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Master Musicians Of Bukkake
Elogia De La Sombra Noel Gardner , December 13th, 2010 13:31

For the minute at least, I have no (concrete) idea who is actually performing on this record, and the wider (online) world seems no more clued up than I. To that end, it fulfils the Master Musicians Of Bukkake's M.O. (or part of it): to make, and then perform, their music under metaphorical cover of night, to compel you to shut your eyes and allow yourself to be smuggled through a port of lysergia on a flatbed truck of drone under a rug spun from exotic thread. Doesn't that sound more satisfying than peering through a fug of dudesweat to try and figure out if that guy in the daft getup is the same one from that band you like? It would never have happened to the Master Musicians Of Joujouka – the Moroccan Sufi ensemble who Brian Jones dickrode, pre-swimming pool; in smuttily parodying their name, MMOB have led many to assume them the joke band they assuredly are not – they'd be happy to just set up, play and hail Pan the goat god, right?

We, however, do not live in the Moroccan mountains (disregard if you etc), and if you are familiar with Master Musicians Of Bukkake, then in all likelihood you've come to them with knowledge of the core members of their shifting lineup. Randall Dunn, who has produced bands like Sunn 0))) and Boris, is credited in that role here, but is also in/on here somewhere; likewise Brad Mowen, who played uncomfortably slow and forboding drums in doom metal extremists Burning Witch and, a little later, Asva. (The one time I saw MMOB, at the Supersonic festival last year, he was onstage in a giant shaggy suit, like a kind of anthropomorphic hedge; shortly afterwards he tipped up onstage again, hedge-free and barking gore-metal lyrics as frontman of The Accüsed.) There might be an Earth dude who isn't Dylan Carlson, maybe a Climax Golden Twin, and it would not surprise me if 'Tainted Phenomena', the first track (of two) on Elogia de la Sombra, featured the guitar work of one of the Bishop brothers from Sun City Girls. Alan Bishop has guested on previous MMOB records, as did SCG's now-deceased drummer Charles Gocher, but the heavy, scrawly picking throughout this near-sixteen-minute incantation is heavily indebted to Arabic folk, and strongly resembles what Richard Bishop has been doing in the last five years or so. Strike me down if I'm chatting breeze – s'all part of the fun.

'Tainted Phenomena' starts as unaccompanied drone, with distant-thunder jazz drums entering after a minute or so and joined by untamed plucking and note-bending. A fair cacophony is worked up by 5:30, after which the disquiet is quietened; for what one assumes to be an improvised session (this is part of Southern Records' Latitudes series, which normally take this form), it is essentially controlled and disciplined. The central riff enters around 7:15, accompanied by what the sleevenotes inform me is a “traditional Tibetan Buddhist mantra”, and circle around this mystical ringroad for the remainder of the piece, save for a dronetabulous last 30 seconds serving to let you down gently before 'Elogia de la Sombra' the track kicks in.

The markedly different form of guitar-based repetition on the second number – another quarter-hour-plus epic, based around a gleaming motorik beat straight outta Conny Plank's studio circa 1975 – could be seen as MMOB flexing their chops and wordlessly peacocking about their ability to take on multiple forms. Be that as it may, 'Elogia...' is some of the best Krautrock to hit my radar in years. The lyrics come from a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, also called Elogia de la Sombra, and are intoned consistently until they become mantra-like on a comparable scale to the preceding track. Musically, Neu! are probably the most apposite reference point, obvious as it may be, although there's perhaps a greater leaning on rock qua rock in the drums' dulled thud, and a hint of psychedelia in the FX-employing whoosh of the guitars. The riff (singular) thickens about halfway through, while the pace maintains utter rigidity; someone's synth launches a few fireworks twelve minutes in, and the last sixty seconds is all electronic chemicals fizzing over a beaker's rim.

At just over half an hour, this might leave you wanting more, and feasibly the relative anarchy that danced through the last two Master Musicians Of Bukkake albums, Totems part one and two, could be deemed to have been largely absent. But these guys remain a stellar advert for musical tourism – specifically, that other culture's traditions can be riffed on without the results being crass or orientalist. Thank you, masked strangers, whoever you are! And so forth.

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