07 May 2009

Two "Out"-fits From The Albion Underground

The Shadow Ring

The British Isle or Albion has traditionally been producing people of the left habd path, weird, one-of-their-kind and generally quirky characters (Not to say that Germany. Japan, the USA and elsewhere we do not see similar types): but more importantly these characters have been revelled in oddball circles, underground hangouts and small print rhetoric in Britain. John Dee, William Blake, Aleister Crowley, anyone?

The Shadow Ring seems to belong to this category of British artists but coming from a post-punk cum literary-informed bent. With multiple releases on various labels and on different formats available to them, they have befuddled many along the way but riveted just enough to keep their name going as a concern in the underground. When I first SAW their CD album, of all places at Borders Singapore years ago, the cover and the name of the act just look weird and mysterious. They are by-turns deadpan, surrealistic, idiot-savant and truly "out". At times they remind me of another great British band from the post-prog/post punk scene, This Heat: a lot of clanking rhythms/off-kilter tunes and intoning from whoever is singing the track at that moment. In other words, great. They went on for a decade before they disintegrated in 2003, but they have left behind a legacy of great inspiration that to be "punk" one need not know more than three chords, not even one but with aspiration and free-spiritedness abound, great music can still be made. Now it is just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

Volcano The Bear

Luckily this band is still with us. Volcano The Bear, another great act who rightfully belongs to the pantheon of weird/offbeat British acts take their cue from naive song forms, surrealistic/post-industrial thought-process and Improv ethics. The members dont even appear on their albums at the same time. A loose collective of creative zone-out manners and "out-of-the-box" moves, they are an anomaly, no scene for them to latch onto but more importantly, there is no need for that. Their CDs are a joy to behold: with beautiful drawings/paintings/collages and oblique references to things unknown to the rest of us, Volcano The Bear needs your time to fully ingest and digest. At times, reminding me of Robert Wyatt at his more vulnerable moments, a true enigma amongst the boring/necrophiliac indie rock/emo/metalcore/mediocre noise heads today.

Of course, you might ask: so how do The Shadow Ring and Volcano The Bear sound like? The point is this: words fail to describe (or at least for me) their sounds as their music has to be heard to believe. I can only give you three adjectives to describe their sounds: beautiful, oblique, perplexing.

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