Friday, 24 July 2009
Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes
"Imagine playing aeroplane Top Trumps in hell. If you ever ended up doing it, the music that'd be playing in the background would be Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes by Prolapse. And it would scare the fuck, living or dead, out of you.
It does not, by simple law of audio extremes, get any more freaky than the opening track, Essence Of Cessna. The low, thrumming rhythm of the modest backing music plays host to the occasional electricity noise and, more importantly, Linda's vocals. Or is it Linda? It sounds rather more like a six-year old girl who's just battered her parents to death with a claw-hammer and is now in a semi-comatose state of sheer shock and generic fucked-upness whilst subconsciously mumbling her utterly, utterly insane stream of thought.
Fair enough, Mick's vocals do feature earlier on in the track, quiet and distorted, but I don't even know when they cut out, because it's impossible to hear anything in this song aside from the completely terrifying girl's voice. There is a pleasant warmth to the background 'aaaaahhh's and the occasional emphasised bassline, but you have to listen very badly indeed not to be chilled to the bone by the unstructured, atmospheric, surreal freakiness of the thing. As an opening track, it is a long way from the obvious choice. It could scarcely be closer, though, to perfection.
By way of slapping you about a bit and delivering quite precisely what you don't expect, Fob.com, the racingly harmonious and upbeat single, follows. Linda's oscillating vocal tone rides like some entirely mad but beautiful jet-ski over the pulsating wave of the music as Mick spouts his slightly whining Glaswegian in a manner not in the least bit similar to but easily as threatening as a Great White cruising beneath. The immaculate rhythm, pace and rhyming pattern to the track keep it hurtling along at a rate of knots and exemplify perfectly the sheer poetic genius Prolapse have been gradually honing all these years.
Adiabatic follows - a wavering and haunting but strangely shallow and unfulfilling melody laid down by Linda over Mick's initially uninteresting echoey vocals beneath. It is not until the chorus that you realise both these latter were nothing more than atmosphere building elements to the glorious, powerful bursts of streaming guitar, muted but shouted rage from Mick and an eerie chorus from Linda. And it's not until several days' intensive listening have passed that you fully come to terms with the idea.
By far the most abrasive of the album comes next - Cylinders V12 Beats Cylinders 8. In common with Surreal Madrid from their first album, it features a simple Mickalogue concerning someone he really doesn't like at all. Suffice to say, with regards to the lyrical content, that the chorus is no less than "He wis a septic tank ae a man." The tale appears to be about a keycutter who gets it a bit wrong once, and hence is a completely worthless bastard. Cruel, but fair as a petrified witness of the activities of the Piranha brothers would one day confide. It's hard not to feel similarly.
There is a notion in my head regarding One Illness, the next track, that I have been trying, without success, to dispel for some time. It goes along the lines of this song being quite simply the best I have heard in my life. It fades in with a wonderfully throbbing Stereolabish guitar effect leading into a tripping bassline, a harmonious 'aaaaaaaahhhh' and finally a quick succession of drum beats merges into the siren-like pulse of the main riff. But what makes the song one superior to every other I've heard is undoubtedly the vocals. It has, by some strange musical publications, been accused of pop. Perhaps the initial relative jauntiness of the sound is responsible, but by halfway this is entirely evaporated. Linda's rolling poetry races with perfect rhyme still, but Mick is reduced in parallel to shouts and screams, still with immaculate timing, but entirely free of the burdens of melody. It starts superbly and keeps on getting better for five and a half minutes.
After After is an unprecedented venture for the band. Linda's vocals have been recorded as little over a whisper and amplified massively to normal voice level. The closeness and intimacy of the sound is reminiscent of Portishead, if rather more full-bodied and rhythmic. More unusual still is Mick's vocal effect. It is distorted and echoed almost beyond recognition, and as he speaks it plummets and soars in bizarre waveforms of deep, metallic tone. It is offset perfectly by what is almost its polar opposite in Linda's vocals and creates an enthralling aural experience that holds a ceaseless fascination for any sane mind.
A call back to The Italian Flag follows in the form of The Government Of Spain. While the structure and vocal arrangement owes much to Visa For Violet And Van, the actual sound of the song is in fact far closer to Headless In A Beat Motel from the first album. The song crackles into life with Linda, as though over an intercom, chanting "Be told, retell." Her vocals from there express concern about a death on a runway and Mick's vocals burst in just before the guitars stream up to a frantic hammering that accompanies his rapid and glorious build up to the chorus: "The government of Spain is all evil!"
By the time Linda has got on to utterances about stinking hell on earth and misery, Mick's chorus has shot off into a desperate screech and rocketed by a few more octaves than one could reasonably expect the human vocal cords to cover. The song finally fades into Linda's crackly chanting and disappears. In an album consisting almost entirely of new and wildly successful experiments in sound, Government stands as a solitary monument to their previous sounds and in doing so, somehow manages to top the lot of them.
Sadly, the last nine minutes of this miserably short bundle of joy are significantly less enjoyable. Planned Obsolescence, my theory goes, is some sort of portrayal of the eloping ritual leading in and out of marriage. Since the only lyrics are "I love you", "Ah own yer" and "Ah foond yer." it's difficult to say exactly, but the point is that the music is nothing very special. It's all very nice in its atmospheric way and its whispering subtlety has a certain charm, but it simply doesn't appeal to me the way the rest of the recording does. Which is an unfortunate end to an album that otherwise quite simply tops the efforts of everyone and anyone, themselves included, who have come before.
