Ergo Phizmiz PLC: F**K M*N ;)
Ergo Phizmiz, also occasionally known as Dominic Robertson, now known as Ergo Phizmiz PLC, has been touting his new record F**K M*N ;) as his first pop-oriented album since 2014's sad folksy The Peacock. This is a bit of a cheat though: even if you discount the pop records he's released since as Dominic Robertson and IG Witzelsucht, anyone going in to F**K M*N ;) expecting the cracked '60s throwback pop of Things to Make and Do or The Peacock is going to be very surprised. I don't know if appending the 'PLC' to his moniker was an intentional reference to Public Image Ltd., but F**K M*N ;) definitely feels more like the nervy, angular, mechanized post-punk of PiL, Magazine, or the New York no-wave groups than anything Phizmiz has given us before. Guitars slice, drum machines wheeze, and Ergo weaves vaguely uncomfortable tales in a kind of low-key muttering. We live in troubled times, and F**K M*N ;) channels the uncomfortable angst of everyday living into this ugly, muddy mess. The darkness only lets up toward the end of the record, with the frankly lovely 'A Bottle Full of Salt' that recalls The Peacock's Fairport-styled folk, but after that it's back into the abyss until the record ends. Something new and unexpected by Phizmiz, which just proves that the man can really do anything.
Another very unexpected offering this week. Arp's 2013 masterpiece MORE was the best album I heard that year, this achingly beautiful, sad and soft Eno/Cale/Ayers style loveliness. And since then...nothing. A few remixes, a tape of experimental long-form work, but Zebra is the first offering by Alexis Georgopoulos as Arp in a very long time, and it's nothing at all like what he's put forth prior. Eno is still here, but this is Eno the collaborator, from records like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and especially Possible Musics, his collab with Jon Hassell. Hassell's ethnography of imaginary cultures informs Zebra down to the core, and the record drifts and sweeps over the listener as a bass-and-marimba fueled jazz record. Other than Hassell, Zebra takes its cues from jazz fusion like Chick Corea and Weather Report, with a little electric Miles thrown in, though not as experimental and wild. One criticism that can be leveled at Zebra is that it's a little samey:the album's tone doesn't really change much from the beginning to the end, it retains the same soft, marimba-driven mid-tempo loveliness throughout. But rather than looking at Zebra as a collection of songs, that similarity makes it feel like one uniform piece that slowly ebbs and flows throughout the course of the record. More than anything else, Zebra shows us that we should never assume with Georgopoulos; the man is a musical omnivore and is able to process his aural knowledge into something new effortlessly.