The 1970’s have been and gone. No shit, you may say. Forty years later, the decade has distinctly dissolved into the past as if it were a hallucinogenic fizzling on the tip of the tongue, but the seismic electronic explosion that the decade birthed shines on like a coolly synthesized supernova emitting icicles of light...
Experimental frequencies continue to reach out from the decade – from another century – with the ethereal, ghostly hands of the original pioneers subconsciously infusing themselves into the present day through today’s electronic and experimental musicians. The electronic bad-lands. The electronic revolution brought to attention the early masters of the era, and the faces continue to light up against the glowing backdrop of mystical synth, influencing not only the music of the late 20th century, but the electronic music of the 21st century.
These are youthful synths, sounding as fresh as a vocal infant, but re-born into a new era. Due to the constraints of time, they are necessarily caged in the early electronic period, like echoes stuck in the tunnel, resounding in the distant past, but they are still capable of darkly futuristic fantasies, fresh in their tonal purity; the synths have kept their primary, original voice, but have grown up along with the musical terrain, learning from their mistakes (think the warm 80’s synth cliche) and reaching full maturation because of their experiences. Glynnaestra, Grumbling Fur’s sophomore album, is an unpredictable precinct that bounds over genres and periods, but it has its foundation in the dark, early stages of synth-led electronic music; back when she was kicking in the red glow of the womb, with a pulsating rhythm for a heartbeat.
The directors of this experiment are Daniel O’Sullivan and Alexander Tucker. It is such a perfect take that some kind of pre-planning must have been involved, but the duo seem to pepper the sound with experimental warping wherever possible. Electronic experimentation rules supreme, but Grumbling Fur ensure that progressive harmony is just as important, just as prevalent. They have both the heartening appreciation and the deep understanding of the musical period, mirroring the early electronic excitement and the voyage of possibility like a glimmering disco ball beaming a brilliantly cool light across a resurfaced dance-floor, rotating around like a graceful ballerina, halo glittering, but only lightly kissing the faces in the crowd with its light. Their music touches the experimental, a kind of sophisticated pop, early krautrock, late disco, psychedelic electronica and just a slight touch of the weird. It’s like tuning the television into MTV (when it used to play music) at 3 in the morning and watching a surreal, glitzy performance by a graveyard act comprising of the un-dead.
Electrocuted synths leave the scorched smell of cindered oxide, the scent suspended in the air, like dangling ropes left to swirl in the wind on a row of empty gallows. The duo who make up English experimental act Grumbling Fur are used to a wide, musical circle that has seen them enter the lair of black metal, collaborating in the past with noise titans Sunn O))). Glynnaestra isn’t interested in the arresting, musical assault by way of roaring, chasm-gazing distortion, preferring instead to fixate on the early electronic synths so darkly colourful in sound.
Secretly, layer after layer peels itself away, era after era falling by the wayside. Tight, claustrophobic lines of synth transform themselves into a temple of electronica that is deceptively larger on the inside. There’s definitely an early 80’s vibe with the vocals of ‘Protogenesis’, and the squeaking, helium-addicted voice racing along with the deeper register. ‘The Ballad of Roy Batty’ skirts the outside with an irresistible pop formula – an electronic chord progression, verse and chorus painted with a thick current of synth, loaded with black harmony and ‘tears in rain’. Grumbling Fur’s music gets deeper the more attention you give it. New, previously inaudible elements rise up out of the blocks of rhythm, and it isn’t long before the little nuances in the electronic pads come to the fore, and the attentive experimentation starts to course through the veins.
The sweet, sugary ice-cream of ‘Cream Pool’ drips down onto the concrete pavement, reversing and melting into a thin liquid of notes that have surrendered to a scorching day; we all scream for ice cream. ‘Galacticon’ ushers in a bouncy bass-line underneath some beats that would ordinarily be found in hip-hop music. Blood red synths, thick to the point of swelling, carry the sleek harmony of ‘Dancing Light’ through the ephemeral, coalescing vocals, riding together in perfect sync. It’s a technique that Tucker has used before with another project, Imbogodom.
Grumbling Fur’s music is a shiny, spaced-out and trippy black light. Those gorgeous synth lines are fine curves, riding the road like a Harley; arcing the sound with a body like that of a beautifully styled Fender guitar. Then, the one minute mystery of ‘The Hound’ enters through the doors – totally experimental, totally addictive.
These bad-lands are a shimmering, experimental mirage, capable of inducing illusions, while the structures crystallize enough to form respectable electronic pop. The synths are now moody teenagers, harmonic bike speeding down the highways of the night; the rain hammering down as the wheels swerve against the blurred headlights. The future of synth music can’t leave the past behind, but scorch marks burn into the road, leaving scars over the old; the 1970’s left largely in the dust. She heads toward the future, head down, maxed out on the throttle.