By Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc's Tim Kinsella is one of those multiple-attached US artists who can sneak into the Leeds Fenton one May evening, en route from Paris to Dortmund via Glasgow and Manchester, and maybe 100 people know. His current Joan of Arc album has 14 tracks and as many musicians. Among them are Sam Zurick of Owls, Chicago Underground Duo's Rob Mazurek and various members of Califone. Chicago is well represented. It's about time we had a Leeds/Chicago City Twinning Association.
The overall sound is densely packed and strongly textured. Tortoise-like guitar is the opening and predominant sound. But there are some very odd and uncomfortable sounds too. A variety of voices sing in, and out, of the normal tolerable range. Melodies, shouting, and sounds hoovered up and spun back out via the laptop are all present. The mood shifts about so you have to stay awake. There's no point leaving it on in the background and hoping it'll help you focus on the exam revision. Before long it will disturb you with a wail, a scream, a stabbing chorus or a shift into complex time.
If you're familiar with this stuff, you'll not thank me for an attempt to describe it. It's rich, inventive and fascinating all the way through. Go and buy it. But if you're not so sure ... well, it has beautifully gentle guitar sections with haunting additional noises and real melodies in the vocal lines. Spoken words, distant choirs and ambient sounds drift in and out, and archetypal themes thrum away in the background. Then it goes demented and paranoid for a chorus or two in a cracked up voice that shouts about shadows. Or it does a bit of dentist drill extension sound. For very big teeth. It's like .. well, art ... or jazz ... ugh. You won't like it. Don't buy it. Sit in a strange friend's house where it's playing one afternoon with sunshine through a window and get to know it gradually, like a spider. Once you've conquered the fear, you'll be devoted and you'll never buy a Nirvana-like record ever again. You'll be tickling it's venom sac like a doting Mummy Tarantula in no time.
Apart from the melodic stuff that I love, a special treat on this album is "that radiant morning", a scorching rush of sampled noises from the back of everyone's memory.