ELCTRK! (2003) (Gold Standard Laboratories)
SLMZK! (2002) (Action Driver)
~review by Mick Mercer
It’s that age-old story. Shoal of piranhas discover abandoned cache of rusting instruments, forms band in Canada, annoying the neighbours. Local record moguls take an interest and the next thing you know they’re releasing records, but by 2003 it’s all over. Well, plenty more fish in the sea, although not many reach my shores offering this sort of music.
I’ll start with the single, released during their last year of existence and so violently noisy that after just thirty seconds the vinyl itself had desperately daubed a message, ‘help me!’, on the underside of my record deck lid. I was powerless to intervene, because my mind was racing back through the decades to a time (’79-’81) when I was regularly lured to gigs where the brittle electronica of some bands crossed over into the birth of Indie. If you want the easiest explanation of where this band is coming from think Mekons, think Fall, and splutter Section 25.
I knew music like this carried on, but imagined it would be a murky mixture of modern electronics and Industrial espionage. Then French band Electronic Press Kit showed me how they’d delved backwards for individual inspiration, and so it seems did aLUnARED. On the single, ‘It Is Your Anthem’ gets stripped right down to the floorboards, and the wiring looks unsafe. A ranting singer/talker/stalker of the Mark E Smith firebrand variety holds sway, with stark, stomping drums, cackling keyboards and splintering guitars at his back. It has a shambolic, amateurish ending, but when they’re bashing hell out of the song’s framework it really does glow hotly. ‘The Electric Blood’ is similar with added guitar input, and twice the vitality as a result.
In small bursts music like this becomes a poisoned sorbet, sharpening taste buds dulled by well produced, harmonious records, but how do they fare when it comes to this album they insist is called Soul Music? For any band’s sound to work, regardless of genre, they need something which defines them, and here it’s the clattering drum style, akin to metal bashers of yore, and the use of the nagging, floating keyboards. These do intrigue, so it’s all down to whether they can introduce salivating schisms.
‘Blood And Muscle’ sees the drums big, the electronics bleeping steadily and the bass positively vengeful. Rabid staccato singing leads into a gentle sing-along followed by enough pauses to make you as apprehensive as you are anticipating delight. ‘Disco Track For Personal Films’ has a flaying rhythm, somewhere close to an orderly take on early Big Black, a bad-tempered Pop Group, or even 23 Skidoo, where they twist on the spot rather than running with rhythm. Added vocals and keyboard warmth both bring a soothing touch to the torment. The title track finds our vocalist barking faster while hurdling a jumble of percussion but this time the slower, echoey side is neutered by the rheumatic rhythm. Sadly, the fluidity isn’t there.
Moderating the tortured tone, ‘(eye)sore’ allows the synth to fester nicely, creating a spacious feel, then ‘Gun/Kerosene’ rampages along, with a thickening sound; a wave of quicksand in which de-funked guitar flickers. ‘This Machinery’ trips itself up when conventional vocals hop on board the crumbling moving walkway and in ‘The Shade’, where pretty electronics are helped by a layer of trumpet, similar vocals waft in gingerly to make it feel grand. Dual vocals work well in offsetting the rants, but nobody can control ‘Ear To The Church’, which is all but a brawl. Fun arrives in closing ‘The Cut-ups’, romping across sedate keyboards, where the rhythm steps up and they become engaging for all the abrasions.
What stops this being a major success is that second half, where some of the biggest impacts clearly come from orthodox ideas, which can’t have been their intention. However, it’s good to know there’d be many idiotic faux rebels that would be rather taken aback by this, even demanding an exclusion order against it, and fans of thorny music can rejoice that this is right up their street, like an ice cream van packed full of explosives.