Hallowe’en is over for yet another year, all my sweets have been extorted by a succession of little demons and I’ve spent far too long assembling a new record player, the instructions to which are only slightly more complicated and abstract than those imprinted on the side of the two Voyager Spacecraft should they be discovered at any point in the universe’s vast future by a civilisation of audiophiles. The spirit (ha!) of the day is duly extended here by a band whose central sound tends to evoke horrors of yore, bolstered here by the addition of what I read to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Grand Romantic Organ, a title that I must admit to previously believing to be held by Sir Les Patterson’s skin.
Due to an especially harsh set of criteria set by yours truly, one of my favourite records of last year didn’t make it onto my Top 50 list – The Night Terrors’ Back To Zero was indeed released last year, but was a remastered vinyl reissue of an album that first surfaced in 2009 on CD. Last year was the first time I heard it, and it blew me away, in the way that only Australian Theremin-led noisy prog instrumentals can. And as I used up all my Theremin facts in my review of that particular gem, I shall have to find a new handle on this new record. Which turned out to be easier than I thought, given that the whole of this one is geared towards placing a very specific form of dread in the mind of the listener.
Well, it scared the bejaysus out of me anyway.
This writing malarkey’s tricky. And I’m not just saying that because I’m hampered by being crap at it. I generally try to find an “in” to something and then expand on that, sometimes to distressing and ridiculous degrees. And if I can’t find that, then I then put the keyboard to one side and just sit and listen instead because there’s no point in me blathering on about stuff when I can’t be personal about it, no matter how silly or sad that personal angle might get. It’s not wholly inaccurate to say here that I’ve bought a fair few records this year and not many of them have been “writey” records, much as I really like them. Sometimes though, something comes along so unexpected and so good that the force of will required to sit me down in front of a screen for an hour becomes too strong to resist, and the “in” quite literally turned out to have been staring me in the face the whole time…
Sometimes it’s a crying shame that you can only listen to something for the very first time once. Picking up something that you’ve never heard of before for no reason other than someone saying that it’s really good, and then having that single sole preconception go “Kerblammo!” in your head once it hits your ears. Yes, that thing.
As I am wont to do occasionally, I heed the advice of someone who knows this sort of thing better than I and listened to this band whose existence I had no inkling of previously. After about 2 minutes, I forked out forty Australian dollars (an amount of which I have no Earthly notion of how much that actually is) plus shipping on this double album on vinyl that looks as good as it sounds. Thankfully it also came with a download so I’m not having to wait for it to appear from the other side of the planet.
Now, here’s a weird one. As with the last post, this concerns a band that has, in various forms, been around me for a long time. Unlike the artists of the previous missive however, this is a group that doesn’t bring on warm, fuzzy angry feelings of youthfulness: ooh no, this is a band that appeals to the scientific curiosity in me, growing and expanding independently and more often than not in ways counter to what anyone else is doing. I have been meaning to do a “From The Past” post on them pretty much since I began this blog, but have been confounded at every attempt as not only do I still not know which one of their previous albums to do, but also it’s a bizarre notion to be “looking back” at Voivod for any reason, as their forward creative momentum makes such retrospection largely irrelevant.
There’s something almost reassuring about opening a Voivod review with the phrase “Now, here’s a weird one…”, because frankly if Voivod ever did an album that wasn’t intrinsically odd then that’d be the day that they may as well pack up and go home. Thankfully, that time is some way off yet, because this new one (I’ve lost count where we’re up to – 16th?) continues in their fine tradition of being both familiar and completely new all over again. I dunno, maybe it’s that constant newness with these guys that is the familiar feeling that I get from them…
This isn’t a completely new album, as it was originally released online for free for a very limited time (no more than a day or two) back in 2009, which is when I first heard this. Thankfully, it’s now getting a full release next month via the Acid Jazz label and will no doubt attract a few curious listens, although curiosity will soon give way to genuine appreciation once the initial surprise of “man off the telly makes a good record” wears off.
Matt Berry will be a familiar face to many, and a familiar voice to even more – first springing to prominence as Todd Rivers (as Dr Lucien Sanchez – it makes sense when you watch it) in Channel 4 series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace followed by several other appearances with colleagues from this show (The Mighty Boosh, Man to Man With Dean Learner, Snuff Box) culminating in his role as Douglas Reynholm in The I.T. Crowd. Others might know him as the voice of the UK Driving Theory Test, the Volvic Volcano, or that sweet that says “Bring On The Trumpets!”.
It seems rather fitting that I revisit this recent gem this week, as last night should have provided spectacular spacey visuals courtesy of a meteor shower that turned out to be almost entirely obscured by the rainclouds that have covered Manchester since time immemorial, although I think I may have spotted two at about 1 this morning, so job’s a good ‘un. Because Kosmos, as the name implies, are a more than capable of evoking all things stellar. 24 hours later, I’ve just been outside and it’s still raining. According to the news, my home village is slightly under water (and, if a friend is to be believed a small amount of raw sewage into the bargain), although it’s dark now so I’ll just have to take their word for it. (more…)