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Oddball leftovers collection from Yoshimi...

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Never was such ridiculous cover art so completely appropriate...

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May 2, 2003

Sonic Youth

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Corker / Conboy
In light of that learnt later
Vertical Form
Reviewed by: tobias c. van Veen

Britain's Vertical Form has been digging directions from all quadrants as of late—after Smyglyssna's abstract IDM, I expected the label to settle in that direction; then they played host to a Pan American album, and now with something completely different once again—a journey into instrumental acoustic from Adrian Corker and Paul Conroy, who showed up on the label earlier alongside Kim Hiorthoy, Pan American and Iso68 as Pro Bono Publica.

That said I can't quite figure the Vertical Form. A do-anything label? It bears comparison to Orthlorng Musork in its radial probes in differing conjunctions of electronic and post-rock experimental genres that complicate the very possibility of naming a "genre." Yet—while the Musorkians are currently breaking new directions with every recording, Vertical Form strikes out at points in tentative moments, as if trying to stake its cardinals before setting aflight vectors.

That said again— perhaps Corker and Conroy provide such a tangent. Like a low-key backwater lounge submersed in South American soul and African percussion, Corker and Conboy owe as much to Brazilian psychedelic pop as they do to Chicago post-rock. Yet the "roots" are understated throughout the album, lending a lo-fi feel to the laidback and late-night melancholy. Soundtracks for Van Gogh's "Café Terrace at Night"? [a swirling yet subtle multicolouring of simple palettes and hues, the burning quiet of lights and stars, the movement of contemplative conversation, insidious gas lighting] – Take "Kite," which superbly melds an icelandic drone worthy of Sigur Ros with a predominant yet simple acoustic melody, or the descending slide-work on "seedhead" that plays background to a warm and enveloping bassline.

Although the pace and tone of the album refrain from variation as well as from violent live jam change-ups, slipping instead a burial mix slide through jazzed melancholia—but also an undercurrent of polyrhythmia, a hint of sun on snow glint—the last three tracks perform remixes of traditional themeatics in inventive ways. This is also where slight electronic motifs make themselves heard, with blips and bleeps entering the movement of the composition, resulting in structures that abstain from the A to B linearity of the previous tracks. The result is a radical reconstruction of a sonic palette that exceeds either the "song" or the "live recording" session-feel of a few of the earlier pieces. (Who knows whether this meditation is "true" or not—but what I can say is that "under a perfect sky" contains an unearthly low bassline that cements psychedelic percussion and schizo-sound play reminiscent not in similarity but in kind to Pink Floyd's "Set Your Controls For the Heart of the Sun"—tempered, careful, and completely psychotic. Careful With That Axe, Eugene...).

That said, once again, that said— one feels that the last three tracks hint at where this all could be going, with a little darkness on the fringes and a further curveball to the structurations of the acoustic jams. On the other channel, that the earlier tracks are preludes to the finale cannot be written as the final word. It all leaves me wishing for a little more in the direction of this vector, both from Corker and Conboy and from Vertical Form.

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