of Pointless Orchestra's The Angel Scratch Radio Project
by Nat Hardy || Author's Links
The Angel Scratch Radio Project
a CD by the Pointless Orchestra
download "The Count of Three"
The Angel Scratch Radio Project by the Pointless Orchestra offers listeners an eclectic blend of controversial voices and intricately weaved musical passages. The result of an aborted musical project once intended as a weekly radio show, the Pointless Orchestra realized, after completing several exhaustive recordings, that it had to abandon the ambitious project, owing to the impossibility of reproducing new complex sounds and texts on a weekly basis. Quite clearly, their only option for pulling off such an endeavor was to become party to some Faustian pact. But don't panic yet. God be praised! Instead of scrapping the labor-intensive venture -- and without going over entirely over to the dark side -- the group decided to release The Angel Scratch Radio Project independently without Satan or Sony.
Following my first listen-through of the album, I couldn't help but envision The Angel Scratch Radio Project other than some sort of unoriginal bastard hybrid of trip-classico-sound-sampling-politico-hip-hop, indeed, some generic pigeonhole festering underneath that dreaded derelict exit ramp where the Kronos Quartet meets The Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy head on in flaming discordant and panchromatic carnage (now there's a video for MTV!). Oh, the humanity of it all…
Yet, owing to the content of this album, I can't but feel compelled to write my Congressperson. I mean, Mein Gott! Where are the Tipper Gore warning labels for moral and political subversion on this album!!? How did the state not sanitize this album? I've heard of They Might Be Giants, but this group might very well be named They Might Be Pinkos, or help us all, Feminazis!!! So much for pathos Rush…
Okay, so much for content, but what of the band? Indeed, one is reluctantly compelled to imagine this collective -- especially given the name of the project -- that the inventive players consist of a motley bouquet of sharp-nailed cherubs performing their notoriously divine talents upon a quirky variety of English horns, double basses, squeeze toys (hey, I'm not making this up), marimbas, chimes, dumbek, jabberbox and waterphone (I sat on one once, purely by accident, and I've never played the Glockenspeil since, but enough about me already). To tell you the truth, after several subsequent replayings of this recording, it became increasingly apparent to this listener at least, that the Pointless Orchestra had, in fact, without losing my own short-TV attention span, truly evolved and invented their own intense groove somewhat beyond the Kronos Hypocrisy syndrome I mentioned earlier. Imagine!
And although the album liner notes fail to offer any personal physiognomies of the Pointless Orchestra, its audience must continue to imagine these quasi-thespianic lads and ladies much within the mold of the creative seraphim they resemble (Trolls is my bet) -- within that dark aural space they dwell within. Do I lie? Okay, arguably, this might very well be the vision of a disordered mind, but it's my own nevertheless. (Okay, if you consider me misguided, insert your own Pointless hallucination here, kapeesh?).
Thus, to you naysayers, let me make myself perfectly clear: What the Pointless Orchestra inevitably offers with The Angel Scratch Radio Project is a slithering melodic arsenal of point and counterpoint, matched with a wealth of clever cross rhythms and cross voices that complement a jarring variety of emotionally charged narratives: narratives that vacillate between the biographical, the personal, and the just plain disturbing (albeit unsettling in a positive way, well, unless you're Tipper G., and by that I mean anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment, with a rabid inclination to bowdlerize and brand all controversial recorded mediums with a black-balling moralistically sterilizing brush). To quote the immortally brilliant Britney S., who sang only very recently, "Oops, I done it again" -- Mea culpa -- this writer's male boobs, are, in fact, real, though I don't swallow Pepsi.
Meanwhile, back to the review…
The opening track, "In London with William Burroughs," offers listeners a rather haunting aleatory accompanied with an energetic montage of didgeridoo, dumbek and bongos. As Hammond Guthrie's dark baritone narrative retells of a productive meeting with his literary hero William S. Burroughs, one might be tempted to rename this piece "Bardolatry Revisited," as there is something endearing though self-indulgently fart-catching at work here. Keep your distance Hammond, I say! Burroughs -- though an exceptional talent -- was no God. Well, he never healed me anyway.
To the group's credit, I must say that I was sharply smitten by a truly dark track entitled "The Count of Three." Without question, this piece is the most engaging and profoundly disturbing of the entire selection. To summarize the gloomy plot, this incredibly intense piece records the razored journey of a condemned prisoner's execution. The methodically and calculated narrative interplay of voices, detached and purely logical, retell the graphic sounds of an actual execution. Using taped footage of the state-sanctioned murder (sorry Tipper, no offense!) of one Ivon Ray Stanley (RIP to those on legal aid) in 1984, we hear the executioner's emotionally detached dialogue between the warden and the condemned, just before the state flips the switch to light up Stanley on Old Sparky. And, you guessed it, while Stanley fries (Stella! Stella!), the Pointless Orchestra arranges its own electrifying discharge to accompany the lethal postmodern Tennessee Williamesque lullaby. As Hunter S. Thompson might say, this is indeed, the Pointless Orchestra's quintessential Song of the Doomed. Which leaves me to wonder: How many Angel Scratches could fit on the pious head of the Pointless Orchestra?
Hey! Don't be scratchin' my eyes out. I quite liked the album.
Et tu Tipper?
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