Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shorthand Phonetics - Cantata no. 6 (Assistants of Assistants) CD

Hear The Track Here

First review up this month is a bit of a blast from the past for my older readers, hail a welcome return to Indonesia's answer to punk and all things noisesome, Shorthand Phonetics. For those who don't know this band, it isn't one. It used to be when they were all fifteen or so, but now it's down to one guy Ababil Ashari and has been for the past two LP releases. Whistleblower (June 2004) was where I first made their acquaintance, a track that was recorded in Ababils bedroom and (as I said at the time) sounded like it too. Now you would have thought that it would have stopped there but Ababil is made of sterner stuff than that and the band (at the time) did actually deliver some very fine tunes - albeit the most lo-fi you could get.

Cantata no. 6 (Assistants of Assistants) in Varying Keys, Op. 25 for Three Electric Guitars, One Bass Guitar, One Drum Kit, One Tenor and Additional Voices Where Appropriate (to give it full title) is a twelve track drama written and produced and, I guess, is somewhat autobiographical. There is a long and involved back story to this but lets not get into that here, maybe Ababil will explain more. In the internet/home producing field lo-fi is almost the soup of a day, every day. As many tracks I have heard that are worthwhile despite the lo-fi, it is heavily outweighed by those that are just plain not good. Fortunately Shorthand Phonetics kinda/sorta broke me in to their style back in the day and I haven't lost it since. As much as I liked their rough and ready approach Ababil has learned over the years to tame his music and now - good grief!! - he comes out with his prog-punk variations. Don't look at me like that, try a taste of track one - Overture - if you doubt my word.

There again, Aneurysm (track two) sounds like Syd Barrett during his out-of-his-brain-on acid period, except more demented. The track does show that Ababil has lost none of his songwriting talent. Not your normal song mind, but that was always the way with this musician. For sure, people like that like Thomas J Marchant will find much to like about this band, the same kind of devil-may-care, flip lyrics, and definitely a similar musical approach. Now obviously I am aware that music of this sort is going to have limited appeal outside fans of REAL lo-fi, but over the many times I have reviewed this band in the past I have noticed that more people than I would suspect latch onto the style and stick with it. If you are one of those, you may have to work a bit to get all that this sprawling work has to offer. Looking at from this end perspective, having lived with the CD for a while, I applaud the major strides taken with this project, technically and musically. It shows there is plenty of life left in this interesting, if often obscure, songwriter.

Highly Recommended blend of lo-fi punk, with a proggy feel (honest!)

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