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Astral Social Club, "Neon Pibroch"

Neal Campbell continues his strong run of releases as Astral Social Club. This album should satisfy fans of his impressive back catalogue, but the music here is good enough to deserve separate treatment and should not be caged in by references to the past.


"Tripel Foment" begins similarly to Campbell's other experiments in ambient beatscapes. A bassy, four-on-the-floor techno pluse pushes the track along pleasantly. But the track becomes compelling when he ditches that rhythm and lets his sounds fly untethered. The song keeps its momentum as scraps of sound detritrus float over the mix like luminous insects. At 12 minutes, the pitch bends up sharply as the song hits its crescendo. A looped guitar riff breaks in while a tremeloed static whirls in the foreground, carrying the beat for a few more minutes till a sudden and jolting rest ends the song.

The rest of the album lacks the percussive backbone which holds up "Tripel Foment," but they hold their own unhurried vitality. The title track meanders for more half its length before finding critical mass. Reversed chime swells and subdued guitar picking float lazily into a thicket of resonate beeps and flanged bellowing. The signal processing fights against this dense buildup, diluting the racket until it becomes a limp mass, percolating into gradual silence. "Big Spree" has the same meditative pacing, being built around a cloudy snyth drone peppered with icy, ringing tones that build into a snow storm of radiant sound particulate.

As detailed as each composition on this record is, they are certainly not fast paced. No song here is under 12 minutes, but Campbell is not the kind of musician that mistakes subtlety for monotony. Stale sounds are gently taken away from the mix or processed into something entirely different. The basic components are very simple: a three note guitar figure; pieces of static; some bells and chimes. Isolated from the whole they would sound thin and artificial, but within the tightly wound arrangements of this album they take on a cosmic immensity.




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David Grubbs

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Review of the Day

Clapping Music
The first strikingly clear quality of the debut full-lenther by Yann Tambour as Encre is the crispness of the production, as noises and loops of organic drums, piano, guitar and violin are maimed and severed and sutured together in a mosaic, stylistic of a drunken butcher, which never misses a beat. And then, there's the vocals, so strikingly close I can smell the coffee, cigarettes and croissants on Tambour's breath. Have you ever had somebody standing so close to you and talking in your face that the intimacy becomes feverishly uneasy? Combine that with the sullen, whispery voice of Tambour entirely in French and the entire experience becomes as bizarre and uncomfortable as it is intriguing. Hauntingly clever and never dull, this eight-track long player is confusing and unlocking with every listen, with dimensions of aural dementia, fuzz and noise integrated in with sparklingly clear sounds, and creepy loops at a slick pace. (I swear I hear the sounds of an iron lung in track three, "Or.") Be very careful with this album, as at extremely loud volumes, my very own heart begins to palpitate. I wish I spent more time paying attention in French class.



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