James Johnston and Philippe Petit - Fiends With A Face [Dirter - 2009]A collaborative effort here from two people who have both recently been involved in excellent projects with Lydia Lunch. Perhaps collaborating with Lydia led to them meeting and getting together to record this album.
James Johnston is a busy man these days, he plays in Big Sexy Noise with Lydia Lunch, he plays with Gallon Drunk, was a member of the Bad Seeds for 5 years and is also a guitarist in Faust. If that wasn’t enough he is also in a band called Bender with his wife Geraldine Swayne . (She’s also a member of Faust and is responsible for the outstanding cover art of this CD).
Philippe Petits work I’m less familiar with but he started off as head of the Bip-Hop label and in recent years has moved more into producing his own music. Generally he seems to be involved in collaborations with everyone you can think of from Cosey Fanni Tutti to Simon Fisher Turner to Eugene Robinson and uses turntables, electronics and field recordings.
The pieces here use a lot of acoustic instrumentation (guitar, keyboards, violin) and although the scraping sounds of the guitar strings, the heavy reverb on some of the processed guitar make it fit neatly enough into the experimental/Avant Garde category, its sparing use of melody gives it more of a feel of a soundtrack album.
There’s a build up a tension in the pieces, there’s recurring themes and motifs within the pieces, both staples of a good soundtrack. And the whole album works well as one piece. The tracks have been put together in such a way it almost seems as though it’s telling a story. The titles also conjure up images of films (perhaps they are films?) “IT came from….” “You Walk With Golem,” Night of 1,000 Eyes,” they give you a good idea of what the pieces sound like.
It’s a very successful album it’s one you can come back to again and find something there you hadn’t noticed before. I expect I’ll have listened to this one many more times before the year is out.David Bourgoin