by -Mr Olivetti-
After many years beavering away with King Missile, Bradford Reed‘s personal experiments feeding percussion through modular synths and playing around with the results has paid dividends on the release of the album Conduit by Ω▽ (pronounced Ohmslice), a band formed for this purpose.
Teaming up with poet Jane Le Croy, they and a few other friends have produced an album of extraordinary diversity and abstract lyrical dexterity that takes the rhythmic propulsion of African drumming, merges it with a dash of NY jazz cool and allows Jane the perfect platform to verbalise and expound at her leisure. Wrapped up in a mysterious, ageless sleeve design, the album demands a second glance and rewards the listener with a unique journey.
The record is essentially a fantastic glimpse into the mind of Bradford and his desire to do new things with processed percussion. He seems to lay the rhythmic foundations and allow the rest of the band, Josh Matthews on extra drums, the legendary Daniel Carter on trumpet and sax and Bill Bronson on guitar to weave some magic and add distinctive textures to the tracks. Once the platforms are laid, Jane airs her thoughts on life and the mysteries contained therein that at times bring to mind a playful and more secure Lydia Lunch and at some times remind me of the delightful tones of the wonderful Mona Soyoc from KaS Product.
“Crying On A Train” has so much packed into its few minutes that it is hard to believe that it is not a one-trick pony. After a cartoon-like intro, a tribal drum pattern sets in and Jane starts to discuss her desire to escape for some unknown situation using a variety of unlikely means — submarines, rocket ships, they are all in there, tossed casually in the listener’s direction, her playful sing-song tones kept company by the fireworks going off in the background. It seems that when Jane turns her back and has a breather, there is some kind of drum free-for-all, where all bets are off. It is quite unlike anything I have heard recently and makes the listener wonder whether Jane is given free reign to just freestyle over the top of the explosion of sounds.
Things become less tribal and more spacey on “Ancient Friendship”, the effects obfuscating, creating a gauzy, slightly abstract instrumental passage. Unable to leave things alone or stay in one place for too long, kinetic drumming is injected halfway through and the song takes a propulsive direction, urged forward by a fidgety compulsion that drifts in and out of focus before your very ears. It is uncomfortable and a little swampy, and doesn’t really give you much preparation for the the slow deliberation of the following track.
“Get Matter” is possibly the piece de resistance as far as Jane is concerned; her joy of language and the way that she plays with words is never more focussed than on this track. Over the most sinuous of Daniel’s half-jazz, all-cool trumpet lines and a deep, dark and resonant bass line, Jane weaves metaphysical, lyrical magic in the most irresistible of purrs. It would be shame to give the gist away, but a phase where Adam rhymes with atom and all the physics that that manifests as well as being charged with electricity as a crime is just the tip of the lyrical iceberg where word association and stream of consciousness go hand in hand. It is an absolute delight and the band are equal to the task of finding a suitably dexterous and subtle backing, the drumming being just perfect.
Three tracks in and the album has already won me over. The rest of the first side passes in a blur of nursery rhymes and timpani, death march drums and annoying synth sounds, resonant hums and deep, dark bashes. Some of the time is spent trying to work out how Bradford has arrived at some of the sounds; and where does one track end and the next begin?
It is all too soon that the first side is over, but side two doesn’t disappoint. The jazz sax subtlety and shape-shifting electronic rhythms allow more space for Jane to lob her random word bombs into our midst; the line “You are more camouflaged than chameleon skin” is just perfection, and her tone and delivery affect the way the sax flows through the song. Everyone is sympathetic to her urgent yet playful missives. There are bass-free dub experiments on “Machine Of You”; amorphous noises echo in and out of the mix as sparse space delay and baking tin crashes compete with Jane’s dreamy and unfettered abstraction.
Reading the blurb that accompanied the album, we learn that one of Bradford’s constructions involves a 17-gallon water tank fed through a modular synth. I can’t even begin to imagine what that might sound like and where on the album it might appear. All I know is that this kind of imagination is rife throughout the album. Ally that to a vocalist who at times (as on the track “Paint By Numbered Days)” sounds like that really interesting but slightly drunk person that you have seen at parties but don’t quite dare approach. (I mean, she might see you for what you really are!) and we are talking about a listening experience quite unlike anything else this year.
Conduit is a wonderful, diverse, sensual and subtle listen that moves in all the right ways, but in the strangest of directions. At one point, it sounds like a soundtrack to a documentary about a bird you have never seen, living in a collapsing rainforest. I mean, if that isn’t enough to allow it to change your world, you have no soul. I genuinely hope we haven’t heard the last of Ohmslice.