So ‘Outsider Music’ then! Muttering pretentiousness under breath, I look the phrase up and see that it is music outside the commercial reach of the industry. Well in that case it’s pretty much what most of us have been listening to most of our lives then. Wiki has the notable likes of Beefheart, Syd Barrett and the Residents listed and others include Star Trek’s Shatner and Nimoy, so are we going to venture boldly with the strangely (errr pretentiously) entitled Common Eider, King Eider or not? Apparently Taaleg Uksur is now released on vinyl following on from a limited cassette only edition that was only available at Stella Natura festival. That may give you a good idea what to expect as it is no doubt considered art rather than mere music sold at festival that is all about eclectic performances, of blackened, back to nature, tree hugging musicians who often get more than bargained for when nature itself decides it would rather stop all that noise and destroys their so-called art with destructive, wrathful weather; one of the reasons the festival was not ‘sustainable’. Got to laugh really, although that said it is a gathering that I have always looked at from afar and kind of wished to go to, for what was no doubt a unique experience.
Right, back to this uncommon lot then. What we have from this San Fran “collective” is described by the label thus “Taaleg Uksur comprises four sprawling, shape-shifting tracks, each one a unique psycho-acoustic devotional.” If by sprawling you use the words “overlong, monotonous and tedious” and with shape shifting a more honest “numbing, paint drying exercise” you are going to have a more accurate description in my opinion. Nothing really happens, certainly over the first 3 of the 4 tracks. There are low ambient drones which have you scrabbling to turn the speakers up to warp factor ten and some low whisperings (or as described in the blurb ‘Vocal Visitations’) oozing out, apparently courtesy of A.C. Wey of Sutekh Hexen. Thankfully the volume and intensity of the chants increases so you can actually hear what is happening but it’s still minimalistic, arty, ritual pretentiousness that listened to on PC speakers on a stifling hot day is hardly going to make one want to get back to nature. I suppose the point of it is to put it on headphones and wonder off on some mystical walkabout. All very well if you wish to do so with the right drugs no doubt helping you on your way but….. Nope this no doubt works very well in the right time and place but presented on this medium (MP3 especially without any of the wonderful “packaged in a beautiful gatefold with spot metallic varnish, further enhanced with screen-printed metallic text and sigil”) the whole exercise falls woefully flat on its face and reeks of hipster pretentiousness. I wish I could say it projected me off to astral paths in a trance but it made me want to fall asleep on the several listens I have given it. ‘As The Soil Rises Up Past Our Bodies’ had me somewhat wishing that any Palaeolithic excavations had been buried that bit deeper. By the third number the vocals sound like they have got a member of The Muppets in a cave who is simply taking the piss making silly abstract sounds.
Thankfully once all this twaddle is dealt with there is a redeeming quality about fourth number ‘Caribou People’ other than it’s shorter running time and obvious attempt at getting all National Geographic on you. Some acoustic guitar work offers a glimmer of hope and the shape has thankfully shifted! Celestial choral parts rise and gentle bells are heard in the background as this reaches an all-consuming peak. You can almost see the Northern Lights as this marvellously glistens and shimmers away, finally transporting me to that place the rest of the music had so awfully failed to project me to. Sadly it’s just a fraction of the overall album though and that’s reflected in the score on this otherwise frustrating and tedious exercise.
(3/10 Pete Woods)