JG Thirlwell & Simon Steensland – Oscillospira

[Reviewed by stark]

Berlin, 1968. The bridge on the river Spree, connecting the eastern and western parts of the city. Under the cover of night, KGB and CIA agents exchange some spies earlier detained by enemy intelligence. The atmosphere is tense, one accidental shot will ruin the whole operation and escalate the conflict. Midnight is coming, the full moon illuminates the cobblestones, which silent men walk on. Suddenly… oh fuck, a horde of zombies is hitting the bridge yelling “Gehirne! Gehirne!” The rotting parts of the body hang torpidly, what was left of the tendons barely manage, but the vitality of the dead freezes the blood of those whose hearts are still beating. The agents have drawn their weapons without a word, but they know the guys on the other side of the bridge are not the enemies anymore. They know that they must join forces to survive.

I know that such a concept was not imagined by these gentlemen – JG Thirlwell and Simon Steensland – on “Oscillospira” (Ipecac Recordings), but I can not help that such scenes come to my mind as I listen to the album. It’s a mostly instrumental journey (with the rare choral vocals like taken straight from Italian horror movies, scattered here and there over the whole release), created by the brains of the iconic Foetus and the Swedish multi-instrumentalist, with whom Thirlwell has become buddies. Quite modern in terms of sound, though taking by the handful from the musical legacy of the seventies. So alive, vibrating, pulsating, sometimes frantic, like Thrilwell’s musical sensitivity, though in a slightly different way than on these classic Foetus records. It’s deriving from prog-rock from the ’70s (Thirlwell himself refers to Magma and Univers Zero in the press release), but also jazz and eventually classic soundtracks of the European genre cinema. You’ll find a modern touch as well as Simon and his colleague Morgan Agren (who’ve worked with Zappa in the 90s) add sharp edges here as they’re responsible for the (sometimes distorted) guitar, bass and drums. I don’t even mention the other instruments used here. Or maybe I will: oboe, trumpet, violin, bass clarinet. Not bad, no? This is illustrative music, but not in a background, blending into the surroundings meaning of the word, as it is vivid, sparkling with moods and creativity. It requires a number of listens, to be honest I felt almost overwhelmed by the abundancy of the ideas that are present on “Oscillospira”.

I’d watch James Bond with the zombie Blofeld as the final boss, directed by William Friedkin from his best years. Or Fulci screening Alistair MacLean … Of course, that won’t happen, but at least I have a good soundtrack for it.

JG Thirlwell & Simon SteenslandOscillospira
Ipecac Recordings, IPC221CD
CD/2xLP/Digital 2020

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