Is it me, or is this a bit creepy?
Title track aside, this album consists of the six-part Loftopus, a 31-minute suite that begins minimal, gets gradually less so, layers accreting upon layers, threatening by the end to become almost lush but in reality is more like a sonic quicksand, gently but inexorably drawing you down with increasing pressure…
Overall, it’s subterranean, unsettling, a slow, relentless, dystopian carnival ride through queasy, dreamlike landscapes. Voices mutter to themselves in winding tunnels, but not to you. A deceptively light, menacing drama, with hints of Bowie’s Low. Slow, stately, almost eerie melodies emerge from a clean darkness, an out of focus, negative space delineated by electronic punctuation. Almost glacial melodies, each tone drawn out, a bridge, another step across an amorphous terrain. Some odd, saxed-up operetta obscura, set in an electronic underworld, squeaking a sparse language beyond direct comprehension – familiar words but strange grammar – imaginative interpretation is the only option…
…ambient raindrops fall from a pulpy sci-fi firmament, reeds are smeared over a metrognomic pulse, swirling keyboard tones emptily threaten prog-jazz, pointillist delicacies are wrapped to take away… Cults should be heard and not seen; this one is chanting for you, beckoning as the spell slowly fades, dissolving into its own subtleties.
And then, as dessert, a disturbing version of Ivor Cutler’s Tomato Brain which, to be fair, isn’t undisturbing in the original but here becomes an earnest loon, singing blank-eyed, staring through you in a way that doesn’t worry you nearly as much as it should.
Creepy but enthralling.
James Allsopp – Tenor saxophone, voice
Alex Bonney – Electronics, voice
Kit Downes – Keyboards, voice
Tim Giles – Drums, electronics, voice
Ruth Goller – Bass, voice
Tomato Brain is available on CD and download from The Golden Age of Steam’s Bandcamp page.