Thursday, February 08, 2018

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell - Crows, Swallows

Neil Campbell - Think Not Of The Glasses, But Of The Drink
Chocolate Monk. Choc.377. CDR
60 Copies.

‘Think Not of the Glasses …’ was one of those pushed across the table in the Flowerpot releases. It came with a well oiled laugh along with the words ‘Virgin Prunes’. The Virgin Prunes. A band that passed me by. With hindsight I think I might have got lucky. They had a drummer called Pod, were mates with Bongo and had a singer who was in to corpse paint way before the metal hordes picked up on it. I watched some of their videos in an attempt to link up what Campbell has created as homage to the band to what I was hearing via the Prunes and came up with absolutely nothing. Maybe there’s more to the Prunes than meets the eye.

What I like about Campbell releases, the ones that carry his name as opposed to Campbell releases where is name is hidden within the band/project [Astral Social Club, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Early Hominids, A Band … ] is that he makes full use of his vocal chords. There’s more of his voice in them. A voice that like most of his music has a drone like timbre to it, a voice  containing as it does the merest hint of a whats left of his mellow Scottish burr. A flat baritone of a voice, a voice that works for him and the sounds he creates. Richard Dawson has nothing to worry about but that doesn’t mean Campbell cant sing folk songs.

Which is what he does on ‘Crows, Swallows’ singing about ‘the dog shitted alley, the spring coming early’ his voice a capella, eventually multi tracked and joined by those familiar electronic squiggles and soaring zooms. A single thirty minute composition that increases in complexity as it unfolds bringing in to the mix spoken words, the sound of sticky palms on plastic, a riotous snort, a heady up there in the clouds drone that eventually leads to calmer waters, gulls and that voice once more this time intoning the words ‘the bridge over the river Calder’ as a valley bottom ritual of sorts.

Back in Virgin Prunes territory there’s Political Problems and a loop of him reciting something over more of those bleeps and fizzes, the phrase ‘like a crazy singer in a band who’s lost the words’ becoming ever more prominent, the recitation more layered, new words coming in, sounds becoming ever more dense and dare I say it, threatening so that by its climax its a cacophony of voices. No Clouds Were in the Sky is a pean to summer with a picked and strummed acoustic guitar, his voice wavering, chanting, talking, again layered to produce a chorus effect until the whole thing becomes swamped in a blizzard of fuzz guitar. The track in the middle, ‘Red Metal’ has no voice at all but it does have the biggest, slowly building buzz of the three. A shimmering loop of something that may have once belonged to a Virgin Prune, a drone riff, a see-sawing, two way head sway.
I first encountered Campbell’s singing voice on the 1997 Fusetron LP ‘These Premises Are No Longer Bugged’ where a cover of the Ronettes classic ‘Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love?’ resided. Which wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the man who’d just left Smell & Quim. Oh, he sang a Motown song on his new record. Well, why not? Having just checked both Discogs and the Chocolate Monk website I can report that ‘Think Not of the Glasses …’ is sadly sold out but copies of ‘These Premises …’ are cheap and freely available. As are great swathes of the Virgin Prunes back catalogue. Treat yourself.

Neil Campbell

Chocolate Monk

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