The Exotic Pylon: Jonny Talks Cindytalk And Much More...
, December 7th, 2009 07:29
jonny mugwump ignores the end-of list hoopla to exalt the records that have been lighting up the pylon for the last few weeks
So, as the end of the year and the end of the decade approaches I have to deal with the fact that I have a singularly appalling memory for song names, release dates and...well, pretty much everything really. I will attempt some kind of end of year column in a couple of weeks, but for the time being I’m going to ignore all of it and focus instead on a few things that have been rocking the pylon of late.
Cindytalk - The Crackle of My Soul (Editions Mego)
Cindytalk have been in existence as a band since 1982 with transgendered Gordon Sharp as its one constant. Beginning with a heavily European-influenced post-punk sound, Sharp appeared on some of the early records by the 4AD ethereal umbrella project This Mortal Coil. They moved quickly and quietly towards a more fractured ‘ambi-dustrial’ feeling and over the last two decades have released sound sporadically as well as becoming involved in sound-system culture. To be honest, I had lost track of their movements until The Crackle of My Soul landed on my doorstep last month, so I had no idea what to expect barring the unlikelihood of this being a commercial endeavour giving the album’s release on Editions Mego. And what an astoundingly shocking and beautiful band they have become. Crackle sounds like pop music at the absolute extremes of the sonic margins. ‘Signalling Through the Flames’ encroaches slowly around you - something like a glitching bell hovers for a minute before fragmented static eerily creeps into view. Further unidentifiable layers of sound slowly join this ritualistic loop until it dawns that somehow this is still pop music. As you adjust to the strangeness of its unfolding, every layer becomes a refrain, becomes a hook. For all its abstractness though the record is never less than... human. Cindytalk are a band though and repeated listens give an indication of this although it’s impossible to discern the physicality of the sound sources - it feels both played AND sculpted. Closing track ‘Debris of a Smile’ reveals the most: just rain and cracked piano for several minutes before things take a turn for the strange with whispered tweaked voices, shards of ungraspable sound, and digital detritus. The absolute highlight though is ‘Our Shadow, Remembered’ which is one of the most downright eerie things I’ve heard in a long long time. What feels like an internal exotica - abrasive with strange electricity, Sharp’s genderless voice begins to materialise out of nowhere seductively (and destructively) serenading “come here” over and over. The Crackle of My Soul is just that - the inner landscape of the soul breathing through weird electricity.
Cindytalk live here. AND, The Quietus is hugely proud to be able to present its readers with an exclusive Cindytalk laptop set recorded in April 2006 at Otoya Club in Kobe, Japan. Right click here to download, with many many thanks to Gordon.
The Gatekeeper - Optimus Maximus (Fright)
This is the debut EP for the ludicrously promising Fright label founded by Jon Berry and Michael Mayer from Kompakt. The Gatekeeper come from Chicago to create three words which might produce your single of the year: John Carpenter Disco. 4 tracks and what’s not to love - it’s every haunted cellar turned day-glo with pulpable sense of violence, big hair and b-movie thrills. The eponymous title track opens with synths so vast that it makes tangerine dream sound like they work in a biscuit tin and a sense of drama not heard since, well, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13 and Prince of Darkness. The absolute drop-dead highlight is found on the b-side. Forgotten is Suspiria(ous) Minds. Fat squelchy bass line, schlock strings, Craven 80’s melody and some kind of lightning hurricane cesspit of murder-trauma in the background. It’s Rave of The Living Dead and let’s face it, if you’ve got to the end of this paragraph without buying it’s probably not for you. The Gatekeeper can be found on MySpace here.
Subeena – 'Solidify/ Analyse' (Planet Mu)
After a string of 12’s on a variety of labels including her own (now defunct) Immigrant/ Imminent Recordings, this double A is Subeena’s debut release on Planet Mu (enjoying another phenomenal year). ‘Solidify’ features Jamie Woon on vocals and Sa Ra’s Om ‘Mas Keith on Rhodes and bass and is a gorgeous bewitching brew. Woon wraps a gentle soul croon around some spaced lyrics (I took a moment to breathe/ yeah it was liquid indeed” and later “if only glacier’s could bleed”)while Keith’s melodies are redolent of Boards of Canada or even 70’s John Martyn at their most wide-eyed while Subeena dubs the whole thing and sends it into orbit somewhere round Jupiter. ‘Analyse’ is solo Subeena and highlights her restless melodic skills. More propulsive, it begins with off-kilter almost gamelan-like tones with shimmering textures hovering in the background before the beat moves up a notch and a cyber-harpsichord comes into play. But then it just keeps moving and unfolding before your ears, melodies and thick layers of synth come and go but she never loses sight of the beat. It is this relentless melodic attack that elevates Subeena into something a little unique. Whilst the production couldn’t be more of the moment there is quite a blissful evocation of that first wave of late 80’s dance music - Orbital, ambient Aphex - a kind of beautiful naivety of sound before dance had any kind of history. With a new label in the offing and more productions to come I think she’s going to kill 2010. Meantime, Subeena was on the show a few months back which you can hear here, her MySpace is here and she also has her own excellent monthly radio show Outland on Sub FM which you can read about here.
Daniel Menche - Kataract (Editions Mego)
Earlier this year Ethan Rose released a very beautiful album called Oaks. But he also missed an opportunity. Oaks utilised old theatre organs as the albums sole sound source and as exquisite as it was, the sounds were tweaked and mutated so much that it was almost impossible to discern any of those original sounds. I mention this only because Daniel Menche’s new album is based solely on recordings collected from waterfalls from the Pacific Northwest in the States and before I hit play I wondered if Kataract might suffer a similar fate to Oaks. And surely enough, the first few minutes of this 40 minute single track offer tantalising and strange drones and textures seemingly entirely removed from their source. But then, just before the five minute mark, the fall comes and basically Menche nails it. The majestic deluge and sonic violence of those wonders of nature spill defiantly all over Kataract generating tones and feedback and swathes of thunderous noise. The balance is perfect - the soundscape never overly dominates the waterfalls but the artist’s own interventions mean that Kataract at no point ever resembles a field recording. This is a powerful overwhelming work that almost works surreally, emphasising the beauty of the waterfall by bending the sound into strange new shapes. Daniel’s MySpace is here.
jonny mugwump & the exotic pylon broadcasts every Saturday at 9.30 pm on Resonance FM. Forthcoming shows and the radio earchive are all to be found at The Exotic Pylon. jonny mugwump also blogs at jonnymugwump.com.