Friday, December 14, 2007

Helvetica is the Perfume of the City – Swallowing Stars [La Belle Dame Sans Merci]

I rarely get to start out my reviews with intro-anecdotes so I’m taking advantage of my opportunity here. French artist Florian Tositti, one of the nicest dudes around, sent me this release, his second for his new label La Belle Dame Sans Merci (the first was the massive triple cd-r Frannce compilation co-released with Ruralfaune). Anyhow, this release got to me fine, no hang-ups. But when Florian tried to send me his next three releases, they never came. He kept sending more packages which never came either, and neither did a package from Ruralfaune, and neither did a package from James Ferraro and maybe other’s that I don’t even know about. (keep in mind this shit was all mailed out in September) So I guess the moral of this story is fuck you central European postal services! Yeah yeah yeah, you guys were striking or something, whatever. I don’t care. I just want you to know that you have failed European people, American people, probably some Canadians too and, most importantly, you failed me. I hope yr enjoying my music… bastards. Anyhow, this term is over, just finished finals and ready to get back to my crammed-to-the-brim box of submissions. I’ve given up hope that this little guy will be reunited with his LBDSM siblings, but he’s pretty sweet on his own so he’ll just go it alone for this review.
Helvetica is the Perfume of the City is a super group of sorts featuring Phil Todd (Ashtray Navigations), Andy Jarvis (the First Person label), Ben Reynolds and David Hayword, which google tells me is a doctor on an American soap opera. So what happens when you throw three psych superstars and a fictional character on a cd-r? A rambling, clanging, soaring piece of greatness.
The first of the four tracks here (ranging from 6-11 minutes) is “A Perfect Explosion” which begins slowly with synth burbles and synth drones. Halfway through, this astral surfing is met by improv’d guitar and drums. The guitar playing isn’t totally my style, a bit too “solo-ey” at times but it’s got some nice moments. And otherwise the group has a real nice drifting vibe going on, making the title kinda ironic. “First Impression of the Master (Part I)” sees an electric and acoustic guitar rise from a bed of shakers and synth squiggles. Drums come in and things get going. The acoustic/electric interplay, which I’m usually a bit wary of, works really well here. My favorite part is the last minute, where somehow they totally transition into a different sounding “song” without being jarring or awkward or anything. Even after multiple listens I still can’t figure out how they do it, but damn, respect to those guys, it’s an incredible moment. “First Impression of the Master (Part II)” gets going a lot faster than the previous tracks. Based on some long repeated guitar figures, the guys mess around with dynamics, shifting tempo and so on—without sounding wanky though. This is my favorite showing for the guitar players, they lock in pretty well and turn out some cool guitar lines. Also whoever’s doing all the oscillator stuff in the background is a nice addition, keeping the background from remaining static. Things really get going around the 8 minute mark, first they get really jamming all of a sudden and just as quickly drift out into the syntho-stratosphere until the tracks end. My favorite piece here is the last, and excellently titled, “Cobweb Infinity”. Wow, I just listened to the track and totally zoned and got lost in it, forgetting to write anything. Listening again, things start out real chiming/rattling/jangling/clanging/whathaveyou with disembodied sounds floating around too. There’s a nice slow synth pulse keeping the track moving as the drummer goes nuts. All the droning/shaking comes to a head halfway through, leading to an amazingly great moment of intertwining guitar lines unwinding (say that ten times fast). The guitars unfurl until they fade. I really dig how each successive track one-ups the piece before it. And the group's strong sense of melody is a plus as well. Whoever mastered it did a good job making everything sound cohesive since the material was recorded at three different places in 2004/2005. Anyone down with psych-improv stuff or any of the artists involved should find plenty to love here.
The CD-r is limited to 80 copies but still available as far as I can tell. The lightly sprayed CD comes in a cardboard slipcase with art by Jaakko Pallasvuo and a hand numbered insert. Check it out and pray for my packages (JKJKJKJK).


Anonymous said...

I am the drummer. David Hayward. Thanks for the nice review!

Anonymous said...

Andy Jarvis did the mastering, i think.