Record Reviews

The Electric Guitars

The Mus’e des Arts et M’tiers in Paris charts the evolution of scientific discovery, and the adoption of that understanding in industrial and commercial enterprises. Befitting a Paris-based museum, the exhibition notes the contribution to scientific of Andr?-Marie Amp’re, the French physicist whose discoveries in the field of electrical charge were recognised in perpetuity when his name was given to the unit of electrical current.

Save for the occasional cursory reference to social upheaval caused by industrialisation and mechanisation of human endeavour, the exhibition is light on the sociological consequences of scientific discovery; not surprisingly, the display is completely silent on the appropriation of science in the counter-cultural movements of the latter part of the 20th century.

Indeed, Amp’re would probably be bemused, perplexed or even horrified to discover that the product of his investigation and analysis would include not only to Les Paul’s invention of the electric guitar, but, in a circuitous way, to the various effect pedals so beloved by rock’n?roll guitarists – especially those pursuing a psychedelic sonic bent.

The dense atmosphere of Electric Guitars? sound is commensurate with a band that indulges a wide array of distorting sonic effects (ironically, an Electric Guitars gig at The Gasometer last year was interrupted when a plastic milk crate threatened to buckle under the weight one of the band’s amplifiers).

‘And The Stars Grew Bright in the Sky’ the first track on Electric Guitars? debut eponymous album, opens with a simple, almost linear lick before giving way to an explosion in sound. Like the galactic image suggested in the song’s title, there’s the sense of multiple sources of blazing energy, simultaneously held together and fuelled by some invisible force. Behind the thick layers of industrial-space grind you can hear something approaching a melody, but only if you’re in tune with the band’s wavelength.

“The track explodes into incandescent action, and so does your head.”

‘The Snake Bank’ is probably the album’s centrepiece – 17 and a half minutes of viscous psychedelic noise. It opens like a lost Kubrick masterpiece charting humanity’s descent into dystopia: thumping beats, shimmering guitars, barely comprehensible vocal meanderings. There are moments when the entire sonic movement seems like it could collapse in on itself and take everyone with it; it’s an exploration of the spatial parameters of sound. For five minutes the track searches in vain for some semblance structure; the band locks into a rhythmic groove and moves toward a distant light; 13 minutes in, and the track explodes into incandescent action, and so does your head. This is some weird shit, in the very best psychedelic sense of that colloquial phrase.

The second side – this is, irrefutably, an album conceived with vinyl in mind – comprises three songs, each of just over seven minutes in length. Elevation is pinned to the ground by a bruising drum beat conceived and raised in troglodyte circumstances: it’s a little bit Brian Jonestown Massacre, maybe a dose of The Warlocks and a rubbery inventory of drug-addled misunderstood geniuses.

‘You Can Hide But You Can’t Run’ is the soundtrack to the dream you find yourself trapped in but you can’t avoid: a friend of mine once told of me taking magic mushrooms in her early 20s. As walls started to melt, faces contorted and cerebral images threatened to trap her in a permanently distorted psychedelic state, she unsuccessfully sought supporting counsel from her fellow amateur mycologist. ?But he couldn’t help me, because he was having a fight with God.? This is the song for such an event, but not if you’re faint of mind.

‘Saturday Night Holding Pattern’ is a great name for a song, but this is not so much a song as an aggregation of disparate sounds gradually coming together in a loose formation. It’s sonic picture captured using time-lapse photography, a poem painted in hieroglyphs that, like the secret incantation in CS Lewis’s ‘The Magicians Nephew’, only becomes intelligible if you stare long and intense enough.

Up until the late 19th century physics was referred to as natural philosophy, the term reflecting the discipline’s alternative analysis of the nature and cause of physical phenomenon that been explained historically by reference to religious concepts. There’s a natural philosophy at the heart of Electric Guitars – it’s not for everyone, but for those who understand it, it’s enlightening.


####The Electric Guitars’ self-titled album is out now on vinyl through [Volume Creep](