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:: Big Block 454 ::
17 July 2006 / Demo / 17 Trk CD
By Cath Aubergine

Not so much an album as a sonic collage, whereby the combined works of Faust, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the experimental end of Swell Maps and Vivian Stanshall are blended into a new and interesting shape, fed to Brian Eno and distilled into odd little one, two and three minute screenshots of BigBlock454’s fascinating and sometimes scary world. The result is not unlike an aural anthology of short stories, soundtracks to films which may or may not have been made.

Sometimes the titles provide clues – in “The Uses Of Literacy” a sombre voice tells of a sign, warning of machines on the bottom of the reservoir on a hot day as the music chills and creeps around splashing water. Elsewhere they seem deliberately obtuse – “William Henry Perkins Accidentally Invents Mauve” is closer to an actual tune but with vocals which are not so much singing as mildly disturbing intonations. The title in this case is actually true; said renowned chemist having isolated the first synthetic dye from coal tar in 1856, fact fans – only three tracks in an my mind’s expanding in all manner of directions. Whether the next track’s title (“Hull Is Full Of Grubby Slappers”) is true or not is something I’ll leave to those with more knowledge of the place than me. Further in, the snapshots include odd stitched-together snippets of speech and clanking noises (“The Golden Age Of Braking Systems On The Maryport & Carlisle Railway”/”John Coltrane Wouldn’t Have Called It Ping-Pong”), dour gothesque theatrics interspersed with unsettling clicks and sctratches (the relatively sensibly-named “Roses”) and some more conventional electropop admittedly with the vocals still set to wayward (“The Republic Of Rain”)

Taken in one sitting this is a wander through someone else’s dreams and nightmares, funny and frightening and just plain incomprehensible in different places (and on “Cheetham Hill To Miles Platting By Hovercraft” all three), and then it all ends in the loveliness of a conventional (if woozy) song (“Vanilla Overcoat”) about putting the past into boxes – maybe the key to the whole puzzle, or I might be reading too much into it. Given the unpredictable nature of the previous sixteen tracks it wouldn’t be too surprising if it ended in a frenzy of wrenched metal or elephants howling, but it doesn’t, and is all the better for it. File under uneasy listening, sub-genre fractured genius.


Big Block 454

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