Shatner’s Bassoon – The Self-Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan

SB_RingMaster Review

We have all had a dream which is ripe with randomness so abstract that it somehow makes sense, and that is exactly what it is like listening to The Self-Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan, the new album from Shatner’s Bassoon. Not that our brain cells have yet managed to come to terms with any of its themes, if there are any, or the intent behind its psyche twisting bedlam of creativity, but without doubt we are having the richest fun and enjoyment trying.

Shatner’s Bassoon is a sextet from Leeds taking influences from the likes of Tim Berne, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, Frank Zappa, and an expansive range of styles and flavours into their warped composing and sound. Equally individual experiences of its members carry a diverse range stemming from European folk, Hindustani music, Brazilian music, straight ahead and free jazz, reggae, metal, contemporary classical, musique concrete and most likely plenty more inspiring spices. 2013 saw the release of their debut album Aquatic Ape Privilege and last year the live EP, The Crowd Grows Mild. Now representing “the summation of the last three years of working since the addition of Joost Hendrickx on drums and electronics”, Shatner’s Bassoon release their second album of unhinged imagination, an encounter from Johhny Richards (Keyboards/Piano), Michael Bardon (Bass/Bongos/Botanical String Quartet), Andrew Lisle (Drums), Oliver Dover (Saxophones/Bass Clarinet), Craig Scott (Guitar), and Hendrickx which puzzles, bemuses, seriously confuses but most of just thrills.

cover_RingMaster Review     Bruce Lawn starts the album off and according to the press release sees “Seemingly disparate musical fragments converge into a unified theme as catchy and uncomfortable as gonorrhoea. It dissolves as quickly as it manifests into a visceral aural soup, crashing into an overtly sexual Transylvanian organ punch.” It opens with a handful of lusty seconds of anthemic sax bursts and handclaps before flinging a host of discord kissed sounds made up of melodic and sonic tweaks. Already thoughts are conjuring a picnic in a thirties freak show, an abundance of off-kilter beauty providing an embrace of joy with sorrowful undertones. As with every track, and no matter the hints given by the band musically and in word, each listen sends the imagination down a new avenue of lively and shadowed adventure, though ones maybe not quite as disturbed or avant-garde as the ideas in the minds bringing the piece to ears. Band and song continue to ‘meander’ and spin new detours, a few of them Essential Logic like, as it drifts into an increasingly sinister haunting; coming out the other side with aural face paint smudged and mental coherence askew.

Bruce Lawn II: Arms like a Mirage comes next; the song’s initial elegantly chilled breath a surreal reflection of its predecessor’s final dark throes whilst spinning slowly deeper into its own turbulent intrigue of sound and barely masked insanity. It all leads to a bordering on bestial climax which is almost 6:33 like in its concussive collision of jazz, rock, and whatever else lies within its tapestry of aggression.

Like that initial spattering of water as rain clouds open is how Fringe in my eyes, Thighs in disguise sheds its mosaic of incompatible yet united sound next, each note from the song sheet a jazz bred splatter marking its territory; yes warped sounds seem to breed warped ideas, in us anyway.

Percussion and rhythms provide a skittish but fluent dance to set Mushroom/Fancy a Waltz away; bulging blobs of sax and clarinet flirting with the spicy strings of the guitar soon after before things get a little psychotically hairy in something best described by the band itself as “a machine gun spluttered duet finally melting into a refreshingly resolute meditation.” To be honest whatever we write or they say is a scratch upon the strange and spellbinding tapestry at work throughout the album and its individual exploits of tangling sound and ingenuity.

Ten seconds of innocence coated sax gaiety is all Mitch Fargone’s walk to school offers before Advocates of Anti-Funk pulsates and shimmers in a kaleidoscope of melodic and brassy sunspots, all wanting to share their swinging hips before eventually colluding in a dark carnival-esque seducing. Rip Rig & Panic meets Mr Bungle might be a good way to describe it…actually not really as again Shatner’s Bassoon cast only their own uniqueness over ears.

