Cindytalk is led by Gordon Sharp, a Scottish band that have been making music for nearly 30 years. Originally a post-punk band, it wasn’t until 2009’s ‘The Crackle of My Soul’ that Cindytalk radically transformed the sound of their music.Sharp once coined his music “Ambi-dustrial”, which is an apt description of Cindytalk’s music.
‘A Life Is Everywhere’ is their new album, and its light years away from the sound of their debut album ‘Camouflage Heart’. ‘Time to fall’ opens the album with crystalline chiming bells, serrated shards of noise angle their way in and soon grabs all the attention. Its a tense and feral introduction, the equally thrilling ‘My Drift is a Ghost’ is dominated by a shimmering meteor shower onslaught of digital noise. By now you begin to understand the alien atmospheres and elemental themes that define this album, ‘To A Dying Star’ penetrates your ears with a bubbling, almost fluid downpour of metallic sounds. It slowly builds momentum until it seems to want to collapse in on itself, but instead disperses until it becomes formless.
‘Interruptum’ starts with more of a menacing shape, repeated drones channelling downwards are interspersed with silence. Flecks of metallic chimes, electronic noises and shuddering sounds are held together at regular intervals by a pounding drum. It’s fraught and mysterious, creating a strange atmosphere where presences seems to want to communicate with you but you are not certain of its motives. Its beautifully constructed, full of drama and tension, and certainly the most thought-provoking track on the album. ‘Interruptum’ is the calm before the battle-scarred storm that is ‘As If We Had Once Been’, a disturbing barrage of dubby industrial noise. ‘On A Pure Plain’ ends the album and is harsher still, a blistering clash of distorted noise which seems to be pummelling itself into submission. Its cloaked in a mournful melody which tries to hold the onslaught, but the shrill returns and seems to be taking on the melody as well as itself. Its a draining experience, but just like ‘To A Dying Star’ it eventually subsumes and scatters into the world it inhabits.
‘A Life Is Everywhere’ is a beautiful and often indescribable album, the brittle musical terrain it maintains for long periods should never have the right to sound as wonderful as it does. Amongst the quieter moments, the music is often uncaring and unknowable and encourages you to go no further. It is horror at its finest, you want it to stop but it has a thoughtful sense of balance which keeps you intrigued, and these contradictions are a reminder of elemental forces more powerful than us.
Cindytalk have been going for over 30 years now. Maybe there’s something about experimental music that breeds survivors. Perhaps the avant-garde spirit of continual destruction and recreation has rejuvenating effect on its creators. In the opening minute of the first track, ‘Time to Fall’, chiming bells break and fracture in a twist of blank noise. Scrapes of distortion assail the ears and it’s immediately apparent that this is a much more abrasive work than their previous outing, 2011’s ‘Hold Everything Dear’. Before long it’s built up to a tumultuous squall of pink and white noise that scours the cranial cavity.
Snaking shudders of sound slither across ‘My Drift is a Ghost’, before being washed away in a tide of noise. Beneath, currents of lower frequencies surge and swash. Fleeting flickers of smooth synth threaten to break through like rays of sun into a darkened room, but in an instant, they’re gone, dragged away by a sandstorm of static. Explosions bathed in galactic reverb bear down on the listener during ‘As If We Had Once Been’, the emergent rhythms gliding out in concentric spirals before shards of treble crash across ‘On a Pure Plane’. Yet from the screech of interference emerges a broad, soft sonic haze that pulses calmly as the album fades to black. In the main, it’s not delicate or gentle, and is more reminiscent of Prurient than anything else that comes to mind. So yes, it's pretty heavy duty stuff – and all the better for it. Photo by Spaewaif
A LIFE IS EVERYWHERE
Review in BOOMKAT August post-punk survivor Gordon Sharp aka Cindytalk returns with A Life Is Everywhere, surely his most volatile, lyrical and consuming work since his creative re-birth on Editions Mego a couple years back; here he gravitates away from the dawn-treading digital ambience of his recent sides and towards a noisier, more expansive destination, whilst also exploring some of the most beautiful, accessible harmonic themes of his entire career. 'On A Pure Plane' is the purest, plainest example of this fusion: it collages elegiac string pads with curdled, corrosive power electronics, staking out a middle ground between GAS's Zauberberg and Kevin Drumm's Sheer Hellish Miasmah, while 'Time To Fall''s trebly, ecstatic Vibracathedral-esque drone raga is slowly peeled back to reveal a glassy supporting structure of angelic choral sounds. 'My Drift Is A Ghost' lays the distortion on even thicker, this time buttressing it with murky, mortar-fire industrial percussion reminiscent of Alberich or Vatican Shadow; 'Interruptum''s elegant, light-refracting electronics are equal parts sacred music and INA-GRM; and 'As If We Had Once Been' is in-the-red but deftly turned, dub-conscious minimal synth, its heart-rending melody calling to mind Sand Circles' heatsick city visions - proper Terminator blues. These pieces are intricately constructed mechanisms, not let-it-all-hang-out improvisations; even at their most brutal, they have a balance and elegance to them that's proof of a master at work. Photo by Spaewaif
The trajectory of Cindytalk is one of the most unusual stories in music. The band was originally a vocal duo fronted by Gordon Sharp, who also contributed vocals to a pair of This Mortal Coil albums in the mid-80s. After a run of successful albums, the band fell silent. During this time, Sharp was investigating issues of identity and sexuality; when “Transgender Warrior” appeared in 2003, he had renamed himself Cindy / Cinder; thus, Cindytalk. But more than the name had changed. The new material, culminating in a series of albums for Editions Mego, was starkly abstract and virtually vocal-free. Fan reaction was severely mixed. Some embraced the experimental sounds while others complained and left. Camouflage Heart this was not, and some would never forgive.
