AMN Reviews: Ian Watson – Terrestrials Gone Tropic with Some Pretty Fancy Animals (LF Records)

R-4996158-1381680012-1523.jpegCardiff-based Ian Watson is a visual artist of the “deceptively grotesque” (think a mash-up between R. Crumb, M.C. Escher and Hieronymus Bosch) and his album title is a mash-up of three, four-track suites previously released in “near zero editions,” according to the label. He is sometimes known as Swefn. He wields “home-made electronic instruments and off the shelf effects and applications” to create weirdly beguiling textures.

On the first, the “Terrestrials” seem decidedly off world, drifting in dark but pleasant nothingness, coo´ed at by quasars, occasionally ruffled by some wayward static. Benevolently, the universe blinks at these strangers. Far from the madding crowd of New Agey spaciness, it´s one of the most intriguing sci-fi excursions I´ve heard in a long time, accessible and challenging in just the right balance. “Gone Tropic” might well be mistaken for a deconstruction of “Terrestrials,” its boops magnified and its laser beams more bona fide, less video game. Watson stews it into something very thick and hot. More likely the tropics of Mercury than our own equator. Its four movements successively deplete each sound of its lubricant until nothing but a strident grind shedding flakes of rust remains.

“Some Pretty Fancy Animals” is the shortest quartet of the three, just over ten minutes all told. The piece exists in an echo chamber, plummy notes cranked out of a muffled jack-in-the-box bumping into dubbed out vinyl run off, its tines grown into huge steel beams clashing on the final, stuttering versioning. It is apposite that Watson once wrote “only surface noise is real”.

Dense and luridly luminous – a white dwarf of enigmatic, nebulous ambient.

Release page: http://lfrecords.autmusic.com/

Stephen Fruitman