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Volcano the Bear - Amidst the Noise and Twigs

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Artist: Volcano the Bear

Album: Amidst the Noise and Twigs

Label: Beta-Iactam Ring

Review date: Jul. 7, 2008

To say that BLRR has released another typical Volcano the Bear album is to address only the initiated. Yet, it is meant to be a compliment. how best to describe the thrilling mixture of sounds, atmospheres and environments on offer? Those that have heard the group’s half dozen albums, and myriad other releases, have already embraced the unpredictability that remains this British aggrigate’s trademark. This newest offering is distilled, boiling elements from their previous double disc down to a forty-six minute suite of essentials, and it all works quite well.

There is the playfully serious rusticity of whatever home-brewed contraptions VTB has chosen to manipulate, as on “Burnt Seer;” plucked and struck things, sounding like banjo and marimba, support some laconic vocals as the tapes whirl away off in the left channel. Tapes are always an integral component to VTB projects, and Noise and Twigs is full of magnetic exploitation. Sample the jump-cut paroxisms of “Larslovesnicks Farm”as some ordinary percussion is slowly sped up and splattered as a champaign cork pops; the huge reverb-wet kiss that follows is set to out-of-tune piano that invokes the minimal gestures of early Residents.

All description pales in the face of the myriad emotive gestalts that underly these moment to moment shifts. “She Vang Moon,” roils with menace and intensity, transforming the playful dadaisms of earlier tracks into a nightmare torrent of vaguely pulsing vocal drone, paving the way for the strangely psychedelic and rock-inflected invocations to follow.

As with groups like Faust and This Heat, any resemblance to established form and genre is temporary at best and usually fleeting. The juxtaposition of glacial drones and whiplash edits, a VTB staple, is still quite effective. As with the best work of Bernard Parmegiani or Pierre Henry, knowing the formula does not negate the experience when fresh material is in play. It is to VTB’s credit that they have managed, yet again, to create a pastiche, amusing, beautiful and threatening by turn, that is interesting while remaining readily identifiable as theirs.

By Marc Medwin

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