Sunday, November 27, 2011

ESP Kinetic / Astral Social Club

Astral Social Club - V.E.N.U.S [For electronics and guitars, October 2011]
No label CDR

Astral Social Club - Generator Breaker
Dekorder LP.  Dekorder 055

ESP Kinetic - ‘Want Some Of This?’
Harbinger Sound LP.  Harbinger75


astralsocialclub [at]

Eleven PM on a Saturday night is always a good time to grab some merch from the nodmeister. At the recent Ramleh gig he was chucking records about like confetti at a wedding. ‘Anybody not got one of these?’ says Campbell waving his arms about like a plane parker on acid. And all of a sudden it was like who cares about the Sabbath party band Campbell’s giving away records. Fortunately I’d scored the ESP earlier from the Underwood but the Dekorder and VENUS were received like golden tablets and carried home in the taxi like a new born baby.

I probably owe Campbell about sixteen gallons of beer by now and the upcoming tour of Cleck hostelries may redress the balance somewhat but In the meantime I’m still trying to link the stylistic bridge between Campbell’s first band ESP Kinetic and his current Astral Social Club project. There’s no point in trying of course. ESP Kinetic are early eighties Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV/Genesis P-Orridge acolytes, all orange hair, mascara and black finger polish banging away on drums to heavily reverbed vocals in grotty pubs in Northampton whilst ASC emit celestial drone via a network of arteries that flow between the hearts of dance, techno, motorik, drone, noise and pure experimentation.

Following on from last years unearthing of Fleck Nor comes ‘Want Some of This?’ The moronic come on of every pissed up football hooligan in England seems an odd choice of title for an ESP Kinetic release and its hard to imagine our GPO loving troupe clad in Lacoste shell suits hiding around terraced corners waiting for the other crew to turn up but there you go. Its primitive stuff of course. Even more primitive than Fleck Nor which at least had the sense to veer toward early Fall like riffage and MES like delivery now and again [when they weren’t genuflecting GPO’s way of course]. ‘Want Some of This?’ has Casio poke industrial instrumental ditties and early TG carnage all sharing space on muddied straight to Memorex recordings. Theres a live side and a ‘at home’ side with the punch coming from the ‘home’ side most notably on the longer outing ‘Two Faces Collide’ in which a driving bass riff is the backbone to ranting muffled vocals and spacey keyboards all combining to produce a raucous tumult. It’s what Gen would’ve wanted.

Fast forward twenty seven years and we have Astral Social Club. Since leaving the Vibracathedral Orchestra to their own devices about ten years ago Campbell’s work under the ASC moniker has blossomed into an ever flowing, multiplying body of work. An increasingly important and welcome body of work it is too and unlike some artists whose work appears with all the regularity of a well oiled turd, ASC’s prolific offerings are to be sought after and welcomed.

Generator Breaker’s seven tracks begins with a vibrating four chord descent from which we find shimmering guitars and vibrating electronica emerging. ‘Wishaw’ has a four to the floor thump that shares groove space with glowing heat lamp drones. Somewhere in there are the speeded up samples of European classical music. When the frenetic insect drone rumble of ‘Splashdown’ segues into the final track ‘Breaker’ the beats dissolve to leave a  you adrift on a receding idyllic tide. This last, slowed down, ebbing away of residual drone and the final silence that follows had me flipping the damned thing numerous times.

Its hard trying to convey the sheer pleasure to be had from listening to Astral Social Club. After suffering a not inconsiderable amount of tosh in Brighton recently it was to something close to ASC that the weekend badly needed. Something beatific, life affirming, glowing, huggable, off your tits, nod your head drone. But its not all nod your head mindless boogie. Around the twenty minute mark on V.E.N.U.S a church organ like drone emerges from the beats thats precede it. For the next ten minutes it carries you off before breaking up into its constituent keyboard parts. Like this years earlier ASC release 'Scudding' this is a lengthy single.  And whilst not hitting the hour mark its half hours worth are further essential Astral minutes.

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