I have to say that this is one of the most intriguing and interesting albums that I have heard in a while. It is one that for me seems somehow shrouded in mystery, like going through some sort of sonic maze every now and again coming across something that stops you in your tracks and encourages you to consider another direction. In truth this is not the sort of maze that you want to extricate yourself from in a hurry, and I have now a few times found myself putting the album on again straight away… and in so doing have found myself a whole new way through its labyrinthine structure.
‘Heads Heads Heads’ is the work of Austrian duo ‘le_mol’, who describe themselves as “the postwhatever loop orchestra from Vienna”, adding in their press release:
Their [le_mol’s] unconventional loop layers and overlapping song structures reflect a social life that is shaken in its foundations and which is threatened to fall into pieces. Without lyrics, using only instruments the duo creates a feeling of tightness, oppression and hopelessness in a society that is divided by populism and capitalism.
This, in someways explains my feelings of being in a maze, since the album does feel as if it is closed in; the loops giving the whole thing a sort of compactness which feels contained without ever becoming overtly repetitive. But it is the eclectic nature of the music which is the most striking for me, something that you may not immediately expect from the way the opening track progresses.
‘Inside Your’ is a hauntingly beautiful piano loop that that blossoms out into something more panoramic that you are initially expecting. It is as if you are entering that maze (to stretch the metaphor) at the moment when spring is just breaking. You feel a sense of optimism as the layers of music are added, each as intricate as the next. It is as if there are a series of quite fragile loops layered on to each other, yet when put together and the percussion is added create a wall of sound until they are gradually stripped out and all that remains is the piano again… alone!
After that the second track, ‘The Waltz King’ comes in even more mysteriously with, once again, a delicate piano loop setting the scene beautifully. This time there is more menace, a sinister undertone that contrasts well with the subtlety of the keys. Again layers of loops are added on… without you really realising that they are loops… before some heavy stoner guitar kicks in and takes the track, and the album, off at a different tangent. The intertwining brittleness of the piano and the power of the guitar seem to tell a story of turbulence and unrest… of never quite knowing what is coming around the corner…
Then for something completely different. ‘le_mol fear Mogwai’ begins as if giving a nod to early Godspeed You Black Emperor before employing some of the dark arts that Mogwai are renowned for (and to note that the album was mastered by Frank Arkwright, who has also worked on a number of Mogwai albums). It is a disparate and dysfunctional track that is in many ways difficult to get hold of such is it’s fragmentary nature.
‘Temperatures Will Drop – Pekoppa’ initially seems to hark back to the more subtle rhythms of earlier in the album before breaking out into an understated, almost passive aggressive, sound which really seems to ramp up the drama and provides another markedly different angle to the duo’s music. Here it feels like we are deep in the maze with no real hope of extracting ourselves from it. Yet there is also the feeling of becoming used to our surroundings a little too much.
The ‘Constellation Records’ sound comes back again with the oddly named ‘7udud Lurati Ta3ni 7udud 3alami’. This helped me to think what ‘le_mol’s’ idea of ‘postwhatever’ might be. This is a track that many would put firmly in the ‘post rock’ genre, yet I have real doubts as to whether this really is where it should be located. And actually maybe they are saying that we can spend so much time working out where this or that music fits, and just take it and listen to it for what it is. Given the breath of this track alone as it hoovers up sonic structure and forms in its wake, this may well be an attitude that should be adopted here. Listen/ experience/ think… I’d certainly subscribe to that!
Headed towards the end of the set now and ‘Chameleon’ is arch and fuzzy as the loops of distortion and organ melt to create the feeling of being in some sort of cavernous space before the heavy guitars flood into it once again creating a wall of sound that is replete with layers and loops; which then fragment in some unexpected ways as if the signal with the band is being lost… the end, perhaps, is nigh.
Just as you think you’ve taken everything that this album can throw at you, however, comes the final ten minute epic ‘The Sun Like A Sneaky Keyhole View Of Hell’. Having only heard this a few times I’m not sure whether I feel equipped to fully explain this track because there is so much going on here. Suffice it to say that this is something of a maze within a maze as it develops into one of those tracks that seem to gain momentum as you sift through the epic elements of the number to find little vignettes, stories within the overall narrative. Again the mixture of the heavy with the brittle is the vibe that is most marked about this track, and the album more broadly. A meditation on contemporary society and culture which seemingly seeks to encompass so much within its remit.
There are points on this album where the listener feels almost overwhelmed as there is so much going on. You want to pick up a loop and run with it. The great thing is that you can and it takes you off somewhere interesting, but then there’s a sense that you are missing out on other sonic strands. As such you almost feel that the maze that I have alluded to a number of times is more of an Esher painting as the aural dimensions build up, and within that another one.
You may never leave.
‘Heads Heads Heads’ is available from the le_mol bandcamp on vinyl, CD, t-shirt and d/l here.
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