Astral Social Club - Electric YEP
Trensmat. TR038. LP.
Astral Social Club - Metal Guru
Must Die Records. MDR 030. Blue vinyl 7” + CD.
Here it is then, the one that caused all the fuss. Well, a bit of a fuss. Come to think of it I don’t think there was that much of a fuss at all really. After the bearded Wonder over at RFM said that he didn’t like Electric YEP that is [barring one track, saving most of his ire for the SLI release Squeegee Anthem #1 to be more precise]. Not liking an Astral Social Club release? Well I never.
Of all the music that resides here at Idwal Towers I dare say that Neil Campbell’s output looms largest. From his early days with ESP Kinetic, to the A Band, to Smell & Quim, Vibracathedral Orchestra, solo under his own name, countless collaborations, the rebirth of Vibracathedral and finally his long running project Astral Social Club, its a pretty big chunk of what I own.
And when I come to think of it theres hardly anything of his I don’t really like. Which is quite an achievement. Some of that ESP Kinetic material was a bit erm … of its time shall we say but that was recorded when Campbell was about twelve and was in the midst of an over exuberant Throbbing Gristle/Joy Division/P.I.L./Velvets fixation. We can forgive him that. The rest I can happily listen to for hours on end.
When Astral Social Club first appeared in the mid 2000’s amidst a hurried spurt of self made CDR’s I took a handful to Corsica and played them non stop as I drove around what the Corsicans laughably called roads and I called pathetically thin strips of tarmac dug into steep mountainsides. The drones on some of those early ASC releases took my mind off the constant stream of backed up traffic with incredible ease. Pulling over to the side of the road to let about twenty cars pass by I admired the scenery at the exact moment one of those searing, starburst guitar led drones of Campbell’s emerged from the cars speakers. I swear that tears of joy welled in my eyes. I’ve been playing them ever since and lots more besides.
The ASC sound has morphed since then and to a degree that the Bearded Wonder can no longer appreciate, at least on the two releases mentioned above. Things have hardened somewhat since those guitar shimmering days but I for one can’t get enough of it. The ASC sound may be more visceral, smell of burning rubber, reek of vodka Red Bulls, amphetamines and provincial night clubs but that's fine by me.
Perhaps it was Snow Clouds, the opener on YEP that did it? A slow trawl through plucked bridge strings and an ultra slowed down plodding beat with Gerry Garcia noodling on Mogadon before a Stylophone outdoing each other contest hits town. This eventually segues [as is the way] into an ur-Pan Sonic bout of ultra-violence and helicopter throbs that's all heart monitor gone batshit before rounding off with some starburst supernovas of sun rising, chest filing, shoulders back, life affirming, greatness. Crumbs. Krautrock from Mirfield. Side two is an even more ever building even more ur-Pan Sonic even more hooks of forefingers pulling the edges of your mouth ever wider apart bout of tongue waggling whaaness that never gives up pummeling and churning and gurning its way to the thinnest of run off grooves ever. And don’t forget the ping pong and the bird song.
After all this the seven inch on MDR seems so very, very brief unless you manage to grab the accompanying CD that may or may not be as rare as hens teeth. I’m hard pushed to tell. Here we have the full twenty minute version of Moonage Daydream which yings the yang back to early ASC outings courtesy of a stethascopic heartbeat that spreads out into the most effortless cycling sinewave drone. Metal Guru isn’t the T Rex cover, unless there lies buried a T Rex version made from old computer reel to reel data gone wrong. The guitar soloing is manic, at odds with whats going on around it, masses of wheedling notes splattered all over three rhythm tracks that are all trying to compete with each other. ‘Lagg [Original]’ contains an Abba loop that makes them sound like Zombies riding a shitty seaside roller coaster with lapping water for company. ‘Kuff [Singular]’ is maddening morse code played out to a Harold Budd synthscape.
I don’t buy every release that Campbell puts out, there is rather a lot of it it has to be said. But I do dip in occasionally. It wont be long before the next installment and I for one will be waiting with keen ears.