Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Momus - Biblotek

Originally part of the early-80’s Glaswegian post-punk scene, Momus aka Nick Currie, specialises in producing challenging material. Flitting between almost every genre imaginable and indulging his fascination with orientalism, identity and the avant-garde his records seem to mostly have been critically and commercially ignored.

With spells living in London, Paris, New York, Berlin and Osaka and a career path that has encompassed horror movie writer, J-pop song writer, photo blogger, University lecturer, ‘unreliable’ art-gallery guide and most recently successful novelist, it’s amazing that ‘Bibliotek’ is the 25th album released under the Momus name since 1986.

There are no constants and seemingly no constraints on what can be included. Several songs contain material sourced from Youtube, a very 21st century take on Alan Lomax style field recordings. Tracks like ‘Dunes’ come across as sound collages in the style of King Creosote and John Hopkins ‘Diamond Mine’, weaving a kind of mythic, idealised pastoral scene amongst the tarnished humanity Momus sees around him. ‘Lycidas’, named after a John Milton poem which deals with just that subject matter, is as close as ‘Bibliotek’ comes to a pop song, delicately fusing marching brass to tremulous synths and handclaps.

Taking his name from the god of satire and mockery, Momus is a louche and erudite narrator, embodying the spirit of Cohen and Gainsbourg. ‘Core’ sounds like a 50’s crooner ballad coming through an old radio but there’s a clinging darkness to it, as if monsters flex their fingers just off screen. Iconoclastic opener ‘Erase’ is written in 5/4 time and sounds like the Futurist Manifesto set to melancholic flutes.

Later tracks take on a more electronic feel. The Jean-Paul Sartre referencing, auto-tuned vocal on ‘Erostratus’ sounds like the inner turmoil of HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ whilst ‘Southbound’ spirals from minimal hand drums to R2D2 bleeps with Momus’s voice twisted and contorted by the robotic instrumentation around him. ‘Cheekbone’ is a sordid and debauched snapshot of twisted sexualities, heightened by the singer’s dispassionate intonation.

By the time the mournful bells and chimes of ‘Shunned’ fade away it’s clear that ‘Bibliotek” (the Swedish for library), is the perfect title for this record, steeped as it is in layers of literary allusions and worldly philosophising. It isn’t an album with widespread appeal but there’s something immensely appealing about the artist’s wilfulness and a downbeat grandeur to his soundscapes. File under thought-provoking.


For anyone wishing to find out more, here’s an interesting article I came across on the Guardian.

Maxim D Sefton

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