Astral Social Club - Happy Horse
Happy Prince. CD
Astral Social Club.
ASC 21. CDR
To me he’s the Bimbashi of Beat, the Doyen of Drone, the Titan of Tone, the Prince of Pulse, the Padre of Peal, the Nabob of Bob. He’s Neil Campbell, the Scotsman washed up in West Yorkshire punching out loops of droneness with his longest running project yet. And he’s still here, walking those means Mirfield streets, soaking up the vibes in a terraced palace of imagination and creativity where collaborators drop in for tea and ale armed with loops and synths and oscillators all of them willing and waiting to contribute and feel at one with the Big Bobber.
A while ago I loaded up the ipod with all the self released ASC discs. For drowning out conversation I can recommend them but just be careful you don’t develop too much of an upper body rocking motion otherwise your workmates/fellow bus passengers/shoppers will think that you’ve gone into some kind of catatonic trance and will become alarmed/think you’re mad/think you’re on drugs. So it was good to get back in the saddle with 21 and Happy Horse. Anyone putting their hand into the big bran tub of musical life and pulling these two out will have little cause for complaint.
Happy Horse contains some of the best ASC work to date mainly due to the inclusion of Horse Cortex and Lost Caustic, two lengthier tracks in which Campbell really gets into the meat of the thing. Lost Caustic’s chatter of small bleeps, slowly building rhythmical loops and steady pulsing, throbbing beat slowly evolves into a thing of true beauty - 15 minutes later it plateaus into a meditative head bob that ends with trains crossing the tracks, waves lapping the shore and crow squawks. I was all a quiver your honour. Horse Cortex is a 12 minute trawl of space gun blasts, mutating loops and drones all undercut with a pumping, driving beat. The rest is no filler either, Free Wheels er ... free wheels. Skelp is pulled from a previous single release - all of it is heavenly.
ASC 21 also has a Caustic [as does the previous ASC release Octuplex - maybe there’s some kind of erosion/scouring theme going on here]. I like the pitted surface of Duct, the lollopping fall of Lunar, the empty space of Mongoose, the Swamp Thing of squelch of Caustic, the way sounds enter your hearing range set up shop and mutate before segueing into the next track is never less than wondrous. And lets not forget the collaborators: John Clyde-Evans, Phil Smith, Paul Walsh and Aled Rees all enhancing without diversion or subtraction. ASC is a slowly evolving beast and all those self released ASC discs are worth having and revisiting.
Quite why Campbell isn’t schmoozing with Bjork and Unky Thurst though is a mystery to me - maybe its juts a matter of them getting used to his flat Northern vowels, a form of Jock meets West. Maybe its those shirts?