The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Omar Rodríguez-López
Ipecac 7 – 12 Timothy Archer , January 19th, 2017 09:02

Mid-way through the first series of records from the prodigiously talented Omar Rodríguez-López on Ipecac Recordings and it’s fair to say that even in light of the thirty-three solo records that preceded these releases, the sheer breadth of these newly released albums has been surprising. For more casual listeners accustomed only to hearing only the unmistakable Rodríguez-López wah-solo ripple through waves of caustic psychedelia in The Mars Volta, or indulging the sight of him once again seemingly enjoying the spectacle of playing Enfilade and One Armed Scissor out across Europe – experiences and sonic palettes such as those provided by albums like Umbrella Mistress and Blind Worms, Pious Swine may well have been jarring. It is perhaps easier to dismiss these records as out of step with the ‘truer’ or more authentic Rodriguez-Lopez work found more evident in the recorded output of the two aforementioned bands, but to deny Rodríguez-López the license of valid artistic expression is to miss the point of this artist and do his gargantuan discography a huge disservice. Rodríguez-López has shown himself to be interested foremostly in music, collaboration, composition, by any means necessary.

Forty-five albums in to this behemoth body of work and justifiable comparisons to Frank Zappa seem too serendipitous to ignore entirely. There is an incongruity in the predilection that whilst we commonly laud musicians with comparatively meagre outputs for breaking beyond the constraints of common or expected instrumentation or style, for shattering the inherently limiting conventions of output, genre and cultural space, and the perceived bravery of taking authorial risk, of experimenting and defying audience or industry categorisation: what space then, for a musician for whom bravery in risk-taking and experimentation are not moments of ‘mid-career crises’ or re-evaluations, but the very raison d’etre and expression of the endeavour itself?

When Rodríguez-López seems determined to release ever more synth-oriented albums, to what extent can his work in At The Drive-In be regarded as representative of the whole? And if he spent the rest of his writing days putting out free-jazz soundscapes, would fans still remember the Roulette Dares solos? Rodríguez-López at this point seems perhaps determined in an amorphous performativity, grounded in an approach to composition and song-writing that seems at once impenetrably boundless and encouragingly capacious: an Omar for every day, or the notion that music of all genres is communication and thus of interest in delivering emotive response by means of different tongues. We are of the world, it communicates through us all; but as well I feel that it is important to note the breadth of collaborations at play, for communication happens between people, and languages are borne and transcended in shared, creative space.

Some further stabs in these directions, announced since the series began: Further to his post-2012 policy of “only opening doors”, Ipecac announced a debut album from label super-group Crystal Fairy, themselves comprised of ORL’s long-time collaborator Teri Gender Bender (who makes several appearances through these solo records), Buzz Osborne and Dave Crover of Ipecac stalwarts The Melvins and Rodríguez-López himself, here found on bass duties. The formation of this group should perhaps be no small surprise: Le Butcherettes have spent a large part of this year opening for The Melvins, collaborating in encores with them, and taking Rodriguez-Lopez along for the ride and to post endearingly awkward Instagram selfies with roadies and bands the world over. That a record and ensuing tour should be the product of these months spent together is by anyone’s measures an encouraging sign: the spirit of collaboration and perpetual experimentation, again.

Elsewhere, At The Drive-In have finally made good on the January promise of “new music this year” by releasing the hugely gratifying single Governed By Contagions, which despite sounding sneakily reminiscent of one Fugazi riff in particular, managed to sate the appetites of demanding fans and critics simultaneously. Ipecac Recordings are poised to announce an extension to these first ORL releases, with another twelve albums scheduled for release through the beginning of the new year. But as it closes and moves to the new year’s schedule, this first series of Ipecac records has brought ample reward for enduring followers of the ORL recorded output and has afforded the artist himself opportunity to stretch a creative streak far beyond anything he may have recorded with the bands he’s most known for.

After entertaining an appreciation for the scope of creative practice at play here – it’s hard not to see the more structured and expectant approach to song craft evidenced in At The Drive-In as a constraint, even in spite of that band’s newfound willingness to accommodate extended jam sessions into what were once taut four minute live performances. And while this writer sees an interesting possibility within the indulgence of constraints and limitations (pointing to one immediate example of Thomas Winterberg’s 1998 film Festen as the finest and most successful embodiment of the constraints imposed by the Dogme95 practical framework), I’m sure I remember a 2001-era Rodríguez-López quitting At The Drive-In in part due to the conceptual limitations of that band’s perceived future direction, and the narrow space afforded to Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala in pulling the music towards more psychedelic, tangled avenues.

