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Martin Archer – saxophones, clarinets, organ, electronics, voice
Elaine Di Falco – voice
James Huggett – bass, production, programming, concept
Juxtavoices – voices
Monstrously heavy, groovy, trippy, creative. Dubby, dynamic and dastardly. Combat Astronomy continue to display flair, creativity and stubborn iconoclasticism on their latest album “Kundalini Apocalypse”. Intended to be released in time for the end of world, it arrived late. We are all of course still here and you are invited to go on an internal adventure of collapse and rebirth with another premium disc of unique poly-metric bass guitar metal, avant jazz and abstract drones.
2011’s Flak Planet was a high water mark of monolithic incessant doom jazz, rather than try to scale that mountain again Combat Astronomy opt for a funkier but somehow more extreme sound, with shorter songs and a penetrating psychedelic atmosphere. The robo-zheul relaxes a little allowing the fluidity of a live performance to come through. Archer’s occasional screaming into his horns increases the aggro-punk aggression of some of the sections even further. Huggett’s rhythm section is as crushing as ever, with plenty of the subtle and curious additive cycling time signatures that make Combat Astronomy riffs so intoxicating – primal yet strangely complex.
Elaine di Falco and Archer’s Juxtavoices choir make brief appearances, adding to the rather demented proceedings. By now, no further proof should ever be needed that Combat Astronomy are inhabiting an entirely separate parallel universe. With a loud but detailed production, and an ear catching sense of melody and groove in many places, Kundalini Apocalypse maybe one of their most accessible albums since Dematerialised Passenger or Dreams No Longer Hesitate.
On Path Finders, which is an almost seamless continuation of the first track, the marching bass deconstructs to just one note repeated with insistent brutality as the sax wails and squawks away in the foreground; the sound of tectonic plates smashing together. Eventually the whole mothership lifts off the ground in a scraping of wild electronic fancy. Before we’ve even had time to draw breath the repeated three chord bass pattern of Recoil is hammering a gargantuan horseshoe into shape, using the side of a newly formed volcano as an anvil. Joining James and Martin we have probably the most natural-sounding programmed drums I have ever encountered, struggling to make themselves heard above the din. Curiously, the echoed sax on Quiet Mutiny puts me in mind of Nik Turner, but even Lemmy never got close to being this f***ing HEAVY. Did they say “quiet”? Hahahahaha! Other more obvious influences are the heavier ends of Swans and Anekdoten, in a mash up with Japanese Zeuhl exponents Ruins, that kind of aural warfare. Combat Astronomy is often filed away under a subset of Zeuhl known as “Brutal Prog”. There is no more suitable epithet in my opinion. Having come to this directly after reviewing a Klaus Schulze album is like arising from a duck feather mattress and then being willingly and repeatedly slapped around the face. In fact we have to wait until the sixth track Orchard Of The Snakes for the unrelenting pace to let up thereby allowing us to realign our senses, the brief introduction to the mini-epic being an industrial ambient soundscape that Throbbing Gristle would be proud of. Of course it does not last, and fighting over James’s soon-come tumultuous bass we have a marvellous moment where Martin’s multi-tracked reeds do battle with one another like a swarm of bees armed with spears settling a dispute over hive rights. Marvellous! The “drummer” as programmed by James must come in for praise, maintaining a complex beat while WWIII blasts off all around da house. Eventually the track returns to post-industrial ambience for its final third, as the shattered remains of the song slowly scatter apart in the zero gravity of deep space, huge static charges building up. I’m liking this track more and more, it’s the sort of thing to scare your friends with. Martin initially ditches his reeds and plays some very prog organ on Sequence Seven, which seems to inspire James to get almost melodic on that behemoth of a bass of his. Not being able to resist Martin has to pick up a sax in the end, but the whole thing is looser, more organic than what has passed before. Inevitably though, by the end James is back down into a Marianas Trench of a groove, lost to the world. The last track on the album is Cave War, which according to the liner notes includes “Juxtavoices”, a choir, directed by Martin. The longest piece here, the song enters stage centre in an atonal wash of treated saxes. The wizard blows his horn, heralding a Zen mantra for disembodied voices. The mighty bass slowly surfaces through the swirling murk, hanging on one note banged out, now sped up and dancing in the ugliest pair of hobnailed boots you ever did see, encouraged by agitated cave dwellers waving cudgels while a band of dervishes blow sax and shout. A jazz party with steam hammers. Something like that, anyway. Is that the door? Invite the Jehovah’s Witnesses in for a cup of tea; play them this while waiting for the kettle to boil and you’ll never be bothered again. I like it! – DPRP – ROGER TRENWITH
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