Alchemical Playschool (REGEN Magazine)

Legendary Pink Dots
Alchemical Playschool
**** 1/2
Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By: Matthew Johnson, Assistant Editor

East Indian soundscapes meet noisy experimentalism, but the extravagant packaging ensures only diehard fans will hear this.

The most obvious aspect of the latest Legendary Pink Dots release is the package it comes in: a hinged box of imported soapstone with the band’s logo hand-carved on the front. It’s exquisite, but its fragile and expensive nature pushes it right out of the price range of all but the most fervent Dots fans. This is too bad, because Alchemical Playschool is easily one of the most distinguished of the band’s more noise-oriented recordings. Crafted in part from the Indian Soundscapes collection of field recordings issued by Soleilmoon, it’s reminiscent of Nurse With Wound’s Shipwreck Radio project, with the sweaty bustling streets of central Asia standing in for the cold tranquility of the northern European fishing village. Divided into four parts, it incorporates such city sounds as ringing telephones and rain on dirt roads, as well as a number of snippets of street music, ranging from the cacophonous squeal of bagpipes on Part One to the more soothing ragas and chants of Parts Three and Four, respectively. Part Two is most recognizable as a Dots recording, with vocalist Edward Ka-Spel delivering spoken word over nervewracking electronic buzzing, but still evokes India: the spoken word comes from the Kama Sutra (it’s less salacious than it sounds; the passage in question concerns the qualities a man should avoid in a prospective bride). The Dots aesthetic pervades the rest of the album in a subtler ways, but it’s still apparent in the playful but somehow disquieting use of manipulated speech, samples, and vintage analog synthesizers. The Indian atmosphere is what makes this unique though, and even more casual Dots fans who might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the band’s output are encouraged to seek this out. Soleilmoon has indicated plans to issue a less extravagant edition in the future; hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later, as this is one of the most interesting forays into sound manipulation the Dots have recorded.



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