Album Review: Awkward Geisha / Anthony Osborne – They Listen To Sealwave In The September of Your Dreams

Awkward Geisha is the latest guise of Harsh Noise Movement (HNM) aka Ade Rowe. Rowe has, by his own admission, been producing numerous bad quality cassettes featuring experimental loops and noises since as early as 1984 for his own personal enjoyment. As the years passed by, and with the creation of the internet and sites such as YouTube, Harsh Noise Movement started to upload videos of his experimental sounds. Rowe is an incredibly prolific artist whose output is always of good quality. Joyzine has featured Rowe previously under the guise of Koi Karp here and here.

This latest release is a split album with the saxophonist and composer Anthony Osborne. Osborne works in the intersections between free jazz and improvisation, noise, dub and drone. According to Osborne, “everything is vibration, everything is sound. Transformation is the essence of life”.

Spread over 8 tracks (5 from Awkward Geisha and 3 from Osborne) They Listen To Sealwave In The September of Your Dreams opens with the spoken word/voice recording collage of ‘Samhain’. Produced and performed by Rowe’s wife Cierra aka ‘Gimp Gash’, it’s playful, has strange musical breaks and appears to be a commentary on cows. Indescribable, but in a good way. It’s a great start.

‘Satan Was A Surrealist’ starts with a throaty throbbing guitar riff that is slow as fuck and reminds me of the early LPs by Seattle’s Earth. The repetitive doom riff gradually gains layers of more guitar, bass noise and becomes an intense noise piece that builds and builds over the 8.29 minutes. Quite breath-taking in its scope and sonic battering. Follow up ‘The Witch’ is an incredible composition with an insistent cello riff running throughout . Violin is brought in and this only increases the unsettling mood that this track creates. This actually feels like incidental music from a folk horror film in the vein of Midsommer or something similar. It’s repetitive and insistent, but don’t let that put you off. It’s one of the stand out tracks of this release.

‘Jesus Was A Dadaist’ is a bass and drum driven free jazz freak out that incorporates sax and guitar harmonics. It’s another playful track that I’m sure has it’s tongue firmly in its cheek, whilst at the same time is serious as hell in its intentions. Awkward Geisha show that they can do the noise, but also produce incredibly proficient and skilled free jazz instrumentals. Brilliant stuff.  Another stand out track.

Final Awkward Geisha track ‘The Four Horsemen’ is another cello heavy track that again feels it should sit on a Ben Wheatley horror film sound track. The repetitive cello riff is infectious and reminds me of the brilliant Helen Money’s work. Again, superb work here from Rowe.

‘Beam’ is the first of Osborne’s tracks and it’s a slow burner. Atmospheric and sounding like it’s been recorded in the bowels of a deserted spacecraft. Hypnotic minimalist percussion is soon joined by sax flourishes. A great introduction to Osborne’s work. ‘Echo Corner Location Beach’ starts with gentle discordant noise and again descends into atmospheric noise making that sounds like it’s being recorded on a deserted space station that’s hurtling towards a dying star. The skronky sax just adds to the unsettling imagery. The last half of the track is taken up with Eno esque ambient noise and gentle sax interludes. Another great track from Osborne.

Final track from Osborne, and album closer ‘My Appendix’, has an incredibly gentle touch in terms of the soundscape and ambience that he is able to produce. It’s sonic sphere is very broad, and not for the first time in this split, it has a very cinematic feel that could easily soundtrack a dystopian sci-fi film.

They Listen To Sealwave In The September of Your Dreams is an album full of pleasant surprises and introductions to artists that you either never realised existed (Osborne) or realised they could produce such gentle and beautiful music from their previously incredibly dark and brutal aliases’ output (Rowe)

I think this LP has something for everyone who appreciates atmospheric soundscapes, free jazz, skronk, cello, spoken word jumble collages and controlled noise. The breadth of its sonic experimentation is something to be applauded. Both artists excel in what they do and as an introduction to both of their oeuvres; this release is a perfect start. Great stuff.

The album is available as a ‘name your price’ download or a cassette priced $8 from Machine Tribe Recordings.

Find out more about the artists on their social media pages: Awkward Geisha / Anthony Osborne

Review by Ioan Humphreys

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