New Vitality in the Biomass

The spirit of 1960s and 1970s “happenings” lives on in Per Svensson‘s Intergalactic Sound Transmission (OLOF BRIGHT OBCD 27), a 35-minute live recording beamed to Planet Earth from the Ystad Art Museum in Sweden. A fairly large combo of local talent was assembled (including notable sound artists and noisesters many of whom are recording stars and artists in their own right) playing organ, electronics, strings, guitars and percussion, while others read out Icelandic poetry and still others performed a dance piece. Working their way up to a steady throbbing climax, the golden-eyed Children of the Sun arrive at what Thomas Milroth describes as a “ritually rolling rocking impro”. Photos of the event make everything look slightly staid and tidy and might not convey the sense of unkempt and wild energy music, but when the combined instruments gel together successfully the massed force is not unlike the sound of a spaceship lifting off, which might be in keeping with the outer-space themed actions which Per sometimes does in his singular way. Of course he’s also preoccupied with alchemy, symbolism, and saving the environment. 300 numbered copies of this cosmo-sprawlathon, mounted in a folding card thing.

Cosmic explorations of a jazz-influenced variety abound on Mayo Grout’s Known Universe (pfMENTUM CD055), played by a troupe of highly talented American jazz-rock specialists under the leadership of drummer Rich West. A basic art-rock trio set up (where the fluid bass guitarists are especially prominent) is supplemented with a small brass and woodwinds ensemble, allowing room for the spacey flute meanderings of Emily Hay and the punchier brassed-up main melodic statements. The booklet is illustrated with assorted scientific photos of the galaxy and its satellites, overprinted with a line drawing of a mothership tracing its pathways to unknown cosmos. Not exactly blasting off from the Sun Ra Arkestra launchpad (the players are a shade too polite and tidy for that), but an entertaining and lively listen nonetheless.

Another short set of inventive home-made electronic music from Leeds project The Truth About Frank, on their Murder Sleep EP (LYFCD002). These Northern fellows manage an interesting update on the “dark ambient” mode, generally steering away from the lush finished surfaces associated with that genre and trying their utmost to keep things skeletal and stark. Odd pulses, looped voice fragments and ugly little beats are repeated with a mania bordering on the obsessive. Along with their penchant for extreme digital distortion, TTAF also display a knack for seeking out the twisted and unpleasant sides of human nature, hinting on this four-track ode to Morpheus that the sleep-state is the time when multiple buried desires and thwarted ambitions will rise to the surface of our fevered minds, producing rather Saturnine images and impressions that we would rather not encounter. Much to their credit, they do this without invoking the least sense of “gothic” or “industrial” bands.

UK improvising double bass player of no small stature Barry Guy lends his considerable skills to the Diatribes team, a Swiss duo comprising drummer Cyril Bondi and D’Incise with his laptop and objects. On Multitude (CAVE12 ORCHESTRA C12 O 01), joined on one track by the clarinet of Benoit Moreau, the group produce some quite startling effects as they mine their way into each episode with an insistent, nagging approach. Drummer Bondi is on particularly good harrowing form on these January 2009 sessions, while bassist Guy’s skill is in quietly concealing his enormous talent behind phrases of understated economy and grace. But listen closely to what he’s doing and you’ll find he packs more musical content and energy into ten seconds of bass sawing than you or I could carry inside a lunchbox. There’s also a good deal of non-musical junkyard charm emerging from the battered metallic objects of D’Incise as they make their clonky way into the day’s events. I seem to recall Diatribes like to use every opportunity to expound their Marxist rhetoric, and indeed the title of the opening cut ‘Le Grand Jeu Financier’ can be read as a sharp critical statement in the current sick world of recession, bank crashes, and toxic debts.

More overamped and distorted droning guitar music from Sujo on the Dahma (INAM RECORDS NO NUMBER) EP, bringing four short examples of glorious overload where the drum parts struggle to be discerned through a golden morass of amplified power chord monotony. While the tunes are relatively short, they never fail to pass on a glimpse of what it’s like to wander through the fields of eternity while wearing a Roman casque. Limited edition of 49 copies of this “heavy and pensive” release.

Fritz Welch recently picked up on our little review of fvrtvr and kindly sent a copy of the new Peeessye release, the American band of weirdness of which he comprises one third; this arrived from Glasgow where Welch happened to be on tour during April. On Peeesseye and Talibam! (INVADA RECORDS INV83CD), we’ve got a teamup of bands that was waiting to happen in the same way that a stick of dynamite inserted into an ice-cream cone is poised to give its recipient a sticky surprise that they won’t forget in a hurry. Astonishingly exotic combinations of far-out improvised rock music and unfettered blasting noise combine here to make a meaty sandwich that’s full of cancerous nourishment, the outstanding guitar work of Chris Forsyth being just one element in the stew that’ll grease up your lips just fine. The electric piano work is presumably coming from the Talibam half of the act, but in places it’ll make you think that a gorilla-suited double of Joe Zawinul has descended from the heavens just to lend his super-paced Fender Rhodes effects to the record. The energetic drumming also has an exceptional “power”, particularly on the blistering opening track ‘You Tried (To Eat It)’. Disjointed and uneven for sure, but pound for pound this is one CD that’ll guarantee more brain fry than most limp pseudo-psychedelic efforts currently littering the US underground racks. Also available as a double vinyl dose from Smeraldina-Rima!

Correction to the above 04/05/2010: Fritz writes to tell me that he has actually lived in Glasgow since 2008. The player of the Fender Rhodes piano is Jaime Fennelly from PeeEssEye, not a member of Talibam.