The dark enchantment of Boat Comforts moves in like sea fog, creaking boards and melancholic siren sent calls mesmerising and tantalising the senses. Every passing second brings darker and stranger nautical essences, the piece toying with the imagination like a Jules Verne on LSD written adventure complete with a bare boned and crazed shanty. Cardiacs come to mind the more the song spills its insanity and rum brewed frenzy before Boat Comforts Part II: Goat Conference / The Real Shim Lady unveils its own sonic choral of loco spawned textures and cracked rhythmic incitement. Like the unbridled discordance of eighties band Stump infesting the psyche and the creative prowess of a composer to a silent movie, the track goes from low key musical disorder to sinew swung hysteria and back again into deep melancholy.

Next comes DMT AABA which is like a nursery room found in American Horror Story, it in turn followed by the even more thickly haunting of The Ballad of Long Egg, a track which for whatever reason sparked thoughts of films like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and The Tenant. Closing eyes whilst listening to the track ensures it is an atmospheric noir scare, its textual narrative high suggestion even if the results brewed mentally do or do not match the band’s intent.

Inspector Fargone is another passing swoosh of temptation, its twenty odd seconds like a spaced-out Jacques Tati moment whilst the brilliant Boghead (WaspSpeed) is a fevered uproar of energy through a palette of eccentric funky sounds and demented brass grimaces and eruptions, all coming together like a Dali sculpted painting by numbers, though of course there is no recognisable order or structure to the blaze of premeditated and free form ingenuity.

The album is brought to a close by an enveloping lure of sound which again can only be described as haunting. Will you be my Friend? draws in vocals for the first time, their harmonies as left field and fascinating as the sounds hugging their presence, and wonderfully as musically heretical as the gentle cacophony creating one enthralling and exhaustingly bewitching album.

When you listen to The Self-Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan you will have a totally different view and response to its songs, that is a given such its diversity and unfathomable genius but most will agree that for appetites of humour loaded music with an insanity as broad as the imagination and wealth of flavours in its creation, Shatner’s Bassoon have provided one feverish treat.

The Self-Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan is available via Wasp Millionaire Records from September 24th.

Pete Ringmaster 23/09/2015

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Craig Scott’s Lobotomy – War is a Racket

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Like the soundtrack to a deranged tale fed on Tim Burton’s vision of Alice in Wonderland and soaked in the lunacy of a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, War is a Racket is one of those propositions which simply send ears and imagination into overload. Created by Craig Scott’s Lobotomy, the album is a kaleidoscope of sounds and textures uniting in a fascinating and warped adventure, whilst Craig Scott himself is the aural Willy Wonka, offering sonic and melodic candy created from the tang of discord and sweetness of insanity.

A bordering on psychotic tapestry of experimental jazz, alternative rock, and similarly unpredictable electronica, album and sound casts ears and thoughts adrift in a sea of instrumental incitement. Every track is a unique vehicle for the imagination to go on a creative rampage with yet they also all contribute to a perpetual flight through one fluid and invigoratingly bedlamic soundscape. War is a Racket has been three years in the making, drawing on influences, experiences, and the things Scott has learned during his life to date as a professional musician involved in numerous diverse projects. The result of everything combined is a debut album which dangles bait after bait of startling sound and seriously intriguing unconnected essences, all united in a creative toxicity which just gets deep under the skin to set off a lustful reaction in ears, thoughts, and ardour.

The previous years has seen Scott play regularly with the likes of ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’ , IKESTRA , CottonWoolf, The Bugalu Foundation, and The Hot Beef Three as well as perform with artists such as Tom Arthurs, Baba Adasose Wallace, Matthew Borne , John Potter (Hilliard Ensemble),Chris Sharkey (Trio VD/Shiver), Ball-Zee(UK Beatbox Champion) Jean Tousaint (Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) , Les Smith (Cradle of Filth), and Ruby Wood (Submotion Orchestra , Bonobo). His music has grabbed the ears and support of fellow musicians like Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart / Jeff Buckley) amongst a growing horde of fans which also includes cult horror classic House of 1000 Corpses’ Bill Moseley. Anticipation for War is a Racket has certainly been more than keen but it is now with its release that it is easy to expect major awareness embracing its creator.