Sharp now continues his sonic explorations on A Life Is Everywhere. Absent from the mix are the children and piano that made 2011′s Hold Everything Dear nearly accessible. A few connections to past material remain: the digitized shoreline of “The Eighth Sea” and the cosmic meanderings of “Switched to Lunar”, from 2010′s Up Here in the Clouds, find their echoes in “To a Dying Star” and “Interruptum”, while the industrial drums of “Of Ghosts and Buildings” (from 2009′s The Crackle of My Soul) reappear on “As If We Had Once Been”. Not that Sharp is recycling his old concepts; he’s updating them for a new audience. The sea may still be the sea, but now sounds even more alien.
The manipulated chime tones of “Time to Fall” are reminiscent of Daniel Menche’s gamelan work on the recent Marriage of Metals, also on Editions Mego. These artists share a dissatisfaction with sound restriction, and seek to extract the widest array of sounds possible from every available source. The chimes are never far from the surface, but neither are the distorted drones. A hint of melody bleeds through the center of the piece like a light leakage of moisture through cheesecloth. ”My Drift Is a Ghost” provides the impression of a rainstorm filled with ball bearings; one can hear every metallic bounce. The internal battle of “On a Pure Plane” implies that Sharp is still struggling with unnamed issues. The track is at war with itself, harsh bursts of percussive static seek to overwhelm the melodic underpinnings, but in the end are unable to do so. Perhaps this final track represents the true self at war with societal demands; if so, it’s an odd yet convincing triumph for the self.
I intentionally have not read a single word about this record before listening to it as I didn’t want any spiel to subconsciously tarnish or mould my listening experience. If it said it was about frogs playing snooker I’d be stuck with it in my head. I like to take this kind of stuff in on my own terms. I recommend you do the same. However if your brain has turned to jelly, read on and let uncle Ant take you by the hand.
It’s always a joy to get a new release from Gordon Sharp and company’s long term Cindytalk project. After seemingly vanishing off the face of the planet for fifteen years, their new material on Editions Mego seems to be getting stronger with each release. So many artists reach this stage in their career and things become stagnant and they sound like they’re just going through the motions. Cindytalk however keep progressing, moving forwards to the point that ‘A Life Is Everywhere’ just might be their finest release to date.
Opener ‘Time To Fall’ sounds like waking up with a foggy head after a night on the tiles, awoken by the ringing sound of an alarm clock and then being plunged into a huge vat of effervescent sonic hangover cure that fizzes and bubbles, refreshing and cleansing the mind with huge swells of aquatic sonics that eventually wash you up on the shores of some paradise island. ‘My Drift Is A Ghost’ has similar big washes of intricately textured liquid electronics (possibly manipulated field recordings) over which menacing bass bubbles and dark strings bring an elegiac quality. Give this some welly on the volume and you’re in for quite a ride.
After that intense rush ‘To a Dying Star’ oozes a really lost and lonely vibe and then around midway some drones enter the mix which have a celestial almost alien deep space quality to them and yet most of the sounds make me imagine microscopic deep sea creatures. Two separate worlds become linked. ‘Interruptum’ is a really spaced out number, with pretty chimes and twinkles dissolving into the ether. It sounds like a slow motion distant memory of a religious ceremony in a church not of this world.
