Credit: The Devil Glitch album cover

A curation of musical insanity

By Morgan Woodfall

Our culture editor, Morgan, delves into the depths of music for a list of insane recommendations.

  1. Guns by Cardiacs

Just look at that album cover. What are you expecting to hear when you press play? This is the last studio album by cult prog/punk heroes Cardiacs, who started in the 1970s and remained for over 20 years the primary vehicle of bonafide maniac Tim Smith. Smith does not write music like anyone else before or since. He taught himself to read and write music in his early teens by obsessively studying a transcription of Quadrophenia by The Who, started a couple of punk bands, and gradually cultivated an idiosyncratic style that violates nearly all expectations of what popular music tends to sound like. And yet he very much felt he was making pop music. Guns is so catchy, all the time, and the more you listen the more every completely bizarre choice consumes your waking hours. Bars apparently in 4/4 seem to extend at the whim of whatever chord is happening, Tim’s elastic vocal melodies belted in his charming Cockney accent pulling each of these 12 songs through blastbeats, intricate ambient music and more key changes than you could count. There is not a single sensible choice, so that eventually you lose your grasp on “sensible”. The album’s lead single Signs is so good that I dare not describe it. The chorus is beyond words. I recommend you start your obsession with Cardiacs backwards, with Guns.

  1. Perdurance by Jute Gyte

Perdurance follows quite naturally in the tradition of solipsistic black metal albums, another sprawling project bedroom-recorded by one extremely weird guy. What it does not follow from is the remaining history of music. It’s microtonal, for one, but not as a gimmick; instead Jute Gyte maximises the visceral disgust potential of metal by inventing new kinds of dissonance with every riff. It is a precise calculation about a particular feeling or atmosphere, entirely unconcerned with “convention” as an idea. That atmosphere is fear, the illogicality of a nightmare, a set of riffs and drum sequences and illegible distant screams separate from the reality that you have naively believed music is engaged with. If you can imagine an alien, and you can’t, this is what they listen to.

  1. New Slaves by Zs

If you’re not used to noise music and what it generally tries to achieve, New Slaves is a good place to start. This album wants to kill you. It has reduced the fat from noise rock and post-punk and minimalism and experimental music – the sentimentality, the facade of convention – and resolved to commit precise sonic warfare. It’s not exactly prog but the guitars do keep going for 20 minutes, sometimes folded into a persistent washing machine hum that you would want to call ambient, and then it unfolds into a murder robot again. Some sounds occupy the position of some instruments – they are probably guitars, and drums – but it might all be the same machine shattering. If you think it’s beautiful, good on you. You will very quickly be reminded that beauty is ephemeral and the fundamental position of whatever is making these noises is that sonic warfare, a war-machine, the appearance of fighting parties wrought from the same basic metal. Sometimes one pattern, two parties, an instrument, one rhythm, will persist for basically forever, and it will become ordinary to you, at least until it goes away. This album is a wasp. A wasp that does not care if you are pulverised.

  1. Just Got Back From The Discomfort-We’re Alright by The Brave Little Abacus

I can’t think of a more instantly disarming first listen with any album than with Just Got Back. It does actually sound awful. But it is coordinated still, a swirling lofi tornado of toy pianos and brass sections and a vocalist who sounds like a penguin or a cat (science remains unsure). It’s emo, so you will recognise the chord structures as seeking some kind of grandiosity in ordinary emotions – in this case, the anxiety of being left behind when your friends leave home – but you will not recognise the way that The Brave Little Abacus get there. They were only teenagers writing this; it’s mad, untamed, barely intelligible and everything genuinely honest at the root of teenage heartache and loneliness. Frontman Adam Demirjian has a routine habit of hitting the most affecting notes at the perfect time, rising into heaven at the proclamation of “as if we were asleep” on Aubade, nearly poetic on Can’t Run Away with “the sky being a bedroom”. My hope is that everyone who listens to Just Got Back finds new emotions in themselves.

  1. The Devil Glitch by Chris Butler

The Devil Glitch was a world record attempt to create the longest ever pop song. Across nearly 70 minutes, and powered by a number of collaborators, Chris Butler takes a song built nearly entirely around 2 acoustic guitar chords and the line: “Sometimes you can fix something by ____”, and transforms it into a profound meditation on…  think it’s up to you. It certainly transcends the gimmicky nature of its inception, mainly because there are so many bad jokes about fixing things that it becomes a very good 70 minute joke, and also because some of the jokes are quite profound. It always happens when you tell jokes for that long. It has no genre because the backing music changes constantly, it has no easy meaning because the lyrics are so confined, and if you don’t enjoy the experience it would be easy to wonder why exactly anyone would bother making this. But you do get lines like “Sometimes you can fix something by just changing one word / That’s how a thought becomes a poem” which pass by so quickly you become overwhelmed trying to interpret everything. It eventually becomes an exercise in possibility. When you can make literally anything (as this list hopefully shows), why not limit yourself? That fixes something.


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