One of the strengths of the splendid DVD (with bonus tracks) ‘Romantic Warriors 3: Canterbury Tales’ was its showcasing of bands very much on the periphery of what is regarded as ‘authentic’ Canterbury scene, whether that be current, younger bands based in Canterbury or artists from further afield clearly influenced by the genre. The highlight of the latter batch of artists, although hardly newcomers, was Wrong Object, led by Michel Delville, a profilic guitarist/keyboardist from Belgium. Not only have The Wrong Object produced half a dozen albums with recognisably quirky compositions, one being amongst the last recordings of legendary saxophonist Elton Dean (2005’s ‘The Unbelievable Truth’), but Michel has also recorded with Alex Maguire (latterday Hatfields keyboard player and lynchpin of the recent Phil Miller memorial concert), played a lead role in Comicoperando, a project performing the music of Robert Wyatt; Machine Mass; and Doubt (with Maguire and briefly Richard Sinclair).
‘Into The Herd’ displays a bewildering range of styles, presented in such a way that the whole album is one heterogenous journey, flitting through genres both between and within tracks, with a full range of instrumentation on show. A double sax section, which alternately can solo beatifically (‘Another Thing’), generate atmospherics, or alternatively squawk either atonally Gary Windo style or together etch out a rhythm; keyboards that can move between jazz noodling on electric piano (‘Filmic’) or mellotronics. Guitar that can carefully navigate a route through a piece (‘A Mercy’) or can quickly flip to screaming out a solo (‘Rumble Buzz’) or indulge in heavy rock posturing (‘Into The Herd’).
If this is to be classed as Canterburyesque, it fits more at the Hatfield or more pertinently National Health end of things rather than Soft Machine (other than a brief but wonderful blow on ‘Mango Juice’ which could be almost Ratledge meeting Elton Dean in the afterlife). If that National Health comparison is mainly down to the wealth of styles on display here, then there are more direct references in the slowly building atmospherics underpinned by brooding bass, ever increasing in tempo, on ‘Rumble Buzz’ for example. There is evidence too of Zeuhlesque discordancy too on the album’s highlight ‘Mango Juice’ which throws in a gutwrenching guitar solo too a la Phil Miller, or in the grumbling wobbly bass of the title track opener. But elsewhere there are also elements of the warped chamber music of Belgian countrymen Univers Zero (from whom Antoine Guenet is one of the band members), or Balkanesque exuberance in the sheer joy of ‘Filmic’, where the wind section again comes to the fore.
Whilst the review of ‘Into The Herd’ was delayed unavoidably as the Facelift blog rather ground to a halt in the spring, then at least it gave me a chance to give this album a extended listen, which is what it merits. And it does deserve that because this is highly complex, thoughtful and meticulously constructed music with passages that will immediately resonate with readers here, but also return repeatedly to your subconscious with a bite.
Into the Herd is available from https://thewrongobject.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-herd-hd whilst a simultaneous project from a rather different but equally innovative band called The Gödel Codex, also featuring Delville and Guenet, can be heard (and purchased) at https://stilll-off.bandcamp.com/album/oak