Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ectogram – Fluff On A Faraway Hill (Klangbad)

Ectogram come from Wales. They have close links with legendary German avant-garde music makers Faust. I mention these things in case they strike you as relevant. Some other points: Ectogram are a band of three people who sound like many more. On their web site, they are referred to as ‘Wales' premier post-tonal dronedelic noiseniks’. ‘Fluff on A Faraway Hill’ is their sixth album.

Ectogram songs build scrabbly, twiggy nests in your head, then scuffle about up there like critters in the loft. Ectogram songs are elemental - they feel like their component parts consist of unidentifiable organic matter; of mysterious dusts and curious stones, eerie weather and unusual mosses. They are constructed of discombobulating layers of textural noise that have a stick-in-your-teeth chewiness. That’s not to say that they make for ‘difficult’ listening though, these are strongly melodic works – you can hum along as sparks of sound snag in the curtains and tendrils of tune whip around the bookcases.

The tracks: ‘Devisor’ warps and drones with a mystical Eastern undertow over bendy skew-whiff notes, whilst vocalist/guitarist Ann Matthews ululates in a girlish tone. For nine minutes ‘Unterrock’ is an exhilarating headlong race through a bewildering forest of pulsing sound, where branches whip back and belt you in the face with little shrieks, with scribbling guitar and lyrics intoned as a mantra. ‘Aspic Liner’ bends and bows in a curiously soothing manner, you can imagine giving yourself up to its rubbery embrace and falling backwards into the dense mattress of sound it weaves from relaxedly epic guitar lines, hypnotic drum rounds and layers of Ann’s voice chanting buried-deep lyrics. It’s good that the album comes with a lyric booklet as it's intriguing to read what’s going on in these songs, ‘a dream of times swollen when crusts made hair curly’ or ‘deer stalker, forest running, algae blooming’, and ‘curmudgeon with his knees bent double’.

The dizzy-making ‘Spanner’ is pleasingly disorientating, its elastic guitar stretching and snapping back in a cheerily sickly manner. Noir-ish night-mare jazz-inflected ‘Toolbox’ slithers on flanging guitar and lullaby rhythms before cracking up into flying scraps of tune that flap about like bats on strings and you try not to get them in your hair. ‘Strategy Theme’ has lovely bell-like Dungen-style guitar ‘licks’ (if you will), that gallop and shudder across a bedrock of rattling, echoy drums and serenely gliding vocals. It sounds like the sun shining too brightly and is a sublime note on which to end.

‘Fluff On A Faraway Hill’ is playfully exploratory, packed with noise-making ideas skilfully interwoven to create some fearsome, tough-sounding psychedelia. An immersive sound-scape for hiding yourself in, camouflaged amongst the strange plant-forms. Not dreamy, more the sound of nature red in tooth and claw.

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