, July 2nd, 2010 10:14
Sonic Dreamer, the latest offering from steam punk inventor extraordinaire Thomas Truax, sees him on cracking form. Famed for twisted, post-Waits blues deconstructions made on home-built percussion and instruments, this new record is a fascinating development in the textural and lyrical palette of one of the UK's most interesting solo artists.
Opening with the frenetic, energised spasm of 'Beehive Heart', it's a surprise to hear that many of Truax's drone and rhythm machines are increasingly producing post-industrial squall that wouldn't sound out of place on Liars' 2006 lo-fi weird rock masterpiece Drum's Not Dead. He also shares with Angus Andrew a penchant for singing songs of murder and terror. On 'The Cannibals Have Captured Our Nicole Kidman' he smears the music with threatening drone, creaking loops and half chanted vocals that recall DnD's 'It Fit When I Was A Kid'. Truax ups the Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe even higher with a cut up and mangled hillbilly banjo break half way through. He certainly wears his agitated, restless spirit on his sleeve throughout these off-kilter noise pieces, and it's no surprise to hear him question his own sanity, "maybe I need more therapy but that would cost more money, and if I had more money would I really need more therapy" (from 'What's The Matter With My Grey Matter').
When dazzled by the lunacy of a Thomas Truax live show it's easy to overlook the innate musical skill that he has developed over years spent gigging the length and breadth of the British Isles. Aside from the noise collages Truax can write a ballad that hits you right in the heart. 'It Always Rains On Sundays' is an acoustic hymn for a girlfriend temporarily departed. Deft acoustic guitar lines intertwine with beautifully arranged cellos and a lyric that sweetly captures rainy Sunday melancholy.
Truax's previous album was a selection of covers of songs from the films of David Lynch, and 'Balancing On A Bouncing Wire' nods back to this obsession with a 50s tremolo guitar and a female vocal reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack.
While a commission for a cinematic score might be a future career diversion, 'Post Post Post Modern' underlines Truax's sense of struggle as he attempts to make sense of his place in musical culture. A parping brass section pulls up the chorus over a steam punk Motown shuffle, and it all climaxes on the line "I wonder what Duchamp would say if he'd stop to say 'Check mate baby you've got nothing new to say because you're post post modern!'". Truax is clearly feeling caught between a rock and a hard place, in terms of trying to find ways to reach a new, wider audience. It leaves the listener hoping for the day when he rises from his status as cult pioneer, and achieves the recognition he so richly deserves.