Flipsides and Otherwise: FAO #13

Diversity isn’t necessarily the meaning to an artistically successful musical life. Sure, as a consuming listener gathering an eclectic sonic collection can be part of the recipe for lifelong happiness and open-mindedness. Yet within such broad libraries there should always be segregated silos for undiluted sonic-mould-setters to congeal themselves, to be retrieved perhaps only when a specific mood requires a corresponding coalescence of sound. In short; sometimes stubborn sameness is better than wild diversity. As this following quintet of releases illustrate in varying degrees…

Brightblack Morning LightMotion To Rejoin (Matador, CD/vinyl/download)

Like 2006’s eponymous sophomore set, Brightblack Morning Light’s third platter is very much the product of painting wide geographic vistas with the most minimalist of palettes possible. Again, it seems as if the tape was left rolling for days – with Rachel Hughes and Naybob Shineywater wandering in and out of their solar-powered recording set-up with the occasional guest visitor – to later be edited down into marginally more manageable trance-like tranches. Once more, there are broad mixed smears of slow-mo Funkadelic-meets-Dr John gospel-funk (“Oppressions Each”), ambient Miles Davis space-jazz strokes (“A Rainbow Aims” and “Summer Hoof”) and ecclesiastical early-Spiritualized water colours (“Past A Weatherbeaten Fencepost”). Many of the tracks running across Motion To Rejoin – maybe even all of them – are interchangeable with those pressed inside its predecessor, producing evidence that could easily put Shineywater and Hughes in the dock for self-larceny. But as with the said prequel, the combined lapping waves of serene sun-baked grooves, voodoo-marinated vibes and soothing verbal opacity, just seem to drag you gently under an oceanic spell that envelopes and overcomes cynicism. So in the end, Motion To Rejoin is plenty more of the same – and just as good.

Visit: www.matadorrecords.com

Fuzzy LightsA Distant Voice (Little Red Rabbit Records, CD)

As with Brightblack Morning Light, the members of the Cambridge-born Fuzzy Lights wear collective influences with near-plagiarist pride on their sleeves. The stirring rustic raptures of the Dirty Three, the crescendo storms of Silver Ray, the near-classical eddying of Rachel’s and the nervy gravitas of Mogwai Young Team all seem to be soldered into the wiring of this debut Fuzzy Lights album. Although such cross-breeding has been dragged into ill-mutated tedium by others, somehow A Distant Voice gels together to form its own confidently striding sentient being. Highlights include the redemptive “Reflective Surfaces”; the soaring “Something To Do With Light”; the menacing maelstrom of “Capturing Shadows”; as well as the elemental dronescapes of the aptly-anointed “Eastern Winds” and “Bells Chiming In An Empty House.” Vocals appear sporadically in places and only prominently on “Safe Place” but they’re not really required to fill any gaps left by the wordless turbulence and tranquillity that dominates such a strong, if occasionally oppressive, full-length calling-card.

Visit: www.fuzzylights.com

Fripp & EnoNo Pussyfooting / Evening Star (DGM/Panegyric, CD)

Whilst Robert Fripp may be better known for this adroit role in prog-behemoths King Crimson and his transcendental multi-tracked guitar lines on David Bowie’s majestic “Heroes” and Brian Eno for his short-but-revered tenure in Roxy Music, his slew of experimental solo records and his studio support for the likes of John Cale, Talking Heads and Robert Wyatt, less is talked about the twosome’s directly intertwined collaborations as a duo. Without many of us even realising it, the twosome arguably set the agenda and raised the bar high for the amorphous world of ambient music when they literally hooked-up guitars, modified tape machines and then-cutting-edge synthesisers for 1973’s No Pussyfooting and 1975’s Evening Star. With both albums newly-retooled for reissue, it only seems polite to revisit them in the context of this conceptually-minded column. The jokily-but-sagely named No Pussyfooting is still an uncompromising and out-of-time piece of work; with its densely-layered disorientating discordance sounding neither quaintly quasi-futuristic nor tamed by contemporary comparisons. Fans of Ladradford and Stars Of The Lid might recognise a few stylistic steals, as perhaps would avid Mogwai fans if they weren’t likely to be so scared-off by the seemingly-limitless and far from cosy sustained mood. Evening Star is a lot easier on the ear, with its more humanised hospitality. Even if the opening “Wind On Water” continues the No Pussyfooting-style desolation, it’s soon offset by the elegant “Evening Star” itself, which brings in the same enduring warmth Eno applied to the vocal-less tracts of his own Another Green World LP. Elsewhere, the ensuing electro-dreaminess of “Evensong” predicates Eno’s contributions to the second-side of Bowie’s Low and the all-too-brief “Wind On Wind” lays the pipes for Eno’s flow of seminal instrumental long-players between the mid-‘70s and early-‘80s. The alluring, albeit challenging, Evening Star concludes on the epic “An Index Of Metals,” with Fripp testing Eno’s primacy elsewhere, over 28 or so minutes of abstract tectonic movements. Both albums are well worth the leap of curious faith, even if only one of them will invite regular listening.

Visit: www.dgmlive.com

Gallon DrunkLive At Klub 007 (Sartorial Records, CD)

Notwithstanding the occasional forays into cinematic atmospheres, countrified balladry and slinky funk, Gallon Drunk’s booze-marinated muse has continuously burbled in a volcanic stew of primordial garage-rock, disembodied Latin rhythms, Funhouse free-noise sleaze and Suicide-flavoured barbarity. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the band’s eternally enthralling live shows, previously only officially documented on record via the odd single, compilation or reissue bonus cut. Ultimately of course, to truly feel the proper Gallon Drunk live experience, you would need to be stood right in front of them in a dank pub-venue; close enough to have James Johnston hiss ‘n’ spit his words directly into your ears as he lunges from the stage, to see Terry Edwards’s neck tattoos bulge as he tries to blow-out a microphone lost in his saxophone and to witness drummer Ian White batter his sparse kit like a back street boxer. For added seasoning, you’d also need original bassist Mike Delanian staring your eyeballs out and missing maracas man Joe Byfield shaking all the sweat from his onetime band regulation Hawaiian shirt. Sadly, such things could never have been accommodated within the confines of the first Gallon Drunk live album, but it’s a convincing enough part-distillation of the foursome’s on-stage savagery anyway.

Dominated by return-to-form highlights from 2007’s The Rotten Mile, with a few vintage numbers thrown-in here and there, Live At The Klub 007 is an unrelentingly raw and thrilling ride through a non-studio Gallon Drunk trip to Prague. The harrowing “Down At The Harbour,” the delirious “All Hands Lost At Sea” and the careening “Bad Servant” show the latter-day material being skilfully assimilated into the ‘must-play’ portions of the Gallon Drunk tour repertoire, alongside the liquor-loving clatter of “Just One More” and the splenetic “Some Cast Fire.” The classic “You Should Be Ashamed” and “Push The Boat Out” might have benefitted from slightly less-pulverising performances but at least the grand-finale revisitation of “Two Wings Mambo” takes off in full flight. With the song’s easily-misheard lyric, Johnston indirectly sums-up Gallon Drunk’s intoxicating essence, as his estuary twang intones “I’ve been dipping myself right into the mire/I’m incarcerated in this bleary haze,” like it were the mantra of a man compelled to forever prowl the dark end of the street for the benefit of our visceral entertainment. Fans of Morphine’s Bootleg Detroit, The Birthday Party’s Live 1981-1982 and The Stooges’ Metallic KO should check this out without hesitation.

Visit: www.myspace.com/gallondrunk