FLYING SAUCER ATTACK Further (Domino)
In the spirit of todays necrophilic pop climate, imagine that some early Nick Drake demos have been unearthed in a shed somewhere in Cambridge. Furthermore, lets suppose that the delicate task of brushing said outtakes up into a releasable form has fallen to labelmates, er, My Bloody Valentine. In case that should prove too much of a cognitive leap even for a Mensa member, get hold of a Flying Saucer Attack album, cos its as near to such an unholy alliance as were ever likely (or would want) to get - all eggshell fragile acoustic meanderings horribly disfigured by layer upon layer of bruising feedback.
It might not sound that alluring on paper, but on vinyl the combination has a peculiar battered charm, witness the way the wispy spindliness of songs such as "In The Light Of Time" is propped up by what sounds like The Jesus And Mary Chain doing a soundcheck in the same studio, or FSAs sheer dogged refusal to compromise that results in tracks like "Rainstorm Blues", almost exactly like the sound of heavy precipitation falling on the corrugated roof of a makeshift shelter out on the moors miles from anywhere, swamped by sheets of white noise.
Admittedly, Flying Saucer Attacks singular approach to music making cannot be said to pall over the course of an entire album, but in small doses it can be strangely cathartic and even calming. Extra points too for the absolutely gorgeous cover photography, all blurred full-moon forests and waterlogged fields at sunset, that sets the mood perfectly, and slogans like "home taping is reinventing music" and "good old 33".
FLYING SAUCER ATTACK New Lands (Domino)
Veterans of post-rock, lo-fi and just about every other music press-created scene that dared give catchy hooklines and production scene lower priorities than intensity and feeling, Flying Saucer Attacks last proper album, "Further", was an amalgam of frail, Nick Drake demo-like acoustic folk tunes swamped in oceans of feedback and distortion. Interesting, yes, but think about it: acoustic guitars + feedback? It just doesnt add up, does it?
Well, thats what was troubling me about "Further", but I couldnt put my finger on it until I heard "New Lands", Flying Saucer Attacks third studio opus. The acoustic guitars have been ditched, replaced with heavy duty rock axes - still playing Nick Drake demo-like acoustic folk tunes, admittedly, but the simple act of cranking up the voltage has transformed (no pun intended) FSAs sound.
Apart from the few seconds of rainfall that open the first track "Intro" (that being as close to levity as youre going to get with this crew - "Further" began in a similar fashion with "Rainstorm Blues", which had minutes of the darn stuff), "New Lands" is fifty minutes of squealing, tinnitus-inducing, migraine-chasing distortion. It is stupendously heavy and clangingly metallic, but in no sense could it be confused with heavy metal. In fact Id be tempted to class it as industrial if the same parcel from Kev hadnt also contained an example of same (see below), which "New Lands" tramples all over in terms of purpose, intent and good old-fashioned scariness. Reference points which come to mind, apart from all the traditional Nick Drake in a wind tunnel comparisons Flying Saucer Attack tend to attract, not undeservedly, include The Velvet Undergrounds "White Light/White Heat", My Bloody Valentines "Loveless" and Sugars "Beaster". Not exactly a box-set of easy listening dinner party tunery, I think youll agree.
Sometimes element of The Stooges - or at least Spiritualized or Primal Scream in one of their Stooges moods - sneak through, most notably on the wondrous and aptly titled "Respect", occasionally Im reminded of Big Stars "Third/Sister Lovers" in the way the barely audible percussion or bass lines seem to be existing in their own temporal space - how can you be out of tune if there aint no tune in the first place? (Shades of "Trout Mask Replica" as well, come to think of it!). Then thered be an occasional crunching percussion pattern or outbreak of effects pedal overload which would bring back pleasant memories of the Aphex Twin or Trans Am. But mostly the sensation is one of total astonishment at the way "New Lands" starts off loud and distorted (well, after the rainfall, anyway) and then spends the next fifty minutes getting progressively louder and more distorted. Every time you think that proceedings couldnt possibly get any more intense theyll crank the amps up even further past eleven, until you reach the final track, "Forever", which is twelve minutes of what sounds like a helicopter attempting to land on your head.
"New Lands" is a stunning, wonderful achievement, another of this years great British third albums to file alongside the likes of Radiohead, Spiritualised and The Verve. Quite who it would appeal to is something of a mystery, but if you can take My Bloody Valentine and The Velvet Underground at their most confrontational youll most likely find at least something to enjoy here. For those about to post-rock, we salute you.