Vibracathedral Orchestra Queen of Guess

[VHF; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: drone, experimental, polyrhythmic
Others: Jackie-O Motherfucker, Sunburned Hand of the Man, John Zorn

On one hand, I hate the genre entitled Psychedelic Folk, for its inane and horrendously imprecise name. I mean, maybe it's the best they can come up with for a group of people making unconventional sounds in a very communal way, but it totally misrepresents what's being done. However, on the other hand, I had one of those ultra-rare religious musical experiences listening to Jackie-O Motherfucker's Fig. 5 one afternoon just over a year ago, and JOM might be the poster-band for this very genre, along with Animal Collective and No Neck Blues Band. So, clearly I have to assent to fandom.

Which brings us to Vibracathedral Orchestra: They're a rare non-American addition to the congregation and tend further towards the drone end of the spectrum than most. They've been together since 1998, have been releasing music since 1999, and briefly blipped on the radar of tastemakers late last year only to fall back into oblivion. I was fortunate to have a good enough view of said radar to snag their newest album, Queen of Guess.

The album starts immediately with percussion well informed by contemporary composition, e.g. repetitions of a theme with slight variations, over the unwavering drone of a violin, eventually joined by the squeaks of a bitten-reed saxophone. Then it's an eastern tinged take on Nurse With Wound's industrial aesthetic of distended guitars and menacing drums. This is followed by a pulsating "The Silent Socket," which could have come off of one of John Zorn's more South American-influenced forays. And this variety continues, with (at least) nine unique sounds over the nine songs. None of them push their way to your forebrain too forcefully, but they're generally captivating explorations of a sketch or feel, and as such, succeeds both as atmospheric and cerebral.

It's a shame this band wasn't better exposed. They incorporate an incredible number of influences and styles into their music, and form an enviable end result. This album is more listenable than most of what's out there, at almost no cost to its innovation, which I think is an admirable accomplishment. In other words, one of 2003's best.

1. Your Head Shone Like a
2. Ramshackle Sunrise
3. The Silent Socket
4. Magnetic
5. Visit/Forgive/Either
6. Green Ears
7. You're Hard to Get
8. Immo Biliser
9. Goodnight Stars Goodnight Air