Ivan The Tolerable has traditionally been a thoroughly singular DIY project for Teesside musician Oli Heffernan. In recent years we've seen a gradual shift towards a fuller, more refined sound, getting friends on board to provide instrumentation and also relinquishing some production and mixing duties. Last year's Autodidact and Le Monde Inverse are a million miles away from the early tapes and EPs, for example. But Rations is the first time that Ivan The Tolerable has been heard in full band (proper) form and it's given the project a new kick up the arse and a more natural, full bodied sound. This is Ivan The Tolerable & The Elastic Band, the Elastic Band being Tom Carter and Kevin Nickles plus various members of King Champion Sounds.
And if you're going to try something new, you might as well do it properly. So Rations is a double instrumental LP with 12, not-so-slim tracks which stretch Ivan The Tolerable's remit to new and uncharted areas. There are hints of pastures old in there (the sci-fi sounding synth from Ivan's previous two releases is the obvious carry forward), but generally speaking this is different. It sounds like everyone is in the same room, which i'm not even sure is true, but that's what it sounds like. There's a jammy, Spacemen 3 sort of feel to the whole thing which I think works magnificently (see "The Metallic Sea" for proof).
The whole album, recorded variously in England, Holland and the USA and mixed by Ajay Saggar, has an organic, homely sound, sitting in that perfect middle ground between rough around the edges and pure clarity. The drums in particular sound absolutely immense and come courtesy of Mees Siderius from King Champion Sounds (anyone who's seen that band live will be well aware of this dude's mad skillz). This is especially the case on tracks like "Bleached Venetian" where they sit front and centre of the arrangement (which is not to say there's not a lot else going on, cause there is!). Then there's "Mothra" where they take on more of a jazz/post rock role on a (just scraping in under) 10 minute track that gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on (almost proggy at times - think flutes), the drums being the only constant.
Other highlights include "Great White Buildings", a pulsing minimal effort which morphs into something which is equal parts avant garde and funky (Heffernan's funky bass parts return on "Mothra" and "The Metallic Sea", the avant garde side is never to far away throughout the album). "Empty Lantern (Fog)", is a nice sweeping departure from the bedlam, a drifting, late-60's inspired lullaby. Then there's the relentless, motoric aggro of "Bitter Moon" which closes the album in more traditional fuzzed up style.
There may even be a couple more Ivan The Tolerable records out before this one has fully sunk in, but Rations will be tough to beat.