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Cyclobe - Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window

It's been some 5 years since Cyclobe's last album Paraparaparallellogrammatica, a collaborative remix of Nurse With Wound and even longer if you consider The Visitors as their last proper album. The wait for a new album has been more than worthwhile. In the intervening years the duo, Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower, have been busy with other pursuits. Ossian Brown was an active participant in Coil's much lauded live performances, while Stephen Thrower has authored an acclaimed celebration on the films of Italian director Lucio Fulci as well as a producing a sizeable tome on American horror and exploitation cinema while continuing to make music as part of the improvising collective AmalGamalEnsemble as well as UnicaZürn with David Knight. Influences from most of these extra-curricular activities seem to have seeped into the latest release from Cyclobe. Beside the nucleus of the Cyclobe duo, Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower, Wounded Galaxies... features Thighpaulsandra and John Contreras alongside Cliff Stapleton and Michael J. York from Coil's touring group.

With gentle shimmering synthesizers and feint ghostlike chorus, 'How Acla Disappeared From Earth' unfurls with slight shifting celestial patterns. It gives little indication of what is to unfold on this third album from Cyclobe. A creeping, gnawing tension runs through Wounded Galaxies...; it's a form of gnarled mysticism that instinctively draws you in. This is dense but not in the way of previous Cyclobe releases. Wounded Galaxies... is a deeply immersive recording formed from natural instruments and electronics and with Cyclobe the results are so blurred and transformed, at times, it's difficult to separate them.

'The Woods Are Alive With the Smell of His Coming' is something of a pagan opus. The opening pipes clearly illustrate that this is Cyclobe's 'Hymn To Pan'. The entire piece is built around a slow-evolving percussive rhythm, wound around an Eastern motif. The organic rhythm performed on a marimba plays like a ritual procession in a wooded space. The layering of sounds here is quite unlike previous Cyclobe tracks; everything here has its moment. Arching synths glint and shimmer as creaking effects break the calm serenity of the piece. A heightened rhythm instills a quickening of the heart telling us that Pan has been invoked. From then on there is all-out commotion with an upsurge of scraping cello, piercing strings and short wavering bursts of clarinet. Short flourishes of pipes recur throughout reminding us that we are still in the presence of Pan. There's even a moment of absurd merriment: just listen to the incongruous scale of rising cartoon synth stabs. The entire piece is captivating capturing a nocturnal febrile, fertile feel that conjures images of nature in its feral majesty. With a running time of 17-minutes nothing is rushed or out of place. In an interview with Brainwashed Cyclobe commented that their approach to this track marked a new way of working. 'The Woods Are Alive With the Smell of His Coming' is a staggering piece of work, and undoubtedly a significant highlight of the new album and a highlight by anyone's standards. It also featured quite aptly as a soundtrack to The Dark Monarch, Magic and Modernity in British Art at The Tate, St Ives, Cornwall; an exhibition that explored the influence of folklore, mysticism, mythology and the occult on the development of art in Britain.

The droning hurdy-gurdy of 'We'll Witness the Resurrection of Dead Butterflies (Three Moons)' attains an eastern processional quality that becomes rapturous, before it fades and reignites into a dizzying torrent of sound. Earth shuddering moans give way to the massive reverberating piano thuds of 'Sleeper'. Those thuds continue throughout as piano notes tinker alongside cawing crows and jabbering electronics with the processed voice of Ossian Brown appearing as an otherworldly childlike creation spoken in a foreign dream language. Where much of Wounded Galaxies... finds itself earthbound 'Sleeper' plays like haunted musique concrete. The title track, taken from a William Burroughs' novel, reaches for the stars with a wavering drone subsumed by surging torrents of distorted electronics that climax with scratching tones and gliding shimmering drones that close with celestial vibrations similar to those that opened up this stunning release.

Wounded Galaxies... surpasses previous Cyclobe albums in creating dense and alien soundworlds, partly as a result of having a lesser number of tracks, but primarily due to their ability to work and worm the acoustic and electronic instrumentation into shapes that are both appealing and frightening. I recommended this to friends and bought multiple copies, and I can't but recommend this to anyone who reads these pages. Wounded Galaxies... is a fantastic, complex and staggering release that will continue to reveal itself over multiple sittings. And as belated as this review is; copies of the standard CD issue are still available even though the more desirable vinyl editions have long sold out. As I said, this one is recommended, and very much so. Wounded Galaxies Tap At At The Window features photographic works by Alex Rose and a photo portrait of Cyclobe by Ruth Bayer with stunning cover artwork from Fred Tomaselli. Did I say this was recommended? For more information go to www.cyclobe.com