by Ian Mann
July 14, 2009
Not for the faint hearted.
World Sanguine Report stems from the unusual artistic vision of poet,lyricist,vocalist and multi instrumentalist Andrew Plummer. Plummer is a wildly bohemian figure who acknowledges Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits as key influences alongside modern classical composers such as Messiaen.
With this in mind it is perhaps not surprising that WSR’s remarkable début album is not for the faint hearted. Plummer sings this collection of twisted songs in a variety of unorthodox vocal styles inspired by his heroes. His lyrical concerns are dark and disturbing and the musical content accompanying it lurches from free jazz through skewed waltzes and tangos to modern classical, avant rock and much more besides.
Easy listening it most certainly is not but it works in a “horribly fascinating” kind of way and some of the playing by a crack band drawn from the cream of the Leeds and London improvisational scenes is terrific. Judging by the commercial success of Waits and of Nick Cave this is music that may have a greater public appeal than first impressions might suggest. Given the Great British Public’s seemingly limitless appetite for pap it’s encouraging when subversives like Waits and Cave slip under the wire. Plummer though is arguably more extreme again so it’s unlikely that bona fide stardom will come knocking on his door . A hardcore cult following seems more likely.
Plummer has connections with London’s Loop Collective and also with LIMA (Leeds Improvising Musicians Association). For WSR he has recruited leading musicians from both of these scenes in the form of James Allsopp (reeds), Alex Bonney (trumpet), Matthew Bourne (piano), Dave Kane(bass) and Tom Greenhalgh (drums).It’s an impressive line up. Bourne and Kane also appear with Plummer in Bilbao Syndrome a band that fuse jazz with metal and the singer has also recently become a member of Minghe Mort, described as a “thrash jazz” outfit.
“Third One Rises” lurches out of the blocks with “One Yard Bard”. Plummers’ Beefheartian vocals do battle with guest Jason White’s deranged violin accompanied by drunken, staggering rhythms. It’s pretty extreme stuff.
Although he’s not mentioned as an influence I also get a strong flavour of Nick Cave from Plummer’s music. The baritone voice and the darkly gothic,sometimes deeply disturbing content of the subject matter partly accounts for this but Cave and Plummer also have something else in common-they both have terrific bands. Just as the Bad Seeds are sympathetic to Cave’s every move so WSR are ultra sensitive to Plummer’s extraordinary vision.
There’s something of both Cave and Waits in “Rot” with the latter the dominant influence on the title track. Here another maverick the great Billy Jenkins guests on delightedly unhinged guitar as Allsopp plays cod New Orleans licks. These two songs are slightly more conventional than the opener but this is still pretty weird stuff.
The skewed “Nine Tango Fuck” (nice title!) features Plummer’s rasping voice above Allsopp’s growling baritone sax, the harshness balanced by the sweeter tone of Bonney’s trumpet. At one point they career off into a free jazz episode and there’s also some extraordinary wordless vocalising from guest Helen Ovora.
“Overhead Slow” opens with a free jazz squall before Plummer essays his best Scott Walker/David Sylvian baritone above a minimalist backing featuring Bourne’s splintery piano. Bonney ,Allsopp, Kane on bowed bass and Greenhalgh all make telling, wholly sympathetic contributions.
“Land Of Lather Leather” opens with Evora’s choral voice before veering off into a typically twisted Plummer song of extreme vocals and wilfully wonky instrumentation. If anything it’s more perplexing than ever.
“Fanfare Of Her Dreams” is a brief instrumental interlude which features an almost pretty fanfare from the horns (Allsopp sounds as if he’s on bass clarinet) followed by a dialogue over Greenhalgh’s fractured slow/fast grooves.
It’s a pause for breath before the weirdness of “Whip, Whip” with the sweetness of Evora’s distinctive choral vocal and Greenhalghs tuned percussion offset by Plummer’s barking voice and apocalyptic lyrics plus Jenkins’ guitar scratchings.
“Pirate Care” is almost recitative, with Plummer’s mournful baritone backed by woozy horns. There’s an air of the old testament preacher about it and also of Cave, Waits, Walker and maybe Peter Hammill at his most baleful, all rolled into one.
The wonderfully titled “Jazz Hell Murder Ballad” offers no respite, the vocals ranging from the semi spoken to almost animalistic noise. The band are excellent here, shadowing Plummer superbly with Allsopp particularly impressive and with Bourne’s jagged piano runs coming from the Cecil Taylor/Myra Melford/Keith Tippett school.
The closing “Sleep Safely Mon Amour” concludes the album on an instrumental note. This is something of a free jazz workout with Plummer’s own guitar plus Jason White’s violin clamouring for attention alongside WSR’s core members.
“Third One Rises” is certainly an attention grabbing album but it is a record that many listeners will find challenging. I’m not entirely convinced by it. Apart from a tantalising snippet Plummer’s lyrics are not featured on the sleeve, something I find surprising as he clearly places a good deal of importance in his words. I found myself cross referencing them on his website http://www.andrewplummer.co.uk but despite the dark and wilfully provocative imagery I wasn’t that impressed. His lyrics are neither as imaginative or poetic as Waits or Cave and there’s still an air of the “sixth form poet” about them, a lack of maturity if you like. It’s hard to resist the notion that Plummer is maybe trying a bit too hard.
As for the instrumentalists I have to say that I wouldn’t mind hearing a wholly instrumental album from them. I’d like to think it would be something along the lines of the recent “Eye Of The Duck” by Dave Kane’s Rabbit Project, an album reviewed elsewhere on this site and featuring both Kane and Matthew Bourne.
The jury is still out on Andrew Plummer as far as I’m concerned. I can’t see myself revisiting this album that often but I suspect that Plummer’s extraordinary music may make for a very interesting live experience.blog comments powered by Disqus