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Astral Social Club & Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra
Plasma Splice Trifle Tom Bolton , June 18th, 2019 09:40

Plasma Splice Trifle brings together the talents of Astral Social Club and Grumbling Fur with sublime results, finds Tom Bolton

A collaboration between underground music lynchpin Neil Campell (Astral Social Club) and Grumbling Fur (itself the highly successful coming together of Daniel O’Sullivan and Alexander Tucker) was probably inevitable. They share a long list of influences and, particularly, a central focus on the point where psychedelic sounds meets kosmische rhythms. But, although the four, long, tracks on Plasma Splice Trifle do not stray beyond this shared space, the results are sublime.

At just under nine minutes, opening track ‘Back to the Egg’ sets the tone with complete confidence. An intonation sets the scene (thin places, transformation, death, return), and a jumping, insistent rhythm kicks in, assembled from chopped, looped speech, flickering tea tray percussion and a pumping beat. It is ecstatic, driving and authentically motorik. There is no doubt that Campbell, O’Sullivan, and Tucker know what they’re about, as they set the standard for the whole record in its first few moments.

The mood quietens on ‘Three Years Ago’ as a keyboard chamber orchestra builds to a distant, gorgeous high, then breaks it slowly back down into disjointed, stuttering beats. Over the course of another nine minutes the track collapses slowly in on itself, finishing in a heap of protesting strings. ‘Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence’ has a more conventional melody, played on a piano and suspended in shuffling fuzzbox loops, which gradually emerges as multi-part male vocals. The song becomes a polyphony of overlapping parts, a bass intoning “And the ozone shimmer / above the river”. It is the sort of happy place that Tucker, in particular, has specialised in reaching on his solo recordings.

The longest track is the fourth, ‘Toejam Boxdrum’ which not only references ‘Come Together’ in its title but brings together a Beatles-esque rising cacophony reminiscent of ‘Revolution No.9’. This powers into a low, funk bass riff that is both punchy and deeply satisfying, and a final ritual exorcism with pounding drums and wild cries.

The music on Plasma Splice Trifle is relaxed, confident and expertly assembled. The three musicians play cheerfully with a roster of wild and cosmic sounds – to their evident pleasure. But the album is more than an exercise in mutual admiration. It channels uninhibited psychedelic joy directly into the listener’s head. Astral Social Club and Grumbling Fur have experienced a meeting of minds, and it is a pleasure to enter their collective headspace.

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