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Thighpaulsandra – The Golden Communion

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Thighpaulsandra - The Golden CommunionIf one artist could embody epic, Thighpaulsandra would try to top it. Rumour has it his first solo record was so big he had to spread it across two releases and one of those was a double’s worth. Musically well travelled and mustering a mind-boggling proficiency of styles, he happily hopscotches from classical to avant electronic, proggy free jazz to full-on kraut and a whole of betweens, and he’s even personally responsible for the most catchy songs I’ve ever heard from a bastion of the experimental.

All his albums to date have been odd(ysseys), this one included, genre-jumping journeys into a sweet unknown. I’ve loved his solo stuff ever since I grabbed his Some Head EP at Coil‘s Persistence Is All gig, a breath of fresh air that was quickly followed by a proper début. An unfolding map for things to come that turned indulgence into an artform, choked to the rafters with a motherload of ideas. Luckily, I caught him in Gloucester for a rare live appearance back in 2004, a killer show, TPS dressed as flamboyant as his music, all Ming-like instigator behind banks of synths with his support band kitted out in tight-fitting Kylie hot pants or monastic robes, the background projections’ jerking arm leaving you smirking like a naughty schoolboy. I’m certainly looking forward to more live incarnations, hopefully supporting this excellent addition to his armoury.

The Golden Communion is a double CD (and triple LP) that carries on the Thighpaulsandra tradition of musically bamboozling the daylights out of you. A grand vision fed into a myriad of scenic detours, eclectically knotting up your noggin, and leaving you salivating for more. “Salute” hits it large from the very start, a curmudgeon of pop avantness that starts deceptively oblique, a tsetse fly trapped in the Radiophonic Workshop. Dark entries that launch a pulsing bassline, a firm foundation over which the whole tone of the track transforms in a radiant Peter Gabriel-type croon between the snip of barber’s scissors, his lush voice oozing that Charisma years sincerity that Mr Gabriel couldn’t get enough of between 1977-1980. Language that rolls off the tongue in silky metaphoricals, the music behind it always teasing, full of hidden bends and twisty temperature changes. Here it’s been cyberneticlly sautéed into a Nine Inch Nails monster – all devil-horned fingers waving to rasping scythes, finally falling to its tubular knees with exhaustion. Phew; it’s a storming start and the rest of the album doesn’t look back from there on in, continuing to offer up a surprising amount of singable buried treasure in the oily avant leanings.


“Did He Fall?” is a weird one, incorporating the talents of both John Balance and Sleazy, the lyrics “Did he fall / or was he pushed / Was there a witness?” sitting uncomfortably in your head as the music is thrown to the electro chimps and revving keylines, later sending up those self-help tapes brilliantly. “The Foot Garden” is a finely crafted moment, a really mellow serving that has single stamped all over it. One of Thighpaul’s best in an elasticity of venting gas and ney-like ribbons, and again his voice is superb: “Delivery, hot hot delivery / Another ripple in the sheen”, goes the chorus as flighty orientals hug the magic carpet ride.

The rest of disc one continues with Radio Three melodramas rubbing shoulders with spinning tops of chaos; you’ve got no idea where the merry ride will take you, and that’s the magic, as smoothing ambient passages are suddenly caught in the random dance of a crane fly. One minute it’s choireboy operatics with dusty wigs of harpsicord, then it’s belching valves swimming upstream with knife-throwing tipples.

The second disc continues the song sensibilities whilst mischievously nose-bagging into noisier troughs. “Misery” starts proceedings like a heavy-footed bear in a romper suit, its nervous stomach full of clarinet butterflies. A trudge-o-phonic vibe bespeckled in fanfaring trumpets and interesting thermals, then tempo-fried in a vroom of synthy urinations as Sergeant-Major Thighpaul shouts out the lyrics: “Present right / Present left / Were pissing on mothers breast”, words swimming in a gravy of banking “Ohhh oooos” and peardrop fizzle, Thighpaul interjecting further “Through the bell jar / I watch the miserable inhabitants of London / Sucking on the gas / They fall to their knees / Clutching their so-called iPhones”, sardonically adding, “the former masters now rotting in their irrelevance”, the polyphonic funhouse behind wobbling away with a grave-dancing “sham shimmy want”. This is so good it’s ridiculous, another highpoint to add to the ever-growing list. I think this has to be his best release yet; and there was I thinking he’d never be able to top Double Vulgar’s high-tide mark.

“Valerie” must break TPS’s personal record for the most mood changes within one track, as clanking Stockhausen bolts are superseded by Spiritualized googly eyes, before a Welsh mining choir raids the 99p store to sprinkle a little bit of Vegas on proceedings. From here on in the second disc gets a bit more feisty in the experiment department, a host of new sensations fizzing the lugholes, first in a sewage of loose ends and proggy trolls documenting some unsavoury goings on, then with a crazy cut-up of bizarre phrases  drifting into grinning crevices.

A vibe that continues with “On The Register” as eerie details are overlorded in raspy synth guitar schizoids. A mock rock opera of quiet/loud contrast, Vocoding goods bred on contempt, grabbing hold of you by the scruff of your neck and ginger-snapping your delirious heart. A couture of intriguing shapes and mechanical vices end the album on an unease of jazzy Jarrett stabs, a road to who does where improving a bitches’ brew of peg-headed piano; and Balance later bemoans, “The More I Know Men, The Better I Like Dogs”, cut-up into juddering nonsensicals and carnaging implodes.

The Golden Communion is quality stuff that jumps through its own hoops and offers the listener too many rewards.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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