Spanishgrass by Spanishgrass, a review of the 2014 album
Finally the fourth copy of Spanishgrass has been found. It is somewhere in that immense country that is Russia, in the hands of the slightly dadaist artist Stanislav, whom we happen to have met this summer in Brussels, the territory of Manneken Pis, Hergé and Magritte. If this was an episode of Crime Scene Investigation, where the actors have the uncanny habit of talking way too fast, we would say that the net closes around the Syd Barrett Facebook group Birdie Hop as all people who have received a copy are linked, one way or another, to that gang. On the other hand, as Birdie Hop undoubtedly is the best Syd Barrett group around on Facebook this is not really earth-shattering news either.
The great grey edifice of the Osera monastery stretches out almost alone within a trough of the Galician hills. A small shop and a bar at the very entrance of the monastery grounds make up the whole village of Osera. The carved exterior which dates from the sixteenth century hides the twelfth-century interior – an imposing stairway, perhaps twenty metres wide, up which a platoon could march shoulder to shoulder, leads to long passages lined with guest rooms above the central courtyard and the cloisters. Almost the only sound during the day is the ring of hammers where half a dozen workmen are struggling to repair the ravages of seven centuries. (Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote)
Let's cut the crap, once and for all. Of course the 2014 Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta) 'immersion' set, that has only been issued in four copies, isn't Syd Barrett's lost Oseira record. Syd has never visited that monastery. The Spanish blog Sole En Las Nubes has dedicated some valuable webspace to investigate the Spanishgrass hoax and managed to trace it back to a Spanish journalist and photographer who decided to have some fun in a satirical underground magazine of the mid-eighties. (Thanks to Antonio Jesús for allowing us to publish his articles in English: Spanishgrass.) If you call yourself a decent Barrett-fan you should know that by now, so don't feel insulted.
But this doesn't mean that there isn't a 'Spanishgrass' record by a 'Spanishgrass' band. The numbered and limited deluxe sets have been sent to four extremely lucky people on 3 different continents. There also seems to be a regular CD release, but it is pretty limited as well, and probably you will have to ask for one if you want to receive it, but of course you need to puzzle out who is behind the record first. Luckily the set has been released this week on Bandcamp where you can listen to it, track per track, or download the album in its entirety on a 'name your own price' basis (0.00$ is an option as well).
Why don't you listen to the Spanishgrass album on Bandcamp while reading this review?
Direct link: Spanishgrass: Twenty Songs of Space and Siesta by Spanishgrass
Spanishgrass (Twenty Songs About Space And Siesta)
Spanishgrass 2014 is a re-imagination of a record that never was in the first place. Its maker had to explore the unexplored, like those medieval cartographers who wrote hic sunt dracones (here are dragons) on uncharted regions of their maps and who drew mythological creatures, dragons and sea serpents on the empty spaces.
The record, 57 minutes in total, has 23 tracks (3 more than on the 'original' Spanisgrass), divided into 4 blocks and closely following the track-listing and the lyrics that have been published by the Solo En Las Nubes and Holy Church blogs (Spanishgrass, the hoax revealed). Supplemental lyrics have been taken from The White Goddess (Robert Graves, 1948) and Imaginary Lives (Marcel Schwob, 1896).
Like in Eduardo Galeano's Book of Embraces where every anecdote stands on its own but interactively forms a complete chapter, each track has its own merits but unites with the others. The record has been made to listen to in its entirety, or at least part by part, 4 in total, each separated by a 'division' Bells track (#1, 2 and 3). An interesting experiment would be to play the record on shuffle and see what new auditive interactions are created.
The music consists of evocative instrumentals and up-tempo tunes, with a spacey, early Floydian, guitar sorrowing in the background, psychedelic keyboards, fragile percussion and spoken word, whispered mostly in English and sometimes Galician (Na Outra Banda). Soundscapes and musique concrète are omnipresent: babbling brooks, chirping birds, whistling teapots (Breakwater and Tea), a lawnmower (Waste Deep) and some excited monks.
Do not expect an easy parcours, the music can be annoying, harrowing, exhausting, cathartic, transcendental, repetitive. It is impossible to fit the tracks into a single category other than that melting pot that is avant-garde or art-rock. There are traces of early and vintage Floyd (from Ummagumma to Obscured By Clouds), haunting rhythms that stay remnant in your mind like those irritating Swans drones (The Seer), seventies porn flick lounge tunes, Tarantinesque exotica, Michael Nyman's repetitiveness and even (cough, cough)... Spanish bluegrass rockabilly (Grey Trees).
Either you find this record utterly irritating or utterly brilliant and the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit seems to fall in the second category. A masterpiece for non easy listeners, but we have never been easy, haven't we?
Part One: Manantial (Spring) / Reverential Mourners / Black Maid / Plastic Gunpowder / Bells 1 (approx. 14 minutes)
Part Two: Mouse after a fête / Breakwater and tea / Grey trees / Two bangers + mash / Whining at the moon / Bells 2 (approx. 15 minutes)
Part Three: Greenland / Eu son Dhaga (I am Dhaga) / Na outra banda (On the other hand) / Un poeta esquece os días de chuvia (A poet forgets the rainy days) / Saturnalia / Bells 3 (approx. 16 minutes)
Part Four: William Phips / Stede Bonnet / Gabriel Spenser / Gospel at Noon / Waste Deep / Frog (approx. 13 minutes).
(This is part three of the the Spanishgrass, the myth continues... series. Hi-def scans and pictures will be revealed, on an irregular basis, at our Spanishgrass Tumblr gallery.)
Many thanks to Mr. Anonymous for sending us this package. Spanishgrass
can be downloaded at Bandcamp.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥ Babylemonade Aleph ♥