Outside The Circle

The Heads have just reissued their second album, the ferocious frazzle of Everyone Knows We Got Nowhere. Paul Allen left the band a while ago, and at first he spent time building up a terrifyingly large record collection and enhancing his psychic know-how. He then formed a band with Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb called Anthroprophh, who have now unleashed their second album Outside The Circle, and like The Heads best work, it’s enough to send your head in a spin, only this time with a few surprise twists and turns.

Take second track ‘Dead Man On The Scene’, which mentions the word ‘Anthropocene’, a term coined by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer intended to describe the epoch when human activities like pollution began to have a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. The word hasn’t been fully adopted as official nomenclature by the scientific community, and of course there’s some debate as to when this era actually began. Nobel Prize winning atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen argues it’s around the Industrial Revolution.

This album is not simply a journey from the centre of the Earth "out on blue six" to "deep space nine" however. Allen doesn’t just think outside the (Space) box, he orbits Outside The Circle. There are the obvious anchor points and influences – a sirocco of Hawkwind, a dappled spot of Sun Ra. But there are also trace elements of garage rock Crystal Stilts style, a Gibby Haines style vocal refrain here, a funereal organ there and literally a Star-mangled banner in the hairiest of wig-outs during ‘Hendrix’.

Nor is this a pastiche to all the records that Allen has been busy beavering away. There’s the wayward unpredictability of a Boredoms record, the hard-assed hilarity of Monster Magnet and the extreme distortion of Father Yod and The Spirit of ’76. Outside The Circle feels like the album that the equally eccentric and esoteric Akron/Family would become like the Manson Family and kill to make.

Opening song ‘Returning’ contains baroque work by Big Naturals’ Gareth Turner, whose bass is like a spider’s web cast from space. The rhythms rise up like a silver plume under the grey fug of noise emanating from Allen’s guitar. The faux doom vocal at the start of ‘Dead Man On The Scene’ is an almost comedic interlude, but it is the moment at which you realise the album will be a real blast. It’s a perfect sturm und drang between darkness and light. ‘2013 And She Told Me I Was Die’ and its black-hearted Butthole Surfers romp almost topples in on itself like a collapsing wall and squall of sound. The drone of ‘Albrechtdron’, the doom of ‘The Ruins Of St. Luckwell’ and the drama of ‘Crow With Sore Throat’ which sounds like Kid Congo crooning over Unwound, all add to the adventure of Allen’s weird overture.

In a short film made to accompany the broken electronica on the track ‘Gottmelt’ initially you can see for miles and miles right through Allen’s head. Then you spy haunting double exposed images of 60s architecture and hear a whistling wind. Nothing terrible happens, but you get the sense it might. It’s reminiscent of that moment in the film Get Carter where Michael Caine throws Alf Roberts off the top of the carbuncle that was Newcastle’s Trinity Square car park. Just as that iconic moment, there is something quintessentially English and homespun about this Anthropropph album, yet as the elegiac strains of album closer ‘New Impossibilities Part 3’ float around the rarefied atmosphere of the antique rocket you will feel warm and fuzzy as you see the Earth explode below.

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