And here we have Vardan back yet again and doing things somewhat differently. This is an album of him being jolly and seasonal covering favourite songs for this time of year. We have interpretations of Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime,’ The Lovin Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City and everyone’s favourite Summer Nights by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta as we go back to childhood salad days and fondly remember that scorching summer of 1976.
Yes I have sunstroke and no doubt it is even worse for the Sicilian (who was also not around in 76) and he is probably hating this time of year which although is certainly unholy and hotter than hell is far from lightless. The label do however tell us that this is a bit different from the normal black misanthropy of the artist that we are well versed in after several hundred albums, putting it in context with film composers Herrmann and Morricone as well as “Dark-wave masters like Raison D ‘Etre, Ordo Equilibrio & Current 93.” Yeah well after listening several times I am not completely sold on said description although it is evident that in his instantly identifiable sound that Vardan is taking somewhat different and more esoteric left hand paths. As is his normal mode the album is divided into three lengthy tracks each part named after album title.
Part 1 is the shortest and melodiously starts with acoustic fretwork and lazily sprawls out with vocals gradually coming in with Vardan’s trademark elongated and strange almost alien yodelling timbre. Musically it is sitting by the river, sun out, picnic in front of you, dog day afternoon and all nice and tranquil. Vocally however the sun is burning, the singer is being bitten by swarms of midges and gnats, spewing allergy snot, eyes red and raw from hay-fever and he is tortured and grumpy and wants to go back in somewhere cold, dark and suitably air conditioned. The gorgeous, glistening pulses that radiantly beam from it all as things develop around the slow and hypnotic melody make it all worth suffering, maybe not for him but certainly for the listener. At nearly 22 minutes the second part of the composition is one to drag a deckchair and cold drink out for and settle in for the duration. Fuzzier distorted tones from the guitar ebb in and this one gently rises in volume but in a lethargic fashion in no hurry at all, no doubt blighted by heat. Craggy and vampiric the vocal tones suggest an aged count trapped in his manse, unable to venture out and hungry for sustenance. There’s some strange underlying, almost retro synth tones here and as ever the melody is strong and hypnotising. Those concerned about previous definitions shouldn’t be to any large extent as to me the mainframe of these songs although slow and ponderous owe more in sound and construction to the likes of Burzum, Xasthur and Drudkh as anything else.
If you are lucky enough not to have somnambulantly wondered off and drowned yourself in a deep dark lake or drifted off and burned yourself to a lobster crisp you may have been roused as the track builds up in pace to conclusion and be up for sticking around for the 3rd part. You could say the acoustic strum is whimsically and neo-folkish here I guess and the air of emotion from the song is almost happy as the vocals babble away with it, perhaps someone has bought Vardan an ice-cream and he is savouring it as quickly as he can before it melts and stains his black clothes (another unfortunate side effect of this time of year). Lush, gorgeous and evocative all humour aside it’s a great end to another album from the auteur who seems to always serve up a slice of magic with each and every release. How quickly summer dies and he is back to his more comfortable frosty self remains to be seen; until then, this is my perfect soundtrack with a nice cold glass of Pimms and lemonade!
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)