Review: Gaggle – From the Mouth of the Cave
Published on May 22nd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
This 21-piece all-girl choir say themselves that they operate more like a travelling theatre company than a band, and to listen to their debut album From the Mouth of the Cave is to peg down theatricality as merely the tip of a very strange iceberg.
Suffice it to say, Gaggle are considerably more ‘out there’ than Rocksucker had anticipated. Imagine if you will a monastic, female Animal Collective with slow electronic beats, the enchanting clip clop of organic percussion and a superbly realised mix inhabited by strange noises that whoosh hither and thither like ghosts dancing in an old abandoned castle. Er, yeah – basically it’s not all that much like Keane’s new album.
“Army of Birds” is tremendous, as weird and wired as what might have happened had tUnE-yArDs had collaborated with The Flaming Lips for their Heady Fwends record – it’s stomping, attitudinal and even kind of bratty, all of which adds up to something at least resembling a pop song underneath the swathes of otherworldly sounds, and this is something that applies to several of these tracks.
“Power of Money” verges on skank territory and uses its lyrics as an opportunity to bemoan, well, the power of money, while the sinister, syncopated chanting of “Happy is the Country” is so downright peculiar that it almost beggars belief. Aphex Twin: The Musical, perhaps? By the time the utterly insane “Gaslight” comes in to resemble Squarepusher jamming with some monumentally creeped-out orchestra, you just want to burst out laughing and celebrate the fact that something like this even exists, let alone manages to sound this fantastic. “Are you alright, baby? Woo woo woooo!” – nutters.
“Liar” presents us with the compelling call-and-response of “How can I tell if my man’s a liar?” / “Tie his fists together, throw him in the river…put the fear of god in him” / “And what if I find out that my fears are true?” / “Then he didn’t deserve you” – furthermore “Second liar in my life (Second liar in her life)/ Said he didn’t have a wife (said he didn’t have a wife / And I believed (and she believed) / At 23 (at 23)” – and it’s all so sombrely rendered by a ceremonially pounding drum. “And now he’s dead!” they proceed to cry with relish, and quite frankly you wouldn’t rule it out.
“Hello Spider” is comfortably the most ‘normal’ sounding thing on the record yet also one of its strongest – it’s string-swept, richly melodic, rhythmically pleasing and rather epic, setting the stage perfectly for the Blueberry Boat-era Fiery Furnaces lunacy of “Leave the City” to burrow the way back to reality, away from this nightmarish, hilarious, startlingly original netherworld. It’s fair to assume that their live show is not to be missed. Astonishing, basically, and not just in a mere novelty sense.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
From the Mouth of the Cave will be released 4th June through Transgressive Records. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.gagglemountain.com