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It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 11
coverpic coverpic Now We've Got Members: Le Jardin
  (2002 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0011.CDR)
vs.
Virus: Carheart
  (2003 Jester Records TRICK-011)

Welcome to round 11 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 goalsIt's a GOAL! and giving out yellowOooops, a yellow card! and redOooops, a red card! cards, soccer style - but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see round 1.

Match preview
Le Jardin is presented in a jewel case and includes a folded insert with art & info.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The Virus release comes in a jewel case and includes a booklet with art & info.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The match

The debut album from Now We'we Got Members, Curious Yellow was a promising but eclectic mix of organic Balkan rock. Being the band that gathers the most members from the Metronomicon circle, I was curious about this next album. And they certainly do deliver. After the short intro of "In", the lengthy "It Used to Be Dirty" sets a new standard for the Metronomicon Balkanism It's a GOAL! . A full orchestra/band flows through a row of instrumental movements with lots of well thought-through arrangements and great interplay between the many instruments. (And they are many: in addition to the usual, we have mandolin, saz, sitar, flute, melodica, harmonium, cello, darbuka, tabla, accordion, glockenspiel and sax.) They show a prog-rock leaning towards using repetetive bass lines, upon which other instruments sometimes play the melody in unison, other times counterpointing each other, all to great effect. The song is cut up with short funny vocal and instrumental breaks that effectively prevent listener fatique setting in through the more intense parts. "I am Falling Again and Again" slides a little unnoticed by at first, being a kind of nerdy indie/diy pop, until the song shifts into a mellow instrumental that drifts into an almost meditative mode - a simple theme that I am sure could be extended into 20 minutes of floating lounge psychedelia in a live setting.

The short sitar interlude of "Don't Stop This Feeling" introduces the three-part composition of "The garden I-III". Part I is calm with pondering lyrics and feels like a prelude to the almost 10 minute long part II, which starts out more lively and diverted, but after a while it goes dreamlike and repetetive, then to gradually intensify like a balloon gliding up into the sky, until bursting like a small bubble of water. The final part revisits part I and expands on its repetetive and reflective nature. "Rapunzel! Let Down Your Hair" is straight indie-rock, the intensity occasionally touching the lighter side of Motorpsycho, and it's well balanced with calmer parts, making it an almost instant favouriteIt's a GOAL! . "La Histoire Fantastique" is quite another thing, with what sounds like a harmonica (or accordion) laying the melodic background to a conversation, in English but with a heavily caricatured French accent. It is quite difficult to understand every word (I wish the lyrics were printed!), but it arrives at a discussion about the band name: "now we have numbers? ... we have got numbers ... now we have got numbers ... not numbers, members ... a groupe Norvege? ... now we have got no members yes? ... now we have got members!"

The album ends with another syncopated rally with "Stop This Feeling", and it's hard not to appreciate the burst of energy Now We'we Got Members give when they are in Balkan party mood. Towards the end the band turns on the electronic equipment and jams it up until the lid blows and everything drifts awayIt's a GOAL! . "Out" is just a short fading organ chord. To sum it up: A great step forward for Now We'we Got Members! Enclosed in their Balkan fireworks ("It Used to Be Dirty" and "Stop This Feeling") they serve up a very interesting meal, combining tasty ingredients in new ways, but this time around they sound more like a band. I'm already looking forward to their next!

Over to Virus and their Carheart. Virus are Czral ("barking with guitar"), Plenum ("bassolin") and Esso ("fuelling"). We quickly translate this into vocals, guitars, bass and drums and off we go. The album starts out in ambience, as "Something Furry This Way Comes" uses the sound of passing traffic, creating a tense feeling. The same goes for the two other soundscape tracks, "Dogs With Wheels" and "Kennel Crash Recovery". A disturbed, twisted atmosphere lays all over the album, but the rest of it is far from ambient. The majority of tracks are what you could call complex dark prog-metal, or perhaps experimental or avant-garde metal is the preferred term. Or math rock. There's a lot of intricate playing, with skewed, dissonant chords and advanced solo runs, the bass, drums and guitars interlocking in complicated grooves. It's an intense and challenging listen at times. Aside from the three mentioned ambient interplays, a couple of other tracks turn the intensity down, making it easy to pick them as highlights, as the others more or less numb each other out. The instrumental "Road" slows it down with its repeating guitar theme, creating an eerie, desolate feelingIt's a GOAL! , while "Hustler" gains a lot from using clean guitars. "Hustler" also departs melodically from the rest of the album, more eccentric than dark, reminding me of Nick Mason's Fictitious SportsIt's a GOAL! .

As for odd comparisons, I also would like to offer fellow Norwegians late 80's band MunchIt's a GOAL! , who were into the same kind of spooky, dark and psychotic dramatics. Munch's music had an eeriness that is somewhat similar to what Virus creates in a metal setting. In fact, sometimes it sounds as if Virus is playing a Munch theme at double speed, for instance in "It's All Gone Weird". Both bands also have a leaning towards theatricals, especially the vocals. Virus experiment more with the vocals though, not always to good effect, for instance they go over the top with the female backing oohs of "Queen Of The Hi-Ace", to the point that it gets comicalOooops, a yellow card!. Other than that there's not much to laugh at here, as Virus stick to their formula with both hands on the wheel. It is hard to get the concept of the album though. Judging from the song titles it has something to do with dogs and cars ... and from the booklet art I guess it's all about some biomechanical bad dream. In that respect, Virus seem to have something in common with Ulver, philosophically speaking.

To sum it up: If you're into complex dark metal, I guess you should give this one a listen. Others are advised to first check out the few tracks that depart from this formula. Virus do re-use the same skewed chords perhaps a little to often, but all in all this is a consistent bleak block of work.

Match result: Metronomicon Audio 3 (It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!) - Jester Records 3 (It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!)

THE LABEL TABLE
# Metronomicon Audio (MA) Jester Records (JR) MA JR
01 C.O.U.: Darklow Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Ulver: Themes From William ... Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! 1 4
02 C.O.U.: Sellout EP It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! Esperanza: Esperanza Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card! 2 1
03 C.O.U.: Bestboy Electric Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Arcturus: Disguised Masters It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! 1 1
04 Cyrano & C.O.U.: s/t It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! When: Psychedelic Wunderbaum Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a red card! 2 1
05 Täppas Strepens: Beans, Bacon ... Oooops, a red card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Bogus Blimp: Men-Mic It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL! 2 4
06 Now We've Got Members: Curious .. It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! Ulver: Metamorphosis It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! 2 1
07 C.O.U.: Taking a Nap With It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card!It's a GOAL! Ulver: Perdition City It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a red card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! 2 4
08 Täppas Strepens: The Future ... Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Bogus Blimp: cords. wires Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! 3 3
09 Magnus Moriarty™: Drive Fast ... It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! When: WriterCakeBox It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! 3 5
10 Various Artists: 1.0 It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card!It's a GOAL! Star of Ash: iter.viator. It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card! 3 1
11 Now We've Got Members: Le Jardin It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL! Virus: Carheart It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card! 3 3
Total 24 28

Next match
Next head-to-head meeting is the Center of The Universe album Promotional Copy from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the Ulver release Silence Teaches You How To Sing from Jester Records.

Copyright © 2010 Knut Tore Breivik e-mail address

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