Practical Electronics with… Thighpaulsandra

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Thighpaulsandra | Practical Electronics with… 
Editions Mego (LP/DL)

I’m unsure exactly how “practical” anything about the work of Cymry original Thighpaulsandra is, quite the opposite. His collaborative work over the last three decades has been impressive to say the very least. That said, even though it’s been since 2005’s excellent Double Vulgar II (2005, Beta-lactam Ring Records) that I’ve had the opportunity to review his intimate work in any depth, though I did get to see him perform live in 2003 (Montreal) and in 2007 (Boston). Since then, a lot has changed, of course Coil (of which he was a standard member for most of their latter years) disbanded after the death of its two founders, and other splinter acts came and went – his solo act has gone on and he has recorded two additional records of interest, particularly: The Lepore Extrusion (Brainwashed, 2006; re-issued by Klanggalerie in 2018). Of course we have been intrigued and instigated by his more recent collabs with UUUU and URUK as have been published here, his solo projects seem to be where his freak flag flies with a sense of devious weight and a glint of majesty.

Don’t let the manipulated man/machine cover art fool you, the sound artist is not playing ‘Operation’ (per se) and this is not your (a)typical homo-erotic sonic electro-play, it’s much more of an assortment of short story vignettes or abbreviated radio plays. Brown Pillows begins as a bit of a psychedelic seance with a narrator speaking in thick poetics of torn galaxies and agar agar. The text is rich with graphic linguistics, a fluid and imaginary world where ducks float away into the abyss. A creaky, tweeky opener that is spare and yet, as cinematic as they come. With bold washes of synths meeting the breathtaking nuance blending rock riffs with drone and circumstance, this truly lifts off into another world altogether. The only thing I have heard recently that even comes absently close in comparison would be Penny Rimbaud’s Oh Magick Kingdom (2018, Cold Spring) and though I’d imagine an incredible collab between the two gents, this one is in its very unique corner of the universe. Once we are past the midpoint the whole thing breaks into a clamour of disturbed voices muffled by alarms, electronics and random percussion from stage left and right, all swirling their way to the opposite ends. Oh, this record is wound-up!

Hamza has more in common with an act like Laibach as it growls and grunts about shadows and depths over a slightly funky post rock cum electronic mad scientist. Though most of the lyrics are fairly impenetrably garbled in the mix, this has a ferocious gloss of dark humour and foreboding spectacle. More of a monster movie soundtrack in its core, this thing purrs, burrs and whirrs with a grinding velocity that manages to keep one foot on the ground while all other parts flail wildly. Denoting that Hamza is a letter in the Arabic alphabet may not really help the listener to easily decode its meaning, in fact it may only send you deeper down into the vortex that Thighpaulsandra (aka Tim Lewis) has developed herein. It is the gong-like percussion, and the reverberation thereof, that re-centers the consciousness in this darkly enigmatic work.

This could easily be mistaken for hallucinatory post goth rock with a twist. And maybe it is, but the maybe, in and of itself, is the catch. Then comes Helen Is Screaming. A much needed breather, and though it’s minimalist abstraction at first seems like one of those lulls in an otherwise jam-packed fusion of obtuse conceptualism, there is something hidden inside ready to break free. “She experiences a bright flash…Helen is screaming into the pillow” – or is she only hearing voices? Amid the active ransacking of the setting what one might imagine is a woman alone, in a forest (or aboard a ship), with little outside light, while someone tinkers away on a project just paces away. Perhaps she’s trapped or is she on some sort of a trip (figuratively, literally). Yes, this passage has the power of influencing vivid mis/interpretation. The effects are between 60’s Italian experimental electronics and avant jazz, with the esoteric twist of the man behind the console. Though she may be screaming, we only privy to the cosmic found sounds.

In conclusion, The Goat Owl is further distilled from the plot as it moves forward. With the weary theremin-like chords bending in wavy lines, and a chugging bassline, this gains paces. As he snarls “I needed to make changes beyond some box-ticking exercise” the rhythm takes over. This is a peculiar blend of some bastard child of The Residents and Flying Lizards combined, as the narrator testifies and the mood shifts dramatically and we refocus (like surveillance) over the perimeter of a lost world. Thighpaulsandra’s voice comes through here, and he’s in savory voice here when he actually sings (blending echoes of Midge Ure, Peter Murphy). The atmosphere presents a futile post-apocalyptic perspective of a world where the inhabitants “taste bitterness and malice“. This tale ends in curvy synths that meander with into a fading intonation of dream world tones.

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