Poltergeist -‘Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)’ (92 Happy Customers Records)
CD / DL
Original Bunnymen Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson join forces for a space bound prog journey via new band Poltergeist.
For new band Poltergeist, Echo & The Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant enlisted former band mate and current Wild Swans’ bassist Les Pattinson with the principal aim of creating something that falls “somewhere between krautrock and prog rock”, influenced in no small manner, by Sergeant’s early obsession with Pink Floyd.
The objective was purely to establish “music with its toes paddling in the progressive ocean foam of the sixties and seventies and its head in the bone dry air of the present day” said Sergeant.
“We want to try and get away from the traditional band format of the line across the stage. There are 12 notes in a scale and we intend to use most of them.”
Mission accomplished ?
The Bunnymen were the best band never to come out of Manchester, their moody but uplifting anthems stirring new wave souls and their chopping, adventurous guitar and bass lines inspiring a new generation of musicians along the way. Whilst the legendary band continue to tour, what has been of equal interest are the projects initiated by members of this iconoclastic group.
McCulloch all mouth and lyrical trousers has hit the limelight more than once; then there’s McCulloch and Sergeant’s superb and much missed Electrafixion who willingly pushed everything they know up to 11 ; elsewhere Pattinson added weight to Paul Simpson’s Wild Swans.
Poltergeist doesn’t sound like a side project or a passing whim – instead Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson and drummer Nick Kilroe have reset their reference points. Pattinson’s anchored, driving bass lines continue to dazzle via his flambouyant subterranean baritone sound, whilst above it, Sergeant runs free, providing complementary hook lines, explosive crescendos and the carefully planned use of effects. They are artists of their generation and Poltergeist is a vehicle in which the very best of what they have brought to the world of music, deservedly shines.
For the uninitiated, this is an instrumental album and many of the tracks surpass a six minute running time. They’re already being labelled as prog (mission accomplished Will), but this is material that will appeal to all fans of 80’s leftfield alt.rock as well as psychedelic, space, kraut and of course progressive rock.
Like many of the tracks on here, opening number Cathedral is infused with Bunnymen-styled riffs, but veers happily off into heavier, more delightfully fractious moments. The title track is a psych’d meander with Sergeant merrily providing a thrilling series of guitar breaks. Dreamer Dreams of Spectrums is washed in other-world echoes, but for me it stands out as an intensely atmospheric combination of pulsing rhythms and guitar set pieces, that combine solo twangs with truly spine tingling moments of power play.
The First Signs Of The Plague is a much slower and stripped back outing that reminds me so much of the Cure’s earlier sounds ( 17 Seconds era) before its epilogue supplies the culminating wig-out. As Dawn Visits The Garden of Evil builds a head of steam, it seems to be coming clear that Poltergeist are also plumbing the lesser known depths of the late ’60’s, ’70’s and early ’80’s ; the sounds that most likely influenced them when they first took up their instruments.
It is easy to reference Can and Neu!, but this progressive, fluid sound is sincerely pure and driven by the main protagonists own accumulated experiences, knowledge and of course musicianship. Psychic Warfare demonstrates this, as Sergeant introduces notes and moves that derive their DNA from his and Pattinson’s greatest work on the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here.
The Book of Pleasures provides another example of the way in which the trio experiment with tempos and moods throughout this album. This track is more of a moving landscape painting, a widescreen mosaic that constantly changes shape and avoids the use of more obvious hooks.
Lune Deeps closes off the album with jangles and more memorable themes; Sergeant’s guitar has a backwards delay applied that lingers in your head long after the track dissolves away with the fading strum of Pattinson’s final lingering bass line.
Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder) is an immersive, masterful album, played out by legends who have taken things back to their very roots. Whilst having helped define previous genres, they’ve now successfully merged their vividly coloured ideas into these groundbreaking soundtracks.
A second album? That would be wonderful.
All words by Jon Ashley. You can read more from Jon on Louder Than War here.