31 March 2017

The Transcendents - Dirt Songs


We have covered a few releases from New Zealand mavericks, The Transcendents - 'The Sun Is Still Asleep' (review cleverly linked here) and 'Common Ground' (review cleverly linked here); both EP's are crazy and that is what I love about their sound, I adore the fact that they are bat crap crazy and not following anyone's map apart from their own.  Did I say map, it might be a piece of paper, but it is not somewhere that many people outside of the Beefheart lovers and Avant Garde illuminati will want to tread.  It is a far cry from the musical mainstream and that is fine by me (and obviously by them as well).  This is their second album, it is available for a 'Choose Your Own Price' download from their Bandcamp page, or on a fantastic looking vinyl which looks fantastic (all prices in New Zealand Dollars).  But what about the album, what about the music?  Well, let us see how that has turned out....
01 – We Keep Our Customers Happy

The song starts off with a frantic drum beat that sounds as if the bad are going to head into some sort of metal explosion; but fear not dear reader, soon it becomes that wonderful realm of chaos and noise that we have learnt to love and fear from The Transcendents.  The music is at odds with the percussion to be honest, something which I love as it gives it a different flavour, somewhat an intense twist – a bit like a musical equivalent of a Pangalactic Gargleblaster from the books of Douglas Adams called ‘The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy’.  It is wonderfully off-beat as we have come to expect.

02 – Experimental Theorem

Starting with horns and strange percussion once again, this song is another trip into that strange landscape that the Transcendents seem to inhabit.  It is not easy to listen to, but that is by design and there is a comfort in that if you are experienced in their particular brand of Kool Aid; if not, expect to have you mind caressed in ways that will give discomfort.

03 – Data Entry Dadaism

Oh my god, they have gone all ‘Jazz from Hell’ on us on this track, but in a simple way if that makes sense.  It is so peculiar and strange, the keyboards are strange and do not really divert from a strange little riff; but the lyrics are harsh as hell, just strange and exotic in a way that this band have learnt to achieve.  Only complaint, it is a little too short and is in and out the door without some much as a bye or leave.

04 – Speakeasy

Ok, now this is sinister – I feel this might be their audition to play the band in the upcoming return of ‘Twin Peaks‘.  It is minimal musical noise, it never hits any real peaks as it drones on and makes its way in the world, but the words are dark and creepy to the point of sending shivers down your back.  It is a chilling song and I do not mean it is one to relax to, it is just messed up.

05 – Better Off Dead

I like this song, it has all the best bits of the band for me.  It sounds like it has been created in the desert and there is a drifting element to the vocals and the keyboards.  The drums and bass sound completely different and it adds an almighty clashing noise to the song and it then has a sample that runs throughout the song.  But it all comes together for me, it is noisy and droning, but I love that about this band – it is what they do best!

06 – Tourettenimaniacalibration

This is almost punk in nature on this short outburst of noise, it is quick, sharp and to the point as they make as music noise as they can in just under a minute.  What is there not to love?  A great little attention grabber and make no mistake about it.  In fact, the amount of time it will take you to read this, will be quicker that the length of time that the song is in the world.

07 – Trailer Park

We are back on familiar territory with ‘Trailer Park’ as the song drones with that familiar focal point between the guitars and the dysfunctional drum machine noise.  It is one of those tracks which the Transcendents do with such ease, it sounds like it is almost failing apart at any given moment, but it is held together with a hypnotic beat and that changing guitar tone with the vocals puncturing through to add spice to the situation.

08 – Fatigue (Numb Redux)

This song comes over like a cross of the ever present Beefheart love and the late Leonard Cohen for me, it is Avant Garde sparse and a little void of extreme shifts in the pace/sound and ends just a little too soon for my tastes here.  But the music itself it a theme I would hope they explorer once again as it is such an interesting tone and riff for this song.  It feels like nature is in the middle of this song and all those quite noises of the night in the centre of nowhere have been given volume.

09 – Bleached Terraces

Transcendents goes punk on this short, sharp blast of noise here; it is a feral number compared to a lot of their other work, but it also feels like a cathartic explosion for the Transcendents on here.  It is fast paced, punk as fuck; but it does not sound as if they are trying to be anything other than the Transcendents here, you could not mistake it for another band, it just sounds like they needed to get something out of their system and it really pays off for them.

10 – The River Still Flows

With the mixture of drone, samples and those recognisable vocals, ‘The River Still Flows’ is another song that is screaming for an expansion.  It is under two minutes and it has a little hook in the middle that holds this song together and the chorus sections hint at dark pools of drone to be uncovered.

11 – Batteries Flat – Sayonara

Now, that really does hit the spot; with a moody shadow to the music and a slow, rasping piece of drone that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end.  If it was not for the explosive qualities of ‘Bleached Terraces’, this would have been the top track from the album as it really gets under your skin.  With that waxing and waning feeling to the music, it is a gem of a song on this sea of noise.

12 – Swampland

It goes without saying that this song has a surprise quality to it and make no mistake, it is another top-quality piece of music.  It is so strong and with the usual focus of two separate sounds clashing to make the noise, it ends up being slightly terrifying.  There is noise, there is passages which sound as if they could have been harvested from all over the world, there are disturbing vocals and my god, there is a lynchpin riff that holds it all together and then it almost turns into a Lemon Jelly piece and it is once again back to their own pitcher of sound – how good is that!

13 – Mercury

The bell tolls at the beginning of this penultimate track, the four minute, forty eight second ‘Mercury’ that goes back to their drone and expansive sound that will be very familiar to people at the point.  It has those passages where you can lose your train of thought as the drone rolls over you.  It is interesting, rolling in different directions and then…. It ends so quickly.  It is one of the longer songs on this release, but the end was a jolt on the first listen.  Still, another good song.

14 – Epilogue

So, we have now reached the end of this album, ‘Epilogue’ is burdened with the task of taking us home.  It is a gentler sound that ends this album, but in a given sense of the word gentle.  It is still wrapped up in the Transcendents noise mountain and it works so well; it is small piece that covers it job perfectly – it ends this album with a sense that the pause is here, but more it to come.

I love the way this band approaches music, they just seem to go head long towards not giving a fuck and then you realise that they have put so much thought, effort and time into their sound and it is such a great joy once that piece of information hits home for the listener.  Now, I am not going to lie and say that they have made the easiest listening album of the year; this is still far off the beaten track and heading towards a point that is far on the horizon. But what is it that makes this release stand out for their other works?  Well, the songs are the usual quality mix of off the wall, Beefheart loving bat crap crazy noise that we have come to love.  There are a few pieces which would warrant being returned to for my money, some pockets of drone to be extracted from them; but overall, it is another fine release from one of the pioneer mavericks from An Nua-Shéalainn.

8.5 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track – Bleached Terraces



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