Artist Spurious Transients
Album : Something Strange Came Out Of The Skies
Apart from that abduction scene in Fire In The Sky living rent-free in my head for all eternity, I've never been hugely interested in aliens – I guess you could say that the paranormal isn't my forte-an (thanks, I'm here all week). Even so, I couldn't help but be intrigued by Spurious Transients latest release: a concept album surrounding the "Welsh Triangle," a spate of supposed UFO sightings around Broadhaven in the late seventies.
Spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Gavin Lloyd Wilson, the result is fittingly out-there. It's structured along the lines of a radio phone-in show, often eschewing traditional verse-chorus structure in favour of minimalist, cyclical instrumentals that prop up a spoken word narrative pieced together from first-hand accounts and extensive research carried out by Wilson – there's even an accompanying zine to help further colour in the backstory.
The sheer variety of musical ideas here is staggering, with wildly different approaches on each cut. From psychedelic jams to elastic dub and even shades of industrial or Krautrock; there's a real eclecticism throughout that's pulled off with an assured confidence. Between the more substantial pieces are interstitial moments that lean heavily on disorientating synth passages that create an atmosphere akin to a retro sci-fi soundtrack. The bulk of the record's narrative side is handled by Will Hadcroft, but there's a wide cast of collaborators taking on roles as eyewitnesses. Thanks to the necessity of home recording, there's great variances in audio fidelity, which adds a bit of a realism to the radio show vibe.
The challenge of a record of this nature is in the careful balancing act between musicality and story-telling. Wilson generally handles this very cannily, but there a few instances where things don't quite gel. The scales tip a bit too far on Close Encounter on The Road To Solva, as the thumping, metallic arrangement threatens to swallow the track whole. Creeping Up Behind You feels too cumbersome and off-kilter to hit the mark, and some of the narrators can occasionally sound a little stilted and unnatural. However, even when the execution is off, the outcome is never anything less than interesting. And when it works, my god does it WORK.
The title track is a prime slice of jammy psychedelia, with Phil Harris contributing an intoxicating drone of sitar and tabla as Wilson throws in subtle electronic flourishes and blitzed samples of the spoken word introduction. Freak Weather Woodpecker's gloomy, dramatic post-punk backing pairs perfectly with its vocal element, as does The Welsh Triangle's heady, effects-laden take on dub. There's also Bovine Bilocation, a thoroughly charming, woozy tune wherein Wilson cedes the spotlight to singer/songwriter Gail Storr and synth-player Joolz Parker. It's an oasis of sleepy calm right in the heart of the record; a uniquely human moment in a sea of extra-terrestrial electronica.
It all makes for one of the most unique listening experiences I've had in a while. It's a remarkably varied, highly ambitious and consistently fascinating project; a strange trip worth embarking on