Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra (Thrill Jockey)
22 July 2013
Veterans of the UK experimental underground, Grumbling Fur, return with a new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates gives it a listen.
Sometimes some albums just shouldn’t work, and this is one of them.
Strangely though, it does, with its avant-pop overtone and both acoustic and emulated instruments, it not only stretches the boundaries of pop as we know it, but it also gives the listener a very pleasurable trip too.
It’s as though Grumbling Fur has never heard pop before and were asked to make something that the whole world will enjoy, but to be as innovative and inventive as their creativity will allow. The duo, Daniel O’Sullivan and Alexander Tucker, have devised an archaic goddess to watch over the record; The sphinx like Glynnaestra must be very proud with the results.
Album opener, Ascatudaea, begins with the sounds of engineers in the studio before someone shouts “Action”. Enter a wonderful gurgling bass synth and voices not dissimilar to Gregorian chanting with an album intro that sounds like it will explode at any second, but resists the urge.
With a beginning that sounds like a hybrid cross between Erasure and Depeche Mode, Protogenisis confirms that observation with its bouncy synths and a voice like an early ’80’s Dave Gahan. Held quite far back in the mix it carries on repeating and repeating through a very hypnotic track. When the voice breaks out mid-way through we’re left with pulsating synth effects driving the track onwards. Ending with words being scrambled and played backwards, this is obviously the work of the devil.
The sound of Grumbling Fur is an interesting twenty first century update of a classic ’80’s sound, creating a quite appealing aural pleasure. The Ballad Of Roy Batty is glorious with its anthemic vocals and one of the several album highlights. Almost chant like or religious sounding, its instant familiarity immediately hits the spot with its endless sweeping chorus which floats on and on. The calming vocals “I’ve seen things you people would not believe”.
There’s the obligatory pointless track in Cream Pool which is one of several which then go on to end the album. Let’s not be too hasty in our views of experimentation though, as it’s often saved us from trite music in the past, but even with the absence of three or four tracks of this ilk on Glynnaestra, it would still be a monster album. The title track is case in point – whereas it’s harmless enough, it really is little else.
Dancing Light is an absolute monster of a track and one of the best songs you’ll hear all summer. Hints of a Stone Roses’ melody with amazing soft vocal and superb backing track. Beautiful.
Glynnaestra isn’t a perfect album and could quite easily have been trimmed down to nine or ten tracks from its thirteen, but despite that, what is good is absolutely brilliant.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.>