Monday, 3 February 2014

WHOOP-SZO - ALBUM REVIEW

WHOOP-Szo - Pt. 1 Qallunaat/Pt. 2 Odemin (Out Of Sound Records) 
WHOOP-Szo - Pt.1 Qallunaat

I get sent a lot of music and the majority of it is pretty good stuff but the press info and biogs rarely manage to set my pulse racing. However, there are exceptions to that rule and this is one such exception. Whoop-Szo are a collective who recorded this double album in the Canadian Arctic where they also found time to start a screen-printing programme with a group of Inuits. The first half of this collection comes under the title 'Qallunaat' which means all those who are not Inuit (generally white folk) and kicks off with 'Amaruq (feat. Larry T)', a disorientating mix of acoustic pop and hip-hop beats played through a distorted speaker. 'Qallunaat' is a little more on the scuzz pop end of the spectrum but the Beck-like chug and charm is there for all to see. 'Dark/Light' is a woozy, Lennon-esque dance around an abandoned dance hall whilst 'Is It Day Or Is Night?' reflects the mental state of people trying to record music in a bleak and unsettling landscape where night and day feel the same. The first 'traditional' song on the album is 'Has It Ben So Long?' and even this has a ethereal feel to the vocals which lie atop Jim Noir melodies. The scuzzy rumble that opens 'Joey Joined A Band' is followed by a stream of distortion and static before the sound of all hope being lost can be heard as a repetitive churn of white noise. The lightness of (deep breath) 'They Have Built Their Nests, In The Chimneys Of My Heart; Those Swallows That You've Lost' is a welcome respite, like the first light after the darkest of nights. And finally for this half, 'Here' is a synth laden tune from a 1980s apocalyptic vision of the future.

WHOOP-Szo - Pt. 2 Odemin
So, on to part two 'Odemin' which is complete gibberish to me but meaning is overrated, right? Kicking off with the seven minute epic of 'Boozhoo' which is a proggy delight of sparse guitars and wild blurts of distortion. 'Whale Songs' is a dreamy, floaty piece of winter music while 'Kirsten Time' is a blissfully meandering song that doesn't really go anywhere fast but the journey is sumptuous. 'It Came Fast' features the trademark WHOOP-szo guitars on another journey between distortion and sparseness but then the six minute odyssey of 'Odemin' is an opera of paranoia with voices all around and a rhythm that is inspired by a sack of cement falling slowly down a long flight of stairs. Finishing up with 'Mirror North' you start to realise just how badly missed John Peel is as this is exactly the kind of band he would have championed and I don't feel that anyone has really filled his shoes in this respect. Neither of these albums make for comfortable, mainstream listening experience but then I don't expect that's what they were going for - challenging and horizon expanding it is then.


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