Norway - Full Moon 162 - 12/02/09
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 5
Täppas Strepens: Beans, Bacon & Gravity
(2001 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0005.CDR)
Bogus Blimp: Men-Mic
(1999 Jester Records TRICK-005 - CD)
Welcome to round 5 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records!
Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going
through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other.
Humorously counting goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
Beans, Bacon & Gravity is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed
in a flexible plastic sleeve with cardboard folder containing art & (sparse) information.
The Bogus Blimp release comes in a jewel case and includes a folded insert with art & info.
Men-Mic is the debut album from curiously named Bogus Blimp.
The name reveals little about what to expect musically, except perhaps
something experimental and eccentric. We blow the whistle and go ahead!
Just seconds into "Jazz/Speech" we're transported to a 30's gypsy cabaret
where a leading character is explaining something rather incoherent
in heavily accented English. It's all distorted because we're listening
through a hole in the wall from the bar next door, but the message starts with
"Good morning" and ends
with "Armageddon", so
I guess there's a rapidly developing story inbetween. Musically this reminds
me of the Swiss group The Dead Brothers in their more wacky moments.
"Sweets & Love" continues in the same vein, another twisted tale, but more cartoon-like.
In "Hush Now" words are whispered through a windy night, starting out half scary,
but shifts into beauty and mellows out as though daylight has arrived.
Fasten your seatbelts for "In/Exhale", where the words "inhale" and "exhale" are drilled
into your head , accelerating into screams, until only calm confusion is left.
With "Brains" the formula begins to feel repeated, same kind of tension building, same kind of
vocal drama over similar chord progressions .
"Even More" on the other hand is more experimental with its whispering chants intercepted by
some kind of English language educational samples, 60's style.
"891" is an interlude that feels like listening to a radio with low batteries receiving
only fragments of transmissions from deep down in a French valley, 50 years ago.
"Inside Here" continues with an accordion waltzing French style, bringing my thoughts back to
the waltz theme of Nick Cave's "The Carny" , which I guess also can serve as an
overall reference to this album, although "The Carny" is darker and less "rock".
So how to sum this up? I see that many describe this album as cinematic, and I can understand
that. It certainly has to be music for movies where things go wrong on some level, perhaps
fitting a story of fighting inner demons in a world where most bad things have already happened.
Musically, I would say Bogus Blimp are related to the Norwegian band Munch , when thinking of
the dramatic implications of their music (Munch had a cleaner approach and
higher precision - you may say that Bogus Blimp use a shotgun where Munch used a rifle).
Overall I'd say this is an excellent debut, only hampered by a slight repetition in ways of use of effects and chords/melodies.
Over to the Täppas Strepens album, which opens with a narrative referring to the Voyager spacecraft
and closes with a citation from The Outer Limits, the 60's US sci-fi TV series:
"Who knows? Perhaps the alteration of one small event may someday bring about the end of the world.
But that someday is a long way off, and until then there is a good life to be lived in the here and now."
Inspite of this space setting, the album is the opposite of space rock. Some songs here fall in the
amateurish guitar-strumming category, partly out-of-tune, sparsely arranged, hardly produced, rather unremarkable and hence quickly forgotten
(the overdry "Sawdust Coffee", the dylanesque "Cheap Whisky Fog", the VU-like "Some of the Blue is the Night" with
some absolutely terrible slide guitar playing ).
Others are more experimental, using sound effects and samples in a playful way, making this
a very mixed bag, and I don't feel there is a concept binding these opposites together.
The curiously titled "...." is just a 4 seconds long sound snippet of a door opening that appears as
two separate tracks, perhaps an indication of moving between different rooms ...
In one of the rooms Center of the Universe must be stocking their outtakes, because the somewhat catchy and
cosy pop song "Hagi" sounds just like that.
With "Into Groove, Out of Tune" we get a taste of the more experimental side of the album, with its
skewed cuban-african lounge instrumental along with spoken word samples (from old Norwegian movies?) and what sounds like a Microsoft Windows alert
pling trown into the mix . The first part of "Follow the Rails" is of the limping and tedious guitar-strumming sort ,
but after a couple of minutes they discover their echo and reverb boxes and it departs into a trippy funky close.
"I Eyh Vaquero!" is a wacked-out flamenco, sung by Speedy Gonzales through a series of echo-machines.
"Station St. Mute" is way more interesting with its dancable rhythm and cheesy C.O.U. synths,
creating a one-chord repetitive bubbling synthetic listening experience. It's over 16 minutes long and uses
the last 5 of these to fade away into ambience, but still it's the highlight of the album !
After this, we get down to earth with the finishing "Field Anthem", a decent enough campfire song complete with Neil Young harmonica.
To sum it up: When the typical charming Metronomicon naivety shines through, or
when the urge to experiment kicks in, this album gets interesting. On the downside this album is marred by what seems like
careless musicianship. Some may find this attractive, but I guess I don't see the purpose of not giving a recording a couple
of more takes, to replace some out-of-tune tones or out-of-sync rhythms. I don't think everything should be Steely Dan perfect,
and I certainly can enjoy a raw and technically marred musical performance, but parts of this album feels contrived in this sense.
Too bad the lyrics are not included here though, as Strepens is described by the label as the most "political" of the Metronomicon crew.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 2 () - Jester Records 4 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Now We've Got Members: Curious Yellow release from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the
Ulver release Metamorphosis from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2009 Knut Tore Breivik