Bells and Proclamations – Big Block 454 (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

51y76ducW9L._SS280A lot of people are prone to levelling the argument that modern music has become safe, derivative and unadventurous. That may be true if your only access is via chart based radio or mainstream printed publications, but there is a major flaw in that argument. As the charts become increasingly more irrelevant, the same technology that allows any old reality TV runner up can be famous for …well, 2 minutes and 42 seconds not counting the failed-to-chart follow up single, also means that underground music is totally accessible to anyone with a broad mind and inclination to do a bit of surfing along the back waters of the information superhighway.

What that technology also allows and what Big Block 454 prove on this album is that without being beholden to pony tailed, red braces wearing record executives banging on about units and the need for a chart accessible sound, they can just get on with making the music that best fits their desires and inclinations.

Bells and Proclamations, if it had to be nailed down in one easy sound bite, could be described as sort of folktronica, but then you would have to cross reference with terms such as ambient, progressive, avant garde and maybe even…bloody strange. Metal Tree’s takes us furthest into the folk idiom, all accordions and references to maypoles but shaking things up a bit with strange interludes that border on radio interference before remembering what they were meant to be doing and getting back on track. Other musical cornerstones are the ambient noodling of Rubber Road and The Modern Architrave, which heads off into almost OMD territory with its dance beats and keyboard driven rhythms. Obviously as this is Big Block 454, their own rules dictate that if they start approaching normality they must stick it all into a blender rather than resolve the song in an orderly fashion. They almost seem to be the musical equivalent of Monty Python, feeling the need to stop a song halfway through with the “stop that, it’s too silly” attitude and leap straight into something just as bizarre. Don’t get me wrong; I think this is an absolutely brilliant approach, once you get your head round it.

And if those three songs form the extremes of a musical triangle, what’s to be found writhing about within that framework is a strange mess of chaotic psychedelia, metronomic krautrock, references to the mystical and the mad, warped prog-rock structural devices and the thing that holds it all together, listenable pop based accessible melody that provides just enough of a platform to hang all the other weirdness on.

It’s the sound of people making music for no other reason than it’s the music that they want to make. It may seem an obvious reason, but there does seem less and less of that sort of honesty left in the world. Honest, that’s the thing, unhinged and challenging, maybe, but honest.

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About Dave Franklin

Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.
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