Norway - Full Moon 171 - 08/24/10
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 14
Cyrano: You Sensualize My Soul
(2003 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0014.CDR)
When: The Lobster Boys
(2001 Jester Records TRICK-014)
Welcome to round 14 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records!
Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going
through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other.
Humorously counting goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
You Sensualize My Soul is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic
sleeve with a cardboard folder and folded insert containing art & information.
The When release comes in a jewel case and includes a booklet with art and info.
We were introduced to Cyrano on the self-titled Cyrano & Center of the Universe album,
a fine first glimpse into another multi-instrumentalist from the Metronomicon collective. You Sensualize My Soul is his
first solo outing, doing most things by himself, but is helped by "supergroovy danish drummer" Sigurd Bergflødt on drums.
Magnus Moriarty™ joins in a couple of times, and so do of course Sissyfus. Dag Ivan Homlong is strumming his guitar on two
of the tracks, otherwise this is Cyrano's show. The album was recorded in Edwin's Basement/Recording Studio, where he was helped
by Nikolai Perminov, Johan Moen and Thomas Meidell, suggesting a recording process perhaps advancing a couple of steps up.
"Satyricon" seems like a heavy title for the new-wave poppy opening track. Half organic, half synthetic, it's kind of slick sounding,
and the production seems advanced compared to other Metronomicon releases so far. We're not talking click tracks and sequencers,
but certainly multi-tracking of vocals and instruments. The song is energetic and twitching, sounds fresh, catchy, but in a slightly irritating way.
The same goes for the shorter "Ifthatisthatisnotbook", clocking in below two minutes. "What's On Your Mind" is more of the same, but
a little calmer. Midways it slows down completely, making for a welcome breathing space, on which it builds a quite nice melancholy folky
instrumental theme, flowing and vibrating into a light psychedelic mood. But this chillout is quickly abrupted by "You Sensualize My Body",
a horrible synth-fueled nag of a song, luckily only lasting a minute or so. After this, the accordion waltz of "Cyrano From the Block I"
is most welcome. Featuring the violin of Magnus Moriarty™, it departs from the previous tracks by being acoustic and traditional.
A bit forgettable. "Long Way for a Flea Home" is mellower, Cyrano in a more reflective mood, soothing, but also a little anonymous.
"Cyrano From the Block II" is more accordion, the song drawing from several european folk traditions it seems, melodically related to "Block I", but
the rhythm is more like a tango or something of the like.
"You certainly do play that thing. Have a look at that machine he's got there, folks, looks like a double typewriter keyboard,
I've never seen an accordion like that before, little buttons instead of keys, and listen to him play." This intro to "You are the Terror" sounds
like a sample from an american TV show, the host apparently impressed by this accordion which doesn't have the "usual" piano keys ... Well, the song starts
with an accordion, but quickly derails into what at first sounds like a organ beat-box double-speed rendition of Danish Kim Larsen's "Livet er Langt,
Lykken er Kort" (a song so terrible in itself that it easily makes my top-10 list of songs I absolutely can't stand), but instead it's an über-quirky
original, whose highlight is the refrain sung with growling voices, rather insanely repeated over and over again: "
You're the terror, in my mind, you're the terror, everywhere, am I a threat, no I'm not". This death/black-metal Winnie-the-Pooh eventually goes
completely off the rails, trashing all his casios. Perhaps a comment on the war on terror? Something has short-circuited, that's for sure.
The closing "Satyricon dance (C.O.U. remix)" is Center of the Universe in an experimental mood, but only adds to the feeling that this album is
too eclectic for it's own good.
To sum it up: I like the first three songs, they also seem to fit together, but after this, the album goes off in less appealing directions.
The folky accordion songs are OK, but not my cup of tea, and they certainly don't sit well alongside the third category of songs here, which
to my ears are annoying muzak. Perhaps a couple of EP's would be a better choice than one album. Great artwork though.
You never know exactly what to expect when When (Lars Pedersen) releases a new album.
Sure, he's Norway's most profiled sound collage specialist, but he has earlier proven just
as likely to visit 60's psychedelia as darker parts of the brain. However, it quickly becomes clear
that The Lobster Boys is a trip to the brighter parts of the brain.
Polite British accents welcomes us: "Hello, hello, who's there?" - "Good morning, to you Mrs. Jones" - "Good morning, Mr. Blair" ... and
we're off to the introductory eastern and didjeridoo influenced loopy "(Theme From) The Lobster Boys".
"Just turn it on to play" we're then adviced, and "Cut" continues with the Middle Eastern musical
influences, at first a steady bass drum holds it together while a strange voice appears, then the song abruptly shifts into
an organ-driven theme, but it is the multi-tracked vocals that pushes this song into pop territory. Themes shifts abruptly a couple of times
before we end up with another Middle Eastern sounding repetetive theme, this time drenched in a very bubbling acid fuzz guitar, quite catchy, but the guitar
starts going increasingly amok, sounding more and more like a frantic Allan Holdsworth, until the circuits blow, and the hummable theme fades out acousticly.
Using splashing water as a rhythm instrument, "Flower jam" is also Middle Eastern influenced, but the vocals are pure 60's psychedelia. This brings (the now newly revived) Kula Shaker
to mind, but When is a lot more adventurous and daring, bringing in a sultry and seductive female Bollywood-like voice, sounding a little dirty,
actually I'd better turn this down a little, my neighbors might be listening.
"Z 33" is a short relaxing interlude looping night time insects and bad reception of an Arabic radio station, introducing
"Sunshine Superhead", which is two and a half minute pure 60's pop, straight instrumented, with only details in the production revealing
that this song is made in a later century.
"Instant Flute" is also in pop territory, but not so immediate, reminding me in some ways of the arrangements and melody in Warren Zevon's song "Transverse City" (the title track from the album of the same name).
The other half of the album is less interesting, at least from a pop angle. Things chill down with the mostly instrumental loopy Arabic-Hindu jazz of "The Greatest Sorrow On Earth" and the
somewhat similar, but slightly noisier "Puff Pipe", with Indian-Arabian soundcollages over a laidback hip-hop rhythm.
"Ruin Yourself" mixes in a lyrical Beatles reference ("All together now"), but the song feels like walking standing still,
at least until the bubbling distortion takes over half-way. Its use of close-miked rapid disrhythmic breathing sounds is also a little out of place.
The song is then destroyd in the following "Ruin Mix", a short, but rather pointless excersise in distortion likely to produce listener fatique.
The album ends with a return to pop with "Too Much Hello Goodbye Again?", a Beatles reference would suit this one better.
But wait, there's a 16 minutes long hidden bonus track! Starting with what sounds like a pond of frogs in agony, on to flamenco guitars, then some kind of mouth harp symphony,
xylophones are added, looping into a light nightmare, before loosing up and presenting some kind of Arabic-Hindu sermon slowly droning away into fuzz nirvana.
According to available information on the web, this track is called "WHEN a) Buddha b) Allah".
To sum it up: Some songs are surprisingly traditionally arranged, others are strictly sound collages, but
When's take on 60's Middle Eastern/Indian music influenced psychedelic pop is overall very up-beat and accessible compared to his earlier releases, yet pretty loopy and experimental and spiked with adventurous samples.
As a songwriter, When occasionally sparkles, but it is the arrangements that makes the songs glow and attract repeated listenings.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 3 () - Jester Records 3 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Koppen album Truckdriving Songs from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the
Rotoscope release Great Curves from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2010 Knut Tore Breivik