As a fan of Shriekback, I completely missed out on the Stic Basin phenomenon on the Shriekback.com of 2003. The first flowering of Shriekback online resulted in a series of rarities compilations and the odd self-released album which completely passed me by at the time. Given that I was unemployed for much of 2001-2003, I was not in a position to buy much of anything at the time. This was for the best at the time, but it meant that I had no experience of the Stic Basin project from its 2003 origins or even the reissue of it bundled with Shriekback’s “Comorant” album in 2005, from Mike Cole’s Malicious Damage label.
<flash forward 17 years>
As I’ve been gainfully employed now for ages, I’ve been better poised to soak up all of the new Shriekback oriented activity as they renewed their online presence in the last decade and set out to fill the empty spaces between our ears will all manner of music and various projects. Many of which we discuss here, so without further ado, let’s dig into this 2nd Stic Basin recording by Mr. Barry Andrews. It’s one of his outlier projects of solitude where he gets to completely ignore the normal Shriekback outlines.
Stic Basin: 2 UK – CD 
- Mufflon Stamgast
- Milky Blort
- Three Objects
- Girl 6.3
“Mufflon Stamgast” was a queer one. Built on phoneme samples welded together with a liberal mortar of auto tune. Verbal funk. The freeze dried, staccato rhythm recalled the early 90s and the days where Fine Young Cannibals stalked the charts. Abstract chant loops vied with arpeggio loops of blurred provenance. The scorched earth drops clearly showed the influence of the dance floor. The swelling choral pads in the climax added an elegiac air to it all as the music bed evaporated to leave an electronic chime the last word.
“Gasp” was abstract glitch that was fully rhythmic in its aim. With doppler shifted dropouts for curated noise to run riot over the [almost] steady beat. The last third was like a berserk percussive solo. Almost starting out with programming analogous to Shriekback’s famous gardening sticks before going full tilt David Van Tiegham.
The deceptive synthetic bongos shared the spotlight with a Persian melody on the synth pads in the onomatopoeia of “Milky Blort.” Its vibe almost most recalling earlier Shriekglories such as “This Big Hush.” The pizzicato middle eight led to the melodic structure on this one predominating. The cautiously optimistic coda gave us room for hope.
“Three Objects” began as the soundtrack to your inner Swedish Art Film of anxiety with discordant, abstract cinematic ambience. At least until the rhythmic basis of the track finally manifest nearly at its halfway point. Where the tribal polyrhythms shared the soundstage with the anxious strings and harmonics. Then the rhythms dropped out and the abstraction had the final say as the forward momentum dissipated; leaving only a vague unease. Which was a perfect segue into the long [6:00] and appropriately named “Thwart.”
That song began with sombre organ chords over which indecipherable roarings from the distant horizon could be heard like ghostly traffic sounds from another plane, crossing over to indeed, thwart our intentions. The random, almost melody that occurred at the track’s halfway point only served to further enervate the listener. The mournful organ ultimately continued after the distant traffic sounds abated. Until at last the merciful fade occurred.
“lgfit27” had an insect energy. All full of delicate subtlety, and cicada-like rhythms. What seemed almost like human speech; degenerated down to below the threshold of comprehension, repeated a vocoded figure rhythmically throughout the track. The final third perked up considerably to allow for shimmering synth lines and off beat rhythms to unfold in a way that could almost be called majestic, were it not so ultimately dark.
Around the time I began to miss the distinctive verbals of Barry Andrews [his densepack lyrical prowess is surely one of the biggest distinctions of Shriekback] then “Jagonebar” appeared to offer soothing recompense amid the loping groove. Andrews’ abstract wordstream existed only as a human signifier and not actual content. Stylistically, it actually recalled the vibe of the Carl Marsh track on “Why Anything? Why This?” called “The Painter Paints.” Though the musique concrete rhythmic hook of a sample of tape being back-cued brought it closer to the Stic Basin wheelhouse. It was still, a pretty groovy number, with bass blossoming among the flute-like synth leads.
Just when anything could happen, “Klarg” injected a massive, cinematic trip-hop groove into the mix just long enough for one to exclaim “was that really a sample of someone imitating a train whistle I just heard?” before the track lurched to its end.
We reached conclusion with “Girl 6.3.” It began with a crystalline, clockwork melody, as played on kalimba while the flutes added a rhythm. The middle eight on sampled guitars with long sustain, deep in the mix gave us a shred of longing before the glockenspiel returned on the melody to serve as a lullaby for the conclusion of our brief, but eventful journey. We were at home in mother’s arms, bellies full of warm milk with only ebbing memories of the zones of unease we’d hovered over earlier.
I can hear Andrews’ DNA in here though it has mutated into a very different beast, with completely different portions of his brain getting engaged in the mix. His usually overactive cerebellum has managed to let his brainstem out for a romp here. And that wicked boy spent as much time in bashing out a rhythm as it did in painting a melody. The emotional arc of the album was well considered and it served to offers a series of complimentary moods and related structures that managed to tell a likely story and leave us wanting more.
Only the scantest amount of Shriekback genotype was present here, but Andrews’ recent foray into solo pop territory was completely absent. If anything the noisier aspects of this album made me look back to Eno’s “Nerve Net” album of the 90s; albeit a result certainly more left field in Andrews hands in the here and now. It’s a chunky, very chewy album, full of vibrating plastic textures contrasting with smoky palls of dense, gray fog.
If you are game for a listen to Andrews’ self-described “electronic solo blort-fest” then by all means hit that button below. There’s two CD packages still available, with the £10.00 student model CD + WAV download or the executive version for £13, [CD + WAV DL] complete with the artisinal hand made postcard from the artiste. Currently, there’s no straight DL option for this title. This art comes complete with artifact, no matter what.
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