As much as I have great, if in part nostalgic love for At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, I harbour a nagging feeling all the same that Rodríguez-López has been found at his bravest and most challenged, his most progressive and forward-thinking, his most cerebral and intellectually gratifying, not through Volta’s mind-warping conceptual excesses nor At The Drive-In’s hugely gratifying sledgehammer punk rock but through the defiant, bold, inventive and daring collaborative work he has quietly devoted much of his solo career to, and that has found vast expression through these ongoing releases.

CELL PHONE BIKINI

In a similar light to this series’ earlier record Arañas en la Sombra, the seventh LP Cell Phone Bikini can be understood as the borne fruit of ideas first conceived for The Mars Volta, subsequently found repurposed and fleshed out to altogether different, no less powerful conclusions. Highlights from this record may once have been found in skeletal form on the leaked Volta ‘demos’ collection that has subsequently found its way to YouTube and which has subsequently taken on a entirely fan-constructed identity in the Volta canon. But that process only highlights the dynamic, shifting positions in which Rodríguez-López placed these songs, pitching them to vocalists and musicians he collaborated with, throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks best, and where. Unlike Arañas, there’s no specific “lost” Volta album in mind, only the possibility that at demo stage, in the hands of a different vocalist, these songs may have resounded wholly differently.

But where Cedric Bixler-Zavala is absent, he is not missed. Cell Phone Bikini marks an opportunity to introduce Teri Gender Bender, who has up until this point collaborated only on records marked by electronica, experimentation, synth-pop, acoustic folk – and position her as psychedelic rock-band front-woman. And with no understatement, we’ve never heard her better. Too frequently derided for simplistic lyrics and statement melodies, Gender Bender here soars over this music, elevating it throughout with impassioned pleas and pained snarls, approaching her vocal with a confidence and dynamic range akin to Ipecac’s own Mike Patton. She barks, growls, spits lyric with volcanic fury – most notably on the maddening album centrepiece To My Fallen Head, I’m A Piece Paper, which builds on instrumental contortions building with intolerable pressure as Gender Bender intones psychotic incantation “Wrap it around my own damned face” over and over, chaos ensuing around her. And then there’s the superb, Chili Pepper-outstripping jam Sell Myself In: a near-perfect sub three-minute freak-out that finds Rodríguez-López shredding around a taut funk groove. The song bounces and moves underneath an ever-present tension – building to a neat climax of ecstatic guitar solo and repeated choral stabs: it’s thrilling and ridiculous, its brevity an asset. Throughout Sell Myself In, Teri Gender Bender delivers each line with precision, opening her throat to wider expression, pleading the listener “Where have you been?” with pained, frenetic, wild compulsion. As the song closes, Gender Bender repeats the line “At a time of cost!” with increasing urgency, her voice wavering with emotion as Rodríguez-López unleashes a hugely impressive, and impressively succinct lick to close the piece in rousing “what the fuck just happened?” fashion.

There’s an enjoyable display of power here from Gender Bender. Whilst chaotic, stunning musicianship swirl around her, she approaches these performances not with the timidity of someone willing to merely act as foil to others, but fighting against them, using vocals to powerfully shift attention and drive the record forward. She’s found poetic and nuanced on the record’s second half: Split tracks Wolf / Kisses For Fishes see her ruminating and expressive, following thoughts to conclusions – culminating in a sublime movement where Rodríguez-López and Gender Bender harmonise through guitar and vocals respectively, her pained, carnal wails accentuated by bent, stretched reverb-drenched notes: it’s a sublime togetherness. Album closer Suerte Y Aire is a softly delivered folk prog in its first half, before a coda musically reminiscent of The Mars Volta’s own Octahedron cut Luciforms and vocally of the late, great Mercedes Sosa in how Gender Bender delivers the impassioned, earnest vocals that closes the record with bittersweet pastels.

There’s a legitimately brilliant band here playing free, sharp, angular and poetic punk rock – Cell Phone Bikini is a unique and special record that plays to each of the musicians’ individual strengths whilst elevating the whole. It’s hard to imagine how Rodríguez-López might tour these records in the future, and whether those performances would comprise album recitals or something more free and improvisational like the stunning Omar Rodríguez-López Group tours that ran concurrent to The Mars Volta’s downtime, but Cell Phone Bikini really does feel like a group accomplishment, the record of a fledgling band that probably deserves to exist on its own merit.

