This is a journey into sound. Ok, it’s not quite a Coldcut megamix, but a cunningly woven tapestry of improvised clatter with a depth and unity that belies the gleeful maximalism of its construction.
Sometime in 2014, Anla Courtis and Aaron Moore – who together could probably lay claim to be the definition of restless, genre-hoping underground musicians – discovered a studio full of sound making devices (London’s Fish Factory) and proceeded to throw everything and anything into their sonic cauldron with a view to making a record.
So there are pianos and guitars and percussion and marimbas and balaphons and metal lampshades and wooden staircases. Having bashed and scraped and fondled and rubbed everything they could get their hands on, the duo retired to their various bolt holes to mix and layer the resulting cacophony into a thick, resonant stew of sound. Thanks to their musical alchemy, what could have been an indulgent mess is a playful and cohesive artistic statement.
Moore takes control of Side 1, creating three linked tracks (or a single track with three distinct movements) from the duo’s various real-time explorations. Portions of Honesty takes up the first four and a half minutes, an ominous piano-led clamour that’s marvellously metallic and stringy-sounding, its echoing thumps like the nauseous waltz of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ The Carny after a bottle of cough medicine. Meanwhile someone intones the opening phrases of Jeff Lynne’s The War of the Worlds: “The chances of anything coming from Mars/Are a million to one/But still they come.”
After this the bottom end drops out, to reveal a slowly evolving guitar figure reminiscent of Courtis’ work with Tetuzi Akiyama, Naranja Songs. But instead of the chilly, clear spaces of that record, here the guitar vies for attention with a strangled, fuzzy scree and mithering bass parps, which keep things from getting too polite.
At 11:17, Honest Pork Pie kicks in, with a stretched synth drone and all manner of clockwork ticks and tocks. There’s a disorienting phasing tremolo at play here, too, like Johnny Marr’s awesome vibrations on The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now, before everything flops into a mutated rumble. At 14:00 another burst of sound, refracted through a coppery echo, wakes us briefly from our reverie before slipping out.
Courtis’ side mixes both players’ contributions into a graceful, long form groove. An opening section of what sounds like clarinet tones fades into a patter of percussion and ringing tones, like a music box in the middle of a drum circle. It’s poised and delicate at first, then backwards reverb and parched trumpet squeaks make things shimmer at the edges.
At 9:14 a scratchy acoustic guitar chugs over the hill and things get cosmic for some short while. That campfire jam vibe turns sinister soon after, with grinding bass and beating toms adding a ritualistic note. Later a piano bashes out a Musica Ricercata-style ostinato while the trumpet moans and the percussion takes on a clanking, machine-like quality. The end, when it comes is clammy and oppressive, like being stranded on a sandbank after the tide has come in on a cold February evening.