This man has, off and on, been responsible for some of the most inventive, playful and downright cussed avant garde music created in the UK for, well, a good 20 years now.
Thighpaulsandra – Chamber Music
Ah Thighpaulsandra, when will you take your crown, sir? This man has, off and on, been responsible for some of the most inventive, playful and downright cussed avant garde music created in the UK for, well, a good 20 years now. People are obviously going to connect him as the keyboard tech-head who played and plays with Julian Cope, Coil and Spiritualised, but believe me the man has a lot to offer besides. You can't go wrong with most of his releases, but in the end we chose one we've always liked at Incendiary towers, 2004's Chamber Music.
Be prepared, if this is your first Thighpaulsandra LP, as this is challenging stuff you are about to listen to. I shall warn you, there's always a feeling of tension inherent in his work, sometimes violent tension at that, created out of very suggestive, laden passages. Take for example the French horn on Cast in Dead Homes which somehow drags the disparate mix of quietly dissonant instrumentation and musique concrète like a confident guide would whining travellers through fog-laden marshland... Something else to look out for (and seen a great deal on Chamber Music) is the way Thighpaulsandra creates a sort of inter-instrumental dialogue. You don't feel as if the various instruments are programmed to just churn out their parts, rather there's an active thrashing out of ideas between player and whatever is to hand. This is fabulously borne out by the camp, slightly mannerist Bleeding Text for the Cripplethrush, a veritable riot of synths (I should mention that the man seemingly has more synthesizers than I have pairs of socks and shoes combined) guitars and drums, at times sounding like an outer space game show entirely run and directed by owls.
However, owls aside, the thing I personally enjoy about the tracks is the way he allows closure on all his compositions. Put simply, there's a beginning and an end. That might sound very boring to those who hanker after the avant garde, but it does allow for a considerable amount of charm and sometimes humour to leaven things out. (It's something that made the Queen Elizabeth LPs he made with Cope pretty special too). Cast in Dead Homes has the most benevolent of tail offs in an eventually harmonious meeting between synthesizer and guitar, whereas the Unwilling Wardens of Ice has a sinister voice wrapping things up quite effectively thank you. And maybe it's the cover of the shooting party, but the music does feel as if it's created and played in the open air, a knack noticed on other Thighpaulsandra LPs to be honest. This is most noticeable on the beautiful A Blizzard of Altars which seems to float above a sleeping, moonlit countryside, like a huge, though benevolent Zeppelin...
This guy's work is fabulous and challenging in the right way. It should reach a far wider audience I suspect it does and all Heads should own at least one LP of his.
Words: Richard Foster