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Various Artists - “The Invisible & Divided Sea” (2017) review

Various Artists - The Invisible & Divided Sea (Bearsuit Records, 2017) 

This economic label sampler features 17 tracks from 16 international artists clocking in at one hour. In typical Bearsuit fashion, the artists and selections run an eclectic gamut from the “electro ambient trance fusion” of Belgian composer Alexander Stordiau’s contemplatively cinematic ‘Fulfilling Eclipse’, wonderfully reminiscent of Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack work to the funky schizophrenic psychosis of Hamburg’s Martin Pozdrowicz and his PoProPo (aka Pop ProjektPozdrowicz), which sounds like Medium Medium and Liquid Liquid wrestling with Talking Heads while out of their heads on amphetamines! Martian Subculture’s ‘Chewing Gum’ is what Evan O’Malley imagines distorted pop music sounds like on Mars – I think it sounds like a lost Yoko Ono Chill Out tape.
More Martian shenanigans follows courtesy Bearsuit regular Bunny and The Invalid Singers, whose glitchy, schizophrenic ‘Eamon The Destroyer’ continues to confound and entertain. His third Bearsuit full length is out next year – you’ve been warned! I was also left scratching my bald spots over France’s unpronounceable Yponomeutaneko, who are awarded two tracks, the mysteriously confrontational ‘Tous Les Rochers’, which sounds like a fight broke out in the recording studio, and ‘Jour 1191’. If outrageously weird anti-pop No Wave like The Residents, Zappa, Faust, James Chance, DNA, et. al. is your cup of tea, drink up.
     Bearsuit has always delivered some of the most interesting and experimental music to come out of Japan and ShinnosukeSugata is no exception. His ‘World Travel of The Piano Tuner’ sounds like it lost something on its way to an English translation, but the jolly tune sounds like a surreal parade down Main Street U.S.A. accompanied by a marching band playing oblique vaudeville music that would give John Phillip Sousa nightmares. Tossing the banjo in at the end is pure, insane genius – like Stephen Foster on acid! He returns with a children’s chorus gaily jaunting through ‘Wednesday (January 1992)’, but I’m not quite sure how much of this is a put-on and how much is an animated adventure that fell out of a Manga.
The Moth Poets’ ‘The Shabby Gentlemen’ could have soundtracked one of Guy Maddin’s anachronistic recreations of cinema’s early silent era, while fans of esoteric electronica will find much to like in the mysterious Swords Reversed’s even more mysterious ‘Looking For A Perfect Connection With An Imperfect Person’. There’s an hallucinogenic, Steve Reichian groove flowing throughout that carry’s the track, the set’s longest at over five minutes.
     Thor Maillet sounds like a pseudonym if ever I heard one, and this American electronic artist records under the equally punny name Petridisch. He uses the Vocaloid to sound like Peter Frampton imitating Diamanda Galas, yet ‘Small Train Song Home’ is magnetically appealing, if more for its alluring melody than its inherent weirdness. Ageing Children are just that – Frank and Chuck Children, and the Edinburgh’s ominous ‘Sick Puppy’ is as perfectly titled as their nom de group. Anny similarities to like-minded pant-shitters, Skinny Puppy may be unintentional…but maybe not!
     The second half of the disc is no less invigorating, beginning with the challenging glitch cut-ups of the Scottish-Japanese duo Kirameki, whose ‘Ha-Happy App’ really does sound like the “chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella”. It will astonish and infuriate the listener in equal measure. Perhaps Chris Manga (aka Manga Brothers)’ ‘Stoma’ will be more accessible – a dirgy, dreamy concoction that begins softly with an anonymous Bjork impersonator and ends majestically with a choral ‘Huzzah”!
     Edinburgh’s Charles Dren records as Steeples For People, and his melodic electronic tone poem ‘Nocturnal’ will frighten more than soothe, but it will certainly not bore you as you wait for what surprises he has in store around the corner. Finally, Glaswegian Chas “Annie” Kinnis (aka Annie & The Station Orchestra) pulls out an accordion, some Christmas bells, and washboard to revisit his smile-inducing ‘Song For The Invalid Divers’ via an ‘Ullapul Remix’ that seems to have left a radio on in the background, which only slightly disturbs our enjoyment of this delightful little ditty.

- Jeff Penczak
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