Right, best pin your ears back – we’re in for a turbulent ride!
What a rush of an album, an effervescent whirligig of talented flourishes, outrageous performances, parts Gogol Bordello, Bowie, Madness… actually, I’ll stop there as the list could otherwise go on for quite a while! Let’s just say that what we have here appears to be an outrageous smorgasbord of talented folk coming together to craft the air into some magnificent shapes.
Sharp arrangements (the organisation of which one can only marvel at), melodic constructions reminiscent of Ambrosia Parsley’s, time signature changes… phew…
Let’s get into it! Algedonic means pertaining to both pleasure and pain (thank you, urban dictionary), so I’m duly braced.
Kira Mikheeva’s delicious vocals kick off Rhyme in some style and the track’s velocity is unstoppable from the off, sounding a little like Gomez at their most manic, with an excitable female vocalist. Whoops, squeaks and heft inform Mikheeva’s performance which, while sounding at times a little unhinged, is actually a tour de force of knowing one’s own instrument. Meanwhile, mellifluous and opulent saxophone trickles, runs and powers over the arrangement with aplomb – what an opener; what a statement of intent!
Rapidly drawing breath, I’m straight into the fever dream of OCD – which rapidly lurches schizophrenically between melodic passages and crazed syncopated sections; with saxophone squirted liberally all over the place again. Mikheeva’s phrasing reminds me of Kate Bush’s earlier work. The instrumentation varies wildly, as do the time signatures and the arrangements. Stand still for too long and you may find you’ve lost your way… in the most fascinating manner!
If you’re looking for a wallpaper or vanilla album, you’d best avoid this – Algedonic insists that you listen, and listen properly. Fortunately, it’s worth your while to do so. Perhaps, in the meantime, I should leave the descriptions to The BlueStocking’s own blurb: ‘a kaleidoscope of graceful insanity, full of suave irony bordering on the paradoxical’.
Bulletinawallet continues the schizophrenia, and now I’m put in mind of Lene Lovich, she of Lucky Number fame. But in this tune, the formula also takes in some calmer moments, before building back into the fray of organisational and instrumental virtuosity. It’s another tremendous platform for some terrific saxophoning.
And then we’re off to the cabaret, Berlin-style for Never Ready. Which has a fabulous waltz-time section, before we get back to the Moulin Rouge…
The staple of most music reviews is comparison, so that the reader might get an idea of what to expect when they review the body of work for themselves. Well, if you review what I’ve already written, you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned plenty already. I’m going to try to stop now: just rest assured that this is rich, complex work, made by a group of musicians who are a good deal more than competent!
Well could well have served as an off-kilter Bond theme in the 60s, it’s that cool. It’s fairly psychedelic and pretty, too. There’s some gorgeous vocal harmony work in this track. I could imagine Jarvis Cocker crooning over the top… The piece showcases a more relaxed side of The BlueStocking, and is lovely.
Awakening remains atmospheric and attitude-laden, with multiple tracks of sax laying down chords to provide breathy, brassy pads to some searching, angular vocal melodies which strive ever upward. The guitar work across the album is marvelous, but its role here really shines. The meaner edges of the sound are brought to ecstatic heights, and this collection of songs continues to astonish.
A word about the lyrical content. On Don’t Look Back we hear, amongst faux bird calls and moody guitars and bass: ‘And I give up / I don’t belong to mankind anymore’. It’s about right for the tone of the whole caboodle! The word about lyrical content? Otherworldly, that’s the word. I suspect that whoever was in charge of the lyrics may have English as a second language, as the word orders and ideas are unusual and charming – in the same way that Björk’s output can sometimes be.
In the epic closer Look At My Face, we get: ‘Why are you frightened and astonished? / My thoughts and feelings are not finished’. Well, this review nearly is, and I still find my thoughts and feelings are tumbling around the dictionary trying to get a handle on what I’ve just experienced – so that I might do it justice for other prospective listeners.
I had no expectations coming into Algedonic, and it wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. It’ll hopefully be completely obvious that I thought this album was extraordinary. You’re unlikely to have heard anything like this, and I actually can’t think of a better way to recommend that you should listen to it than just that.