INFINITY DRIPS

Rodriguez-Lopez spent time in and around Jerusalem prior to the recording of The Mars Volta’s 2008 release The Bedlam In Goliath, and the period spent there saw the collection of varied field recordings which have popped up on recordings from Unicorn Skeleton Mask (more on this fine record to come…) to the divisive noise aesthetica LP Despair, to the Hella collaboration and fan favourite Cryptomnesia. Infinity Drips is a record in this vein, and can be seen alongside The Bedlam In Goliath as an expression of this period of cultural fascination. However, comparisons between the two records can end there: where Bedlam offered expansion to mythology through conceptual and musical excess, Infinity Drips is best seen as an earnest, if not entirely successful experiment.

Layered instrument samples clutter the channels with fevered, giddy pace, recorded found-sound of chanted incantations distract with an otherworldly entanglement, percussive stabs inject abstract structure – but too frequently these elements are conducted without much sense of holism, thus lacking the purpose or resolution to which the harshness of disparate sounds might find context. Ostensibly an album of movements made distinct by monotonic sections where breath and space are afforded brief entry, Infinity Drips begins to make more sense by mid-album cut Nihal – not by chance, one of few moments on this record where instruments are afforded space and clarity, where percussion and riffs unify and complement rather than fight against each other, and where the Teri Gender Bender’s vocals don’t seem unnecessary if not contextually inappropriate. By which time, we’re on track nine and the record is drawing to an unsatisfying close.

The criticisms of the album’s vocal work are important: on an album so musically impenetrable, it’s left to the vocal performance and lyric to position and signify, with substance and poise. And whilst you can perhaps forgive the experimental nature of the record and seemingly improvised nature of the vocal takes and wider musicianship here, it’s disappointing that the same vocalist who lifted Cell Phone Bikini to such ethereal space, who resounded so powerfully on Blind Worms, Pious Swine, should here fall back on literalist metaphors and simplistic narratives, delivered with unchallenging melodic improvisation, standardised Western conventions of phrase, and repetition. Moments abound where some sampled instrument will turn a melodic phrase, to be followed by Gender Bender’s transmutation of it through vocal; and there’s nothing wrong with some good old fashioned ‘call and response’ or tonal shifting across the instrumentation, but too frequently here the improvisation relies on well-worn tropes of melody, only taking cues from the surrounding material – and don’t much work against the backdrop of Middle Eastern space. Add to this an incredibly harsh and overdone vocal effect whereby a hard-panned, pitch-shifted, reverb-drenched bounce-back of the original is channelled around the sub-space: You can almost hear what was intended, but over the frenetic and narrowly mixed sample beds, the vocal recordings find themselves overbearing and lacking in an overall cohesion.

It’s hard not to have a small, inconclusive conversation about cultural appropriation or to note that this would be a far more successful and interesting album given a little more craft, nuance and respect for the source subject material and existing cultural conventions. Indeed, it’s hard to understand exactly what Infinity Drips is trying to tell us, or why it exists – beyond the collection and expression of samples and a clear fascination with this music on Rodríguez-López’ part. To that extent, it’s an outlier in his vast canon. But even the 2009 ORL album Despair, commonly cited as his most pointless and abrasive work can be seen as a conceptual whole, an aesthetic thought process, an artistic performance, a statement, an embodied theory through its positioning of nostalgia, memory, the reversal of time and narrative order – in lieu of being seen as narrowly-enjoyable music to listen to. It’s a great disappointment that despite rich source material, Infinity Drips never quite succeeds on its inherent promise nor deliveries a conceptual framework by which we might see past its flaws – but you could do far worse than queuing it with Despair and playing them all between parts of The Bedlam In Goliath. Mescaline not provided.

WEEKLY MANSIONS

If there’s something inherently ‘Thug Life’ about the notion of acquiring new mansions on a weekly basis, then it’s an entirely appropriate image for this record – which would be more accurately represented if referred to as a collaboration between Omar and younger brother Marcel Rodríguez-López. It’s not their first: the 2006 ORL album Megaritual found them both shredding through prog-funk pieces in an exercise Omar recounts as being designed to build up their relationship. Since then, Marcel has toured and provided percussion and synths for The Mars Volta (popping up with regularity in their music videos with seemingly ever-present blunts), released two fine records with El Paso psychedelic prog/funk band Zechs Marquise, before shifting focus to beats and weed-clouded sub-bass. The music he’s making both live and in the studio as Eureka The Butcher is really on point, a fine demonstration of what one guy can do some a drum machine, synthesisers and a bag of weed. Weekly Mansions continues in this vein, melding hip-hop beats with chillwave synth and flirting with the euphoria of chart-topping synth-pop, 80s reminiscent euro-beat and industrial goth.

