New General Catalogue/Palto Flats
Renewed interest in the buried catalogue of British brothers, Mark and Clive Ives – recording under the name Woo, has seen a dig through the archives as well as the reissuing of the albums. Following on from the wonderful When The Past Arrives – a collection that’s still on fairly high rotation at mine, comes this, another set of previously unreleased gems. Taken from the duo’s golden period (1975-82) some of these pieces feel like they were created in the 40s, 50s or 60s and were miles ahead of their time, others still sound ahead of their time now…
There are little moments of Krautrock-derived bursts, the fuzzy-logic guitar scattershots and spatial awareness of Mike Oldfield, the knickknack rhythms and mercurial melodies of Penguin Café Orchestra, it’s all here – once again. This set of Woo moments, as with When The Past Arrives, feels all at once like a strange new (previously swamped) world of murky musical memories recreated anew and then so much like so many different things at the same time as to feel like nothing you’ve ever quite heard before.
Opener Odd Spiral feels like a soundtrack inspired by one of Len Lye’s kinetic sculptures, it could damn near be a recording of one, it is in fact its own aural sculpture as much as a clearly defined ‘piece’ of music. It wobbles and shines as an odd spiral might.
Then it’s to Green Blob where Durutti Column and Faust feel like the aspirants floating around this sound if not the direct influences/influencers.
Some of these pieces are merely tantalising teasers, the spacey jazz-shuffle of Mobile Phone lasts just one minute and feels exactly like something you might create on an app now, while waiting for the bus. All the more intriguing to think of it as being cooked up in a bedsit music-lab on organic instruments 35-40 years before music was truly everywhere.
The Goodies is more satisfying, length-wise, something to actually hang on to. It dazzles in a different way. Whether you were there – and aware – the first time or whether these words are taking you toward the music for the first time it’s a set of magic spells that spiral and gather you in. You have as much of the puzzle as you’d ever need right here with just this album. Or you’ll be hooked and off to hear more as soon as you can. Either approach is valid.
The title track creeps along toward some of the tingly miniature epics Arthur Russell made around the same time. Well, Woo is quite possibly the English version of what he was about; the take from anything and everything and then create something altogether different – something both before and beyond.
I get the feeling that Awaawaa is an actual buried album, such is its flow. Meaning it was recorded and lined-up to always – eventually – be this way. Even if that’s not the case that simply means the consistency and scope of this group is yet another startling thing about it.
That in just one minute, the total length of Babalonia, you can be made to feel that you’ve touched music’s widths…well, that’s as good as it gets for me. Every time I play this I feel like I’m being transported. No fucking clue where, and all the better for that.