There’s experimental and there’s experimental. I read that “Virgin Cuts”, the band’s fifth album, “leads the listener into a sonic loophole between noise-infested rock, droney landscapes, new age minimalism and dusty afro-tripping”.
Sure enough, although each of these strange pieces has identity, the common theme is mind-altering noise. I heard repetitive, nightmare inducing, cinematic sounds. I heard industrial crashing, buzzing noises, distorted, structurally insane and jazz-like progressions. Electronic soundwaves are prominent, but it’s all in a breathless framework, which made me think of psychedelia. I did hear that afro beat on “Tropisk”, but like all the tracks, that’s never the story. I suspect there is no story. There is the melancholic sound of a distorted saxophone to contend with. It’s remarkably engaging, consider how anarchic it all is. “Coral 1” sounds like an exploration into dark innermost recesses with its whistling noise, distant and intermittent voices and the crashing sounds of space and of doors closing. The cinematic side comes out through the penetratingly dark drama. A female version of Talking Heads’s David Byrne delivers disturbing utterances while musical chaos completes the picture. It’s not easy listening but it is interesting.
“Midori” starts the second half suggestively with a tune sounding like accompaniment to one of those dreamy TV travelogues through hazy Africa or along the Ganges. When it’s not utterly bizarre, the music sounds to me like background to programmes on BBC 4 or National Geographic. The brief “Jömon” then gives a wavy flavour of early Kraftwerk. “Altiplano” is then a deep and disturbing piece with symphonic elements. As ever it rides on an alternative and distorted cloud. There’s no let up as “Moss” briefly brings a classical element. Svin play Stockhausen? The trippy beats which feature through this album then return on “Baby”. It lies between horror and heartbeat. Inevitably there are indistinguishable sounds of a discordant nature going on in the background. I didn’t detect continuity through this album, and as I listened to the repetitive “Baby”, I wondered which TV producer was going to insert this as a soundtrack to add a bit of quirkiness. So too, it reminded me of Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express”.
I really don’t know what to make of this. It’s undoubtedly creative and thought provoking with its abnormal sound patterns, styles and waves. I discount any idea of it telling me anything as this seems very much art for art’s sake. It’s interesting that there are moments of near normality. It’s disturbing and deliberately so. I’m still trying to get my head round “Virgin Cuts”.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)