Wild Mercury Sound

Continuing business, Vibracathedral Orchestra and Wild Beasts

John Mulvey

A grim struggle to the death on the blogs between American and British music again today, though it seems America's interests are being defended primarily by an Estonian. Meanwhile, here, the reliably lucid Glory asks whether my taste "is more geared towards American styles of music (eg Americana) or because you think American artists are generally more talented than British artists?"

A bit of both, perhaps. I certainly think artists like Jamie T are talented, but they're part of a musical tradition which I'm not really partial to. It seems that, given the relative size of America to Britain, there should be many more interesting bands there. But as I've said before, I'm also conscious of personally fetishising American music: at home last night, I noticed for the first time in ages, a quote from Adorno that my wife had pinned over the desk years ago - "It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home."

Still, I'm determined to prove that I have a healthy open mind towards the music of my motherland. So I've spent this morning hunting for some British music to write about. The Queens Of The Stone Age preview will have to wait a day or two.

Instead, here are the Vibracathedral Orchestra, a reliably magnificent bunch of skronky improvisers based in Leeds. I'd like to say that "Wisdom Thunderbolt", the latest in a large, obscure and very fine sequence of albums, is in some way quintessentially British. Actually, though, it closely resembles the commune jams served up by those avant-garde tribes on the fringes of the American psych/folk scene - Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Jackie O Motherfucker, the No Neck Blues Band, The Vanishing Voice, that kind of thing. Chris Corsano, something of a regular on this blog (he's also on the new Bjork record) emphasises the connection by turning up on the best track here, "A Natural Fact".

Vibracathedral specialise in a sort of frantic, ecstatic drone that veers all over the place. The few times I've seen them live, they're a pretty remarkable spectacle: high, rearing epiphanies being conjured up by intense types crawling about on the floor and swapping instruments on a whim. There's a good joke after a fashion here, too, when "Sway-Sage" starts with a swaggering orthodox metal riff before being overwhelmed by a truly awe-inspiring cacophony. Someone whoops in the middle of it, and I can see their point. Bracing stuff, which you can experience with a live snippet here. I think I saw this show, actually.

The other thing I found is a single by Wild Beasts called "Through Dark Night". Wild Beasts appear to be from the Lake District, and have got that sort of shambling, romantic charm that I keep being told is in bands like The Maccabees and Larrikin Love, but which I can never detect myself.

"Through Dark Night" sways unsteadily like early Orange Juice, has a deeply equine clip-clop rhythm, and a singer whose incredibly mannered falsetto yodel is, I suspect, an acquired taste. I like it a lot, and the flipside, "Please, Sir", is good, too - it reminds me of The Servants' track on "C86", though I haven't heard it in years. I'll check with the office's resident ex-member of The Servants and report back, but have a listen at good old Myspace and see what you think.


Editor's Letter

Robert Wyatt interviewed: "I'm not a born rebel..."

Today (January 28, 2015), social media reliably informs me that Robert Wyatt is 70, which seems a reasonable justification for reposting this long and, I hope, interesting transcript of an interview I did with him at home in Louth back in 2007, a little before the marvellous “Comicopera” was...