Thirty-three years in existence, working in and around the peripheries of electronics and psych experimentation it is truly remarkable how a band could make a record as utterly enthralling as this when you realise this is around their fortieth album (there are most probably more). The Legendary Pink Dots still consist of voice-extraordinaire Edward Ka-Spel and Phil Knight – both of whom create under numerous aliases as well – with the addition of Erik Drost on guitar and bass (boy does he tremble the room at one point) and Raymond Steeg’s engineering complexities.
Complex The Gethsemane Option most certainly is… and sinister, definitely sinister. Not only through Ka-Spel’s wisdom words of societas gained through his mature eyes, but the all-absorbing hypnotism of its electrical journey. Electronica purists surely stand open-mouthed at its deep resonance, meaningful ambient washes, guitar-fed shimmers and those occasional body-endurance bass lines. BUT, it is the voice which sets The Dots apart from any scene, genre, or however art has to be tagged these days. Edward’s vocal approach nods a wink to Syd Barrett and quintessential English post-folk innovation and this tethers a rhythm to the seven song structures of The Gethsemane Option. ‘A Star Is Born’ hints dark magick with Boards Of Canada-style crushing sweeps while his voice leers through an “iridescent light” blinding this “cruel world” and that opening sets many a tone. ‘Pendulum’ slows, damning words crawling over gong-like, shaking synths before THAT bass line – a very very deep post rock bass line – rips through ‘One More Dimension’ taking centre stage for once with Ed’s disfigured voice vapour-trailing a blurred soundscape. ‘The Garden Of Ealing’ peels back more of England’s lost heritage and reveals the unseen political intent of some of Ka-Spel’s lyrics on this album. Swathes of guitar, electronics and glitches precision factory cut until ‘Grey Scale’ marches with sequential beats as Ed’s voice quite literally scares the shit out of you!
‘Esher Everywhere’ I’m pretty sure damns this country’s current wonderful, caring right-wing Government and its Surrey core of affluence and privilege. This anthemic Prom-stomp referencing the riots is a calling for a removal of the Tory party and their agenda of widespread social cleansing. “We’re all in this together” as Cameron has conned the British public lies only within his Esher borders. Powerful, so true and saddening. This track means so much to me personally that the final ‘A Stretch In Time’ could cease to exist but that would be very unwise as its seven-or-so minutes are a mesmeric slab of quivering electronics and crushing sound; “You always leave the gas on”.
Having risen from the decaying roots of East London Industrial their Terminal Kaleidoscope cast off through Holland, the open-minds of European mainland and now often drifting to American audiences via their audience-association with Skinny Puppy, this duo and collaborants over decades have managed that rare thing in creating a sound truly original and more importantly worthwhile. The Gethsemane Option is their first for the American Metropolis label and put in my own simple terms, is a fucking masterpiece. It reminds this constant listener of Coil’s finest (for me anyway) Musick To Play In The Dark Part 1 and just as these hands naturally gravitate toward that album now one hand will part and reach for The Gethsemane Option in unison. “Shining out like a platinum Pepsi can in a mountain of 33 year old grapefruits”, Ed, I’ve borrowed your own line, more or less, from a previous life encounter but it does describe pretty much how this album stands aloft over the deluged waste of digitalism and electronica.
I bow to thee, let the Infinity Waltz continue…