a4033067006_2    The album, which sees Scott accompanied by a plethora of skilled and inventive talent, opens with Gibbles and a distant wistful melody. The ear is soon under the temptation of dark double bass slaps and bass clarinet seduction though; they in turn courted by a web of brass teasing. A jazzy air soon takes on an exotic flavour through guitar and sax, excited elements entwining for a sultry and mouth-watering dance through Arabian avenues and more Caribbean spiced festivity. All the time though there is a tempering shadow, an underlying turbulence which brews up a danger with fresh seeds for thoughts to twist and redesign its visual landscape with. The nearer its conclusion the more unravelled the track and its calm becomes as it takes the listener into the sonic distortion and percussive bubbling of Proud to be a Mirkin. The second song also brings a brass fuelled agitation aligned to a sinister electronic stalking of the psyche. It is the stuff of dark dreams, though as hindsight will eventually show, just the start of bigger nightmarish intrusions to come.

Peace returns with Tempest in a Teacup next, a nine minute stroll through summer gardens and reflective atmospheres. Of course already, even on the first listen of the album, expectations are soon expecting darker warped twists too and it does not disappoint, though equally the track sets senses and emotions ablaze with a deliciously manic melodic enterprise equipped with mischievous hooks and perverted imagination. Like something from Brian Brain in a drug induced stupor, the track ebbs and flows with bright revelry and noir clad infestations of ears and thoughts. Ultimately though, you come away with feet bouncing and emotions leaping to that devilish jazz pop lure and the emerging gypsy/world music spicing which has a distinct Les Négresses Vertes feel to it.

The following Technicolor Yawn is a brighter and relatively straight forward hug of the senses, initially at least as of course it too has contrasting and darker flirtations of sound and invention to its gentle cruise. Guitars and synths collude to colour the elegant canvas with shards of seemingly improvised jazz incitement, each nudge and jab of sound a tempting spark to new diversions or characters in the imagination’s interpretation. Almost a travelogue of unique lands and atmospheres on its own, the transfixing pieces makes way for the climactic and psychotic For those with a Short Attention Span. The track is a splatter of sounds and textures which somehow within the ears unite to create a coherent if still furiously unpredictable weave of sonic colour. As all the tracks it leaves a pantry load of food for thought before making way for the irresistible lures of Voodoo Friday. Rhythmically tribal and virulent, the track opens like a thumping ‘sketch’ from percussionists Stomp, but is soon embracing darker strains of sound and harmonies. Its persuasion is meditative and demonic simultaneously, the perpetual invitation from tablas, matched by grouchy bass sounds and a swarming cloud of brass and stringed fermentation which only add to the psychedelic Hammer Movie-esque visualisation inspired across the glorious encounter. Its closing romp reminds of deranged versions of eighties bands like Pigbag and Mouth, that alone leaving ears and emotions basking.

The album’s title track comes next and swiftly returns the listener physically and mentally to the dark clutches of haunted realms and sinister trespasses. Keys impact with a classic thirties/forties lilt to their narrative whilst rhythmically and harmonically, the track is a web of ravenous shadows and psyche grasping evocation. The bewitching nightmare prevails with increasing sideshow devilry as the song continues its descriptive presence, reaching a restrained yet ‘hellish’ climax taunted by crooner inspired keys. The drama and air of the song is traumatic and seriously compelling just as the lighter but no less drenched in espionage album finale of Ormchestron. Opening like the theme tune to a sixties spy/thriller TV show, keys dangling inescapable bait for the imagination, the piece becomes a much cloudier and thematically minatory adventure yet with a constant tempering of melodic and inventive whimsy. The brass escapades brings hints of Essential Logic to thoughts whilst strings and keys offer a Cardiacs like devilment, but ultimately, as War is a Racket itself, it is all wholly individual to Craig Scott’s Lobotomy.

It is fair and easy to say that War is a Racket is quite brilliant, maybe not something for everyone but for those with real adventure and love of life’s and music’s discordance woven into something truly unique, simply a must.

War is a Racket is available through Wasp Millionaire Records from 30/03/2015 on CD, 12” Blue vinyl (Ltd to 250 copies) and digitally.

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RingMaster 30/03/2015

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