Cyclopean - ‘Cyclopean EP’  (Mute/Spoon)

Cyclopean – ‘Cyclopean EP’ (Mute/Spoon)

A melding of exploratory minds, the three-parts Teutonic to one-part Brit, Cyclopean collaboration already looks good on paper; pitting as it does, two former members of Can, Irmin Schmidt and Jaki Liebezeit, against one of Germany’s contemporary electronic pioneers, Burnt Friedman, and our very own talented sonic maverick, Jono Podmore (Kumo, and more recently Metamono).

Of course, this isn’t the first time that our quartet has crossed sound waves: both Schmidt and Podmore have worked together on various projects over the years, including the Gormenghast opera and Kumo collaborations, whilst Liebezeit and Friedman recorded Secret Rhythms IV in 2011.

Riffing on their Mycenaean stonework moniker – mythologised attained name for a style of architecture that ‘only giants could build’, due to the size of the boulders and stones used in its execution – they lay down their own mystical shrouded soundtrack. Less a klaxon call, more a subtle organic push, the EP’s four tracks move fluidly and freely, combining the ‘uber-group’s’ individual talents to a great deal of success.

Awaiting a final, conclusive mastered mix, the version for review sounded most promising. Podmore’s strange retro-futuristic, analogue, dials and radio wave adjustments sit extremely well with Schmidt’s oscillated majestic flights of fantasy and murkier primordial soup stirrings, as we know. But they also fit into the Friedman/Liebezeit framework of fluctuated plug-ins and foot-pedal free, methodical drumming.

Like a naturalistic, atavistic version of Canera ‘Quantum Physics’ and ‘Chain Reaction’, the Cyclopean blueprint betrays, in a positive manner, all the tell-tale signs of its composer’s glorious past exploits. Recordings even took place at Schmidt’s own ‘Le Rossignols’ studio in France, home to many top-quality scores and albums made over the decades.

Impossible to discard totally, the imbued elements of various experiments can’t help but inform and linger. So whilst this EP may not be the most original or shocking of revelations, it’s still an atmospheric survey of seldom-plunged depths, and a right moody treat.

The allusive, succinct track titles give little away as to the subject matter or inspiration for each interconnecting soundscape. And so a familiar theme and palette runs throughout with deviations into the wilderness (‘Weeks’) and heart of darkness (‘Fingers’).

Adding a pondering, reflective and classical lilt to proceedings, there’s a meditative lifting chord struck when the piano is introduced to the wafting, rippling and tranc-y rhythms. When a rubber-band guitar is brought in we’re transported to some atavistic Antipodean of the imagination.

Beyond doubt the apodictic musicianship and congruous performances are solid. Surprisingly each of the contributions avoid clashing, dominating, or cancel each other out, with every chord, riff, beat and sound effect audible in the spacious mix.

Followers of Podmore, Schmidt, Liebezeit and Friedman (doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue), will find much to reinforce their faith in the quartet, whilst for everyone else it remains an interesting mix of both extemporized and processed progressive invention.

Released 11th February 2013



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