Grumbling Fur - Glynnaestra
- Stewart Smith
- 30 July 2013
Underground duo Alexander Tucker and Daniel O'Sullivan's third album is a gem of cosmic Englishness
Glynnaestra, the third album from the London underground duo of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O'Sullivan, is a gem of cosmic Englishness, tapping into the uncanny energies of old Albion and projecting them into the future. This is an Electric Eden pock-marked with psychedelic rabbit holes, its night skies aglow with UFO sightings. On Pook's Hill, Puck holds a solstice rave for techno-druids and android bards, while in a forest clearing, a young woman bids a tearful farewell to her extra-terrestrial love. Glynnaestra's wyrd-pop reveries invite these sonic fictions, tapping in, as they do, to the uncanny currents so expertly divined by Brighton-based clubnight The Outer Church on their recent compilation, to which Grumbling Fur contributed. In interviews, Tucker and O'Sullivan have spoken of finding the weirdness in nature, and while there is a darker side to this, there is also much beauty.
On his recent Thrill Jockey albums Dortwych (2011) and Third Mouth (2012), Alexander Tucker's droning acoustic mantras blossomed into luminous future-folk reveries. Glynnaestra marries this sound world with the tenebrous synth-pop of O'Sullivan's Mothlite and Miracle projects, and alchemises the pair's interest in treated acoustic sound. Like Brian Eno's masterpiece Another Green World and its creepier ambient cousin, On Land, Glynnaestra roams England's liminal spaces, catching glimpses of the sublime in the stars in radiant synth tones and spectral guitar beams. More than anything, however, Glynnaestra recalls Richard Youngs' gorgeous 2009 venture into DIY future-pop, Beyond The Valley of the Ultrahits, where ex-choirboy vocals hymned nature over midi-synths and unquantised digital beats.
Pagan rave anthem 'Protogenesis' sees O'Sullivan's jaunty viola locking in with a phase-shifted synth sequence, while his and Tucker's mantric incantation – 'I saw you stand up and take eight steps across the floor' – is gradually sucked into a backwards reverb wormhole. 'Dancing Light' tells of portals to 'the other side' over an inspired backing of shimmering violas and ominous bass synth while the beautiful 'Clear Path' is a psychedelic canticle, re-imagining the Beach Boys through the English choral tradition.
Elsewhere, the cosmic arcadia is replaced with dystopic science-fiction visions. The outstanding 'The Ballad of Roy Batty' borrows its lyrics from Rutger Hauer's famous speech at the end of Blade Runner, with Tucker and O'Sullivan sounding like a Gregorian Depeche Mode as they sing in stacked octaves of 'attack shops on fire off the shores of Orion'. Like Zomby's replicant rave homage 'Tears In The Rain', which samples the same speech, Grumbling Fur's song manages to sound simultaneously elegiac and euphoric. 'Galacticon' layers the melancholy searchlight synths of Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack over a sinuous bass synth figure, while violas sigh and a nagging vocal hook leaks in from a ghost frequency.
Glynnaestra's otherwordly pop songs are the main attraction, but there's much to be said about the instrumentals, which give expression to Grumbling Fur's more experimental tendencies. Studio chatter and viola drones usher in opening track 'Ascadutaea', before a demonic synth bursts in from another dimension, trailed by ghostly voices. Creepier still is 'His Moody Faith', seven minutes of bleak synth pads, wraithlike viola and ectoplasmic percussion effects. A thicket of tuned and untuned percussion – balafons, gongs and hand drums – and murky guitar, 'Alapana Blaze' is part ethnographic forgery, part doom metal husk. In this context, a track called 'The Hound' might put one in mind of demonic dogs stalking moonlit moors. In actuality, it's a rather charming sketch exploring 'the kettle's relationship with the cooker', where all the sounds are sourced from said domestic appliances. In the demented tradition of the foley artists celebrated in Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio, and junkshop improvisers like the Bohman Brothers and Edinburgh's own Usurper, the kettle's whistles and puffs, wheezes and donks are filtered and flanged, rendering the familiar uncanny.
That journey from the wordly to the mystical could be said to be Glynnaestra's animating impulse, as its soaring pop hooks and mossy textures are borne across dimensions on pink beams of light.