Despite some daftly enjoyable moments which take Rodríguez-López far outside his comfort zone, the album isn’t without significant flaws. Part of the issue is structure: Weekly Mansions is sequenced to alternate between pop-structure anthems and instrumental segue pieces. As such, there’s a feeling of lost momentum after each song-proper ends. Those segue pieces are interesting, drawing on earlier album ORL references, building on drum patterns sampled by The Mars Volta or glitch pieces that have appeared in shorter form on Rodríguez-López’ earlier work but there’s nothing particularly memorable or remarkable about any of them – a subsequent highlight being the remixes that fans are making, taking these instrumental beat tracks and . syncing them to Dr Dre a-capellas .

There’s an enjoyable focus on melodic shifts and astute use of tempo change throughout. Similarly, all good pop bears fantastic attention to detail and there’s plenty here (Omar’s ‘urghhhh’ after Rotten Lips’ first chorus). Production and processing on all the instruments, beats and vocals is at moments just delicious (the reverb-soaked gasps present in Teri Gender Bender’s backing vocal upper register on Science Urges are gorgeous, and another fine example of her strong harmonic work with ORL). Elsewhere, A Little Old Picnic In Fort Co is a panicked emergency siren of a song, a warning in the bunker. There are some strong, interesting moments here for sure, and it’s enjoyable to hear Omar in such an unfamiliar role spitting lyrics with fire, but the record is disturbed by a confusing sequencing (would this work better as two distinct E.Ps?) and a sense of meandering towards the second half that undoes much of the promise displayed earlier. Still, a mansion every week though.

ZAPOPAN

It’s impossible to begin a piece about Zapopan without acknowledging the presence of two other records: 2012’s Saber, Querer, Osar y Callar and 2013’s Unicorn Skeleton Mask, two very different records but both characterised by the familiar taut invention of drummer Deantoni Parks. Both albums were toured live around that time through the Omar Rodríguez-López Group line-up, insofar as Omar ever tours a solo record in particular – the performances featured many of the songs from these two LPs, in some form or other. Though different in style, both records illustrated the breadth of Rodríguez-López’ collaborations with Parks, and both suffered from uneven, muffled mixes that required a great deal of imagination on the part of the listener. But, it’s worth also noting, that both records were superb and enjoyable in their own right. Zapopan then, is a collection of songs from these two records, afforded vastly superior production, a cleaner mix and I suppose, the trimming of some excess. Whoever said Rodríguez-López could benefit from an editor, well today is your lucky day.

Appraised on merit, what is Zapopan? It’s a fairly dark, lonely and cloistered record which ruminates on the nature and transition of heartbreak, of relationships ending, of convergent perspectives distinguishing, the fallout and process of overcoming. There’s a turning point toward some narrative resolution in the record’s second half, but opening with the triple split track known to fans of Unicorn Skeleton Mask as Happiness paints an immediately bleak picture. Here, Reap The Roots, Tandem Happiness and Fielding Souls cut across any kind of stability, the track fading into static every time a chorus appears; until the last cut lets the track play out. Knowing the original track from USM and seeing it cut and faded here begs the question: why? The chorus lyrics speak directly of a ‘happiness’ which until the third movement is forever out of reach – it’s an design that arguably detracts from the song and I would recommend returning to the USM original. Similarly, but conversely, I would argue the cleaner vocal take on these tracks also does the original a disservice: There was a sadistic humour to Omar’s muffled delivery on the earlier version that is made more literal, forever bleaker, with the clarity afforded to it here.

Elsewhere, tracks benefit hugely from the sonic overhaul and so I won’t alienate those who aren’t familiar with original context or linger any more in consideration of the two earlier records from which these songs are repositioned, despite my lingering affection for those preceding LPs. There are some thrilling moments here, and the record deserves to be taken on merit. A blues-infused punk presides throughout, and some of the classier tracks here are sparse, whiskey bar hymns called out with venom. Spell Broken Hearts and Tentáculos de Fé benefit: the latter’s cigar-smoke drawl collapsing into a wonderfully mixed climax with a searing guitar line that seems to split open the fabric of existence as it oscillates across the channels. If It Was A Snake It Would Have Bit You is dark, cosmic punk; the barked “Maria!” of the chorus resonating with righteous anger, punching above the superbly mixed drums of Deantoni Parks, who plays it straight and purposeful throughout. If you want to hear Parks play more conventionally, in a style complementing the music rather the balance being slightly shifted the other way: he’s not sounded better than he does here (one might re-image The Mars Volta’s final album Noctourniquet boasting such stupendously produced drumming). A great deal of his free-jazz, improvised eccentricities comparatively reigned in, Parks elects to precision attack throughout – opening up through frenetic, brief explosions in Snake’s chorus, at the climax of What’s Left In You, the painful repose to Harboring A Sadist and album closer Random Bouts Of Shadows (which no matter how many times I listen to it, will always seem like a track that should open a record and not close it – ah, the beauty of playlists).

