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Album Of The Week

The Bored & The Beautiful: Advertise Here By EXEK
Richard Foster , February 3rd, 2022 09:22

Their mien may be baggy but their rhythms are taut. EXEK drive a truck through the funky bits of your post-punk record collection; Richard Foster takes up the slack

Photo by Sandra Mikołajczyk

Sometimes a record can take the listener down the most extraordinary paths. Like Peter Cook’s EL Wisty evoking Marcel Proust eating biscuits to ponder what would have happened if he, Wisty, had the Latin to become a high court judge (instead of ending up down a mine and writing a book on nude and violent women), this record saw the neuronal receptors in my brain performing wild feats of associative memory. Advertise Here by EXEK is a contender for the most evasive release of the year. Its very slipperiness in luring the listener astray should not be underestimated. The cussed, Will-o-the-Wisp eccentricities found here transported me back in time, remembering an old friend who kept tortoises in a black-painted bedroom that also boasted a chest-freezer filled with loaves of bread (the extraction of which needed an adze), and a view over a garden dominated by a thirty-foot CB Radio receiver.

Surely Advertise Here, with its cover of two giant poodles (one dyed a fetching shade of eggshell blue), has been made by a brilliant Lancastrian oddball wearing an old army jumper, fond of swimming in the Leeds-Liverpool canal? No: according to secret intelligence gathered at Quietus HQ, it’s made by a bunch of Australian home brew enthusiasts who like to keep a low profile. Which immediately had me thinking of an obscure American act from the 00s, whose music always felt odd but very alluring: Lansing-Dreiden. To paraphrase Bongwater’s Ann Magnuson, I wonder what happened to them.

Advertise Here is a very enjoyable listen, managing to produce enough sonic bon mots to fill a plagiarist’s notebook. A track like ‘Sen Yen for 30min Of Violin’ manages to sound like a lush outtake from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and a hundred memories of pre-decimal British art rock, the sounds packed away like mothballed coats in a backroom wardrobe. For instance: a line from the song, ‘Take an educated guess’, swims up out of a non-memory like a carp taking the bait, sounding for all the world like a phrase in a long-lost Barrett track – sung by Syd, too. 

What strikes you is the laconic nature of the music. Maybe it is the album’s lodestone. Sometimes the tracks – like the aforementioned ‘Sen Yen for 30min Of Violin’ seem to be very happy to just give up trying and crash back onto stained paisley-patterned bean bags. At other times these cuts, for want of anything better to do it seems, openly pilfer a feature from a predecessor, like someone scrounging a last fag in the packet. ‘Beyond Currency’ picks up the Hannett-style, tappety beat in ‘Sen Yen…’ to propel a gentle fog of noises, the parched brass samples reminiscent of a number of Holger Czukay solo albums and the tail-out guitar having something of Czukay’s old bandmate Michael Karoli.

  Then there's the vocal delivery, which those old enough to remember could call ‘slacker’. Often the vocalist seems to be on the point of passing out. Yet, this continual show of no real urgency feels more like a strength. The opening passages coagulate as a dreary blare that could be the sound of the inside of Tony Hancock’s head. It’s followed up by ‘(I’m After) Your Best Interest’, which sounds like nothing memorable, apart from the quip, “fishy breath”. But somehow the track charms, as does ‘Unseasonable Warmth’, a keyhole view to the shadowy muse at the record’s heart. This number is a dubby, half inflated Bogus Man-style stream of consciousness that attempts a rap for good measure; you can picture the narrator, a bloke in a deserted city pub, elbows on the table and head propped in his hand, mouthing half-remembered lines of ‘West End Girls’. 

Everything here is so damned lackadaisical and melancholic, or in love with a past beyond reach. Listen to ‘ID’ed’, with its Autobahn-esque sotto key sound and Doctors of Madness violin scrape. Both elements engage in a form of ritual sonic battle alongside other wibbly 70s noises, the whole thing becoming an enjoyable potage of nostalgic sounds and just-add-water memories of something we’d like to have, to make us feel comfortable. This can also be said of ‘Hiding a Smile’, which is an Open University take on the synth part of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Hall of Mirrors’. Or it would be if it didn’t float off to do something more interesting.  

Another question proposes itself after a few agreeably vague listening sessions: is the music on Advertise Here that which we jaded Moderns need right now? I sense it taps into a subliminal need for our frayed nerves. Why worry over the carbon footprint of an avocado pear in relation to a battery chicken when you can give a track like ‘Unseasonable Warmth’ another spin? Maybe we can immerse ourselves in this shadowy sound and allay all the fears and thoughts that shape our current emotional existence. Advertise Here is the ultimate sonic screen wipe, the sort of cultural kool aid that keeps us agreeably neutral. And that’s why you should listen to it.