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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Bablicon - 'The cat that was a dog, a flat inside a fog' (Misra)

For their final album (the swansong as the Rock establishment calls it) Bablicon are showing their compositional skills. Gone, mostly, are the haywire improv freakouts and the studio dubbery; we're left with a very organic collection of 16 tracks with lots of different instruments and varying personnel. Gone, mostly, is the excitement too. What's left is a too-long mess that is stretched thin; I could be even harsher and say "boring" and "inconsistent". The first half of this double album is The cat that was a dog but there's very little to thrill. The opening track mirrors Orange Tapered Moon's opening track at least in the sense of there being intelligible singing, though this is a much more mellow moonlight jazz number that is certainly inoffensive but hardly incendiary. The Duke Ellington fixation begins here and stays throughout this half of the CD, which would definitely have worked better as two single albums. 'Travelling' is a very lengthy piece constructed around some lovely piano runs but it adds up to nothing more than Muzak to me. The highlight of this half (and maybe the whole CD) is the lengthy 'Saumur/Paris/Teatowels' which has some tape manipulations and a strange, low-level murmuring that reminds me of Graham Lambkin and the Shadow Ring's recent output. It eventually falls into the jazzrockjam that would most identifiably be the 'Bablicon sound', but I liked the murky part best! The second half, A flat inside a fog, is an improvement, as the quirkier stuff is crammed here. 'Distant Morfonger' just sounds like a track for progheads but has some weird electronic gurgling under melodica, which flows into 'Arcdurwish' which continues the electronics before melting into a circular mess of sampled geese, tapes and spazzy drumming. Things at least get a bit loose here but it's too little, too late. Much of 'Bahamut' is unremarkable and 'AEther' takes the spazzy theramin playing from their first album and sets it against another piano ballad (albeit a bleak one). The compositional side goes into overdrive on 'Aphe hall' and 'Atlas' Cousin' with a full orchestral score; it resembles Varèse's work and is pretty excellent, but it just doesn't belong. Everything and the kitchen sink, huh? The drummer (who's the guy from Neutral Milk Hotel) lays out a "fuzz organ' solo track which is at least a bit of dirt and grit like this record needs, but it just feels like filler. 'Pigeon of Doom' is a title given to songs by bands like Bablicon and not bands like Motorhead; the vaguely Monty Python humour spills into the song itself which has some moaning vocals but is otherwise unremarkable. It all ends with 'An Odd Pear', another excursion into fake jazz-trio 'maturity'. I realise I may sound pretty damn harsh but this record feels especially difficult to enjoy because of its length and because it comes as a huge disappointment against the awesomeness that was their second album. So the stars maybe only aligned once over Chicago, for these three; at least we'll always have that 35 minutes and we can ignore these 65.

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