Plenty of Rodríguez-López fans will salivate over this record, and with good reason – there are stunning moments here, but it’s hard despite thrilling musicianship and songwriting, to enjoy an album which paints its lyricism with such foreboding, painful tones, which throughout affords the presence of light only the briefest of glimmers. Much of Zapopan is extremely powerful, and it’s technically impressive throughout – but none of it makes me smile – but if I ever need to drown my sorrows and ruminate on a loss, this is the ORL album I’d be turning to.

NOM DE GUERRE CABAL

Where Zapopan took two earlier records, trimmed, cleaned and repackaged them in a more refinedwhole – Nom De Guerre Cabal can be seen as a straight-up second attempt. Pre-Ipecac, the last ORL LP released in 2013 was ¿Sólo Extraño? ; a curious mind-warp of a record that suffered from an appallingly muddy mix, incomprehensible lyrics, and was digitally released with no information or supplementary materials. Nom De Guerre Cabal revisits ¿Sólo Extraño? and renders it null and void. Not only is this new incarnation an impossibly grandiose upgrade on the original record, it’s one of the most thrilling, astounding, creative and experimental things that either Rodríguez-López or Deantoni Parks have been involved with, full stop.

The record plays to both their strengths and calls forth equal parts sci-fi synthesizers, apocalyptic guitars, restlessly inventive drumming and vocals that shimmer in the mix, cascading around it. This is future punk, it’s rock music as cyber warfare, as hallucinatory neuro-work-out. Nom De Guerre Cabaladds so much in instrumentation and design, new vocal renditions and reinterpretations of tracks, from ¿Sólo Extraño?’s meagre sonic space to this incarnation, that it’s hard to understand why that initial record was in any way considered final or releasable. As such, it now acts positioned as a demo record, and a fascinating insight into snapshots of production development.

Nom De Guerre Cabal starts very much as it means to go on, Uncovering A Word opening as layered synths bounce and squeal in the channels, sampled and distorted guitar happening somewhere, underneath, above the mix – before Parks unleashes a groove which brings the rest into focus. Yet again, as with earlier record El Bien Y Mal Nos Une, there’s the feeling that a large focus has been spent remixing these performances to bring out Deantoni Parks beat-work as the focus of the pieces not only in terms of sonic space but of relative import to the compositional structure. Guitar licks and heavy riffage are basically absent but for one or two moments, affording Parks space to let rip and offer up invention upon invention. On Bitter Sunsets, he fights against the verses, tripping the rhythm he established back in on itself, alternating the space between notes. Healed And Raised By Wounds continues this focus on rhythm and pace, as samples and samples provide ample foil for Parks to dictate to.

Life Proves Its Worth is a particular highlight, as is the title track (the only piece here not to feature Deantoni on drums, instead featuring the frenetic contribution of also-former Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen) – as examples of the most plainly gratifying music here, The former oscillates between deathly narcotic verse and dreamed chorus before exploding into the second verse with what sounds like the detonation of a fusion bomb, as one the record’s few straight-up riffs takes hold underneath: it’s positively overwhelming, Rodríguez-López barking vocals with swagger, poise and little thought for tunefulness or precision: again, synths and Parks playing crucial roles in those regards; instead, vocals here are often delivered fraught and passionate, as-live, lending only weight and gravity to the swirling, futuristic punk that seems to be at once collapsing and reifying itself all around.

Violet Rays Again is another stupendously enjoyable chance to play “keep pace with Deantoni” while he appropriates, argues with, considers and pushes back against the beat. A g-funk inspired synth glides above, lending some relative structure for Parks to lose his shit over, for the track’s six minutes. I remain disappointed at the sub-par production and remix work afforded to Riot Squid, but perhaps that’s mostly in light of the stupendous live versions of that track which would frequently stretch the 10 minute mark – unlike every other moment on this album, Riot Squid fails to add much of significance to the ¿Sólo Extraño? original – and the definitive version of this track remains to be found on the 2010 live album Dōitashimashite. It’s a shame but I hold out hope there’s a studio recording of the extended version on a hard-drive somewhere, begging for subsequent release.

