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The Evil Usses – Muck

Stolen Body

The Evil Usses - MuckAfter being fortunate enough to catch The Evil Usses‘ barnstorming set at last year’s Bristol Psychfest and being thrilled and bewildered in equal measure by their previous three releases, including the loose as a goose cassette Giblets, I was really looking forward to seeing what these Dartington alumni had to offer, and in which direction it would boldly spring.

Opting for a seven-track 10″ rather than a full-length LP throws yet another curveball at the listener as the sound of the band, even after just three releases, has morphed from the wildness of Giblets through the jazz skronk deconstruction of their self-titled LP to Amateur Pro Wrestling‘s slightly poppier (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) direction.

The odd time signature of opener “Grouse”, with its barmy duck noises set against dramatic key flourishes, shows the band attempting to squeeze as much as possible into each of these seven tracks. It is almost as if they have purposefully constricted the length of time available, but still have an album’s worth of ideas to cram in. Conrad Singh‘s guitar is strangely muted, or possibly disguised as something else. There is even what sounds like a kazoo, which vanishes as the song suddenly bursts into an up-tempo synthscape after about two minutes, with the drums also making their presence felt and causing the listener to shake their head in wonderment. The song eventually reverts and after about four minutes has blown through like a hypnotic storm. All this in one track might explain why the record is a little shorter. They don’t want to blow the listeners’ minds too much.

With “Wowtown”, it is interesting to see the different approaches of the four members; the drums could have been poached from a Cramps track while the bass line is wayward and skittery, and seems to have more in common with the drunken keyboard motif. The guitar lays a fragile, circular riff over the top and this hypnotic rhythm is then covered with bizarre, high-pitched electronic sounds. An extraordinary collaboration that brings to mind Mercury Rev; not in any soundalike sense, more in that each member of that band seemed to have a differing idea as to how the tracks should sound, but by some miracle of alchemy, the overall effect works. (This is when Mercury Rev were good, a long, long time ago) and it seems the same for the Evil Usses. Four like minds but with different approaches, generating a musical diversity that spills out of each track and flows all over you.

“American Cocker” and “Wellard J Fowler” could be themes for kids’ shows, if you didn’t mind your kids being exposed to squelchy synths and anarchic puppet voices. Actually, “American Cocker” sounds like what would happen of you gave the cast of Sooty And Sweep access to some kind of workshop, gave them specifically different drugs and then released a low, dreamy saxophone to soundtrack the mayhem. I am sure I could hear a trimphone in “Wellard” and what sounded like Tetris smeared over the juddering electronics and forceful, marching rhythm.

Interestingly, after the almost Captain Beefheart-like black hole circling, rockabilly squawk of penultimate track “Elron”, the vibe changes for closer “The Music Of Sleep”. With an ambient feel and the gentlest of percussion, there is an “Albatross”-like atmosphere to the track, the keyboards like palm tree waves as the guitar (I think it is a guitar, it barely sounds like one) is smeared over the track in a pastel image of a setting sun. It drifts to a beatless ending, and you almost breathe a sigh of relief that the relentlessness of the last twenty minutes has subdued slightly.

Seriously, this band can do no wrong. The cohesiveness of the ideas, the unstoppable nature of the band and that rare feeling you have when four clearly gifted but diverse musicians with different dynamics gather to unleash magic all go towards an enviable body of work. You can see them going from strength to strength, and on the form shown here, I can’t wait to see what the next wild leap will be.

-Mr Olivetti-

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