It makes you wonder why the rest of the music world bothers, really."
Reviewed by: Tom Francis
"Must've seen this band at least a dozen times and walked away each time not discombobulated by their raucous scrabbling, not annoyed by their scatter-gun noise terrorism - always there to see someone anyhow - but just plain I-don't-get-it.
Their ramshackle records have always left me catching fish; damned if I can see what's special about Prolapse. All that eviscerating the corpse of rock, feeding off the carcass and spitting out the remains is for hardcore Peelie listeners. And so it is with Prolapse's fourth album; avant garde, left-field and off-centre. But, and this time there's some tunes and there's some direction. They've returned to the sweeter sound of 1997's "Autocade" single, a one-off song so pop for them that singer Mick Derrick hated and refused to appear in the video.
"Fob.com" is Stereolab for the jilted generation: mesmerising, driving and, controversially, tuneful. "One Illness" sets up camp in the same field of hypnotic guitars and Krautrock drumming, with Linda Steelyard's warm drone complemented by Derrick's manic ranting.
Despite the greater pop sensibility shown on this outing, little has changed in the area of actually making any bloody sense. Derrick's ranting is issued from the fire-and-brimstone pulpit and is not always comprehensible. When the words do spill out in a recognisable form they're rarely better that way - "Accosted by angles at an early age and made to take the same head as the venerable sage". OK.
Don't get me wrong, difficult music is always welcome, always encouraged; rarely is it useful or groundbreaking. Prolapse are a difficult band, awkward, edgy and agitated. This is about as close to making a classic album they'll get. Perversely, it succeeds when they sound like Stereolab and it fails when they sound too much like Prolapse the difficult band."
- Ben Clancy, Melody Maker
"Track 7. "Government of Spain." Jesus Christ.
It starts with a second of electric fuzz, two words and an ultraviolent bassline that doesn't stop winding itself up and twining itself tight for the remainder of the song. Female vocalist Linda Steelyard starts listingrandom, random things in an emotionless, hard-edged voice. The drums kick in. The guitars drop down and spark all the was to the finale- hard, hard explosive guitars clanking and swooping and smashing concrete - then into the eye of the hurricane Mick Derrick screams his entry like a fucking demon and proceeds to lose his mind and tries to take yours with the angriest, nastiest, hottest rant since Mark E Smith first pissed vinegar. By the final blow-up/self-destruction of the song Derrick is wailing and shrieking in a mean and forced falsetto that "the Government of Spain is all evil!" like the future depends on you knowing this information. This is the sound and the fury of Prolapse, this is extreme conspiracy theory art-rock from one of Britian's most underappreciated bands, this is the most necessary piece of fucking music to come out this year.
Prolapse make music that snaps at your heels when you leave the room. The underbelly of blinkered British thug culture precisely assaulted with obtuse poetry, channeled chaos and strawberry-blond sex thrown in to confuse and entice. They've always been this way: 1996's Backsaturday was the sound of a hot summer snapping, last year's The Italian Flag was a magnificent hate letter, and now, album number four, Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes, is the demented surrealism of two aesthetically opposite individuals spilling over one more time.
The trippy "Essence" swirls around a thudding bassline with talk of angels and summer dresses, straight-down the line rocker "Fob.com" lets Steelyard jet beautifully into rapid-fire melody while Derrick pins the music down with his harsh speaking voice, and the Mogwai-ish "Cylinders V12" takes Prolapse to new heights of power and noisy elegance. A horrible, gorgeous album."
- From The Rocket, a Seattle free music magazine, review by Michael Hukin.
"A good album is one whose velocity you can't control. As in a schoolyeard game of crack the whip, you are compelled to move at the speed the leader chooses. And if you've got the courage to hang on to this one, you're in for some excellent kicks from Prolapse. When the band veers from the twisted guitar/dub of their large scale opener "Essence" to the mach-one fever of "Fob.com" the acceleration seems like a natural pull. Even in the placid numbers, the gait of Ghost of Dead Aeroplanes is expertly planned out and executed.
Leicester, England's Prolapse is a well-regarded guitar band that has never seemed to be able to decide whether to be noise or to be pop. That uncertainty, along with the curiously mismatched vocals of Linda Steelyard and Mick Derrick, make for a reputation built upn disparate intrigues. Taking a more polished approach to its third album, Prolapse has found that you can sometimes get a more messed up vibe by straining things off. The noise that somewhat clung to the group's earlier music is now cleared away. Heavy and Cyclic, the bass and drum foundations loop around nervous, twitchy guitars. Steelyard's girlish voice bleats softly while Derrick's spoken interludes are delivered in a rakish brogue. Prolapse manages to rope all these elements of post-punk aestheticism into a focused musical opportunity. It's a ride worth hanging on for.
File under- Boy/girl noise dub. Recommended if you like Unwound, Sonic Youth, Gang of Four."
- From CMJ New Music Monthly, June 1999
"If post-rock noodling ain't your bag, baby, but you need a little bit of trippy soundtracky stuff in your life, try the fourth from Leicester's Prolapse. Rhythmic, relentless and eerie, Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes (Cooking Vinyl) sounds like a radio picking up a myriad of late-night stations, as kingpin (and daytime archaeologist) Mick Derrick intones rambling monologues against the cascading, folky vocals of Linda Steelyard."
- Pat Gilbert, Mojo