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Foetus - Damp

Over the past few years I've let Foetus pass me by. The industrial rock of past releases wasn't doing anything for me, and I wasn't too enamoured with the live shows where Thirlwell posited himself as some sort of anti-rock god. A few weeks ago I chanced upon a copy of Love in a second hand store, and having reading some good things, I thought I'd take my chances. A wise move indeed as Love, like Damp, brings together the best elements of the Foetus sound: the big band music, the easy loungey vibe and orchestral cinematic scores. Damp is an exclusive web only release compiling some leftover tracks from Love, some collaborations, a couple of reworkings and remixes and some previously unissued material. Don't be put off by its makeshift formation as Damp is an excellent companion to Love, and a worthwhile addition to your Foetus collection.

Right from the off this is prime Foetus, at the top of his game. The big band sound of 'I Hate You All' returns to the swingin' lowdown jazz of 'Bedrock' and 'Ramrod'. 'Sieve' is archetypal Foetus, all down and dirty, with great sixties organ and brass fanfares, and throbbing guitars. Meanwhile 'Not In Your Hands' ranges from orchestral strings and processed vocals to NY Blaxploitation funk with its swingin' brass and druggy lyrics. Thirlwell delivers a great funk-soul vocal, and a fantastic end piece. As good as they are they pale in comparison to 'Chimera', a soft ballad with a tender Thirlwell vocal over a brass band accompaniment and heavenly strings. It's pure Salvation Army stuff and quite fantastic. It definitely rates as one of his finest compositions and a worthy surprise for those who'd thought they'd got Foetus pinned down.

A couple of the tracks take in his film work. 'Into The Light', in particular, is worthwhile with its creepy cinematic sounds. It even revisits his past in the way it co-opts part of the rhythm from Einsturzende Neubaten's 'Seele Brennt'. It's not the only nod to his past associations. The rickety rhythms and soft orchestral strings of 'Shrunken Man' is an interpretation of a The The track, to which Thirlwell lays on an impressive Tom Waits styled vocal.

The collaborations are pretty cool too. With The Melvins on 'Mine Is No Disgrace' Thirlwell delivers a suitable deviant lyric over half-paced smouldering rock music. In spite of its nun-raping words it's reveals itself to be a supremely sad song. The Rotoskop track is an altogether different thing: droning electronics and distant clattering enlivened by Thirlwell's bruised rasp. As Phylr, Thirlwell's partner in Baby Zizanie, Jim Coleman adds squelchy electronics, ups the beats and mistreats the vocal on this remix from Love. And just because he can Thirlwell shows he can do it just as well, if not better, on 'Hemo the Cuckold' with hyper-ventilating vocals against electro beats and cinematic strings. There's also something of a David Bowie thing going on here, as there was on Love.

And I've not even mentioned 'Cold Shoulder', the sixteen minute instrumental that closes Damp, with a whisper.

Damp flows so well you'd be hard pushed to guess it's a collection of odds and ends. Damp successfully delivers so much of what Jim Thirlwell is capable of, you realise that he's been shooting himself in the foot for a long time. That it takes in his past associations, incorporates his vast array of influences, whilst pulling in elements from his numerous side projects such as Manorexia and Steroid Maximus is quite an achievement. Damp, like its predecessor Love, is evidence that J.G. Thirlwell is in the throes of a golden period, pushing forward with his finest material in years. Just don't take my word for it, go seek now and rediscover the musical genius of Foetus. Recommended. For more information go to www.foetus.org