Volcano The Bear have long done their best to confound the simplicities of classification; they’re not simple to sum up as an experimental or avant-garde project (whatever that might mean exactly), and on Golden Rhythm/Ink Music the range of emotions and auditory adventures they offer up is one which can easily – glibly even – be described as such, but which is also a case study in what it truly means to be different musically.The constant thread of emergent cacophony of omnidirectional horns and fluttery noise recalls the heady nihilistic non-melodic urge to clatter and parp of Faust; another particular reference which is as unavoidable is This Heat, whose circling condensation of the post-punk DIY ethos with prog’s exploratory musicianship finds echoes and trails in VTB’s tape loops running back and forth over the playback and record heads while Aaron Moore and Daniel Padden sing estranged, distrait harmonies as elliptical as anything The Residents pronounced with all the otherworldly cadences of Messrs. Bullen, Hayward and Williams. If all the aforementioned influences are from the Seventies (notwithstanding Faust and The Residents’ continuing career) then it’s with good reason; the electromagnetic frisson which pervades this album is one which is as identifiable as the analogue synthesizer sounds which have excited a new generation afresh – alongside maybe the rediscovery of the fun to be had in experimental ways of making music stretch in new and challenging ways – in the vinyl-worshipping early years of the twenty-first century. Add in a hefty dose of Nurse With Wound‘s surrealist attitude to creakiness and groans, and the elevation to the ranks of the must-hear outfits of the avant-garde is complete. But so much for the parallels; Volcano The Bear are so much more than the sum of their record collections, operating within a tradition for sure, and revelling in and expanding the parameters of a shared ethos along the way. What Golden Rhythm/Ink Music demonstrates over and over again is that their genius lies in the same spirited adventure which characterises their live shows, and shares the same energy and verve for pulling off the wholly unexpected. Always seemingly teetering deceptively on the verge of chaos, there is a feeling that at any moment anything can happen, and possibly will. The magic tricks of pulling coherence from clutter and the mundane reconfigured as captivatingly constructed music are open and on display in the frenetic multi-instrumentalism going on onstage, while underneath mundane, arcane and abandoned technological trickery is deftly manipulated and a vibrant sound collage unlike anything else composed on the spot. A case in point on GR/IM is the 43 seconds of “Bravo,” a Dada interjection of calls and clattery response which sidesteps the conventional flow of a record before abnormal service resumes.
A highlight of the album is the languorously unwinding “Fireman Show,” with its booming bassline and accompanying toms channelling deeply stoned rock’n’roll at hypnotic pace. Guitars and wahs elevate the tune – and it is a tune – into a heads-down nodding groove while the vocals caterwaul in and out of focus in the mix, revealing an emotional fragility along the way which is one of those almost shocking moments of enthralling stillness and beauty which Volcano The Bear are more than capable of conjuring from among the noises off and occasionally stridently present experimentalism. Shocking not because they are unusual, but rather as the counterpoint to the sense of delirium which the more atonal elements prompt is so right and proper that the satisfaction obtained by listening to this record is made complete.