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Friday, 4 June 2010

Bügsküll - 'Phantasies and Senseitions' (RoadCone)

Somehow, without actually realising it, I've accumulated a mini-gauntlet of Bügsküll recordings over the years, though my selection is far from complete. But I wouldn't hesitate to fill in the gaps, as Sean Bügsküll is an often-overlooked musical explorer, whose early work (found on this CD) recalls an early 90s Portland underground that I've pieced together a picture of built solely from recordings like this, Cher Doll records, and whatever other weirdness filtered into my brain. There's 18 tracks on Phantasies and Senseitions, but they aren't divided between phantasies and senseitions. It's generally easy to tell which is which; maybe the dual nature of this collection is why it has both an 'Intro' (track 1) and an 'Opening Theme' (track 3). This is one of the most rock-like Bügsküll releases, or at least there are less electronics than on his later stuff. Though it might be more accurate to say that whatever electroacoustic elements are present in these tracks are recorded so 4-track lo-fi that it feels as organic as the guitars and keyboards that are also here. This is a band format, while later Bügsküll is more of a solo artist. There are songs here, though catchy pop hooks are buried in lumbering, reverb-laden loops and breathy, unintelligible vocals. Mistakes are left in, and even celebrated, but instead of an aggressive Pussy Galore vibe, this band is more like a ragged pillow. There's a clustering of more organised songs near the end of the disc, ranging from melting electric folk ('Concrete Boots') to punchy pop-rock ('Olympic'), but it's never played that straight. Some tracks on Phantasies and Senseitions are genre sketches, like pastoral 'Old Towne', and strange looping experiments like 'Inhuman' that sound like Shirley Collins dunked in a vat of molasses. When I found this CD (a few years after it came out) I saw them as more like the West Coast Guided by Voices, but now I don't have the slightest idea why I made that comparison, as this is far far more experimental music. Apart from 'Sit on This' (which can't deny it's grunge influence, especially since this is 1994), there's almost nothing of singalong value here. The experimentation isn't miles away from Elephant 6-style bedroom psychedelia, with found sounds often applied over top of poorly-recorded drums and line-in guitars. There are elements of free rock but of a slowed-down, stoned out variety. Horns and/or violins (sometimes recorded so badly you can't really be sure) strengthen the melodic approach, and it doesn't feel particularly improvised, but still freewheelin'. 'Seguara' lumbers along with a 90s indie rock sound, with delicately placed vocals getting thrown under the bus at times. But my pick of the disc is 'Concrete Boots', a fractured, off-key work of total romantic beauty and bliss.

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