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Fear On The Corner Patrick Clarke , February 28th, 2018 14:18

A beautiful, beastly bizarro-cyclone from Italy.

The Mamuthones, from whom this Italian band takes their name, are most often seen in the ancient village of Mamoiada during their annual January carnival. They drape themselves in black sheep leather, carry heavy bronze bells on their backs and wear eerie, tragic masks. These immensely creepy creatures do not dance so much as lurch through the town while their companions, the Issohadores, skip among them in their red waistcoats and bell-bandoliers, lassoing unsuspecting spectators. The origins of these bizarre and terrifying creatures can only be guessed at; it seems likely that Mamuthones the band are taking a guess, because by the sounds of this record their civilisation would be completely bonkers.

Mamuthones are a bizarre band, but not in that boundary-pushing and explorative sense that might define many of their contemporaries. Rather, they conjure their most appealing moments of strangeness from comparatively conservative sonics; they hit quick and easy rhythm, and the fact that Fear On The Corner is such a headspinning listen nonetheless is testament to this band’s abilities. The record takes its name from an amalgamation of Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music and Miles Davis’ On The Corner, and there’s hints of both; there’s the smoothly harnessed eccentricity of Talking Heads and the jarring-but-inspired clash of funk that Davis piled on to his record, however the most obvious touchstone is the former’s follow-up to that album, Remain In Light. As on that LP, Mamuthones thrive on constant and unerring repetition, looping and whirling themselves into a frenzy and capitalising on the chaos therein.

Also like Talking Heads, Mamuthones have a charismatic frontman at the helm of their bizarro-cyclone. Alessio Gastaldello sings, shouts, shrieks and speaks in heavily accented English with the kind of fervour that’s all but impossible to overlook. At times they ride together with the spin of instrumentals, hitting every juddering beat on ‘Show Me’ for example; at others they lurch in direct opposition, such as on the invitingly unsettling opener ‘Cars’. It’s unpredictable, and never dull. They bounce from one timbre to another with barely a thought for smoothing over the cracks. ‘Cars’ is the loopiest of the lot, with plonking little jabs of glockenspiel; its opposite, closer ‘Here We Are’, descends into an opaque sonic hellscape littered with distant screams and slathered in gloomy black bass. The title track is a sprawling slice of spacious funk, while ‘The Wrong Side’ finds the group at their most distinctly Remain In Light.

Fear On The Corner, then, is a chaotic album. The common thread through all these songs is that they each exist in a distinct and curious universe of the band’s own creation, where somehow everything sort of fits together. And there are moments where Mamuthones raise an individual moment of brilliance to the fore: ‘Alone’ is the album’s instrumental pinnacle, a weird and rambling mystic groove underpinned by bubbling rhythm on the edge of exploding into catastrophic blasts of guitar. When those riffs erupt, everything clicks exactly into place.