Featured artists: Regal Worm | Jah Wobble | Aquaserge | Stephan Thelen ||:
A round-up of some corkers from 2021 that I should have reviewed at the time, but didn’t, and for whatever spurious reason did not make it into any of our end-of-year rundowns already out there: CLICK HERE.
• Regal Worm – The Hideous Goblink
• Jah Wobble – Metal Box-Rebuilt in Dub
• Aquaserge – The Possibility of A New Work for Aquaserge
• Stephan Thelen – Fractal Guitar 2: The Remixes
Welcome to the kaleidoscopic ’60s universe of The Hideous Goblink, a place where the men wear black crew neck sweaters, and the women groove under the refracted light of a mirror ball, immaculately turned out in Mary Quant. If Patrick McGoohan was in this band playing theremin, and Peter Wyngarde was an inscrutable bass playing lothario, I would not be surprised.
Jarrod Gosling fronts Regal Worm and plays all sorts of stuff, the credits look like a shopping list for Magickal Mickey’s Musical Emporium. This is the Worm’s fourth wriggle, and here Jarrod maintains a direct link to his wonky pop alter egos in I Monster and Cobalt Chapel on the short bursts of wibbly-wobbly on side one, although as side two of this record is a 19-minute trip through a fried mind entitled The Satan, summoning The Horned One with “Hail King Leather, Bacon Lord Plastic, Smothered in gold” and other likely chants, it might be said the plot thickens once you flip the record.
The aforementioned hellish Side Two opens with the short urgent pummeller Underground Comix before we get into the meat of the matter, which I won’t attempt to describe as you can listen to it all on ye olde Bandcamp before you inevitably buy one of this year’s most leftfield slabs of high entertainment. And yes, vinyl is really the only proper way to listen to this wee beastie, and bright shocking yellow it is too!
The mighty bass man revisits the album that kickstarted post-punk from far over in left field way back in 1979. If you are too young to have seen/heard it first hand, the impact of Metal Box cannot be overstated. The extremely strange sight of Mr Wobble sat on a bar stool grinning menacingly at the camera revealing blacked-out teeth, picking out the signature bass rumblestompf to Death Disco, while John Lydon howls out a lyric of despair recounting his mother dying from cancer has to be the oddest and most unsettling thing ever seen on Top of the Pops, not to mention the most avant garde top 20 hit ever! They just don’t make ’em like that anymore – or before, come to that.
Which might be why the redoubtable bass man has dug deep into the groove and crafted a largely vocal-free dub version of that seminal album, subtly embellished with new instrumentation and modern production flourishes. The alternate take of Death Disco presented here is more urgent somehow, interrupted with some lounge-classical piano. It works. Following that is Mr Wobble’s only vocal on the album, a spoken word Poptones that floats by on a chronoglide skyway, but one hijacked by 17th Century pirates.
The original album was a milestone in creative music making, and John Lydon, whatever his faults, will go down in pop culture history as a man who changed the course of music, not once but twice. There are not many you can say that about! Co-founder of PiL with Lydon, Jah Wobble played a crucial part in carving this particularly odd niche in Rock’s Rich Tapestry. If you loved the original, you’ll love this. That is all.
And now for something completely different…
From the rarefied intellectual environs of an imaginary artist’s garret in just about any French city that takes your fancy hail the very fine purveyors of unmatched Gallic wonky pop/prog, Aquaserge.
This time around they largely leave their refined pop nous at the door, as they take on a project in tribute to four modern classical composers; Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988), György Ligeti (1923-2006), Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) and Morton Feldman (1926-1987).
While undeniably esoteric and definitely an album for the head, their ear for that captivating melody line is never too far away. It took me a while to get my synapses round this, having been won over in the past by their beguiling pop instincts on previous outings such as Laisse ça être but once in the zone, this is a refined and stimulating work that will stretch your notions of what an ostensibly “pop” band can or should do. Think a French romantic take on Henry Cow, and you might be part way there!
Stephan Thelen is one vital cog in Swiss tritone rock minimalists Sonar, whose work exudes a hypnagogic quality that transports the listener into the quiet corners of ego. This mesmerising style transposes into his solo albums, which while they might be somehow less architectural, are no less transfixing. The latest of these was Fractal Guitar 2, released back in May 2021, and reviewed with high praise on these very pages.
In these times of limited gig opportunities, it is little surprise that pandemic downtime was used to weld together this sublime slab of highly organic remixes, two by the creator, and featuring one by Sonar bandmate David Torn, one by exploratory guitar maestro Barry Cleveland, one by Bill Laswell, and one by Jah Wobble. Quite a cast, I think you’ll agree!
The track Point of Inflection gets three separate treatments, from Thelen himself, David Torn, and Bill Laswell. It is fascinating comparing the different arrangements, and indeed different musicians who appear on the tracks. Suffice to say, if you enjoyed Fractal Guitar 2, you’ll groove to this, oh yes!
No video this time, just click on the Bandcamp link below for a trial run through all the tracks. You won’t regret it!