[…continued from previous post]
When I popped this into the CD player, it immediately paid dividends with the frantic drum + bass of “Artminx.” The furious and repetitive vocal loops seemed like something more in Yello’s playbook than the work of Shriekback, but perhaps that was the whole idea of his exercise. As Mr. Andrews stated on the back cover:
“The combination of freedom and stricture is something we like and the absence of the usual pressure we feel when adding to the main Shriekback canon allowed investigation of some juicy new areas.” – “The Elated World” liner notes
Quite. The cut was like a hookbomb for the dancefloor with vocoded vocals and fast tempo vocals looped for maximum rhythm. Only on “The Bastard Sons Of Enoch” from “Sacred City” did they ever flirt with this sound, and not so adroitly.
“Sensation To Sensation” was more in line with the dark, seductive qualities we know and love the band for, while the vocoder was used another time here, recalling instead the eerie roots of the band as leftfield dark horses. The lovely piano throughout the song gets enough of a full exposure in the last third of the song to leave the track falling just on the “beautiful” side of the line in the sand next to “eerie.”
The band allowed the sponsors of the tracks to go as far as suggesting a title,but nothing more, and some of the songs here have such near-to-self-parody monikers that I’m certain that the band would have never gone there themselves had it not been for the fans with £200 to offer per track. Surely “Clench Fist Labs” could have become a Shriekback song no other way? The track could have sat comfortably on the flipside of any single from “Big Night Music.”
“Brilliant Patina,” Tiny Struggle,” and the winner… “Indecisive Phenotype,” take Shriektitling as far as it can go, in a manner of speaking. There is a careful balance of atmospheric instrumentals as well as vocal tracks, making for a very listenable disc that touches partially on area of the band’s historical strengths as well as the occasional outlier to something completely different that Andrews alluded to in the quote at the start of this review. There are a few tracks here that can be connected to “The Bastard Sons Of Enoch,” the band’s 1992 proto-techno excursion into loop based development [that coincidentally saw Underworld MK I’s Karl Hyde playing guitar with the band]. “960 Drive” was certainly one of those. But the real “aha” moments come from things like the dub reggae leanings [!] of the delightfully dignified and sophisticated “T*ts.”
Elsewhere, “Neurophreak I” and “Neurophreak II” form a seemingly unrelated duology whereby the first track was a long [4:54!] instrumental track which needed that much time to coalesce and build its dark, introverted mood, while the second number was a more direct vocal number of the typical 2-3 minute length that the album mostly offered. “More Percussion [than there actually is]” is another brilliantly titled, longer track of exactly what it touts right up front.
The split between instrumentals and vocal tracks is almost equal here. And many of the vocal tracks show Andrews in his most subtle form, with whispered murmurings and vocoded bliss taking precedence over his more outré and declamatory side. Think of this edition as a collection of all of the B-sides that Shriekback never got to make from 1992 to the present and while there are no outright duds here, there are certainly enough eureka moments to have justified the whole exercise. My spidey-sense® tells me that there may be some techno leanings on the next Shriekback waxing.
Hats are off to Shriekback for going down a road I would have preferred them not to take [exclusive music for those who could afford the relatively high cost] and to have concluded the experiment in such a populist way [a CD for anyone to hear] that I could only applaud. There’s no word as to when this will be released officially in the Shriekback store, but since I hold in my hand a CD, my guess is that it won’t be long before the band announce it to the world for wider purchase.
Unrelated Thoughts: After this CD arrived in my mailbox when I was fully expecting a DL, I was distraught that when the Kickstarter was announced, I was in the midst of saving my shekels for a vacation a couple of weeks down the road. When the band announced the “£1 or more” buy-in for this music, I felt that I wanted to send the band £5 since I really wanted their campaign to succeed, but was not in a position to go for the full £25 price point that was most appealing to me. Then the band shipped me a CD instead of sending me the DL link I read into their offer! Naturally I was feeling pretty badly about the whole thing, but the campaign is over. There’s no way to pledge further on Kickstarter. I took my concerns to Mr. Andrews afterward and he said not to worry about it. At least I didn’t pledge £1 and live in Australia! But still, it makes me feel uncomfortable that the band shipped me a CD for my modest £5 pledge, so I’m going to just send the band some more dinero. It’s not like I don’t have loads of payment records from all of the CDs I’ve bought from them directly in the last two years. I can’t afford to have my Shriekarma tainted! I value this band too much for that.
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