Monday, 27 August 2012

Alan Davey – Cyber Tooth

There's a lot of material that's been backed up for review here since the blog has been on an unintended hiatus over the spring and what laughingly passed for the summer months so I suspect that blog entries in the coming week will focus on new records by 'friends of the blog', since I've received new albums from Alan Davey and Sendelica, and the next in the sequence of extended and amended reissues from the Paul Roland catalogue, to name just three in addition to the excellent new Litmus album already covered.

In some ways, holding off from reviewing Cyber Tooth, Alan Davey's latest solo offering, has been a good thing. I know that Alan feels this record to be his strongest solo release to date, whereas for me it has been something of a grower as opposed to the immediate WOW factor of Eclectic Devils, its most recent predecessor. I started off somewhat nonplussed on this album, or more probably not understanding the change in direction that Alan has taken with here, but have enjoyed it more each time I've come back to it. So I'm that at point where I'm finding it a much stronger, more cohesive album than, for instance, Human on the Outside, even if I still want to mark it lower than Eclectic Devils which, in any case, contains the majestic 'Encounter', probably the best track on any Davey solo LP, and the hugely impressive 'Angel Down' with Simon House's guest appearance – so it's a damned hard act to follow.

Cyber Tooth has been on sale for quite a few months now, so I suspect that blog regulars will either have it already or at least know something of the concept of this one but for those needing to catch up on all things in Alan's world – and by gosh this is a driven musician with such a lot of range and so many projects on the juggle to demonstrate that – this, in his own words, is about a computer virus that "eats PC flesh but can't eat Apples... yet."

It's a fairly dark album in texture and in tone – and heavily into its instrumental sequences. Davey's bass lines and keyboards have rarely sounded so brooding, and on tracks such as 'Harmonic Orgone', the whole instrumentation – Davey plays everything on this record – is introspective and moody in a way that we've probably never heard from him before. In that respect, we're getting an unexpected record here, one of maturity and considered experimentation that doesn't rely on what the artist has done before but looks for new avenues and pathways to expand the range of music being played. It's as though Gunslinger has absorbed the full-on rocker within Davey's musical personae and this solo album – much like the path he took with Bridget Wishart on their Djinn collaboration but in a less pronounced way – has been the conduit for a different style and approach.

Perhaps this is what took away the immediacy from this record – they way he's working is still familiar in parts and if you were played most tracks cold then you'd finger them as being by Alan Davey pretty much from the start but it's still enough of a deviation, or more properly I guess an expansion, to have you running to catch up with the new routes that he's taking here. And perhaps that in part is because he's nailed his concept material, the whole inner-workings of computer technology thing, its impact on us and the way that we've created for ourselves a new method of our own destruction through computer viruses and spyware programming.

In Record Collector this month (September cover date) I'm reviewing Paul Hayles' Lastwind album, Return of a Sonic Assassin,and contrasting its cohesion with what I'd previously felt to be the more ramshackle scattergun of the latest Hawkwind release, Onward. The same would apply here, really. I mean, hell, the same would apply to all of Alan Davey's post-Hawkwind solo albums. There's a sense of flow and continuity to this record that knows its history and realises how to build on that by keeping core musical themes while spreading out to new bases so that it's the quintessential space-rock that we're craving but with a flexibility and an ambitiously roving creative eye. So I'm pleased I didn't review it on receipt and, while I'll stick to my guns on Cyber Tooth in comparison to Eclectic Devils, I'm pretty pleased with what I'm getting from this record's repeated plays.

Pick of the album: 'Cyber Tooth'. The title-track, though it's situated at midpoint, really sets up the concept at work here. 'Cyber Tooth has a nasty bite / cyber tooth gets in at night / cyber tooth will eat your disc / invisible spyware fist'. It's gritty and relentless.


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