An exercise in mass catharsis, this is a spell-weaving record from the 20-strong ensemble.
Fraser McAlpine 2012
This is the kind of album that asks the listener to reassess exactly what music is for. Is it a passive soundtrack to chores or homework? Is it a tool for breaking down social inhibition within a strictly organised society? Or is it… magic?
For this 20-strong all-female collective, singing and screaming in unison (with the occasional harmony, they’re not savages), music is clearly an exercise in mass catharsis, a spell-weaving thing. They deal in chants and incantations, loud bangs and clicks, and a particularly frenzied and primal kind of dance beat. A regular Polly-phonic spree, if you will.
Not that this is pure howling cacophony; there are proper pop songs at work here too, particularly the strutting Army of Birds, which carries itself like a hip hop update of Huggy Bear’s Her Jazz, only with owl noises. By contrast, Liar finds unthinkably common ground between bawdy medieval folk and Destiny’s Child, particularly all those songs about men being rubbish.
It’s an occasionally shrill and discomfiting listen, especially for a lone male. The medicine show that brings them into town seems an exciting and wondrous place to visit – Gaslight belongs in a Baz Luhrmann-directed West End musical based on the music of The Slits and The Raincoats, whereas the title track is the sound of the school choir taking a fairground ride into pagan hell – but there’s a definite fear of being left broken under the wheels once it has passed. And certainly the sense of surrendered personal identity within the group itself is a little troubling to anyone currently drunk on social media’s ego fumes.
But if there’s one thing there is too little of in music right now, it’s people making a wilfully rude noise. There is simply too much taste and withdrawal going on, a surfeit of poise and delicacy. Even by appearing to care as much as they do, Gaggle risk appearing anachronistically rabble-rousing, but the one thing no one can accuse them of is a failure to commit to the moment.