Self-branded ‘occult rock’ French instrumental power trio Aluk Todolo have been garnering more interest of late after releasing various albums EP’s and splits. They have collaborated with Der Blutharsch back in 2011 and are about to head out on tour with Oranssi Pazuzu. They were described on these pages as an exercise in “forward thinking expressionism” with last year’s album ‘Voix’ and are certainly an intriguing proposition going beyond mere instrumental music due to boundary pushing and experimentation. Here we have a self-explanatory trip back to a time when they were honing their skills and starting out with some early archive material. We get 8 tracks simply represented by Roman numerals from the bands private tapes.
As you would probably guess things are to a large extent rough around the edges. The first track for me gives the greatest representation to their emerging sound. It’s almost instantly recognisable to place having heard them previously and is a layered sonic canvas of tapping drums, hymnal organ motifs and droning doomy segments. Kraut rock is the most obvious leaning of where they are taking inspiration from, you know the bands that are normally mentioned with such forms of modern experimenting, Can, Amon Düül II, Faust etc and there is a freeform looseness about the music that also would no doubt go down with mashed minds in jazz circles. At least this has a semblance of completeness about it as the second track certainly does not, frustratingly downing tools just as it starts getting going, illustrating the sporadic nature of these sessions. Personally I wouldn’t have included it here as it is a touch annoying but the fact this is labelled as Vol 1 suggests the band maybe releasing an exhaustive series of recordings, warts and all.
The mix is all over the shop as well and means if you are playing things at volume be prepared to jump up and turn the volume down between the meandering strains of the 3rd number and the strident guitar strum and clamour of the 4th. Yep this could give the neighbours a heart attack and you too on 1st listen if not expecting it. The outfit certainly do repetitive, minimalistic and abrasive in style and to an extent that although maybe considered mesmerising now and in a live context can border on the side of annoyance here. That’s certainly the case by the time we get to the last number and if the idea of a clattery drum and snare beat going on for ever with a klaxon sound blasting over the top every few seconds this could be your idea of heaven. Best advice is definitely don’t listen with a hangover.
I would certainly be interested to see what the band are like in the live environment and have no problems particularly listening to this, however interesting though it might be it’s hardly an essential purchase.
(6/10 Pete Woods)