III - Songs of Happiness, Words of Praise by (DOLCH)Release date: November 10, 2017
Label: Ván Records
(DOLCH) are back with a great new album III, and I managed to give it a few listens ahead of their upcoming gig in London with King Dude and Ruins of Beverast.
We start for no good reason with a 30-second track ‘Opening Speech’ which is just that… “Hello thankyou for buying this recording…” in a fantastically irritating slow computer voice that sounds like a bad demon robot impression from a crap no-budget kids show. I suppose this could have been some found-sound thing that the band stumbled over somewhere and thought was a laugh so made the bad decision to stick it on the front. Or they recorded it especially, for which there is no conceivable excuse. Was it only put on the review copy, like that ill-judged Old Man Gloom stunt a while ago where they sent out a fake press version of their album to get their own back on well-meaning people who care about their music? Or something? I don’t mind an ambientish intro on an otherwise heavy record, but this already has one of those up next in track two. It even speaks some nonsense about playing track six backwards, but this will only work on vinyl. Sure enough, track six is fifteen more seconds of utter stupidity: some clapping and then the same voice doing a sentence or two of backwards talking. I could not be less interested in what it says. Quite an achievement to have included two of the dumbest and most annoying tracks I have ever heard on a release, coming in at less than three quarters of a minute between them. I’ve spent more time than that writing this paragraph, but these two tracks are so transcendentally, stinkingly bad that it prompts me to try and process the idiocy by thinking about them far more than I should. Deep breath.
If you can hold your nose through those clever attempts at complete self-sabotage, the rest of the album is actually great. Minus the two tracks of rubbish and a pleasant enough pomple-pomple intro track, there are four proper tracks, a couple around five minutes, one eight and one eighteen minutes long. They’re all washes of churning grinding scruzzz, covered in zombiechant vocals like the bandmembers have been in a cult for long enough to forget what their real names are. The first track contributes to the sense of occult hypnosis as it approaches, starting with revolving drummery and a whispered repetition of “come, come, drink the water…”. The title is ‘The River’, but before I clocked that I was thinking of it more as a torrential curtain of rain, the white noise pattering of distortion seeming like a grey veil of water from the sky.
Previous album/demo/EP things from the band have had, to my ears, a sort of 90s chemical psychedelia touch to them, that reminded me (for the first time in at least a decade and a half) of things like cybergoth and Cyclefly. This new one still has that faint hint of neon at the edges of the black drapes of sticky noise, but those influences are now more subdued. It echoes of a strange 1990s retro-futurism but without distracting from the main focus, which is the private mumbling distortion-ritual of a few lonely lost souls. The second proper track has a bit of a vocal hurdy-gurdy type feel, which puts me in mind of a scene in the film City of Lost Children (1995 of course), where a nervously smoking organ-grinder sets his trained fleas to work with his offkey machine, implanting vials of lurid green liquid into people’s heads to turn them insane. This whole album in fact, could be the offshoot movie for those fleas and their lunatic victims and their seesawing soundtrack, a sonic conflation of the mad and the mechanical. The more I listen, the more the insistent melodies waft out of the murkiness like moaning mind-bewitchers, making the track title ‘Sirens’ ever more appropriate. ‘Hydroxytryptamin Baby’, no doubt named after some designer drug molecule or something, has a similar spiral step sound, wheezing up and down while ethereal wisps of vocals float about above. The final track ‘100000 Days’ is the biggest chunk of noise here, at first following a similar haunting luminous pathway as the others. After the first six minutes or so in that established template, it allows itself to submerge into wider pools of echoing radio static, across its expanse of nearly half the whole record’s running time, drifting further out into fuzzy dead air and distant shores of womblike noise. Overall this album definitely rewards repeat visits to its weirdly lit swampy depths. I’ll be deleting those unnecessary extra tracks first though.