Believers Roast, 2011, DD EP, 19m 14s, £TBA
Kavus Torabi, Cardiacs guitarist, among many other things, originally pursued Knifeworld as a solo endeavour, but this EP marks the beginning of the project’s recorded life as a six piece band with a permanent membership. The initial release, Buried Alone: Tales of Crushing Defeat, had a particular sound, and a coherent one, from which this release is quite distinct, texturally at least. Dear Lord, No Deal has a denser, fuller sound, but it still pursues the same general aesthetic and formal agenda.
There is certainly some resemblance to Cardiacs, in terms of the complex arrangements, with contrasting sections, intricate rhythms and unexpected melodies, even in tunes less than three minutes long. The sound is very much its own however: despite obvious similarities of approach, and a decidedly avant-garde attitude, Knifeworld has a more accessible sound to my ear. It would be fair to place both acts in the same genre, but they are both pretty genre-defying, and the most striking similarity is a commitment to continual creative alertness, and a refusal to deal in clichés or unexamined stylistic gestures.
The instrumental sound is led by the guitar, with keyboards and woodwinds fattening it up, and for the most part it moves as a whole with the bass and drums, nailing off-kilter accents, tempo and feel changes, and dynamic transformations with casual aplomb. This is the work of some extremely accomplished musicians, to say nothing of the attention to detail and constant invention in the compositions and arrangements. All of which may be making you think it sounds dead clever, and possibly a bit much like hard work to listen to, but this is eminently listenable music, and all of its intricacies, are employed in the service of the tales it spins, and the plumes of atmosphere it emits. This music goes places, never outstaying its welcome, or milking a hook, though there is plenty of catchy melody.
The EP contains three tracks, two ludicrously short (below three minutes) and one ludicrously long (over fourteen minutes). The short ones are crammed with incident, and highly involving combinations of melody and harmony: ‘Pilot Her’ is a high energy affair, driven along by rapid fire guitar crunch, while ‘Dear Lord, No Deal’ harks back to an early phase of musical psychedelia, with its faintly mischievous minor melody and its processed vocals. The long one, ‘HMS Washout’, makes good use of its epic scope, and although I wasn’t sure what story I’d been told, it made me feel like I was watching a play, with its sequence of dramatic expositions, each with its own dynamic and instrumental character, from melodic rock to rapid atonal saxophone improvisation. Don’t expect too much of a singalong, or conventional song structures: just follow the musical narrative as it unfolds. I promise you won’t be bored.
Dear Lord, No Deal has most bases covered, in combining musical sophistication, highly developed instrumental skill, and a demanding standard of creativity with artistic integrity: there will be those for whom it’s just a little too out there, or demands a little too much attention, but for anyone willing to approach it with open ears it represents a deeply satisfying listen, that reveals a little more detail with each return visit.
Available July 4