When the first Compact Disc was released more than 30 years ago not many people were expecting that the LP would still be around in 2015. And even more, that it would make a come-back in the digital age. The LP today is not a mass product as it was back then, but more of a luxury product. Real music lovers want to experience music. Not just listen to it, but use all 5 senses. The tangibility, the artwork, the smell of it, it is all part of the experience.
The Italian Rustblade record label is specialized in limited releases like picture discs and special packed albums. The Shock Exchange is a transparent vinyl split LP limited to 299 copies. The beautiful cover paintings were made by Franke Nardiello (a.k.a. Groovie Mann) of My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult.
But most important is of course the music. The A side contains 3 tracks by The Legendary Pink Dots. The English/Dutch band celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. They are not the only band to last that long, and there are bands that are even older. But from their very first cassette release in 1980 there hasn't been a year where they did not release anything. In several years even more releases, and adding to that also solo releases and side projects such as The Tear Garden and Mimir. Also to this day they are still playing live regularly.
The current lineup of the band consists of founder members Edward Ka-Spel (vocals, keyboards) and Phil Knight (a.k.a The Silverman, keyboards & electronics) as well as Erik Drost (guitars, bass) and sound engineer and wizard Raymond Steeg. The last two years the band was in a very productive phase with lots of releases, including a few releases on Rustblade: Chemical Playschool Volume 15 (2013, CD box set), The Curse Of Marie Antoinette (2013, picture disc) and 10 To The Power Of 9 (2014, 2 LP / CD). During their 35 years of existence the band's sound changed, but there are a few elements that have been there from the beginning. First there is the typical sound of Edward's voice. Second his lyrics: strange little stories with (black) humor, inventive word playing, bizarre twists and a very English reserve. Never judging but always observing. Third is a sense of melancholy, a longing for the unreachable. Fourth is a psychedelic element. Fifth is the creative use of synthesizers and samples: they use their gear to create unique sounds. Sometimes alienating, sometimes very powerful.
The first track is very much in line with their previous releases, a more electronic driven song. The other two tracks are more minimalistic and melancholic.
kETvECTOR is the name of the collaboration between Justin Bennett (Skinny Puppy, Bahntier) and Stefano Rossello (Bahntier). This collaboration is meant to explore new frontiers. The first two tracks are based on an electronic rhythm. The third track has human played rhythm guitar and bass guitar, and the fourth track has no rhythm, it is more ambient. All tracks are instrumental. They are like musical sketches: with abstract lines and shadows, but not fully colored. It reminds me of Tuxedomoon, probably because of the wind instruments that were used as well as the Peter Principle like bass guitar in the third track. The kETvECTOR side sounds like the soundtrack to a movie. In particular some kind of road movie, travelling on long straight roads through wide open spaces to strange places. The kind of road movie without a happy end. Where the main character never finds what he is looking for in the end, because it is the search itself that keeps him going.
As a whole The Shock Exchange is not an easy album, and it takes an open mind and several listens before it reveals itself. But with every time you play it, you discover something new. In the end “difficult” albums are also the most pleasing ones.
****+ Erik Gibbels (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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