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Klangstorm | 2HITEK4LOTEK (At AnyTime)
Forget about the cover. It's awful. Not only that, but it's a pastiche of CwaS readers' favourite band Queen's 'News of the World' album. And while you're at it, forget about the song titles too. They nearly put me off. They nearly will you too. Yes, forget about all that, because underneath lies probably the most inventive and enjoyable record made by a British band this year. So take that old adage to heart and listen. The first proper track, Gone Fishin' will vanquish all your reservations within a few minutes. Coming on like four songs crammed into one, it's a brave, invigorating brew of filling-loosening bass, looped vocal samples and some uppity percussion which neatly morphs into stray bits of musique concrete, recalling Zappa and, just as you've about got your head round that, it takes another sharp turn into the land of a tautly unfurling, coiled guitar riff that's like a snake slowly waking, gathering up power. Jolly Space Jam is next and, despite the irreverent title, it's another serious head-spinning piece. Starting with a deep, underwater, umbilical beat over which a tight, edgy repeated guitar riff hovers like an angry dragonfly, it explodes into a fearsome groove replete with time signature changes and tempo shifts that keep you utterly compelled. Halfway through the track, a snaky sax lifts the proceedings as everything gathers intensity, spiraling and spinning like it was being forced into the mouth of a whirlpool before gently easing down into a dignified cooling-off coda. And they're British? you ask yourself in disbelief. It's indeed rare to find such invention and originality emanating from these isles and being instrumental they've neatly sidestepped the UK's greatest crutch, the fact that we don't have one lyricist worth a damn. There's such an assured sense of space and dynamics on this Birmingham based band's fourth album that is sorely missing from other homegrown acts. Check out Gid's Bazaar with its sampled Middle-Eastern intro leading into a funky, sax led wah-wah freakout or the way that Between A Rock and A Martian shifts from soothing ambient seascapes into a wicked percussion clatter and bang that sounds like seven Tom Waits' locked inside a small cupboard. The music here is always inventive, never predictable, just as likely to turn a corner as to jump the road itself. And so it's all the more surprising to find that the album leaves the best till last. The calm of the lonesome sax-led Tunnel Vision does nothing to prepare you for the storm of Viv and the Monster Riff which starts with a thick, nasty bass riff so down and dirty it should be riding a Harley and committing savage and unforgivable acts. Most bands would leave it at that but Klangstorm weave in a sputtering, screaming, squawking sax that creates a great counterpoint to the bass and crisp drumming. The final track lasts as long as half a normal album (18 minutes) and yet manages to be nowhere near as boring as a three minute Lincoln song, combining, as it does, the missing third side of 'Lumpy Gravy' with a deep space Grateful Dead jam that ebbs and flows, gathering momentum, rushing towards its own breathless conclusion. The best British album of the year? Sadly, there's not even any competition.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002