“I appear to have got in with the wrong crowd,” murmurs a well-spoken man at the start of the new album from Andrew Weatherall, amid a backdrop of weird scrapes. The oddness of the scene is an apt metaphor. Throughout his long and storied history, Weatherall’s cultivated the comportment of a true gent; sartorially dapper, intellectually astute, but as far as you can get from conventional.
He’s worn so many hats over the years he’d make a milliner break out in a cold sweat. Yet somehow they’re all stitched using a similar, compellingly strange thread. Look at his projects Sabres of Paradise or Two Lone Swordsmen, Klart or The Asphodells, and for all their musical disparity, there’s a shared weirdness at odds with the linear orthodoxy of much dance music.
From his acid house beginnings through his work with Primal Scream and classic compilation Nine O’Clock Drop, there’s the playful, experimental, no-rules rawness of post-punk, and in latter years it’s a sound that has had a greater influence on his material. So it proves with new release Convenanza, his first “solo” album since 2009, which sees him reunited with long-term ally and musical confidante Nina Walsh, previously of the group Slab with Lol Hammond, among various other projects.
Walsh recently teamed up with Weatherall as The Woodleigh Research Facility, and it’s clearly a collaboration that works well. Fleshing out some of her ideas and fashioning new ones in the process, Convenanza is in very similar territory to The Asphodells’ Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust. Which is to say, a distillation of all Weatherall’s influences in one place, a seamless blend of live drums and bass, electronics and scuzz, atmosphere and intrigue. In anyone else’s hands, to combine so many sounds could be a disaster, but it’s all played with composite cool and cleverly sutured together until it just sounds like… well, Andrew Weatherall. "The Confidence Man" is pure dub disco goodness, Weatherall in fine voice singing mysteriously about reptiles over spiraling synths, heavily reverbed percussion and a thumping bassline. "The Last Walk" is a funked up electro thing, but bristles with the menace of a spy thriller soundtrack, a hint at old Sabres cuts "Towtruck" or "Theme," before A Certain Ratio-esque funk guitars collide with acid lines.
Through it all, in the music and in Weatherall’s characterful vocals, Public Image Limited is a clear influence. The album is at its best, though, at its most cosmic. "Disappear" is a trippy meld of melancholy guitar, Nina’s vocals and a heavy Krautrock feel, while "We Count the Stars" is morning maniac music–perfect for staring balefully into the void to, with its Miles Davis-at-his-most-far-out-trumpet and dark bassline. Above all, it sounds like London, or at least, a requiem for a London rapidly disappearing–the odd, weird London beneath the surface. It’s certainly a record that gets under your skin.
Covenanza is scheduled for February 26 release via Rotters Golf Club.
02 Frankfurt Advice
03 The Confidence Man
04 The Last Walk
05 Kicking the River
07 We Count The Stars
08 Thirteenth Night
09 Ghosts Again