For anyone with any history with Paul Allen, Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb, the trio who make up Big Naturals and Anthropropph; you would expect from the outset that this is not going to be an album of harmonic ballads or even gentle lilting space rock. All three have a reputation of delivering hard hitting music that is not so much in your face, but rips it of and then starts on what’s underneath. The Big Naturals eponymous album from 2011 is a behemoth that has, if anything, grown in reputation in the five years since it was released. Then there’s Paul Allen, responsible for so much sonic damage as guitarist of The Heads, the cult fuzz band that is drawing crowds like never before during its infrequent reformations; and as Anthropropph, most notably for me, the 2014 Rocket Recordings album ‘Outside the Circle‘, realised with Turner and Webb; and the Cardinal Fuzz 12″ ‘Ebbe’/ ‘Precession’.
With such a provenance therefore you would be expecting something that is heavy, intense and, well, pretty fucked up; and if you did your expectations would have been matched. This is indeed an album that will not so much blown your socks of but your feet as well. This is incendiary music that delivers boom after boom as the trio blast their way through the tracks.
Twenty one minute opener, ‘God-Shaped Hole’, begins customarily with some sinister synths and a tolling drum that tells you that some sort of ritualistic madness is about to break out. It draws you in and, in a weird way, settles you down although the thought that something monstrous is about to happen never leaves you. Sure enough around four minutes Allen’s guitar bursts in and the band gradually build things up to a massive crescendo for the next six minutes with Turner’s bass and Webb’s intense drums managing the whole thing brilliantly. Then we are off again, this time if anything the build up is even more intense as wave after wave of sonic attacks hitting you frying your synapses before, mercifully, returning to a less full on assault for the last five minutes. We that’s side one and I’m already feeling like I’ve done ten rounds with a sonic bulldozer.
Time for side two which, if anything, ups the intensity. ‘Farce Without End’ hits the ground running, there are no gentle introductions here…straight in with the full on power but then building into that Eastern drone that this band do so well. If its the sound of the souk, then its a fucked up drug addled souk that sells the sort of things they don’t tell you about in the holiday brochures. Once again the intensity is incredible as the drones morph into Allen’s signature guitar sound, not riffs just a constant cry. This is not someone whose guitar gentle weeps…it spits blood!
Then, just when you think they couldn’t take it any further they hit you with ‘Narwhallian Social Purge’, which immediately hits you between the eyes as chaos and order fight for supremacy; pushing the boundaries but never quite losing it…one of my favourite places. Indeed, it is this tension between order and chaos that for me marks out this and previous records by these bands. For me its a very creative place to be because it isn’t comfortable, and while it doesn’t make for an easy listen; there are plenty of places I could go if I wanted that.
After what was probably the more extreme and intense sonic assault comes the final track ‘Chubbock’s Last Tape (Another Nail)’. This begins slowly even with some improvised jazz flourishes, and then begins a series of attacks (this seems to be a word I’ve used a lot describing this album) all of them different. Listening to the track feels to me as if the band are trying different ways to develop a theme before finding a formula and breaking out onto some sort of dark upland, a place which gradually, like everything here, loses its shine.
As you would expect from the Big Naturals & Anthroprophh this is an album that is bleak and heavy, unremitting and hard-hitting. It is an album that pummels you and then goes in for the kill. Yet it is also an album that, and I know this sounds pretentious but I’m going to write it anyway, leaves you feeling somehow cleansed. It’s not the bitter pill that does you good, its the pain that you enjoy because within it is the exhilaration of the intensity and sheer brutality of this record that, in the end, takes you along with it on an utterly exciting journey.
From the Cardinal Fuzz press release:
As the record ends there is no let up as the locked groove traps you in the negative zone.
Packaged in a hand assembled, unique cover (courtesy of Sam Giles) that nicely rounds off this sonic titan.
Buckle yourself in for the ride and remember to turn it up LOUD.