Renaldo and the Loaf - Gurdy Hurding [Klanggalerie - 2016]Well here’s a real surprise release from late last year, the first album of new material in 30 years from Uk avant-pop/ (off) world music two piece Renaldo and the Loaf. Gurdy Hurding sees the pair returning to the distinctively strange & quirky sonic waters of the past, yet adding in a few new twists & turns to their sound- all to make an album that is both pleasing familiar yet oddly fresh too.
Over the last few years, since the pair re-met again in 2006, Austrian label Klanggalerie have slowly but surely been reissuing the projects back catalogue. In often fairly swanky double CD affairs, which featured a whole host of rare & freshly discovered sonic treats. So it makes perfect sense for them to release the projects new album. And I must say they’ve really gone to town with the great, colourful & quirky album artwork. The CD comes in a six panel fold-out mini gatefold, on the front we have a surreal yet detailed cartoon like landscape artwork- which sees the pair dressed up as strange steam punk like minstrels, sat on a table in front of a ornate yet strange backdrop of trees, fields, Hurdy Gurdys with legs, and a bearded peg leg man with a cane!. Inside the we get new pictures of the band- still dressed–up in their steam punk minstrels get-up, and a seven page inlay booklet.
The last album of wholly new material was 1987’s The Elbow is Taboo- this found the band further distilling & focusing their work into more beat-bound, at times more formal & conventional tuneful song structured work. The album had it’s moments, but ultimately it felt like the project had run low on passion, their distinctive sonic air, and wholly the album felt a little safe. With Gurdy Hurding the pair continue their more electro-beat bound focus, but blend it with their quirky (off) world music edges, a modernised medieval music edge, mixed genre blending, more detail sound texture prowess, tighter composition, and of course their distinctively idiosyncratic songwriting & humour. Though I’d say on the whole this stands as one of their more moody & straight albums, though there a few inherently playful & fun edges on display here. Really the album as a whole offers up a band that sounds both fully refreshed, vibrate, and still wonderfully odd.
The album takes in 13 tracks, and these each run between two & five minutes- with a album total runtime of forty seven minutes, meaning neither stand alone tracks, or the album it’s self ever out stays it’s welcome. Starting off proceedings we have “Henri Rise”- this urgent-yet-moody opener brings togeather modernised & electro fired medieval like jaunting melody ‘n’ beats, and slightly wonky ‘n’ stretched horn work dwells. All of which is topped off with the pair’s layered higher & slightly comical sounding vocals- these are seemingly talking about morning risings, and no milk from the goat for a morning coffee!. It’s a great, odd, and attention grabbing start to the album, which perfectly grabs you by the shirt collars, and pulls you straight into the wonderfully lopsided yet well conceived world of Gurdy Hurding
As the album moves by, each track mangers to bring together both creative & detailed layers, worthy off-kilter-ness, and keen blend of atmosphere & memorability. We go from the cut-up ‘n’ rearranged vocals meets angular strings ‘n’ electronics of “A Convivial Ode”. Onto the darting and strutting alien reggae meets dense & churning electro pipe weave of the title track. Over to surreal & unsettling bouncing echo chamber vocals meets sew-sawing horn work of “Asper Dorsalis”. Through the odd yet joyous “Optimism” with it’s meeting of jittering ‘n’ grooving electro word-music beats, layers of chants, and the occasional high pitched and rapid vocal fed.
All in all Gurdy Hurding is a simple great comeback album from Renaldo and the Loaf, as well as one of the most consistent & crafted albums of their career. I’m not sure if it’s quite as good as their near perfect second album 1983’s Arabic Yodelling, but it’s damn close. So whether your already familiar with the projects past work, or are after something that cleverly & thoughtfully blends together quirkiness, world-music flavours & experimental sound-craft into a rewarding whole, then Gurdy Hurding will be sure fire hit with you.Roger Batty