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To Awake In That Heaven Of Freedom by King Champion Sounds
Ajay Saggar and co. return with a third album which stretches their boundaries (and the physical capacity of the vinyl format)
Euro art-punks King Champion Sounds have unleashed a 19 track behemoth (spit over two beautifully packaged 12" records) which plays like an eccentric, obscure compilation album. Maybe its an album aimed at the short attention span of the modern MP3 listener, or maybe its just the sound of a restless talent who enjoys a bit of genre flipping. I think it's probably the latter, but it matters not as this is a gripping, surprising listen, with each track acting like a cliffhanger, leaving you wondering just what the Christ is going to happen next.
It's kind of mental and a bit exhausting and if it was cut down to 10 tracks (e.g. "A Foggy Day In Rotterdam", "Spy Soup", "Point Blank" etc) it could position itself as a standard and enjoyable post-punk record, in the vein of Gang of Four/Big Audio Dynamite/The Stranglers, but where's the fun in that? Instead the band flex their hard-funk, jazz, tribal and ambient muscles to produce something far more adventurous using a plethora of instruments and field recordings. There's even a track called "What I Mean" which could easily slot itself into Black Grape's classic party record It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah!, again proving that Saggar has a deft touch in writing radio friendly pop songs as well as more provocative pieces.
In addition to the already seam bursting band (which includes Teesside musicians Oli Heffernan - who also supplied the fantastic artwork - and Danielle Eden Johnson) Saggar has enlisted a whole load of guests to appear on the LP including Alasdair Roberts, Mick Derrick and J. Mascis. However, the most effective of these cameo roles comes from Mike Watt who narrates the ambient "Smallest Tribe In The World" with the drawl of a weather-beaten old-time film star.
Ridiculous, sprawling, and often brilliant, To Awake In That Heaven Of Freedom is definitely not the sound of a band that's content to take the easy route. Ajay Saggar seems to be as keen as ever to challenge and innovate (and sometimes test patience) but wrap it up in a package that is somehow accessible, and most importantly, enjoyable. A tricky thing to pull off.
"Point Blank" - wonky, jazzy and hugely ambitious this track has the massive sound that would probably be King Champion Sounds' trademark if they didn't mix things up so much.
"Last Night We Saw A p.o.l.t.e.r.g.e.i.s.t." - An intense and menacing soundboard of loops, feedback and eerie samples. Perfect.
"Baarsiderius I" - a quick foray into free jazz/noise. I imagine this is the sort of thing that Stewart Lee got excited about when he reviewed them in The Times.