Reverse Into Style
When happily doing a radio show, it was possible to very occasionally enjoy the premeditated placing of a grubby finger on the turntable to drastically slow down some Lynyrd Skynyrd song or John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” about 20 seconds in, before turning the drive off completely and then spinning the record backwards to create what it was possible to imagine was a haunting and profound statement about…er…nothing in particular. Not so much iron in the soul as ennui old irony. One morning, a brewer, avant-expressionist, and guitar and sine wave generator player by the name of Potpie turned up. Incidentally, his mischievous work can be obtained through BackPorch Revolution, a label worth investigating for several reasons. He was carrying one of those upside-down-stylus machines for playing vinyl backwards. We reversed some T.Rex, mistakenly put on Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” instead of “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, and tried a few other things before concluding that several Ramones songs do actually sound virtually identical backwards. Not for the first time, the engineer called to ask if we were having technical difficulties. Listener reaction was, to put it politely, mixed, and to be honest, after half an hour or so even we were a bit bored with the whole experiment, not to mention the phone calls. The obvious conclusion seemed to be that this was an idea whose time had come and, mercifully, gone.
Well, apparently not. Dave Portner, a.k.a. Avey Tare of Animal Collective, and Kria Brekkan, a.k.a. Kristin Anna Valtysdottir, formerly of múm, have decided that their debut, Pullhair Rubeye, sounds better backwards. Furthermore, they believe that three of the tracks sound better not merely reversed, but at double speed. It’s probably not going to help matters to consider that Avey and Kria are somewhat beautiful and very much in love.
The world is undoubtedly a better place for having Animal Collective and múm in it, but my initial reaction to Pullhair Rubeye was to consider scratching the words “TWEE BULLSHIT” onto this disc and, after carefully sharpening the edges, launching it at some rats with wings, a.k.a. pigeons, lurking in the yard. Three or four listens in, though, and very much against my will it started to become enjoyable as (im)pure sound. Somewhat like the perceptual flip needed to approach Marxist economic theory, which many Wall Street traders obviously perform, perhaps it’s a matter of relaxing and allowing sound to float free of lazy conceptual notions.
While “Sis Around the sandmill” is a spirited beginning, “Opis Helpus” has more propulsion and a finer balance of instrumentation and voice, but it goes on just a bit too long. If there is one, the double-speed “Faetus No-man” is probably the double-speed highlight, with the repetitious, twirling jig of “Palenta” a close second. However, the final track, “Was Ónaip”, was ultimately the most affecting, with an appealing brooding tone. There are glaring hints toward Arabic and Indian chant and drone, not least on “”Who Welsses in my Hoff”, and while it occurs that maybe some of the song titles make sense in reverse, it is unlikely to matter. Anyone seeking proof that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing will surely find it here, and by the Chipmunkesque “Sasong”, the pigeons were blissfully unaware of the increasingly imminent danger to their worthless existence. Bastards.
To be honest, I came very close to writing Pullhair Rubeye off as a completely embarrassing listen; the equivalent of newly-wed audio Polaroid’s. Uncouth references to gratuitous imagery leaking from the nuptials of Pamela Anderson were leaping to mind like gigantic fake, er, leaping things, and it’s not completely clear as to what happened. Something steadily yet definitely emerged after repeated listens, as in the old days, when time was taken to allow for that to happen; the days when it was entirely reasonable, indeed eminently understandable, for someone to remark that they were not into a particular record yet because they’d only played it once or twice. An old admiration for the playfulness of Robert Wyatt slyly surfaced. Cross-pollinated affection blew over from the agile reverse economy of Steven Wilkinson a.k.a. Bibio. All of those may endure longer, but for now, for Avey a.k.a. Dave and Kria a.k.a. Kristin, it seems that love is the answer. Long may you both float on. Allow me to sincerely offer the name Rupert a.k.a. Rupert the Bear as a good one for any forthcoming offspring.
That said, anyone with a computer who wishes to reverse the songs could use Audacity or find four of them, including a greatly improved “Sasong” , at the couple’s MySpace site.
It would be neglectful to miss this absolute open-goal opportunity to mention Reverso Mondo, doyen of backwardsness and high priest of counter-clockwork shenanigans. Reverso’s entire radio career has been conducted in reverse, even down to his claiming to speak backwards rather than just reversing the tape. His farewell radio show was, logically, the first one to be broadcasted at Resonance FM in London, where they are working backwards towards his debut. !uoy gniees eB