Still with me?
I mean, who hasn’t found themselves deep into one of the later Scott Walker albums and started thinking that while it’s great to hear him pushing Sunn O))) in more of an easy listening direction, it’s like there’s something missing. That somehow, this music could punch a donkey through the streets of Galway, yet still be cute-cute in a stupid-ass way? That, against all reason, it could do with more jazz. And a side order of puns. Well, Sly and the Family Drone have vomited up just the thing. Their dense, sonorous new album Gentle Persuaders finds them coming back from a bad year – bandleader Matt Cargill was badly injured in a car accident in France in January last year – and in frighteningly great form.
It opens with the tightly-wound and repetitive ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. James Allsop’s baritone sax carves out a rhythmic, air-raid siren motif, against a counterpoint of unidentifiable ambient keening noises and sporadically rising drum fills. It takes flight for a moment at around the nine-minute mark before nosediving into chaos and implacably clawing its way back to its original state of disequilibrium.
The second half of the LP develops the disorienting squabble between drums and sax. ‘New Free Spirits Falconry and Horseman Display’ deftly flickers between the top and bottom end of the brass as the percussion grinds through arhythmic squalls of electronic noise. Those same drums find a sense of spaciousness in ‘Votive Offerings’ before embarking on an intense post-punk groove that buries itself in the clanging, shonky textures of horn and synth. The hesitant chirruping of ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’ soon gives way to a twisting, many-cornered duel of genesis and dissolution, roaring like a piss-soaked old testament patriarch.
Gentle Persuaders is a more tightly argued affair than Sly’s previous outings, which stray more rapidly into incontinently unintelligible mayhem. It’s bleak, at times even painful. Yet in the way these musicians use sound to create a tangibly physical space, it’s also sensuous and ultimately affirming. It’s the kind of record that the more you listen to it, the more it makes a crazy kind of sense – an album convinced of its own absurdity, and yours as well.