Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Lark Blames - The Reins of Life

This is the second release from Lark Blames, a loose improvisatory experimental outfit featuring Lloyd James (Naevus, Retarder) and Marc Blackie (Sleeping Pictures). Those aware of their previous album Chimney will know that their output is poles apart from that associated with their regular outfits. If you're expecting some sort of dark folk collaboration you may as well stop reading here. The Reins of Life is anything but. Compared to Chimney, The Reins of Life is perhaps less disjointed which may simply be down to the lower number of tracks but it still carries over a tendency for experimentalism and wayward meanderings.

Lark Blames appear to have pushed the more rhythmic tracks upfront here. As the looped rhythm of 'Cups' unfurls plain acoustic strum and short bursts of piano keys are added with an assortment of ratchet sounds and electronic treatments buried underneath. It's followed by 'Sunday' which builds from isolated bass notes and some playful drum sounds before sauntering into a period of queasy electronics. Here there's a moment of spacious improvisation and composed electronic treatments that swells into a sort of psych noise track with lumbering bass and harsh buzzing guitars that makes me think of a dub free Terminal Cheesecake.

From then on The Reins of Life gets much more abstract. 'Hospital' hits upon a weird ambience with whirring electronics, groaning guitar and all sorts of percussive clatter. Later on there are streams of elasticated guitar notes, like the sound of a million rubber bands being stretched, plucked and processed. The entire tracks plays out like an absurd hallucinatory nightmare. On 'Church' they manage to channel an atmospheric piece from cinematic synth patterns which is saying something considering that it is couched amidst live drums, sustained bass drone, weird electronics and backward running tapes. There's even some guitar playing in there too.

As they strip away the layers of sounds things begin to settle down, a little. The soft atmospheric drone of 'Lunge' runs hand-in-hand with running water. By the time they reach 'Nimbus', the closing track, they are almost free of all the sonic debris that characterises The Reins of Life. With atmospheric drone formed from guitar, a piano plays out a haunting melancholic melody. In an album littered with odd sounds and chaotic effects it offers more than a brief moment of respite.

Based on improvisation, composition and chance The Reins of Life captures some of the most abstract sounds from Lark Blames. The expanded track lengths allow the duo to indulge their experimental tendencies to full effect but only those familiar with Lloyd James' solo-project Retarder or their previous Chimney release will be at ease here as The Reins of Life is an unsettling, confusing and confounding piece of experimental music. That it springs from members of Naevus and Sleeping Pictures is itself unsettling, confusing and confounding. For more information go to