Misfit City - Soundtracks

One night, in the midst of the hideous mudfest that was Glastonbury '97, crowds of soaked people were charging into the Halloween Society tent intent on finding out what that furious, fascinating noise was. Inside, a bloke onstage in wellies and cheekbones, bellowing out the frustration of a drenched weekend of trench-foot and swamp life; another bloke with a keyboard wobbling precariously on his lap and wrenching out swathes of digital splat, a third gamely battling with a zombified guitar and rebellious amp. Electronica was taking a beating, and hitting back with as good as it got: the sound wrenched at the canvas like a monsoon hitting puberty. For as long as the power held out, Glasto got the primal scream therapy it needed.

That's the legend, anyway. And that was a lot of people's introduction to Collective.

This demo CD (a kinder, gentler Collective, but still damn scary) was originally going to be called 'Autopsy', and you can see why. Os' disorienting, dreamlike electrophonic textures (as opposed to keyboard parts). The sort of beats that either quietly explode somewhere in the inner ear or create the impression of silent drumsticks just missing your head. Warm. Cold. Rage under glass, etching it like an acid. Surgical hallucinations. Fascinatingly numbing. David Lynch hijacking The Orb. Grieving under sedation, surrounded by clean and impassive white walls. 'Soundtracks' may be song-free, and devoid of recognisable tunes, but this is still intriguing, uncomfortable, weirdly beautiful music.

Reminiscent of the more bizarre moments on Scott Walker's 'Tilt' (in particular 'Face On Breast' - that one with the thudding, boxing glove drum pulse and the voice squashed like a fly), or of the Aphex Twin's forays into voices, Collective's music is a weave of tight-but-discreet loops and big eccentric spirals which are too unusual for obvious patterns to emerge. Looming in the middle distance, guitarist Mike seems to be under the impression that he's playing an angle-grinder most of the time. Think industrial Frippertronics rather than skysaw, though: truly textural and most unorthodox, though his parts are the closest Collective comes to direct melody. When not carving wounds and dark shapes, or hums and snarls, he plays autistic-angel chorus guitar, like a darker and colder Fripp ('Storm Angel', 'Requiem', 'Here Comes The Flood').

Tim's vocals - the human edge to Collective's alienation - are shocking. Wordless, abstract, swinging dangerously between teary, vulnerable wonder and scorching, screaming anger, they're torn up out of his throat like an exorcism, or like someone speaking in tongues and fighting against it. Free-form, wandering: sometimes outraged, sometimes deranged. Using his full range from whisper to scream, from baritone groan to falsetto lament to a deep-throated keening roar: a bit like Tim Buckley's 'Starsailor' but more naked, lost, dangerously unstable. Certainly a change from the usual sugary or doped-out mumbling you get on most post-rock/electronica projects (q.v. Labradford, Insides).

From the suffering trance of 'Vladimir' (like the extraction of a tooth by hypnosis) to the muttering interplay of fretless bass and voice on 'Mindbreath', from the waves of ringing child-call in 'No History' (over a slow wash of breakbeats), to the patter and dizziness of 'Crashed', 'Soundtracks' is bewitching and quite alien. Collective play us out with the withdrawn enigma of 'Alien Grace', on which Os and Mike, left to their own devices, stare each other down and compete at a sort of minimalist's game of chicken, playing off each other with the minimum of notes while still unpicking the stitches in the fabric of sound. Music from the dark nodes of the mind, deeper than fear.

Dann Chinn

iO Pages #15

De muziek die op Soundtracks is terug te vinden, is voor het overgrote deel ook gebruikt voor films cq documentaires. Enkele nummers zijn speciaal voor deze release geschreven, maar kennen een enerzijds fragmentarisch gehalte of anderzijds een vrij eentonig karakter. Het album ademt voornamelijk een sterke ambient sfeer uit.

According to this translates into English as:

The music on Soundtracks can be found, for the vast majority also used for movies or documentaries. Some songs are written specifically for this release, but a familiar one hand patchy level or the other a rather monotonous character. The album exudes mainly a strong ambient atmosphere.

Wilco Barg

iO Pages 15