As you might guess by its title, Gamel is an experiment in Javanese gamelan music. And knowing Yoshimi P-We’s oeuvre with Boredoms and OOIOO and the myriad projects she is and has been involved with, emphasis is heavily weighted on the word “experiment.”
While gamelan music focuses on metallophone instruments with rigid melodic potential, bamboo flutes are often employed at the discretion of the group. As these woodwinds are often unpredictable and poles apart from the idiosyncrasy of the ensemble’s tonality, one can imagine why the caution is encouraged — particularly if you’re performing for a king who wants something “light” for his dinner conversations.
OOIOO is that flute times 10, flinging the kitchen sink at reverence while simultaneously dragging it to a higher plane.
For so many years, as a young kid who realized he was gay before he even had a word for it, I was trained to believe that it was Satan himself who was “turning me gay”; I believed that being gay was “evil,” and that by extension, I must be “evil” too. One might presume that a consistent black metal ideologue would celebrate such anti-Christian behavior and non-reproductive sexuality as legitimately Satanic. So imagine my confusion when I realized that the burgeoning black metal scenes of the ’80s and ’90s — rife with band names like Sodom and songs called “Fistfucking God’s Planet” — were every bit as homophobic as my family church. It’s one thing to be rejected by Jesus, but where do you go when you’ve been rejected by Satan?
Sweden’s Skull Defekts fall on the propulsive/rhythmic side of the post-punk spectrum. The Ex aren’t a bad point of comparison. Both groups have a tendency to focus on particular passages, to zero in on them and embrace repetition; you could get lost in some of these sections — though thankfully, Skull Defekts’ skill doesn’t lead to moments of indulgence. Both outfits have worked with a range of distinctive musicians, from avant-garde saxophonist Mats Gustafsson to José Gonzalez. Some of their collaborations fall closer to their own post-punk tendencies. Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown is their second album collaborating with Lungfish vocalist Daniel Higgs, here credited for vocals, percussion, and “ghost catcher.”
Drew Daniel and his partner Martin Schmidt (AKA the duo of Matmos) have spent their musical lives making anecdotes, “what if?” ideas and Looney Tunes sound design into serious artistic expressions. You can imagine the look on friends’ faces when they said “we’re going to make an album from surgery sounds” (A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure), or “we’re going to telepathically transfer what we think an album should be; the subjects will report out what enters their mind, and we write accordingly” (The Marriage of True Minds). The joke is on everyone who thought Daniel and Schmidt would be remembered as shtick instead of this generation’s engineers of musique concrète. They’re probably an equal mixture of both.