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A Curiously Agitated Thrum of Joy – Githead’s “Waiting For A Sign”

Githead
Waiting For A Sign
swim~

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One thing Githead proved upon their sudden emergence in 2004 is that the firepower of expectation one might have, based on a band’s members and the pedigrees they bring, may very well blow up in your face. It was not a case of Minimal Wire Compact goes all Scanner nor some vice versa subjugation of the latter’s lucid experimentalism into a swim~y vortex, but rather a broadening of all remits. Comb hard enough (as the geek in all of us likes to do) and you’ll pick up wisps and nuances of Robin Rimbaud’s shadowy ‘discrete transmissions,’ gather a few fugitive strains of restless, bass-moody post-punk a la Malka Spigel and Max Franken’s former outfit and certainly hear the shrouded luminescence found down at the more enigmatic end of the Colin Newman/Wire spectrum, but you’ll also be missing the point. This band’s sound is gloriously understated, carving its profile in profoundly subtle implication that tends to have an accretive effect on the central nervous system. Even if you’re sitting stock still – which is doubtful – you’ll still be nodding hypnotically along somewhere deep in your body’s nerve-tangled nexus. So fall for that unseen-forest-for-the-trees impulse if you must, but know that a whole slew of beauty may go shamefully unnoticed. And trust us, you don’t want to miss this.

From its inception a vehicle to at least obliquely – and often directly – explore the more spiritual side of its participants’ creative energies, on Waiting For A Sign Githead, if anything, bring an even more pronounced mystification into the mix. By turns umbrous and dazzling, the album’s particular drive toward satori is indeed, as they must by definition be, more about the journey than the destination. And though by no means ‘trippy’ in the historical hippy sense, there is something of what might be called a psychedelic intellect at work, albeit one (of course) un-drug-related and highly purposed. Both immersive and focused, Waiting For A Sign will transport you farther,¬†and further, than any album we’ve heard this year from the new breed of young psych warriors, it just does it less ostentatiously. It’s not in your face, it’s under your skin.

A measure of spell-casting is introduced at the first drop of the needle – and never relinquished – as Malka’s plundering bass stalks in behind a Max Franken cymbal splash then goes lurking as the first nervous shimmers of Colin’s guitar advance in waves like silver glares of light on an otherwise cloudy day. Called “Not Coming Down,” it’s all rather mystical in a quilted ambient way. A synth hovers, Ms Spigel’s vocals are somehow both grounded and disembodied and one fully gets the up that’s not being come down from. Tricky and elegant, this is the type symbiosis you’ll find with this band, this record, the earthy in a bit of a dance with the ethereal, each relying on the other for balance. Every note and synopsis I scribbled down during my first few listens to Waiting¬†reflect this in one way or another.

 

“Bringing the Sea to the City,” for instance, the album’s second track, finds the elemental meeting – and being integrated into – the glass-and-steel structural, much as happened on Gliding, Malka’s solo EP from earlier this year, of which this could be considered a more-than-worthy continuation, while “Air Dancing” sets out with both guitarists pecking at their fretboards before the track elides to become a sort of baked-zen, dream-walking excursion into a state of mildly serrated fluidity. Mellow and trancey (though with a few delightful carets of chopped guitar edited in), allowed to expand and breathe, it seems precisely the type result all four principals were hoping for when first venturing down the Githead path. Then there’s “For The Place We’re In,” suggesting no less than the dewy psychedelia of English folk circa 1969 plated with a solid chrome gleam, lovely deliberate and stern all at one stroke.

Not at all times contained within a single track, this thematic interdependence also comes expressed via running order, moods bumping up against each other in the tracklisting, overlapping and merging until as a whole the record’s equilibrium is dutifully maintained. There’s the broody, slightly crepuscular instrumental “Slow Creatures” that rises like a day slowly shaking off its shadows, moves inexorably across the burnished landscape with stark shivers of guitar before sunsetting into diminishing harmonics and a gulping bass that gives way to “Today,” a compactly charged, cerebral piece of therapy pop full of restrained adrenaline and an irresistible radio-ready progression, its steely effervescence on low boil, which in turn cedes the stage to “What If?,” a matter of darker substance that features a skulk of guitars locked in a menacing persistence, vocals glancing off the walls, Malka’s bass plowing furrows that would make Wobble nervous, Franken on beat with the punch of an angry time-clock, the whole thing rather luxuriously wallowing in its own lingering sense of unease. The title track follows, a bass-cruising hyperactive drone whose chorus bounces melodic popsike sparks off a metallic Eastern groove as if we’re in the ultimate rave tent even as “wasted realities fade like a lost dream,” the thing building impetus upon propulsion as it takes us to album’s end in a curiously agitated thrum of joy.

If Githead’s intention is to arrest us with broad fluid landscapes that are often liminally suggestive of pop while pulling us ever deeper into their own miasmic version of the Mariana Trench – dark, mysterious, marvelous – then, well, job exceedingly well done. That this is another, more incidental iteration of the light/dark, earthly/unearthly dynamic is almost certainly not an accident. So, while, yes, there are flashes and influences of all four of these artists’ previous or outside pursuits that one might extract with a Pete Frame scalpel and a pair of Simon Reynolds’ tweezers, it’s a needless operation. The body on which Githead sits is whole, emanating its own unique aura, casting its own peculiar shadow.

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[photo from Githead.com]