Listening Post: A Winged Victory For The Sullen/King Gizzard the Lizard Wizard/Alison Krauss/Syd Barrett
Our weekly wrap of new music.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen
It's not surprising that the collaboration between Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O'Halloran that has taken shape over the course of now three albums as A Winged Victory For The Sullen should find its finest hour in a deeply evocative and elegant soundtrack for a movie - French director Jalil Lespert's Iris.
While their two previous albums have been outstanding, the immersive approach of writing specifically to a script filled with "tension, sexuality and darkness" and editing and re-editing as the film took shape has been a disciplined challenge that A Winged Victory For Sultan have passed with flying colours.
The sound template, ironically, is old analogue synthesisers — the kind you might hear in a Vangelis movie soundtrack — and a 40-piece orchestra beautifully woven together particularly on the opening track Prologue To Iris, with its simple harp melody and soothing electronic backdrop, and the strangely elegant magnetism of Gare Du Nord Pt 1. With a now burgeoning reputation and catalogue of artists, Erased Tapes continues to set the benchmark for electronic music. That's not to denigrate A Winged Victory For The Sullen, merely to point fans to the fact that there is a veritable feast of dazzling music to also be explored.
King Gizzard the Lizard Wizard
Flying Microtonal Banana
This Melbourne eight piece is a pure anomaly. And not just because of their eccentric psychedelic garage rock sound. This is in fact their ninth studio album since 2012. Very few bands are this prolific and it's phenomenal they maintain it — they plan to release five studio albums this year alone. Following from 2016's stellar Nonagon Infinity, Microtonal Banana is an almost unsettling listening experience. This is because it is performed in microtonal tuning, which features intervals smaller than a semitone. While it still employs superb elements the band is known for, such as driving beats and quirky riffs, everything feels a tad darker and more ominous. Melting and Openwater sounds like an evil villain scheming. The vibrancy that made Nonagon so fantastic is not as present here but this band stills proves the awesome ability to take you on a strange and surreal cosmic journey.
Though she made her name by coming up through the bluegrass ranks, there's little hint of that to be found on Alison Krauss's latest. On the contrary, Windy City is decidedly polished, an album of old standards with a smooth, upgraded '50s and '60s Nashville sound. Krauss's crystal clear, precise voice is given centre stage, as she elegantly makes her way through some of country music's most enduring hits of its golden era. It works. Tracks like River in the Rain and Windy City ease gorgeously along, while opener Losing You is planted firmly in Norah Jones territory (albeit in the best possible way). The highlight may be album closer You Don't Know Me, Krauss's aching vocals making for one of the oft-covered song's finest versions. Those expecting rollicking mandolins and fiddles may feel let down, but that doesn't mean Windy City is inferior. It's just a different direction — and quite a lovely one, too.
The Madcap Laughs
Yes, alright, we know. Syd Barrett formed Pink Floyd with his mates, took too much acid, went mad as a snake, became a recluse. The legend's as worn as an old penny now, obscuring the thing that matters most - his music. Floyd's early records with Syd remain their wildest, their wiggiest, their best. You can stick the over-produced noodlings of Dark Side of the Moon: give me the raw power of Interstellar Overdrive, Arnold Layne, Lucifer Sam or Astronomy Domine anyday. Barrett also released two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, in 1970, both freshly reissued, alongside 1988 offcuts/ leftovers compilation, Opel. Madcap is very odd, the meandering melodies criss-crossed by stream of consciousness lyrics that bemuse and confound, the tunes rough demos overdubbed by Roger Waters/ David Gilmour/ Robert Wyatt. But as a document of a dissolving psyche, it fascinates still. Terrapin is a slowly unspooling skein of surrealist blues whimsy, while Love You and Here I Go are ramshackle stabs at Kinks-style music hall. The lurching, acid-fried No Good Trying buries a serviceable pop melody beneath prog guitar/organ outbursts, and Rapunzel gets a reboot on the gently hooky Golden Hair. But the highlights here are mutant folk-pop gem Octopus and the harrowing Dark Globe, in which Barrett describes his own descent into schizophrenia over an acoustic guitar, his voice a dead ringer for early Bowie.
- Sunday Star Times