with Sun City Girls”, but this may be just a bit of playful boostering of their own myth, although this Mount Meru Anthology Series did put out a Rick Bishop record as first item in its catalogue. It’s far from clear what’s going on with this strange record, but it may or may not be a document of a live show which also featured visual elements. Fans who enjoy the unhinged rock trio improvisations of SCG might be advised to seek elsewhere, as this particular slab of vinyl madness is cut from a different camel. There are two principal long tracks which embody the terrifying weirdness of this Sky Church, of which the first ‘Keep Your Eyes Open’ does feature some precious moments of Rick Bishop guitar (creating a nasty steely slicing sound) before passing into a nightmarish sound collage featuring taped radio segments, non-Western recordings (of the sort that used to feature heavily on the Sublime Frequencies comps they assembled) and backwards tapes. It’s not just the combination of the far-out and the exotic that’s so intoxicating, but the remorseless way the Girls just pile it on, leaving little room for the brain to catch its breath or question the incredible sights we’re beholding. A truly delirious 17:13 mins for sure.

The second long track ‘With Pleasure, Master!’ is a dark noirish episode containing freaky horror-movie organ, wild percussion and other instruments, acting as an unsettling backdrop for reams of ghastly vocals, presumably Gocher and one other Girl babbling freely as they channel spirits of drug-fuelled bandits from ancient Syria armed with scimitars. Added tape-speed malarkey here too, which only serves to heighten the unreal mood. Remaining cuts are rather short, though no less unpleasant; on ‘Sending Young Children to Kill Them’ we have the Girls doing one of their vicious cover-versions that makes a cruel mockery of pop-song sentiment, as a karaoke instrumental of ‘Killing Me Softly’ is eviscerated with harsh, shouty vocals from one singer and scads of four-letter invective (again, probably Gocher). Then there are short puzzling snippets of on-stage dialogue and sound-art collages that come and go in the space of a minute, leaving the listener baffled. ‘Brother Number One’ shows the band doing their Middle-Eastern forgery thing, creating eerie mesmerising effects like a snake-charmer, and ‘Wear Your Love Like Venom’ melds the Rick Bishop facility for insane heavy rock guitar mayhem with some genuinely alarming vocal rants as of a possessed man speaking in tongues.

A unique set of powerful recordings, showcasing much of what we love and hate about this impossible-to-pigeonhole and sometimes infuriating band, and ample evidence that their anarchic spirit had not dimmed by one single lumen in 2004, a considerable feat when you consider they formed in 1981. Recommended, especially for listeners who aren’t having enough nightmares when they go to bed. From 17th June 2020.

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