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Thighpaulsandra - Practical Electronics

I, Thighpaulsandra and The Golden Communion were genre melding and meddling releases featuring the wild and wilful experimentation of Thighpaulsandra combining passages of drones, atonal electronics, musique concrète with wayward pop melodies often within the same song. Both of those albums featured an extended line-up and in the years since The Golden Communion he's toured with Wire and worked within the confines of a group format in the improvisational experimental supergroup UUUU (alongside members of Wire and Vanishing Twin) as well as collaborating with Massimo Pupillo (of Zu) as URUK. As a solo release Practical Electronics permits him to present his outlandish singular vision through abstract, cut-up and episodic lyrics over composed sounds of tonal and atonal electronics and computer processing. Practical Electronics is a more concise and focussed rendering of his sound forgoing the rock operatics and prog rock excesses of The Golden Communion. Restricted to electronics and voice, the four tracks herein are vocal heavy and song based, assuming that's an appropriate term to describe a Thighpaulsandra track and just as idiosyncratic and colourful as we would expect from the former member of Coil and Spiritualized.

On the first section of the opening track 'Brown Pillows' Thighpaulsandra intones an abstract narrative of cut-up text, revealing such choice non sequiturs as "Jesus star anus", "penis or stylus" and "peacock tongue of anal hair" over a score which veers from wavering electronics, the pitter patter of percussive taps, sound textures, ringing modulations and processed experimentations that get sucked up into a vortex of howls. It lurches onwards into hollered tones amidst thumping and ricocheting keys, sliced by haunted strings performed as a playful cabaret take on the main theme of Psycho. It's a wild and inventive number where Thighpaulsandra reveals a few more tricks from up his lycra clad sleeves. Vocal yelps surface amidst frequency squelch and waves of drenched noise, before it heats up once again with the looping screech of an old analogue phone, overheated processing and the incessant clatter of metallic knocks.

He displays his twisted pop sensibilities on the opening minutes of 'Hamza', as he sings of a secret sexual rendezvous over passages of electro squelch and sequences, dramatic stabbing synths and chaotic processing. Sleazy, sensual and somewhat subversive it's a stunning electro track which unfortunately doesn't last long enough before its song form is torn apart, slipping it into dissolution and disarray with an extended section of experimentation. Here nebulous drone filled layers brimming with sound rips and skitters are unleashed and when his vocals do reappear they're distant, poised and spoken all couched within a loose marimba type rhythm.

Scuttling its way through passages of drones and electro-processing amidst a jumble of sounds and screeches, the episodic narrative of 'Helen Is Screaming' spoken by Thighpaulsandra recalls the strange television shows of the seventies. You know, those ones endlessly written about by folk horror scholars. It is a genius track where Helen, standing in the kitchen, experiences a bright flash and is pinned to a wall by a large foam wedge placed "between her pendulous breasts". Weird and vividly descriptive it's best represented by the wonderful line "her lip contorted into a Billy Idol snarl". Unfortunately the narrative ends there leaving the listener to imagine what happens next, as strange incidental electronics of the Radiophonic Workshop variety appear and burst into an erratic rumble of rhythmic interplay, jazzy electronic sequences before breaking down into quivers and quakes. Thighpaulsandra's approach to songwriting is all in here; outlandish, mysterious and alluring.

Horror key scales cut through the airy wafts and processed secreted voices of 'The Goat Owl' amidst the hammering and flickering rhythms which transform into throbbing electro beats. Those changes which we're told go beyond a box ticking exercise which involve hiding his masturbatory wares under the floorboards are enunciated by Thighpaulsandra in layers of expressive vocals supported by a chorus of wooh-woohs. "Walk like a man, talk like a man" he goads in a snippet of lyric channelling Divine covering Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons over chiming keys and pumping electro. Call me any time of day or night, call me the Goat Owl, he demands, referencing an earlier, I think, unreleased track titled 'I Am The Goat Owl' - as it sinks into a sprinkling of sprawling, scraping drones and distant rhythmic taps, his tender wails reappearing couched in slow, subdued electronic beats as drones glide and rhythms incessantly knock bringing another essential chapter of Practical Electronics to a close.

His work can be overwrought and challenging at times, partly due to the juxtaposition of genres. But if that's a problem for you then it's fair to say you're probably listening to the wrong artist. You could consider Practical Electronics as being more focussed than some of his other albums particularly the expansive ones such as I, Thighpaulsandra and The Golden Communion but that's partly because this one is spread over only four tracks making the entire thing easier to consume in one sitting. Recent releases involving Thighpaulsandra such as the improvisational experimental rock of UUUU and the drone fixated sounds of URUK, never really allowed Thighpaulsandra to showcase (or even showboat) his eccentricities and singular tastes. Maybe that's why Practical Electronics is so satisfying. Right down to the cover shot which pictures a studious looking Thighpaulsandra in his laboratory experimenting on a young male participant is ripe with ambiguity. He is a much needed beacon of light and strangeness in the world of experimental electronics. Practical Electronics is great, offering another insight into the exciting, inventive and peculiar world of Thighpaulsandra. Recommended. For more information go to Editions Mego