Saturday, October 20, 2018

Listened to Lately - albums by Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic; and Crudelia

Some strange shit comes your way in this line, I can tell you.  Not necessarily bad shit, I should stress.  Shit, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.  What's he on about now, you ask?  Well let's find out, with a couple of albums from the leftest of left fields.

The relationship between Velvet Space Love and the blues is, shall we say, rather tangential.  On this collection of 12 instrumentals from the hands of Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic – eight originals, plus remixes of three of them, and a cover of an Ennio Morricone piece - the blues element is represented primarily by the harp playing of Croatian Tomislav Goluban.  Meanwhile his countryman Toni Staresinic adds layers of ambient music on piano, synthesizer and other keyboards, and an assortment of guest performers add analogue instrumentation to the mix.
Tomislav and Toni - Sonny and Cher they're not
And if none of that sounds very much like the blues, it has to be said that here and there it still works quite well in its own terms, corny titles and all.  ‘Zero Gravity’ kicks things off in suitably weightless fashion, with Goluban’s mournful harmonica played out over slow pulses of rhythm and washes of synth, while ‘Space Drive’ is more upbeat, with minimalist harp interjections over Motorik tick-tock-bleeping.
Among the highlights though, are ‘My Jupiter Mistress’ and ‘Hypersleep Dream’.  The former lays down a clanking rhythm foundation over which Staresinic plays a lovely piano motif that shifts and drifts delicately.  The latter is even better, Goluban’s elegiac harp refrain conjuring up a soundtrack from a John Wayne western as the sun sets over the prairie, enhanced by angelic backing “vocalization” from soprano Josipa Loncar.
‘Till The End Of Space And Time’ dials up the Kraftwerkian electronic rhythms again, this time underpinning some jauntier Zydeco-style harp from Goluban.  Two of the three remixes are tedious fare, overlong and over-reliant on repetitive drum programming, but ‘TSMK Remix’ gives the rather thin original a lift with the aid of dub beats and more focus on the mouth iron.  The Morricone tribute ‘Man With A Harmonica’ is a suitably atmospheric closer though, Goluban’s plangent harp suggesting nothing so much as the theme from The Singing Detective, mashed up with sweeps and bleeps of synth that could come from Twin Peaks.
It ain’t rock’n’roll, not by a long chalk, but if you have a secret fondness for Vangelis then knock yourself out.

And so to Threshold Volume 2, the debut album – and don’t ask me about Volume 1 - from Italian-based Crudelia.  Brace yourselves people, because about thirty seconds in you’re going to encounter the singular vocals of Smokin’ Tiglio.  Sounding like a cross between a croaking Leonard Cohen and an escapee from a Mittel-European death metal band, it will inevitably get your attention.  I dunno what he’s going on about across most of this album, and since by all accounts he doesn’t speak English he probably doesn’t either - but he delivers it authoritatively.
Tiglio’s voice isn’t the be all and end all of this multi-national outfit though, and while they may style themselves as “funk-punk-blues” they tend to alternate in-your-face energy with more reflective material – Exhibit A being opening track ‘Sin Of Innocence’, which is a largely subdued affair, featuring both shimmering guitar strumming and vocal harmonies
Crudelia - yer average laid back experimental weirdos
from Eugenio Suvarov to counterpoint Tiglio’s groaning, all played out over a sparse rhythm section.
It’s a subtle recipe they explore further with the likes of ‘Downtown Mumbai’ and ‘I Pay For It’.  The former is downbeat, but this time in loping fashion, with sweet guitar work from Suvarov, making use of some jangling chords, while the latter is all mellow bluesiness, with measured bass and drums from Vincent Modenesi and Frank Funk ahead of a spiky Suvarov solo.
They do rev it up on other tracks though, like the energetic ‘The Blues’, with its scrabbly guitar over pounding drums, while ‘Gold Tonight’ is pretty much straight-ahead punk, with some quirky “a-ha-ha-ing” vocals thrown into the sort-of-chorus.  The title track has a driving riff over a full-on rhythm section, and some twiddly guitar fills as a prelude to a brief, scratchy solo, and ‘Muddy Waters’ is a jagged slice of twitching funkiness – and a bit repetitive until its stuttering outro.  But the closing track ‘Miriam’ epitomises their low-key side, with a spartan opening that leans heavily on flickering guitar notes and Tiglio’s voice, underpinned by some warped synth sounds courtesy of Modenesi, building towards a discordant, measured guitar solo.
I’ve heard worse albums than Threshold.  I’ve also heard stuff that has more musicality – but is far less interesting. At least Crudelia’s sound has personality.

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