A swinging thud. Breathy female vocals sing-songing along. Various degrees of electronic processing of said vocals weaving in and out. Stop for synth drone (replete with overtones phasing). Beat re-enters, accompanied by synths and more vocals.
So begins "These Thoughts Will Never Take Shape", the opening track on "Invisible Bonfire" by Golden Diskó Ship, for whom stasis is clearly an issue. Even when those light female vocals return again, the accompaniment is utterly different, complete with a whimsical bluesy guitar line that disappears to return over yet another beat that judders along, only this time it sounds like something that has escaped from Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica". Yes, there are clear melodies, and distinct music motifs and patterns. However, to describe the song as "restless" is an understatement. The self-defeat proclaimed in the title is self-defeating as well, since there are definite shapes to the thoughts, however transitory they are (or seem to be).
This is the kind of contradiction, the species of immediate reinvention of moments on a moment-by-moment basis, that permeates this album.
"Fake Horse" presents the kind of sparsely arranged pop so favoured by Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, except with Golden Diskó Ship, there is something altogether heathen, atavistic, thoroughly primordial about her sound. Even when synths appear, they are mutated, feeling like something erupting from a swamp, briefly taking up residence next door to Rick Wakeman, before vanishing into the smokiest end of the long hut to allow the strings to conclude business. That fiddle really sounds as though it has come in to tell the song to just "SHADDAP!"
"Little Stream" begins as though the stream in question is a data stream, arping synths and randomized bleeps suggesting ancient computers. The guitar hangs around, talking in chords, threatens to takeover, then disappears, leaving a snatch of vocals and the beginnings of a more determined beat. The guitar inserts itself amid the electronic plink-plonks, all the chittering and chattering, and steadily the piece becomes all about the guitars - yes, plural – building and diminishing. A steady percussive rattle carries us through to the end, with occasional interjections by a kick.
"Movie Theatre" starts with a beautifully warped lo-fi vibe, a hissiness, vocals that gradually harmonize and then morph into words, the acoustic-sounding guitar insistently carrying the whole, eventually joined by a growling synth bass sound, the ascending riff counterpointed by a single repeated note and distorted vocals. And, then, all-change … It feels like we've entered a movie theatre somewhere between a wild west town and Silent Hill. And, then, change again! We're now in a synthetic world where the acoustic guitar is probably kept in a bell jar for analysis. The vocals begin as a distorted telephone shout, before being mangled beyond recognition by some kind of filtering harmonizer. All leave, save a hollow metal drone and a sprinkle of beats. The guitar plods in once more from the wild west, the vocals tentatively singing behind a curtain.
"Snowflake Helicopter" begins as a synth piece, beat keeping the matter grounded. It swirls, then has a kind of locomotive guitar blues thing going on … I'm sitting listening to this wondering what the hell is coming next. At this point, it is obvious anything can happen. Of course, something will happen – but what? Well, it breaks down to a drone, before taking off again, but with vocals that might very well be telling me something I need to know. But I can only catch snatches of words. Clearly the words are not the priority here as much as the potential sounds that singing them offers. The song breaks down to a kind of bees-in-ajar buzz, the guitar riff returns along with the vocals. The lack of bass is a tad disconcerting (much like early Sleater Kinney used to make me feel).
"Say Goodbye to this Island (Over and Out)" begins like Radiohead if Thom Yorke had a more whimsical sense of humour (or just a sense of humour, depending on your point of view). The track quickly shifts into a gear that has a certain kooky indie charm to it, but seems to threaten to launch into a full-scale metal attack at any moment. Instead, it becomes something more like an acoustic session with electric instruments given the job of creating textures only. It ends. But, of course, it doesn't. The vocals come in, light, repeating the song's title with a second voice interjecting different nouns alongside "island", all conducted over a rattling, distorted shoegazer-esque trilled guitar drone.
"New Year (Under the Wave)" offers more distortion bursts, heavy static, fingerpicked guitar, a thundering drum, and birdsong. Chimes, lambs beating, drones and whistles join, and more pseudo-endings appear. The vocals breathlessly sing amid swirling reverb, and glitched guitar and drones glide over a low-key but energetic beat. The chimes return as well, but serve to punctuate a portamento lead synth, and a rattling that sounds like train cars being pushed along to couple with a train, or perhaps a swinging metal gate. The vocals now sing words, but are fuzzy with distortion, as well as a heavy dose of reverb.
"Swan Song" begins with guitar, leaden-footed, lumbering along amid occasional squeals of synth, radio chatter, grinding noises, and lord knows what else. It breaks out, and begins a definite structure, multiple guitars plucking out what feels like it might become a song. At this stage, you just don't trust your sense of instinct about song structure. Clearly, Golden Diskó Ship saw the manual on songwriting, and just couldn't be bothered. She was more interested in doing what she felt like doing. The song carries on after decaying for a while, like Death In Vegas being put to death by being thrown into an acidic mist. A bit of sonic meandering, guitar-noodling, random synth runs, chatter … the guitar continuing in what could be described as determined drifting.
"Invisible Bonfire" is an album that defies categorization. It's a pop record with the fat rendered into soap, a rock record with the bones turned to meal, and an avant-folk record without any greenery in sight. Music concrète is a more accurate description of the kind of sampling that goes on (rather than simply "sampling"), loops are never particularly obvious, and the soundworld doesn't sound as though a metronome hold much sway there. It is a gloriously ramshackle sequence of music, a veritable curiosity shop filled to the brim with genuine artefacts (some of which were long thought lost) and idiosyncratic reproductions of works that never saw the light of day. This is music as pleasure, not as artistic exercise, and the result is art as pure as any you might hear. Investigate immediately!
Golden Diskó Ship is Berlin-based Theresa Stroetges, a "one-girl orchestra". Find out more at http://www.goldendiskoship.com
"Invisible Bonfire" is released on Spezialmaterial Records on November 25th, 2014.
Photo of Golden Diskó Ship by Benjamin Augustin.