CD Review

Arkam Asylum–“Running With Scissors”

By JHR

Running With ScissorsNot terribly hot on the heels of an interview(1), we have what turned out to be the last Arkam Asylum album. Actually, the various Arkam bits have disinterestedly followed one another like corporation dustcarts in the mating season.

The larval stage of the dustcart is the wheelybin. The parent dustcart visits each of the larvae regularly where they are turned and fussed over by the attendant worker drones. After several years, the wheelybins climb to the top of lamp-posts where they are carried aloft by seagulls and deposited at the back of scrapyards up and down the land. Several months later, the outer case of the wheelybin splits open to reveal a milkfloat, which trundles off to harden its carapace in the early sunlight. As the years pass and it matures, the milkfloat casts off its old skins, progressing through small side-loading refuse wagon, small and large recycling truck (at which point it attracts its first worker drones) before becoming a fully-grown dustcart.

Anyway. Arkam. On this album they appear to have progressed in a direction best described as 'unlikely.' Not that this is a collection of bangin' speed-garage floorfillers – though it would be more than a little entertaining to write the review as if it were. They've just got... Slower. While the first CD sounded like a speeding tourette's sufferer lobbing bricks through a greenhouse at a pile of wavy tin, this one's a little more...measured. One can actually make out what's going on without danger of drowning in a tide of bile and spittle.

Sometimes, anyway. Sometimes it sounds like Discharge or (the legendary) Throwing Bricks At Coppers lurching around in a short-wave wireless museum. Sometimes it sounds like a darkcore drill&bass accompaniment to a partly political broadcast by the Democratic Ruthless Bastards. $laves and Whores manages to sound an awful lot like late-model LFO or Autechre played on guitars, floor-sander and Rolf Harris's wobbleboard. Very fine indeed. McFuck hammers together a Casio home organ playing very quickly indeed and a pile of annoying ringtones, then videotapes them drunkenly shouting "WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP FUCKING WAP" at passing kebab vans.

Actually, if I think about it for any longer than thirty seconds, I can't help being reminded of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The parts are all there – semi-random obsession with consumer/trash culture (though rather than celebrate the thing, this lot are pulling the legs off and giving it brass wheels), lumps of anime and cyber/urban dystopia dropped in like super-dense ingots of Potential Future... Only the guitar's a lot less rubbish.

Then there's Special Victims Unit, which stars like the banjo bit from Deliverance before going on to quote at length from Wilhem Reich and/or Bill Burroughs while odd noises race square wheelbarrows past 'The assassination of JFK considered as a downhill motor race.'

Overall, a faint smell of fried onions.

(1) Interview printed in Legends #143.
Contact Information:
Wasp Factory Recordings
Post: Unit 1, 65-67 High St., Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1DU, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 1242 521713
E-Mail: enquiries@wasp-factory.com
Web: www.wasp-factory.com