Thursday, 1 August 2013

Manorexia - Volvox Turbo (2001)

You can never have too much Thirlwell - possibly excepting about half of the somewhat generic Null / Void, and maybe some of those remixes, but then I've never really seen the point of remixes, and I'm not sure I've ever heard one that had much reason to exist as autonomous to that from which it was extrapolated.

J.G. Thirlwell is of course he of Foetus and related pseudonymous enterprises. I expected Manorexia to be a variant on his Steroid Maximus which, for all its undoubted greatness, has tended to sound somewhat like Foetus instrumentals for which no vocal line quite worked. Volvox Turbo on the other hand bisects some quite different compositional places, seemingly having more in common with Thirlwell's occasional pseudo-classical efforts such as Lilith or Sick Minutes.

I invoke the term classical with great caution, aware of its being optioned by morons in recent years, and having been in a band with an overmoneyed sampler enthusiast who would describe his dreary Nitzer Ebb style efforts as classical on the grounds of his having sampled Beethoven. In my admittedly opinionated view, whilst a classical piece doesn't necessarily require definition by virtue of having been performed by a live orchestra, it isn't just a load of songs minus the singing welded into a whole, and nor is it simply an instrumental which goes on for a while. Classical composition, I would suggest, requires a musical narrative and themes which develop and change over time - the development of themes being what separate a classical piece from something I suppose might be better termed soundtrack, providing you accept that a soundtrack can exist independent of anything it might accompany.

Unfortunately the advent of the sampler has lead to greater misuse of the term classical in recent decades for reasons that really should be fucking obvious, and although I gather there's probably a fair bit of that here, Thirlwell gets away with it. As a man who's clearly spent time struggling to achieve certain sounds on shitty equipment, and who has generally been forced to work at making his music - at least in the early days - he's developed a sensibility which you don't tend to get with musicians for whom a million quid's worth of sampler is the starting point. In muso terms, the lad has paid his dues, which is what differentiates Volvox Turbo from how it would have sounded if sprung forth from the expensive black boxes of a lesser talent. I still wouldn't go so far as to describe it as a classical piece on the grounds that it tends to offer variations on the same mood for a length of time, and although themes develop here and there, they come and go without really taking the music anywhere different - and oddly this is something at which Thirlwell is quite adept when wearing his Foetus hat, some of those tracks working very much like symphonies in miniature even with all the growling and agricultural language.

Still, these are observations rather than criticisms as such. Every time this guy puts something out, there's always some new angle, something he's never done before, and soundtrack or classical piece or whatever the hell you want to call it, Volvox Turbo is true to form in that respect and should probably be regarded as essential listening.

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