Thing of the Day
Morviscous, back via Paris and London with a new album
MORVISCOUS House Sounds (Trestle)
From the very start of the slinky but gritty Eastern-tinged lines of their opener track Claws, Morviscous ooze a dark authenticity. Their sophisicated yet down-to-earth gnarly jazz has so-uncool-its... er, cool? roots in the likes of 70s Canterbury Scene prog: Henry Cow, Hatfield and the North. And probably more than a bit of Birdsongs of the Mesoszoic, of the stateside equivalents. A five-peice based somehow between Hackney and Paris, their instrumental journeys are rich with shifting odd rhythms, odd melodies, sneakily clever passages.
What makes this moody, glowing stuff oddly contemporary - and maybe more widely acceptable that the oft-quoted similarities to Jaga Jazzists suggest - is the sense that their nicely constructed, warm and sensitive proggy jazz instrumentals really have been contaminated by their filthy dirty urban surroundings. Dirty but fascinating, the East End of London rather than the exotic orient, and the squalour and colour of Morviscous' Hackney hideaway. There's no lounging about here. A standout track on their previous gem of an album is titled 'The Unassuming Warmth of a Night Bus', which, if you've experienced such a thing, tells you more about their feel and vibe than any reviewer's effort.
This is the second album from Morviscous; it continues and expands on the tight, subtle, emotional dynamics of the first, Free Pop, blossoming into greater detail, better recordings, more exploring. Easy going on first listen, the House Sounds have underlying tensions and edges that lift each of the eight instrumental tracks away from any hint of complacancy and tweeness. Pete Suite Little rays of beauty and ease creep into the edge and moodiness, like catching a bit of summer sun in a park or on a shabby wall. The combo of two guitars, bass, sax, drums, and almost everyone in the five-piece getting a go on synths, makes for a lot of colour and detail. Beyond Jumpers combines a laid-back-but-wary, almost dubby bassline with a hint of Gong groove - hard to say where the jazz influence begins and ends; the long journey of Continental B has an incidental, soundtracky feel that sits nicely on top of your day.
Some might be tempted to slip Morviscous into a hand post-rock
bag, but that would be terribly unfair, what with so, so many
hopelessly derivative post rock noodledoodlers clogging up the world.
Morviscous have an unassuming charm in common with Quack Quack, and an
approach in common with Jaga Jazzist and Led Bib, Battles even - an
easy assimilation of jazz and prog ideas into a fresh whole.
What's unique to them is an edge, a darkness, knowing anxiety, up and
down mood swings that blow in and out of their tunes. No, they're too
good to slide into the old post-rock routine, too smart and aware and
House Sounds is out now on Trestle records, or available as a free-or-name-your-price (go on, give them something, it's a great album) to download via: morviscous.bandcamp.com/album/house-sounds
Here is Morviscous playing in someone's flat. I was heading to the laundrette on Mare St some time around January this year when I heard some kind of weirdass 6/8 7/8 rhythm driving away somewhere in the distance. Needless to say I abandoned my washing and went off circling around and around the industrial estate by London Fields until I homed in this groove (which was by now playing around with 5/4), that was emanating from the open front door in a terrace just up the road. I basically followed a complete stranger up some stairs and lo and behold there's this amazing new musical find just coming to the end of a storming set. Then they took their masks off. 'Hello! We're Morviscous, remember us?' Playing a gig for a friend, and coming back with a new album in the summer. Kind of disappointed that it wasn't a new outfit doing this stuff so well, but delighted that such a good band as Morviscous were alive and kicking.
My apologies to whoever's party I gatecrashed, and thank you the Hackney Launderette Man for keeping an eye on my tatty old jeans and socks in the name of avant rock.