‘As If We Had Once Been’ is a disorientating soundworld of dislocated rhythms and loops frantically battling against one another for supremacy and then some ghostly atmospherics casually swan in drowning the buggers out. Closer ‘On A Pure Plane’ is a thing of real beauty with complex chaotic electronics sounding like the inner workings of a mind on the absolute edge but are anchored by heavenly, heart wrenching strings. There’s tons of stuff about these days mixing these types of contemporary classical phrases with experimental electronics but this is the real deal. An absolute masterclass and a breathtaking closer to an album which effortlessly juxtaposes melancholy with euphoria. There’s an outstanding continuity to both the sound palette and sequencing of the tracks that really make this an album to be enjoyed in full. Not to be missed.
With 2009’s The Crackle of My Soul, Gordon Sharp, the leader of Cindytalk, radically transformed the core sound of his music. Admittedly, it came 15 years after its predecessor, Wappinschaw, but the difference from what had been a full band’s post-punk mélange of industrial rock and goth was such that the two albums might as well have been separated by light years, even taking into account the fact that the early Cindytalk albums had only ever hovered on the fringes of traditional rock music. Perhaps the surest sign that this new direction would represent a dramatic shift came when one glanced at the new album’s home: experimental label Editions Mego, which has put out Sharp’s subsequent three albums.
Like Cindytalk’s three previous releases on Mego, A Life Is Everywhere is built around keenly balanced electronic drones and ambient textures, interjected with hints of more organic elements that underline even the coldest cuts with a profound humanity. Having stated that, it may be the noisiest release yet under the Cindytalk name, although Gordon Sharp is more subtle just about any actual noise artist. “Time to Fall” opens the album with arrhythmic bell jangles that are scattered across the stereophonics and quickly subsumed by righteous waves of bristly, atonal noise, crystalline saturated electronic drones that pressurize both the higher and lower registers in a manner not unlike Daniel Menche or Helm’s Luke Younger. The track heaves with repressed tension, as clean synth lines a la Tangerine Dream wrestle their way to the fore, unsettling the aura of brutality to create something more subtle and emotionally resonant. “Time to Fall” suggests the turmoil of the human mind, even the human experience, in an abstract way, and serves as a potent opening salvo for an album that never gives too much away whilst slaloming around a range of feelings and sounds.
“My Drift is a Ghost” is shorter and punchier than its eight-minute predecessor, dominated by shimmering electronic oscillations and waterfalls of white noise. Despite likely being produced on a laptop, there is an organic quality to Sharp’s music, and harks back to the use of field recordings and found sounds on his previous album, Hold Everything Dear. It’s clear there are similar sound sources onA Life Is Everywhere, notably the metallic clinks and shudders that help close “My Drift is a Ghost,” but they’re mixed more intricately into a mix that is often more dense and forbidding than anything I’ve previously heard from Cindytalk.
Where Hold Everything Dear seemed to deliver a heartfelt message of love and compassion (albeit abstractly), A Life Is Everywhere is pregnant with a sense of loss, and perhaps even death, as suggested by the track titles: “Time to Fall,” “My Drift is a Ghost,” “To a Dying Star,” “As If We Had Once Been,” etc. “To A Dying Star” collapses under the weight of what sounds like sampled gusts of wind and bubbling water, whilst “Interruptum” is introduced by mournful downwards-sliding string drones like something off Mohammad’s latest album on PAN (check it out) and bouts of silence, before train samples and ringing electronic notes conjure up imagery of deserted, neon-lit train platforms in the dead of night. “Interruptum” is the least loud track on the album, and also the most interesting, with reverberating drum pounds injecting a hint of dark ambient into Cindytalk’s carefully-constructed composition. It’s merely the calm before the storm, however, as the short “As If We Had Once Been” is driven by distorted industrial beats over gloomy synths to knock us out of our reveries.
Album closer “On A Pure Plain”’s title suggests some sort of spiritual escape from some of the darker haunts evoked by the rest of the album, but, whilst it is underpinned by a docile violin melody, the top-half of the track is dominated by distorted noises, perhaps sampled from home appliances but here overdriven into baleful abstraction. In many ways, A Life Is Everywhere is a schizophrenic creation, the quieter, often acoustic moments buffering against repeated onslaughts of brutal technological noise, as incongruous as a lone tree growing in a shopping mall parking lot and sandwiched between two SUVs. Perhaps the title says as much as the music contained in this evocative and intelligent album: it’s a slice of life viewed through the prism of a singular individual. And like life, it’s full of beautiful contradictions.
