Various Productions Feat. Gerry Mitchell
The Invisible Lodger
, March 16th, 2009 11:02
It's never entirely clear from under which dirty duvet Scottish poet Gerry Mitchell has crawled. I first encountered him on Fire Records' excellent Keep Mother series of 10" singles, reciting his bleak poem 'The Bitter Yearning Of My Heart' with the scratchy folk backing of London-based ensemble Little Sparta. Since then the prolific writer has recorded with photographer Steve Gullick as Tenebrous Mitchell, and now arrives with mysterious dubstep and folk-referencing collective Various Productions.
Mitchell never falls into the trap of overplaying the dour Scottish sot, and it's for this reason that The Invisible Lodger succeeds. Yes, this is a bleak and uncompromising record, but it's also a very human and engaging one.
The lo-fi feel to The Invisible Lodger (studio mutters, rustling papers and mic clunks are left in) enhances the emotional impact by imbuing the record with a deeply personal feel, as if you can hear the genesis in troubled mutterings through damp, paper-thin walls.
Via a juxtaposition of moods, such as the jaunty accordion that backs the line "hope is pissed on" in the 'English Estate', Mitchell seems to be creating dystopias both private and societal. This is a deeply textured record, a multitude of sounds held together under the hyptonic thread of Mitchell's sonorous tones. On 'All Fall Down', for instance, he appears to be singing and narrating to himself as drones and beats flurry around him.
'Spindle World' is seemingly composed from the rush of air from a recalcitrant bellows, fast picked guitar, and a deep vocal turn. Even though it's just over a minute long, it has an epic feel. Lyrically, it paints a vision of people "drugged quietly in an electronic web of prisons", as 'Idiot Box's frantic electronics are a panicked picture of a mother lost inside the television, and talk of "Listening for message in the central heating". 'Coffin Fogbound' is aptly named, a funereal dirge with sexton's drums and peculiarly successful hints of Spanish guitar.
'Robot Dialogue' is an uncomfortable listen, Mitchell's voice combining with the ponderous beats, doomy hums and a crescendo of fizz to sound like a black capped judge wearily bored of his duties of condemnation. This is an enthralling, captivating and deeply challenging album that steadfastly refuses notices of eviction from the listener's psyche and imagination.