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Various Artists

The Shy Volcanic Society at the Bear and Bird Parade

Review by Gary Hill

This is a split release from both Volcano the Bear and La STPO. Both groups create a seriously odd form of prog rock that fits well within the Rock In Opposition movement. Perhaps the most odd element of each is the non-traditional vocals. In the case of Volcano The Bear (the first, and mellower group of the two) those vocals have a definite throat singing sort of texture to them. In the case of La STPO, the vocals are more like demonic sounds at times, Klingon at other points. The thing is, I usually don’t really like RIO that much. This is strangely captivating stuff. I think, while I generally don’t dig out these kinds of releases to listen to them later, I might find myself spinning this one from time to time. I also should comment on the packaging. This is encased in a great hard cardboard sleeve that’s like a mini version of an old gatefold record cover.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Our Number Of Wolves
The sounds of someone walking through the woods (or at least that's what it appears to be) opens this. Eventually other bits of sound-effects are heard. Then someone starts chiming bells in what seems like some kind of random patterns. Other bits of noisy instrumentation is heard as a stand up bass plays weird sounds. This is very much Rock In Opposition styled weirdness. It's oddly compelling. It gets pretty noisy and chaotic. There are sounds here that seems like some kind of sick animal. That sound is still heard, but there are other things that are like chanting voices. This sort of dissolves into nothingness. It's weird, but cool.
The Boy With The Lips Inside

They don’t change things up too much, but the whole map of this has a bit of a Native American element to it.

The Open, The Closed

Here we have an extensive piece that’s much more “noise” oriented. It’s very much along the lines of early Pink Floyd and the weirder old Hawkwind music – with a lot of RIO thrown in for good measure. It’s quite ambient and slow moving. Around the four and a half minute mark this shifts towards more Native American sounds and continues from there. It is a little more musical at this point.

Death Sleeps In My Ear

This comparatively short (a little less then three minutes) piece is quite ambient at first.  When percussion joins later it gets a bit more Native American and then it shifts to real noise music for a time further down the road. This eventually ends it.

The First Circle Is The Eye

The final track from Volcano The Bear is much more musical than anything else we’ve heard from them. It’s still avante garde and very much in keeping with RIO, but there’s an actual melody to latch onto. This is quite jazz-like. I actually hear echoes of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain at times on this. Rhythmic elements take it at the end and hold it for quite some time, eventually ending the piece.

Guayaki

La STPO start things off with an ambient weirdness that again calls to mind early Pink Floyd. They bring in something along the lines of throat singing as they carry on. Around the three and a half-minute mark those vocals intensify and so does the music. This suddenly makes me think of the tribal sounds we used to get out of Hawkwind in the early days. As weird as this is, it’s incredibly catchy and enthralling. It is taken from there to a noisy, riotous movement that really rocks. It’s weird and dissonant, but very potent, too. Then around the five minute mark there’s a burst of rock instrumentation – the first we’ve heard on the disc. Rather than scream out into some Crimsonian hard rock, like it feels it’s going to do, they take us to a jazz meets death metal phase. This climaxes and gives way to weird ambient explorations. Weird vocals take it later and eventually end it.

Les Oreilles Internationales

The vocals that start this are even stranger than the ones from the last cut. We get an industrial sort of pounding sound with spitting, blurting and groaning. There is some backwards tracked stuff here. This is incredibly random and weird. Yet, somehow you can’t pull away – like watching a train wreck. As they continue this feels like some sort of an exorcism to me.

Invalid Islands

In many ways this is more musical, but still weird music at that. There is rising and falling – scraping up the strings. The vocals can almost be made out – but they feel like a throaty sort of horror movie demonic voice. The music drones upwards in the background with symphonic instruments creating RIO like sounds. Then it shifts towards a hard rocking jam that’s very much in line with old Hawkwind – yet the weird vocals remain, becoming more rhythmically based. Around the four-minute mark it drops back to very ambient sounds. Then those vocals return – very throaty and feeling like a demon on its death bad. Fiery guitar joins in the backdrop, feeling very Crimson-like as it builds – and without those vocals the whole thing resembles King Crimson quite a bit. It builds to a very noisy crescendo that takes it out.

Colonies

Acapella spoken vocals, that feel like Klingon to me, start this off. Some jazz sounds join after a short time, but then give way to a hard edged, droning rock sound that’s a bit like King Crimson. They drop it to more melodic, pretty music with symphonic instrumentation – that again makes me think of King Crimson. Weird vocals join to shatter that image. This holds it til around the three minute mark (this massive piece is almost ten minutes in length) and then we get a climbing drone that feels a lot like early Hawkwind. More demonic vocals join and then other symphonic instruments come in as this is twisted into some very strange RIO. They work and rework this. Around the six-minute mark they drop it way back down. The Klingon returns. Then it is powered back out into a new jam, very energized and rhythmic in nature. It eventually turns almost metallic (but without a real guitar based sound) and then resolves into something more Crimson-like. It drops way back down as the vocals continue amidst ambient tones. That element takes us out.

 

 
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