Crow Versus Crow isn’t the most prolific of labels, but when it releases something, it does it right. And its latest, a split from no-audience underground maestros BBBlood, Posset and Stuart Chalmers, is no exception. The physical release is a glorious artefact, boasting a luxurious, full-colour sleeve and a collaborative artwork from the three musicians involved, packaged in a hand-stamped, numbered and sticker-sealed envelope. Proper. Unfortunately, it’s sold out now, but if didn’t get the chance to grip one, well, at least you know now and you can get in early for the next release, which is sure to be a winner, too. There’s still the digital, of course, which has the virtue of enabling you to focus exclusively on the content while feeding its gritty noise collages direct from your chosen device, through your eardrums and into your lobes. Whichever your preferred listening format, Delirium Cutlet Impaste should meet all your grouchy-fuzz-gristle-drone requirements. Billed as a record ‘made from within the socio-political mindfuck that is the UK in 2017’, Delirium Cutlet Impaste is, actually, less directly polemical than you might expect. It numbers three tracks, one by each artist, each one lasting about 20 minutes and each adding to their creators’ aesthetic in interesting ways.
First up, Absent Lottery signals a return to soundmaking from BBBlood, aka Paul Watson, who, save a couple of live shows has been largely absent from the sonic landscape for the past 12 month or so. One of those shows was a Beartown Records night in east London back in February, in which Watson crashed out a volcanic, chunky set that cleaved to his primal noise debris blueprint. But Absent Lottery is different, more considered, with snippets of field recordings stitched into a tapestry of woolly fuzz and ambient scrape. A cavalcade of nervy scrunch about halfway through resembles a frenzied birthday-present opening on a nightmarish loop, sweaty hands tearing through layer on layer of wrapping paper while a grumpy sibling slurps their fizz and pretends not to be interested. Later, a recording of Spanish banter sounds oddly sinister, as if we’re overhearing the adrenaline-fuelled aftermath of a horrific crime. The final section is a jittery flow of crackle, distorted clunks and spooky loops overlapping in a grey, numbing ooze.
If there are times when Watson’s soundscaping veers into the Dicataphone grindspace usually occupied by Joe Murray in his Posset releases, the opening section of Murray’s own track is one of the most un-Posset things I’ve heard him issue. A keening voice calls out a beautiful, haunting lament in a language I don’t recognize (possibly from the Indian sub-continent). The refrain is sensitively doubled and manipulated, with a lightness of touch that’s a far cry from the fun-packed gonzoid chops. It’s real ear-opener, and even when things motor back to more familiar Posset territory, there’s a slow-burn melancholy that marinates everything with poignant, almost desperate sadness. Usually the babel-ing maximalism of a Posset side is a bulwark against isolationism, Murray’s joy in multiplicity acting as the best advert for diversity and multiculturalism you could ever want. But here the groaning choral, not to mention the gorgeous instrumental section that occupies the mid-section of his track, seem preoccupied with loss, as if the post-Brexit landscape is erasing those glorious, yelping differences and replacing them with a grim monocultural whisper.
In the face of such potential desolation, it’s perhaps a little optimistic to hope Stuart Chalmers can save us. Nevertheless, he gives it his best shot, serving up scuffed layers of dreamy exotica, ruffled by burping machine waves whose blissful undulations in this context seem positively utopian. If sonically Chalmers stays within his safe space, serving up thick layers of repetition and distortion, the mood is less foreboding than usual, with snatches of wooden flute, avian chirrups and operatic gasps giving the clattering mechanicals a hallucinatory air. Sure, it’s abrasive and all up in your grill, but it’s as hectic and unthreatening as a band of saffron-clad monks dancing through your town square. Yet, just when you’ve hit peak Chalmers, all those dissonant crashes and collapsing sonic debris wash themselves out. All that’s left is a rumbling, contemplative coda, with a lonely ocarina trilling out over a low synth drone and loamy hiss. Is this a wax cylinder beamed back from an extinct planet, or a soundtrack for a day at the ashram? You decide.