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Vocokesh - Through the Smoke

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Artist: Vocokesh

Album: Through the Smoke

Label: Strange Attractors Audio House

Review date: Jul. 21, 2005

Multi-instrumentalist and Vocokesh founder Richard Franecki is right to point out that F/I, the group he left in 1991, and Vocokesh, the group he formed thereafter, are on very similar krautrock-drenched musical paths; that said, Vocokesh has proven the more consistently exploratory venture, and this, there fifth album and second for Strange Attractors, will not disappoint. Where 2004’s The Tenth Corner had just that slight timidity and an unwanted bit of added polish on the production, Through the Smoke brings us back to the heady in-your-face days of their first album, Ispepnaibara, especially on sludgy riffage-laiden mindbenders like “Vocokesh Theme Song.” We are treated to tremolo-soaked but tasteful fuzz-infested guitar-psych that sounds better the louder it gets, underpinned by some Faust-like drumming and off-kilter out-of-tempo analogue synth flourishes that scream early ’70s Gong. The epic “Sunday Afternoon,” the disc’s 16-minute closer, traverses similarly drone territory, but I’m amazed that each listen brings out layers of guitar and bass I’d missed before. The album is mixed quite well, which makes Vocokesh’s post-Persson Sound monster vamps all the more appreciable, but Franecki has always been about more then just increasing volume.

The title track is suitably shimmery and hazy, some backwards cymbals harkening back to the industrial side of mid-’80s F/I but with a new orchestral clarity punctuated by well-placed choral effects, presumably sampled or manipulated.

It is difficult to point out just what keeps the disc from sounding dated or tired. Taken on it’s own, each sound and texture is really quite cliché, nothing new for a band that’s been mining the same ground for 14 years. However, there’s no denying Through the Smoke’s freshness, power and beauty, from the musique concrete fade-in of “Vibe #6” to the final swell and fade-out of “Sunday Afternoon’s” concluding moments. Transcending all their historical trappings, the guitar work is often satisfying in its earnest simplicity; this group – Franecki, in particular – has never been about pointless virtuosity or deliberate obscurity. He makes the music that he likes, and he does so with unfettered confidence. Maybe it’s that unity of vision and clarity of purpose that keeps this stale Smoke sounding so fresh.

By Marc Medwin

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