Sunday, August 12, 2012

Astral Social Club - Magic Smile

Astral Social Club - Magic Smile
Wonderyou. CD. WNDU009

It came as a bit of surprise to find that the bearded wonderloiner has been having a bit of trouble getting 'in' to the last few ASC releases [ASC 22+23]. Talk of pushing things forward in an odd and unique direction providing a barrier to aural gratification. Which just goes to show how two people can hear the same thing and have entirely different opinions. Its what makes the world an interesting place innit? Ones mans fire in a pet shop is another mans Schimpfluch gig.

Magic Smile did though work wonders for the bearded wonder and so it should. It will work for you too if you should have the fortitude to drag yourself away from the Olympics and install yourself near a set of speakers with the volume turned all the way up to belting. Its worth getting for a number of reasons main amongst them being the fact that you will hear ASC maestro Campbell singing on the title track, something that I don’t think I’ve heard since a Motown cover on a very early self titled LP, the other reasons being that this release contains some of the best ASC work to date.

Coming from someone who’s listened to a fair amount of ASC/Campbell related material over the years I find myself making this statement with no reservations.  Stand out tracks abound and whilst there’s the odd one that never really takes off as in ‘Och’ a piece that sounds a bit too Walter Carlos-y for my liking, the rest are either stunning or stunnings daughter. On ‘Frwrk Rmrk’ a gently frotting acoustic guitar mingles with the sound of splashing water and Campbell issue enjoying themselves, all very bucolic and family harmonious until the pounding beat kicks in and intensifies to such a pressure that the inclusion of a street riot sample manages to do the impossible and take the thing even higher, By its 12 minute conclusion my head was a wobbling blancmange, my body a limp and spent wet lettuce. This segues into ‘Tempo Rubber’, a squelchfest of rapid bleats acting as foil to a thousand wet fingers rubbing a thousand wet wine glass rims at whose conclusion arrives a solitary synth solo the likes of which you’ve not heard since a mid 70’s Kraftwerk album.

Alert readers will note that this release comes from the same people who brought us ‘Kufuki’ a release so awful in concept and delivery that I had to have it out of the house. They may well have found the Campbell, taken him to their hearts and let him loose remixing one of their releases but that doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. They do the same thing in reverse here and remix the first track ‘Rubber Lagg’ and stick it on the end where I can listen to it and report that at least it is listenable.  ‘Rubber Lagg Remixed’ takes all the good things from the original and replaces them with Japanese moaning, trill beats and quirky synths. Remix as Japanese-ification. As openers go Rubber Lagg is long enough, at thirteen minutes, to completely loose your head in. I found myself involuntarily nodding away to an ever blurring room wishing that I had a very loud sound system and a captive audience with which to subject it to. It’s one of Campbell’s best.

And then there’s the singing. Well, its a kind of singing. More of a talking/singing through some kind of effect that makes it seem as if Campbell is floating in space whimsically amusing himself as he drifts off into the nearest galaxy. Sloping synth wonk and chiming doorbells act as accompaniment.

What I find so affirming is that even after years of steadily releasing quite a hefty number of works under the ASC banner there's little evidence as to a drop in quality or a sense of the project being exhausted. If anything the opposite would appear to be true and with the Japanese getting in on the act who knows where we’ll end up?



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