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A review of...
Autodidact by Ivan The Tolerable and Friends
Autodidact is the latest release from Ivan The Tolerable, the fast and loose solo project of Oli Heffernan of Year of Birds/King Champion Sounds (and numerous others) fame. Although the Ivan moniker usually suggests that the recordings will be 100% solo, low-key and a bit rough around the edges, here he's roped in some friends and the results sound surprisingly huge in scope and sound. The first reference point I came up with when listening to this recording was Spiritualized which, if you're familiar with the Ivan The Tolerable catalogue, will give you some idea as just how far the sonic palette has shifted. Synthesizers are featured pretty heavily throughout, providing a soothing and spaced out backing to the more jarring improvisations that sit on top of them.
The "friends" mentioned on the sleeve are Robbie Major and Ben Hopkinson both previously members of fellow Teesside outfits By Toutatis and Kingsley Chapman and The Murder. Here though, they flex their avant garde muscles, providing meandering violin and saxophone (respectively) to tracks like "Oxblood Walls" and "Lulworth Skipper". The latter of these is probably going to be one of the more intense five minutes of music you'll hear this year. In fact, the album as a whole does seem to gradually descend into an out and out madness, with a tribal, monotonous drum beat ramping up the tension on penultimate track "Phantom Limb" and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink being thrown into the finale of "Shiv".
Autodidact: a record that goes from relaxing to properly exhausting. Give it a go.
Vinyl copies of Autodidact are now sold out, but you can buy the digital version from bandcamp now.