Now here’s an experiment. I am going to write this review within the twenty-seven minutes duration of this madly-monikered record from everyone’s favourite insane stoner-loving thrash-bandits, An Albatross. I’ll add the track names afterward because they’re printed on the CD, not the sleeve. Idiots.
We’re already on track three (“Dimensional Gymnastics”). The first track (“In the Court of the Bear King”) utilised some rather beguiling horn arrangements, but soon erupted into a hellishly violent series of crashes and yelps, augmented with Spinal Tap organs and thrum-tastic basslines. But now we’re on track four (“Trust the Sun, the Symphonic Sunrise”), and it’s not letting up. Fiendishly difficult and jazzy time-signatures are cracked open and laid bare, as I write there is a chugging guitar line stalking the overtones of organ and hi-hat that bears no obvious relation to the track whatsoever. And then it ripens and smashes itself back into gear, rupturing the spleen as it goes.
Thank God. We’ve chilled out on track six (“I: I Behold the Light”). A lazy steel-drum (really) tinkles underneath ever-growing feedback and Latin guitar harmonies that evoke Miles Davis as much as anyone. And now we’re back with Eddie B. Gieda III and his monolith of a shriek, leading us through the sonic swamp of his band’s noise propagation. His voice is now so glottal it is barely audible. Frankly, I fear for his health. Whatever he is trying to tell us, it is not really getting through. It could be monstrously important, but you’d never know without the words in front of your eyes…which I don’t have.
OK, track eight (“III: The Illumination of the Nation”), and we’ve gone disco-jazz. Muted trumpets whittle around delayed feedback and taut percussion, sounding like Melt-Banana (with whom An Albatross have toured), but Oh! We’re slowing down, now we’ve relaxed into some kind of tortured groove, for lack of a better term, and it is thrilling. The organ is still the main focus here, providing the most obvious melodic direction and the only element resembling a hummable tune. But that’s the way they do things round here. If you can’t hum it, you can sure as shit scream and thrash it. The diminished chords fly around the room like the devil’s faeces hitting the fan, with some glorious escalating brass motifs adding, of all things, grandeur to the mess.
Some respite, some plinked kiddie glockenspiel, and now it sounds like Muse having their faces scratched off by the fetid nails of a road-kill survivor hyena with added scorn and gravel. The tightness of the musicianship is never in dispute. It is terrifying in its precision and unrelenting in its momentum. Holy Hell, we’re on track thirteen (“Feastgiver”) now, and it’s getting all Iron Maiden on speed with apocalyptic melodies abound, book-marked by ferocious staccato ensemble stabs. Furiously uncategorizable time signatures make for uneasy dancing, one can safely assume, and a quick between-track glance at the press release informs me of something Gieda calls “The Revolutionary Politics Of Dance.” It is not something I can take in right now, but I’m sure it’s great. Dancing to this music would probably be both impossible and compulsory; making for such a bizarre and wonky funk that one is inexorably drawn to the dance floor.
A held discord…a crash of re-instated rhythm…speeding up…dissolving into wails and howls of dying guitar feedback…that’s track fifteen (“Sacred Geometry”) out of the way. This is great. Because An Albatross have apparently now gone electro. The considered and quietly alluring intro to the following song (“Death Rides a Brown Horse”) is soon triumphantly massacred by ensemble musical pyromania and crushingly accurate riffage flying out of their holes and fingers like an intense post-frat-party vomit marathon. This is metal music for Dvorak’s New World, bold, brazen, sensitively constructed, but utterly deranged. OK, track 18 (“The Eyes of the Jaguar”). We’re finished. Percussive injections of rapidly descending guitar glissandi herald an astonishing climax to the most gleeful and exultant listen of 2006 so far. And that’s all I’ve got left.
I need to lie down.
Melt-Banana – Speak, Squeak, Creak
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Antonin Dvorak – New World Symphony