Somewhere Else – Rummage (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

 

12647054_1569588026695461_8000357121830898787_nMark Mulholland last cropped up within the scribblings of this dubious website in regards to his 2012 duet with dEUS ex-pat Craig Ward, the dreamy, baroque collection of drifting folk songs, Waiting For The Storm. Here we find him not only joined by long-term friends and collaborators Rusty Miller and James Finch Jr. from Jackpot but in an altogether jauntier mood.

 

In keeping with the ever shifting, always evolving nature of Marks work this album is hard to pigeon-hole, always a good start, as somehow he manages to hop genres at will – raw rock, melodic pop, late night cabaret club ballads, chilled blues and country grooves – but still come out with a cohesive collection of songs which somehow not only feel at home on the same album but also uniquely and intrinsically his own.

 

Scatter-gun approaches to music don’t always work, often they can suggest a lack of focus or identity within the musicians, here though they act to wonderfully showcase the eclectic nature and exploratory musical thought processes of Marks mind. It also begs the question as to what the hell his next album will have to offer.

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The Drive to Taxonomy – Craig Ward and Radboud Mens (Jezus Factory) reviewed by Dave Franklin.

Craig_TapeI knew it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. Not only did I manage to pick up some Philip K Dick anthologies in Oxfam and Karda Estra sent me their latest release inspired equally by 14th Century writer Giovanni Boccaccio and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, but I also find the latest Jezus Factory offering at the top of my “to do” pile. Maybe today just exists in some sort of parallel existence, which would be very fitting indeed for what issues from my speakers.

 

Although not familiar with Radboud Mens, a quick search reveals his work is as much based in the area of audio-instillation-as-art, as much as it is in conventional recordings. Craig Ward, however, I am familiar with and associate his name with such a wide genre of music that you have to go into any album he is part of with a totally open mind.

 

Drive To Taxonomy is a five chapter sound painting, the concept of conventional song structure is abandoned in any shape or form and what remains is an ever evolving sonic shape, dynamics that rise and fall at a glacial pace built round a central droning core sound. You could try to label the music but even terms such as ambient and mood music fall far short of what is being explored, here. This is sound manipulation rather than conventional composition, though there are more structured moments that could easily provide an alternative soundtrack to the ahead of its time Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack.

 

This is really music with no middle ground. To one set of music consumers it will act as the perfect background sound, music to chill out to and consume through osmosis. At the other extreme the techno-geek will sit listening intensely, stroking his beard as he tries to figure out a way to emulate such otherworldly machine music. Either way it is like little you have heard before (other Jezus Factory releases excepted) sitting somewhere equidistant between the background hum of the universe, alien signals, the soundtrack to an acid trip and music as art.

 

Buy it here.

New Third Lanark – Craig Ward

I have to confess that as I dropped the CD into the player I thought, “anything could happen in the next half hour.” Then again I tend to think something similar with every Jezus Factory release I receive, they is not a label to be approached with preconceptions or already informed opinion. And if that is the case for the label, it is certainly the case for the artist in question, Craig Ward.  Everything about the presentation of the album, from song titles to album art to tag line “solo guitar improvisations” is enough to make you question what the hell you are getting involved in here. Add to that a back catalogue of work that runs from the dance infused dEUS, improvisational jazz rock with the wonderfully named A Clean Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen, more conventional if brooding and weather beaten folk alongside Mark Mulholland and even production credits (alongside Steve Albini) for The Frames. Life may be like a box for chocolates (thank you Forrest) but how palatable are they actually going to be. There’s only one way to find out.

 

Ignoring the intriguing track titles such as Blazes as in Dixons and Tropic of Bennett) which probably mean little outside Craig’s own world what you get is pretty much what it says on the tin. These guitar improvisations take the form of electric guitar meanderings run through an array of effects and technical gadgetry, the overall affect been warped and wandering, often invoking what music might sound like if guitars were able to take Ketamine.

 

Don’t look for any obvious hooks or conventional structures; this is the sound of decay and windswept beauty, dark, foreboding and non-corporeal. Sustained lines tumble down and fade away like mist or merge into the next bank of sound. It is spiteful, industrial, directionless and sinister.  For all that it is strangely wonderful as long as you don’t pre-judge it, examine it or look for reasons. Maybe some music just is and contented to be so.

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