Darren Tate, His Loyal Friends, The Elves And The Gnomes Always Bring Good News And Should Rule The World

How’s that for a title? Maybe it could be used for a next release… Folks, these are two GREAT records. Don’t even think of missing them.

DARREN TATE – Nature In The City

An abnormally lengthy outing for Tate – it clocks at circa 75 minutes – which is also a homage to Die Stadt’s superlative boss and drone peddler, Herr Jochen Schwarz. I could not think of a better person for a hats-off except perhaps that guy, whose name can’t be remembered now, to whom the neo-dada artist dedicated his earlier Trees Kissing Trees (heh). Kidding aside, this is an unconditionally absorbing album by the reticent man from Acomb, an individual style expressed in a different way with each release, so that we can always shout “It’s Tate” right away in the face of the innovations. It all begins with a track based on deeply rhythmic throbbing with an assortment of blips and waves, absolutely ear-wrapping and soothing. The second movement is founded on an immobile chord upon which chaotic guitar improvisations and sounds halfway through metropolitan alarms and videogames succeed in mind-numbing fashion until a hammering synthetic pulse becomes the leading force in the end. The piece is evidently nonstandard and utterly dislodging but still wonderful, echoes of Faust showing up in my memory, heaven knows why. The third chapter is started by a fantastic rising-and-falling low frequency (a loop of an ephemeral car?) fused with a nocturnal type of electronic hypnosis in what’s probably the most emotionally startling moment of the whole disc. This magical atmosphere is soon broken by the protagonist, who extracts residues in the neighbourhood of the axe’s pickups, consisting in extremely acute, almost prickly droplets and plucked notes warped with the vibrato bar. The final stage features another slow oscillation (this time appearing like a hollow lament filtered by flanging and distorting pedals), a few indefinably sick, noisy-string intromissions, a lot of heavily processed chirping and whistling birds, forever a pleasure to come across (it is indeed one of this musician’s favourite sources) and, bizarrely, meagre keyboard dashes for a handful of seconds. It gradually acquires “ugly strength”, yet only when the record’s over we realize that what seemed brutal was actually healthy. We’re lucky to be able to enjoy the fruits of this free-thinker’s work, and Nature In The City is particularly succulent. (Fungal – distributed by Die Stadt and ICR – otherwise see you on eBay in two months)

MONOS – Above The Sky + Below The Earth

The latest incarnation of Monos – Darren Tate, Colin Potter and Paul Bradley – performed live only once, in 2006. The tape of that concert didn’t satisfy the trio’s lust for release, but apparently that was the root from which a masterful album – that has seen the light just recently – was born. As it usually happens, those who count on good mafia connections (the aforesaid Jochen Schwarz, for example) get alerted in due time about the existence of a limited edition copy that must be grabbed at pre-stroke price prior to its vanishing, which is precisely what we’re reviewing here.

Above The Sky is kind of psychedelic, although it maintains the droning character typical of several Monos efforts. Sounds range from unbounded electronic activity, murky guitars arpeggios and infinite organ chords to misshapen field recordings, wraithlike shortwave presences and marvellously singing flying creatures, a blackbird acting as soloist in a particularly intense section. The music is clearly designed as a patchwork, in that one distinctly detects the collage of different soundscapes added and manipulated over the years. Nevertheless, everything unfolds naturally in this now-heavenly, now-nightmarish expedition in which special kinds of mental imagery – wryly smiling dolls, distorted demon faces, pastoral openings, the more the merrier – could be met. This is going to be appreciated by Nurse With Wound occasional fans, too (the zealots already bought it, of course).
Below The Earth is the bonus disc, and – despite the attendance of not-exactly-consonant factors disturbing an overall calmness – is the half that’s similar enough to the mysterious motionlessness emblematic of Monos’ prior releases (which will NEVER be comparable to any variety of “dark ambient” horseshit – this is seriously composed stuff, my friends). This means that we can make the music work at various levels of realization: you might use the unquiet stasis as a starting point for extreme self-analysis, keep it as a valuable company for rare peaceful moments, or probe it through headphones and find the extraneous elements that are still there, if better camouflaged. And don’t miss the fantastic finale, tropical birds preceding an extremely melodic, if well-concealed guitar performing a starry-eyed melody. It may have been done ironically yet comes out as absolutely tender, and it’s a fitting conclusion. Both CDs are fine examples of these men’s abstract artistry. If you’re smart enough, find a reason to look for this item before the value skyrockets. (ICR)
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