For the most part, there’s a clarity and space afforded amidst the undeniable chaos, especially noticeable in the attention to detail paid to stereo drum production and the wonderful, reverb heavy oscillations between Rodríguez-López own voice the pitch shifted harmony lines. The title track is a fine example of clarity and distortion, of chaos and beauty existing at once, of fever-like pace conflicting with ethereal synths and resulting in a effect which is at once calming and restless. This record barely sits still for a second, and refuses easy categorisation at every turn.

As with the earlier Sworn Virgins, these are fine examples of future-punk, of cyber-prog, and illustrations of the cohesion and implicit understanding between Rodríguez-López and Deantoni Parks. Nom De Guerre Cabal is a special and unique record, undeniably one of the highlights of this series, if not his entire recorded output, the music here representing some of the most forward-thinking and thrilling music of Rodríguez-López’ output across all bands.

SOME NEED IT LONELY

If this series of records has indicated in some way Omar’s clearing of vaults, emptying of hard-drives and the wiping of slates clean for the promise of democratic band pastures new, then it’s been a process that has unearthed some true gems. But excuse my boldness in determining that Some Need It Lonely isn’t one of these. Coming last in this first series of LPs, Some Need It Lonely is a meandering hodgepodge of unrealised threads that never quite find purchase or comprise anything resembling a body of work. These are the beginnings of ideas half-formed and un-finished. I’m not insisting that every record be a finished piece, nor every track effectively mastered and mixed to high-end professionalism – there’s much to be said for peering behind studio veils and seeing into artists’ four-track demos and home recordings that never made it beyond home recording, but Some Need It Lonely informs little of consequence.

It starts promisingly enough, with Bitter Sunsets (of absolutely no relation to Nom De Guerre Cabal’s excellent cut of the same name) coming like an unrecorded Soul Coughing b-side with a wonderfully hard-panned snarl from Rodríguez-López toward the song’s close. Sanity A Dream is like opening the door on a Mars Volta improv jam session, mixed against a sampled Cedric Bixler-Zavala audio recording from the early days where he’s either talking about a stray dog or Fred Armisen, or both, or neither. It’s oppressive and wonderful at once. The track is like an abyss, a glimpse into an alien world (the title is instructive, speaking to fevers and warped states of consciousness) – and despite repeated listens, Sanity A Dream remains forever out of reach, otherworldly, enchanting in the mythical sense, forever unknowable and yet absolutely compelling. Forty-five minutes of this would be beautiful and insane, and frankly a better record than Some Need It Lonely. From this point, it’s mostly downhill, the record meandering through unnecessary ponderances and experiments that probably shouldn’t have made it further than being captured.

A bad mix doesn’t help the later tracks, but neither do vocal performances from Teri Gender Bender that sadly come across insufferably trite. Zero Worth and Mulu Lizi seem like the kind of music you’d record at 5am in a room full of fairy lights and pedals when the rest of Bosnian Rainbows have passed out on the sofa. I can tell there are interesting things happening in Barachiel Is At It Again and Ariel, but they’re let down by muddy mix and in Barachiel’s case, insufferable vocals – a common trope here (if I never heard Back To The Same ever again, it would be too soon). Ariel, despite interesting guitar work on both acoustic and electric, shimmering percussion – the overall effect is of something unfinished, and entirely out of context.

It’s slightly infuriating that Teri Gender Bender is represented so poorly here, as earlier contributions to the series (notably Cell Phone Bikini and Blind Worms, Pious Swine) have shown her to be a hugely adept lyricist and powerful, inventive vocalist capable of huge control and range. Yet, when she starts repeating “your body is symmetrical” and deviating around it on Mulu Lizi, it’s music that makes me genuinely depressed. Some Need It Lonely seems too often unfinished if not unnecessary – of little consequence or interest.

It’s a strange, slightly bum-note to end this first series on, but there’s seemingly no gap between the end of this series and the beginning of the next: a dozen further records approach, starting with A Lovejoy before the new year and ending with the Family Guy referencing Reganomics Lamborgini (deliberate misspelling?) sometime in March. And in the midst of this cycle, there’s the Crystal Fairy debut album and the promise of the long awaited re-ignition LP from prodigal sons At The Drive-In.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.