Monday, May 16, 2005

This one looks like essential listening:

Volcano the Bear "Catonapotato" (Broken Face/Digitalis)

Certain things just need to be seen and heard to be believed. One of these things is to experience England, Leicester combo Volcano the Bear in the live setting. Nothing I ever say will accurately describe that evening last year when I made the trip down to the unlikely setting of their first Swedish gig (the art museum in Norrköping, a mid-sized town in Southern Sweden) but it goes without saying that it was a night of pure magic and brilliance.

Volcano the Bear was formed in 1995 with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas, and they’ve always tried to aim for a live environment where they can do pretty much whatever they please. This results in a live show that beyond grandiose sonic qualities blends the very essence of key words such as surreal, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and to a certain degree even self-indulgence. That being said, these sonic transgressors are not for everyone but if you’re a fan of free-form improvisations, free jazz, weird drones, pagan folk, whimsical acoustic pieces, disjointed percussive riffs, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Faust, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check these cats out.

If you’re not as lucky as me when it comes to attending Volcano the Bear shows I am happy to report that Catonapotato is a perfect example of what they are capable of in the live setting. All eight tracks presented here were recorded live by the duo of Aaron Moore and Nick Mott at four different occasions in 2004. These four shows took place in Leicester (England), Paris (France), Norrk√∂ping (Sweden) and Sheffield (England) and all broadcasts different sides of this talented duo. The number of styles explored throughout seems endless, though words like free, folk and jazz keep popping into my head. Catonapotato is not necessarily free jazz or free folk, but it does indeed display music that is completely free from any sort of constraint and structure. It just floats along however it wants to with the aid of squeaking and skronking horns, corrosive string massage and hypnotic drums that more than once approaches the tribal. It’s mainly an instrumental affair although some vocals come up on a few tracks and as if all this wasn’t enough we’re served some incongruous electric guitar rhythms that recalls the Sun City Girls at their very best.

All in all, it's just a brilliant sonic excursion down a musical path very few are brave enough to follow these days, and along the way the band manages to explain exactly why the true environment for Volcano the Bear is the live setting. If you never have come across this band before I honestly believe that you never have heard anything quite like it. This is meditation music for the drone/noise generation.

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