ALBUM: London Transmissions
LABEL: Tuesdays Music
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
With his interest in old black and white horror films, you wouldn't be surprised if Dan 138 took his musical project, Onethirtyeight, into the same well-trodden territory already explored by groups like The Cramps, The Misfits, and their countless followers, but his first full-length release is more experimental than punk, drawing more on the sound collages, samples and strange retro radio vibe of groups like The Residents and Negativland than on the three-chord riffs of horror punk. It's true, compositions like "One Night in the Cemetery" and "Davis Baby" mix elements of folk, Americana and rock into comparatively conventional songs that recall The Eels, albeit more interested in Hammer horror films than self-doubt and longing. But many of 138's compositions come off less as songs proper than as atmospheric sketches, like "The Man Who Made Monsters," which starts off with sparse piano and guitar before being joined by manic rattles and kazoo, or "A Row of Pigs Heads," all eerie layered cries, whispers, and bits of tinny piano floating in a haze of static. By far the most fascinating, if disturbing, offering on this album, however, is "Spider Baby, Baby," a sort of modern retro radio play presented as an audio recording of a scientist's notes on a particularly horrible experiment. It's presented completely straight, apart from its bouncing bass line and nervous guitar buzz, rendering the final moment and its burst of chittering piano keys all the spookier. 138 is currently working with filmmakers to create videos of many of the pieces on this album, which is sure to be an excellent fit, but even without the visual component, these eerie transmissions make for some singularly evocative listening.
Check out www.onethirtyeight.co.uk for sample songs and other information.
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