Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Artist: Liar, Flower (@)
Title: Geiger Counter
Format: CD & 12" & Download
Label: One Little Indian Records (@)
Rated: *****
If you remember British alt-rock glitter punk band Daisy Chainsaw, then you know KatieJane Garside, one-half of Liar, Flower. If you followed her career after Daisy Chainsaw, you may even know that she collaborated with the industrial band Test Department in 1995 on their album 'Totality.' After a couple years break from music and a move to England's bohemian Rigg Beck in the Lake District, she reunited with Daisy Chainsaw founder and guitarist Crispin Gray to form Queenadreena, an even heavier noise-rock band than Daisy Chainsaw. After four albums garnering plenty of critical acclaim but unspectacular commercial sales and charting action, KatieJane left to form Ruby Throat with guitarist Chris Whittingham. That project was nearly the polar opposite of Garside's previous efforts; a complete turnabout from the screaming riot-grrrl vocals she had been known for. Now her voice was soft, sylphlike and ethereal. If you haven't heard her, maybe you remember The Cranes' Alison Shaw as that's sort of a close comparison.

Liar, Flower is Garside and Whittingham bringing everything to the table from previous endeavors, then pulling off the tablecloth with contents in tow, and sweeping up the rubble melancholically to the dustbin. Okay, well what does all this have to do with the music we cover here you might ask. Punk, alternative noise-rock and even ethereal (without being goth or darkwave) aren't staple categories of Chain D.L.K. 'Geiger Counter' is just so weird, so impossible to categorize that it makes more sense to review it here than perhaps anyplace else in the mainstream. The album careens like a pinball in a demonic arcade machine from the moment the plunger is pulled - calm to chaotic, banging bumpers, heading down unexpected paths, kicked into holes by noisy flippers and scoring enough points along the way to guarantee a replay. Beginning with the elfin "I Am Sundress" (She of Infinite Flowers) with Katiejane singing alone (in Italian at first) sweetly and innocently in her little girl voice accompanied mostly by an autoharp, you'd think this was recorded in fairy tale forest. When she slides into "My Brain is Lit Like an Airport" (best song title on the album) you know you've got the old wild-child KatieJane back again. There's a muscular malevolence at work on this track that intentionally tears down any "nice girl" illusions you may have had previously going into 'Geiger Counter.' If that wasn't strange enough, there is the ambientesque "9N-AFE" where KatieJane's wordless vocals mix with processed guitar and electronics in a surreal stew of oblique dimensions. "Mud Stars" bubbles and boils in a hot mess of down and dirty bluesy, noisy filth. Back on cloud 9, KatieJane and her autoharp step sweetly into "Broken Light" which has one of the best lyric lines I've heard in a while - "i was in a band called where's my fucking phone, stranded on a hillside of spectacular bodies ..." It's almost expected you'd be diving back into the mosh pit with "Even The Darkest Clouds" that follows. And so the album continues vacillating from the quiet and contemplative to the belligerently boisterous with not a whiff of self-consciousness to spare. Sometimes both sides of KatieJane's vocal split personality emerge at once, such as her Banshee howling in the otherwise kind of placid "Baby Teeth." It all ends enigmatically enough with the instrumental "Doors Locked, Oven's Off" a little guitar and autoharp duet that sounds like a Pink Floyd acoustic outtake from their Umma Gumma days.

While often fascinating and inventively engaging, 'Geiger Counter' isn't a perfect album by any means. Opening track "I Am Sundress" is too long by at least half; the quieter moments of KatieJane singing with her autoharp tend to be too similar; and the self-indulgence is palpable. Be those things as they may, this is certainly unusual enough to warrant some serious attention, which I'm pretty sure it's getting. For serious collectors the album will be available on limited edition (500 copies) double 12" vinyl (with bonus songs) that includes two 12”x12” frameable prints (cover print signed) and a limited edition CD in glassine envelope with a pressed flower in glassine. For us mere mortals who can't afford half-a-hundred British pounds, there is always the digital download at substantially less.


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