El legado de Cindytalk sigue en constante evolución gracias a esta segunda etapa emprendida por Gordon Sharp (definitivamente en solitario) desde 2009 en eMego, refinando cada vez con mayor precisión hacia el drone minimalista todas las influencias que han caracterizado a su obra: vanguardia, ruido, intimidación, power electronics, industrial, post-punk, rock, etc, en una batidora de una primera etapa que abarcaba fantásticos trabajos durante la década que comprende el período 1984-1994, con dos puntos de inflexión entre el punto inicial con “Camouflage Heart” con la formación de Kinnison (que falleció en 2008), Clancy (miembro fundador junto a Sharp) y John Byrne hasta el extraño punto final de “Wappinschaw” (1994), dejando entre medias fabulosos experimentos donde “In This World” (1987) sigue brillando con una entidad propia (además del recuerdo imborrable de sus aportaciones vocales a This Mortal Coil en las versiones de Modern English, “Sixteen Days”, o Big Star, “Kangaroo”).
Una vez finalizada esta etapa, el rescate de Gordon Sharp por eMego sigue con la lógica de su catálogo estos años y para este 2013 nos promete una buena cantidad de referencias en este aspecto como ya comentábamos la de Robert Hampson (que también compartió un split en 2010 con Cindytalk), Daniel Menche, COH, Locust, Russell Haswell & Yasunao Tone,… Su primer trabajo para eMego con “The Crackle of My Soul” (2009) indicaba los nuevos caminos que tomaría el proyecto de Sharp, donde la composición digital sería la guía en esta nueva etapa solitaria y con el recuerdo de la muerte de Kinnison, optando mucho más por experimentar en terrenos ambient en “Up Here in The Clouds” (2010) y “Hold Everything Dear” (2011) conformando una trilogía agria , triste y al mismo tiempo dejando un rastro de belleza decadente en todos ellos gracias al tratamiento sonoro empleado, compensando pasajes de oscura demonización con pastorales estampas melancólicas.
Con “A Life is Everywhere”, el enfoque se repite pero se vuelve mucho más extremo y tenso, dejando que el peligro y el vértigo se apodere de una manera directa del disco, aunque al final el resultado del aquelarre esté envuelto de un romanticismo inclemente y perturbado. Es la sensación que podría describir con precisión el corte inicial con “Time To Fall”, capaz de conectar con un inicio donde el tono ambiental y los sonidos percusivos que nos rodean me recuerda a Philip Jeck al mismo tiempo que parece apoderarse del entorno un pasaje mucho más oscuro y tormentoso derrotando el sentimiento placentero inicial por una ráfaga de ruido que tampoco llega a ser molesta y busca en el tono neoclásico del final de la composición un espacio entre Pimmon, Lawrence English y Chris Watson, absorbiendo esa energía entre un tono mucho más melancólico. La presencia rítmica que se cuela en este disco sirve para diferenciarla con mayor precisión de la trilogía anterior y el primer arrebato abstracto y desfigurado lo encontramos en “My Drift is a Ghost”, dejando que las referencias al power electronics o a la época industrial estén presentes diluidas en dos niveles, el peligroso y el lecho emocional que impone en un ensimismado drone en un segundo plano, atacándolo de manera inclemente pero con un elemento constantemente purificador y sanador.
La tormenta sigue inclemente en “To a Dying Star”, implosionando en una cascada de efectos y ruidos que dejan paso a la poética estampa de la explosión estelar, dejando restos en flotación y de nuevo, llevando al extremo su sonido, induciendo un mantra incómodo, cósmico e irresistible al mismo tiempo. Un disco que sería deseado dentro del catálogo de PAN, Blackest Ever Black, Hospital, Subtext o Touch, que encuentra en “Interruptum” una auténtica estampa pesadillesca y torturada donde conecta con The Haxan Cloak, Kreng o Roly Porter aunque obviamente sin deuda alguna. Conforme vamos acercándonos al final del disco, el preámbulo de deformado dub e industrial de “As If We Had Once Been” arrastra una dinámica rítmica siendo atacada entre las intermitentes reverberaciones de sus interferencias y el eco emotivo pujando hasta que definitivamente, el ruido hace gala de toda su inclemencia inconexa en los cortocircuitos iniciales de “On a Pure Plane”, arrastrando todas las deformaciones de un disco de una manera terrorífica y apabullante al mismo tiempo que imaginamos el cielo con los tonos neoclásicos de banda sonora aislacionista que los acompañan, tensando la cuerda y exprimiendo sus volúmenes en una puja dramática que se resuelve desbanenciéndose y dejándonos en un limbo que sirve de punto intermedio. Tal vez suene reiterativo, pero de nuevo nos encontramos con un apasionado y apasionante trabajo de Gordon Sharp, figura indispensable sin duda. Lección magistral.