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Volcano the Bear - Golden Rhythm / Ink Music

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Artist: Volcano the Bear

Album: Golden Rhythm / Ink Music

Label: Rune Grammofon

Review date: Nov. 15, 2012

Volcano the Bear can’t be put in a convenient box. Their first disc in about three years finds the duo in rather astonishing homage mode, but all of the trademark Bear traits are also present, making Golden Rhythm / Ink Music of their most perplexing and enjoyable releases.

The duo of Daniel Padden and Aaron Moore has always demonstrated some degree of allegiance to This Heat, but “Buffalo Shoulder,” this disc’s opener, takes the aesthetic to an extreme. The track sounds so much like the work of that late 1970s trio of boundary-busters that anybody might mistake it for a newly discovered relic. The droll vocals and crunchy keyboards are present, and the wayward harmonies sound just like something off Deceit, especially when sung in that fantastic Gareth Williams sound-alike. Of course, Volcano the Bear is never interested in staying in one skin for too long, and by “The Great Reimbursing,” they’ve left This Heat territory for pastures new and strange. Gorgeous, D.I.Y tape manipulations provide forward momentum, but a drone continuously fights against the tide they create, as vibes and organ punctuating the oozy plains of shifting timbre. Is this a more oblique homage, possibly to the dronier sections of Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning? All of the other Volcano the Bear tropes are also present; revel in the handclaps and chants that imbue key moments of “Spurious Ruga” and the percussion clashes and splatters, atop bass clarinet invocations, that color “Golden Ink.” The whole disc approaches a kind of unity on the 10-minute “Fireman Show,” where scorching stoner drone and bluesy hollers give way, slowly but inexorably, to a foregrounded drum that’s then supplanted by more heaviness, all capped by some high synth squalls that would make Tim Blake’s ears perk up.

I don’t remember the band ever being so loud, but neither can I recollect such a strong thread of directness and simplicity unifying any previous effort. They have now honed their craft to a science, and there is an ineluctability about the way one track segues into another that replaces the often random feel of earlier albums. The duo’s first effort for Rune Gramofon illustrates maturity and inventiveness in equal measure — a welcome development.

By Marc Medwin

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