Annie & The Station Orchestra – Bingo Halls (Bearsuit Records, 2016)
Strange name for a guy, one Chas Kinnis, who apparently took his nom de group from a track on the Bunny & The Invalid Singers album (also on Bearsuit). Perhaps Annie, Bunny, and Chas are three sides of the same alternative universe Kinnis inhabits. In any event, this follow-up to the split he released earlier this year with Ippu Mitsui runs roughshod through his collection of electronic instruments with varying degrees of noise, experimentation, and melodicism. Perky proggy syncopated motifs run through ‘Time’, with perhaps a little Herbie Hancock-styled funk tossed in for fun and games – the whistling that morphs into meowing cats is fun, too! And that’s been Kinnis’ modus operandi for most of his material that I’ve heard: kitchen sink arrangements and about-faces that combine multiple genres and styles into the same track, never allowing the listener to get comfortable or complacent. It’s usually not an easy listening experience, but always a rewarding one.
‘King of The Idiots’ dips into Kinnis’ soundtrack phase, with glitchy undercurrents peeking through smooth, romantic melodies that could just as easily have surfaced on a Francis Lai or Ennio Morricone soundtrack. If all else fails, the lad may have a future composing library music! Asuka Tanaka returns to add her inimitably angelic vocal stylings to the playful ‘Here Come The Bears’ and if you’ve been following Bearsuit Records closely, you may recognise ‘Banjo Williamson’ from a previous Bunny & The Electric Horsemen release, so its/his return here adds further fodder to the mysteries behind Kinnis’ true identity! This one is a bit more demonstrative, while retaining the original’s groovy, bachelor pad ambience.
Circling back once again to previous incarnations, Kinnis offers a ‘Song for the Invalid Divers’, which takes a page straight out of Morricone’s playbook and delivers a gorgeous, enveloping, after hours session for romantic dalliances. ‘Bicycle Jane’ has a nice Hawaiian vibe, ‘Blithering Idiot’ offers more accessible soundtrack material, and ‘The Alsatian, Satan’ combines a loopy, dispossessed angelic choir with vicious guitar scrapings – you can decide which represents which! It’s part horror movie, part SETI outpourings. Finally, the nominal title track (actually ‘To Bingo Halls’) begins as a minimalist, repetitive dissertation on the use of vibes in modern electronic music that will appeal to fans of Riley and Young, and then explodes into distorted guitars, pulsating synth swashes, and funky backbeats that won’t exactly have you jamming the dance floors, but will certainly prick up your ears, certain that something is happening here, but you just aren’t sure what that is. As always, another intriguing and exciting release from the eclectic, envelope-shredding folks at Bearsuit and the equally mysterious Mr. Kinnis.
- Jeff Penczak
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