Thick Mosquito Sky
10 Track, Cassette (2010, Monstera Deliciosa)
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Related: Crab Smasher.
Crab Smasher are at the epicentre of an incredibly fertile experimental music scene in Newcastle. Like many new music practitioners around the globe, they realise they don’t need to be based in a big city to spread their music to receptive ears because they never relied on traditional venues and avenues of promotion to start with. Grant Hunter runs his own record label, Monstera Deliciosa, and Crab Smasher’s releases are available as digital downloads or very limited editions of physical copies, which makes sound economic sense. The philosophy behind both band and label is simple: if the existing world won’t accommodate you, construct your own.
Working within the parameters of a fairly standard band set-up, Crab Smasher use guitar, bass and drums alongside an array of synths and electronic effects. What they do with these elements falls somewhere between improvised noise rock and explorative soundscapes. Hunter, Nicholas French, Nathan Martin and Marnie Vaughn have developed the kind of rare musical synergy that comes from spending a lot of time living and making music together without the expectation of making it a career.
Like New Zealand’s free music exponents The Dead C, one gets the sense that these 10 tracks are excerpts of a large, sprawling jam session. They seem edited down to capture those moments when the music gels into song-like structures, which sustain for a few minutes before falling apart again. The result is a snapshot of four people engaged in spontaneous creation, but their concentration and skill is palpable throughout.
Variety and careful track sequencing is the key to Thick Mosquito Sky. Opening song ‘The Dancing Girl And The Burning Town’ begins with a wig-out (the kind most bands would only pull out at the end of a particularly fierce set), but soon morphs into rhythmic noise pulses, overlaid with wild guitar soloing. ‘Dead Water Attack’ is a brief blast of power rock, while ‘Digging A Hole In A Dried Up Lake’ is atmospheric, consisting of keyboard and effects, with minimal percussion from Vaughn.
Like all the best improvised music, this album is about the freeing of ideas and the passage of time. Its sounds evoke rather than describe, and meanings are allusive rather than prescriptive. By utilising conventional instrumentation and song durations, Crab Smasher deliberately position themselves in the context of rock and pop music, while operating without its narrow conception of style and commodity. It’s a canny political act, pointing towards a merging of the popular and the experimental, without compromising the sheer joy of getting together to invent new music without rules.
by René Schaefer