“Why did you start making music?” I asked, while pretending to sip the amazingly cheap red wine in my half-broken glass, scouting for what was left of my dignity while lying on the cold floor. I don’t think he ever gave me an answer, but there are times when Daniel O’Sullivan does not even bother formulating a reply. He breathed out another puff, I turned my head and gave an intoxicated nod to the ceiling while looking nowhere ahead of me. Grumbling Fur’s music is exactly like that whiff. It is not an answer because nobody has ever posed the right question. And answers do not live per se: no query, no comeback, so the answer is gone, lost, vanished, puff.
Light, but not lightweight, the third album of the duo completed by fellow multi-instrumentalist visionnaire Alexander Tucker (one with enough talent to fill at least a couple of Bon Iver and three funeral doom records with indie gems) is an artistic goldmine. Psychedelia is a dangerous weapon usually deployed in a game with no rules and ruthless players, and if you make a bad move, you end up killing your listeners with boredom. But can this possibly happen on a Grumbling Fur album? Not that I’m aware of. Underneath the melodic blanket lie strata of krautrock, electronica and pop, all wisely entangled and elegantly indiscernible. And these things don’t lie.
If you get the impression that the futuristic emphasis of tunes like “Eyoreseye” (where Kraftwerk provide the rhythm and Orbital contribute with ideas) betrays a certain fascination with soundtracks, you are most probably right. The whole album seems to have been written while absent-mindedly looking at sci-fi movies on mute. “The Ballad of Roy Batty” is, after all, a concentric tribute to one of the finest soliloquies ever captured on film. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”, he mutters. And if you listen to Glynnaestra with your eyes properly closed, you inevitably end up believing his story.
Daniel O’Sullivan seems to carry his outstanding baggage of experiences with him like a homeless sticking to his priceless material wealth. Gone are the days of the prog madness that were Guapo and Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses and you will not hear their apparent anarchism in any of these tracks. But if you listen carefully, you can still pick up echoes reverberating from the distant five suns which gave the name to one of the greatest indie albums of the noughties courtesy, obviously, of Guapo. Oh, and Sunn O))) and the natural elegance of Ulver? They are both here, somewhere and, still, the final, overall amalgam manages to sound extremely coherent.
A hyperuranion of ideas, this is! One where the loop is king and the drones (see “Ascatudaea”, for instance) paint a spacescape (a neologism, quite certainly) where the only direction is forward. From Kraftwerk to Boards of Canada; from Depeche Mode to Miracle, from Steve Roach to Tim Hecker. If the first two albums (Furrier and Alice) had somehow reminded us of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s collaboration in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, where it was difficult to discern who was (egregiously) doing what, Glynnaestra manages to sound a definitely more cohesive album.
One of the reasons is, surely, partly to be found in the departure of Jussi Lehtisalo from Circle and Dave Smith (also of Guapo), but there is definitely more to it. O’Sullivan and Tucker, when together, do not contribute with something; they share the same head and talent. “Dancing Light” is probably the track that best represents this synergy of two gifted artistries with its synths, the pounding bass and the haunting vocal harmonies that hook the listener without having to resort to ornate and utterly useless debaucheries.
Loops, rhythm, drones, laser beams, mantras, neon lights. Two English gentlemen have made your job shamefully easy, you scriptwriters of the world! There is a movie that is waiting to be written. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.