Artist : Rapid Pig
Album : Wildlife
The modus operandi of Rapid Pig is fairly obvious from the opening track “The Happy Valley” the song moves from a down-town back-beat funky thing through into a mutant barn/celidh dance and then into progressive rock riffing in the spirit of Hammill/ Banton/ Jackson/ Evans within it’s four or so minutes. What dominates on this track, and throughout the album, is the shamanic delivery of front man Eoin O’Connor. Here is a band which is not afraid to mix up the genres, even within one song and then to top if off with the rich lyrical fervour of Mr O’Connor, whose sometimes breathless delivery emotes and evokes a wide range of visceral responses.
With John Paul Moran delivering a vast array of synthesis from his keyboards, Phil Lewis demonstrating he probably can handle every guitar style in the known universe and Tim Lyons holding a firm line with the bass, and occasionally dropping some Miles like trumpet flurries, together with Simon Mawson’s impressive drums, O’Connor has a group of musicians behind him who can both support and enhance the word pictures he is painting.
There are five other excellent tracks on the album – “Brother John” starts with an insistent arpeggiator line which resolves quickly into motorik trance like rhythms as Lewis plays an effective spikey guitar line, and then it switches into para doom metal (lite) mode as Eoin howls incandescently at the moon, and then slips back into the autobahn rhythms, as the band free forms away in the background, and then into a slow proggy march towards the lengthy coda. The band has a delightful habit of using extremes of volume (light and shade if you will) to get the point across.
“Flight” starts with a Hanleyesque bass figure and chittering sounds from a heavily processed trumpet, echoes of mid-80s Fall come to mind (not that there was any trumpet in mid 80s Fall) , and then kicks into Can territory with an extremely danceable rhythm, as Moran sprays keyboard sounds across the ether in a nod towards Herbie Hancock via Irmin Schmidt. Predominantly instrumental this seven minute opus is the least multi-genre piece on the album as it moves into Gong territory (without the teapots or the pixies) with it’s psyche drive approach. After about four minutes a chord sequence is introduced and O’Connor laments on something or another, as Lewis and Moran trade licks. Things are slowed down for another extended coda – which appears to be a band trait.
“Stamp” is an organ rich slower tempo piece, at the start, with some excellent guitar playing which then speeds up into a different section which has an almost operatic feel. This is the band reflecting on progressive rock at it’s most creative – however there is an interesting juxtaposition with a vocal style which is best described as post-punk. The arrangements here are sublime and most entertaining. A strummed guitar introduces a slower conclusion. Not the most obvious track on the album in terms of hooks but probably the most creative in writing terms.
“Super Jura” employs layers of guitar, trumpet and keyboard sound to introduce a both laconic and heartfelt intro from O’Connor which then quickly moves into another funky work-out which moves like James Brown after a diet of New York No-Wave guitar music, another slow part builds the tension, and then the band goes into a zone which is best described as “Pig”…….not sure anyone else is quite capable of delivering a sound quite like this ….. wholly unique and rather impressive. The tracks shifts through several different modes until it ends in a scream of feedback.
Finally “To the Mountain” is the “piece de resistance” on the album – just over five minutes of glorious “piggery” which when I saw them playing it live a couple of months back had the crowd bouncing around like demented griots at some sort of voodoo ritual. There are expanses of light and shade, tension and release, tempo shifts and layers of sound which are stunning. The middle section has an impressive ambient melange of trumpet and keyboards before it launches somewhat inexorably into a heroic closing section which will either have you pogoing or doing the mambo – or both possibly.
One of the most complete and compelling albums I have heard in a long while, beautifully played, packed with brilliant ideas and stuffed with the sort of lyrical content that sticks in your head for days.
Available from the band’s website