Monopoly Child Star Searchers Monopoly Child Star SearchersBamboo For Two
If you like parrots, if you’re fascinated by birds with cubist beaks and colourful feathers, don’t bother reading on. Stop now and look for this record: buy it, steal it, do what you need to do to make it part of your life. Because “Bamboo For Two” is a record dedicated with love to a parrot called Belafonte (and, by extension, to all the parrots in the world). Belafonte belongs to Spencer Clarke, great pioneer of drowsy pop, half of the Skaters project and pivot of Monopoly Child Star Searchers, the four-piece that has already been proclaimed the “first hypnagogia super group” with a first release on the weirdo label Olde English Spelling Bee, and -who knows- the start of a new career as strange as the project itself and the contents of this vinyl. Effectively, “Bamboo For Two” can only be found on vinyl, with a nice insert –“nice” in a manner of speaking because truth be told it’s horrendous– featuring a parrot on a yellow background, the titles of the four tracks and the name of Charles Berlitz, one of Clarke’s aliases but also a writer, and one of the keys to (more or less) understanding the record.
But first, it’s important to know who’s behind Monopoly Child Star Searchers. We’ve already introduced you to Clarke. Then there’s James Ferraro, the great hypnagogia pop nut, also a member of Skaters, who’s addicted to radio frequencies and pastiches, cosmic developments and pseudo-noise distortion. Another crewmember is Lieven Martens, another animal lover (in his case, cetacean), the Belgian behind Dolphins Into The Future, and the fourth member is Eva Van Duren, from Orphan Fairytale. What made them get together? For starters, their love for Belafonte, but most of all it was having a space at their disposal where they could experiment in a way that was, if not innovative, absolutely strange. Take “A Coconut’s Shadow Thrown Across The Stem Of A Rose”, for instance, and its cavalcade of rhythms of an imaginary tropic that unfolds over thirteen minutes. If El Guincho’s turn towards hi-fi sound on “Pop Negro” bothered you –which is hard to believe, as the record is marvellous–, here the exact opposite is summed up, and in a hallucinatory low fidelity that has a lot in common with the Skaters aesthetic, but in which we also hear the hand of Dolphins Into The Future, a man irritated by high and low frequencies who settles for a plain sound, monophonic, and it’s in this sonic impurity that we find a high level of hypnotism. Monopoly Child Star Searchers, on the other hand, don’t practice new age like Martens, nor tropical psychedelica, although many of their rhythms are indebted to the Bali gamelan, and there is an internal movement within each sonic segment that leads to a state of semi-unconsciousness which we could identify as psychedelica. The way “A Coconut’s Shadow…” unfolds, as the panpipes start appearing, the wooden rhythms and the synthesised sparkles, but always with a dull shine and all the high frequencies cut off so that it sounds dirtier, the band’s strategy becomes clear: to re-imagine a tribal kind of music starting from repetition –in other words, from the academic minimalism of Steve Reich and Lou Harrison– but also from a vague spatial obsession.
“Bouganvillea’s Shallow Lobe (Premier Desire)” has a kind of dirty production in the vein of the acclaimed Flying Saucer Attack like the cosmic kind of tribalism that can be heard on the first LPs by Can, Tangerine Dream and, especially, Faust (if the example doesn’t convince you, flip the record and listen to “Waterfalls Introduction”, where the scheme is repeated: wooden percussion sounds, travelling synthesisers, the feeling of leaving a rational and physical space, with sparse use of resources). “The Canal Of A Bogonia’s Oracle”, the closing track, fits in the same Kraut frame and therefore finishes a forty minute trip that seems uncomfortable but that ends up isolating you in an unusual bubble in which it becomes clear how and where these spatial pop eccentrics wanted to take you. We mentioned Charles Berlitz before, and Berlitz is the part that gives sense to the whole. Berlitz has written books about UFOs and lost civilisations, about the disappearance of ships and airplanes in “The Bermuda Triangle” and about the myth of Atlantis. There is a piece of text by him on the back sleeve of “Bamboo For Two” that reads, “what lurks within the jungles bouquet is to you, Belafonte, a natural scents meditation on what a hearts lingering expectancy casts, as a coconut’s shadow is thrown across the stem of a rose.” This record, therefore, is the hypnagogic version of the soundtrack of a documentary on unsolved mysteries, aliens, magic and civilisations in Africa, a sonic missing link between Pynchon, Fulcanelli and Sagan. It’s a tough one, but it grows on you.