Sunday, April 26, 2020

There is power in a union

The Flaming Lips/Deap Vally team-up may have been a half-arsed waste of time for the bands and the listener alike, but other equally unexpected recent(ish) collaborative efforts have been significantly better.

As someone who has devoured anything Marissa Nadler has put out since her enchanting performance in the Sunday lunchtime hangover slot at Shellac's ATP in 2012, I was eagerly anticipating the fruits of her partnership with Cave In's Stephen Brodsky. And sure enough, Droneflower is a special record.

'Dead West' may be close to one of Nadler's own dusty, dusky ballads and Brodsky clearly had a hand in naming songs 'Space Ghost' and 'Morbid Mist', but it's an LP that sounds like a genuine collaboration rather than a solo project for one or the other of them. 'For The Sun' is deliciously ominous, 'Watch The Time' channels Pink Floyd, the closing take on Morphine's sweetly bitter 'In Spite Of Me' is inch-perfect - but the centrepiece of the album in every way is their cover of 'Estranged', the pompousness of Guns 'N' Roses' original transformed into a beguiling lament. Even more remarkable, though, is the fact that they've made Phil Collins' 'In The Air Tonight' sound like a lost track from the sessions for Low's Trust.

Meanwhile, when it was announced that Ty Segall was teaming up with Black Pus aka Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt under the name Wasted Shirt, the results were guaranteed to be fast and furious. Sure enough, Fungus II is by and large a blur, Chippendale's drumming whipping the most prolific man in music into an even more frenzied performance than normal. That said, the album's prime effect has been to send me back to Segall's superlative Manipulator, to prompt me to catch up on some of the records I've missed out on since then (especially 2016's Emotional Mugger, which spawned this stupendously good KEXP appearance) - and to feel the (surely inevitable and imminent) cancellation of this year's Green Man even more keenly.

And finally there's a get-together that passed me by. "Supergroup" might be a much abused term, but the cap fits when it comes to Charnel Ground, whose members are mainstays of Yo La Tengo, Come, Codeine and Oneida. 'Jimmy' and 'The High Price', the first two tracks on their self-titled 2018 release, are reliably out-there noise improv amp-melters, the latter collapsing and coalescing before your very ears. But 'Playa De Ticia' is a playfully breezy soul/sole-tickler of a tune and 18-minute-long closer 'Charnel Ground' has the warmth and quiet insistence of recent YLT material, bassist James McNew and drummer extraordinaire Kid Millions handing Chris Brokaw a stage on which to perform charmingly modest pyrotechnics.

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