JG Thirlwell and Simon Steensland - Oscillospira [Ipecac Recordings - 2020]
Australian composer/producer/performer JG Thirlwell is currently based in Brooklyn NY and has worked under a vast number of pseudonyms, releasing over thirty albums in a variety of musical styles, most notably as avant-garde post-punk legend Foetus. Thirlwell has also collaborated with a host of top names within the alternative music field including Swans, Melvins, Nine Inch Nails, and Nick Cave to name but a few. This latest collaboration is with Simon Steensland, the Stockholm born composer who has released nine solo albums and has scored well over one hundred & fifty plays in his native Sweden. The two met at a workshop in 2017 and quickly struck up a friendship which led to the recording of Oscillospira. The album features nine tracks that whilst rooted in the soundtrack style go all over the musical spectrum to create a diverse and fascinating collection of songs.
Album opener Catholic Deceit is an eleven minute plus epic that sets the albumís stall out, starting off in film score territory it quickly moves through ambient, electronica and heavy metal, whilst still retaining the film score feel. Itís a fascinating collision of musical styles that changes like one of the more experimental progressive rock records of the 1970s. This blending of styles works very well as both menís impressive history shows they have the skills and experience to pull off such a grand undertaking. Heron follows in a similar vein, with an intoxicating mix of musical styles and tempos. Drummer Morgan Agren comes into his own on this track, providing a mind-blowing drum track for the others to playoff. Night Shift is up next, and once again takes the listener all over the place, encompassing the sound of Goblin-esque prog rock, and mixing it with pretty ambient sections. Papal Stain starts out like a horror movie score, all creepy atmospherics, before a chunky metal riff cuts through the ambience. Once again, we are treated to an ever-changing, constantly evolving sound that never feels convoluted, and never fails to impress. Sometimes when you get so many changes in one piece, it can feel manufactured or stilted, this never does, it always feels organic and any style or time changes feel perfectly natural.
Heresy Flank gets the second half of the album underway and has a real soundtrack vibe to it, whilst still retaining an air of the avant-garde. Despite all of this it feels much more like a regular song, it doesnít move around as much in style and feels more rooted and less free-roaming. It still works though. Mare is up next and after a slow start, a repetitive drumbeat drives the song along before dropping out altogether as the whole piece becomes something far more fragile and atmospheric. The track moves between this lighter atmospheric style and full-on bombastic prog rock for the rest of its duration. Crystal Night is the shortest track on the album at four minutes long, itís a nice ambient piece using synthesized voices to great effect. The album closer Redbug is an off-kilter Fabio Frizzi influenced slab of music that becomes progressively more intense across its length, which leaves the listener worn out by the time it fades away.
Overall, Oscillospira is a top album from two highly respected composers/musicians-it takes all of their history and talent, and molds it into a diverse and wonderful musical phenomenon. Recommended stuff.Darren Charles