(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Unreviewed by the Press (2009), 6.5/10
Soulpuke (2011), 7/10
Rabbittrap (2012), 5/10
Periodsoup (2012), 6/10
Shitshitshit (2017), 7.5/10
Prepare Thyself to Deal with Treacle (2022), 7/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Government, the Belgium-based duo of English keyboardist Emma Newell and Norwegian guitarist Thor Vik, debuted with the six instrumentals of Unreviewed by the Press Which is Sold to Lobbies (Pop Katari, 2009). The brief A Call to the Royal Families' Genocide is a cute hybrid of chamber music and synth-pop. The 15-minute Set Fire to the Prime Minister is a jovial melodic fantasia, like a Dada version of a Mike Oldfield suite or a glitchy remix of a Todd Rundgren ditty. The 14-minute Ladyboyz is a more somber composition, a psychedelic soul jam with hard-rock guitar riffs that feeds traces of the Flying Lizards' Money into grotesque mutations of industrial rhythms a` la Nine Inch Nails (unfortunately with a rather silly coda).

Newell also collaborated with Danish one-man black-metal band Bishop of the Dead four-song EP Break Two Ribs upon my Heart (2010).

Soulpuke (Pop Katari, 2011), the first part of the trilogy "Conspirators of Pleasure", begins with another deviant synth-pop ditty, You're so Funny When You Lie, one of the many skits of their futuristic cabaret (Leather Cascade) that sometimes feels like an electronic version of Frank Zappa's satirical prog-rock circus (Audiences Use To Puke at Government). They do a good job in the realm of aggressive and loud music with the breezy punk-rock of She'll Take A Nation Of Billions in the Back (unfortunately spoken instead of sung) and especially the operatic and thundering heavy-metal lied Young Teeth Can Brake Fruits Attacks; nor do they hesitate to hit the dancefloor with demented ideas like the feverish decomposing house-music of Slicer or the seven-minute no-disco of Lester Bangs Face in the Puke. The ten-minute I Never Leave Traces opens in a pulsing frenzy, exales a morose fractured refrain over funky beats, and keeps mutating, eventually turning into a loud distorted carillon of the same refrain. The abstract electroacoustic chamber music of Teenage Sperm part I and the surrealistic musique concrete of Cosmo Tribe Suite scout other interesting directions. Quite a bit of the album sounds like unfinished experiments, abandoned sketches, but their multi-faceted project is already a dizzying destabilizing merry-go-round.

Even more unfinished are the compositions of Rabbittrap (2012), an album of confused collages like the ten-minute Drake Late Swimmer and of intuitions like the pounding madness of choir samples in the first half of I'm a Full Fuckin' Superband on my Own that could have been much more. The eight-minute Enjo Kosai mixes a muezzin call or church prayer with a propulsive garage rave-up. Adelaide disintegrates after a relentless beat and a distorted organ melody collided. The satanic dance Prefect Manufactory and the distorted organ elegy Like Thousand are also notable. But too much needs to be reworked, or, simply, ditched.

The ties to new wave of the 1970s are move evident on Periodsoup (2012), the third and final part of the trilogy, from the melancholy adage A Drone for Super-doomed Youth to the sample-driven power-pop of Chastity Belt via the lysergic/horror Chrome-esque march Khatharakte. Spoken-word commentary ruins the grindcore acceleration of Matrice of Chaos, which would otherwise be a highlight, while Anti Warhol sounds like a glitchy remix of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. The cacophonous collage Girls as Ruins belongs to their catalog of Dadaistic experiments.

Conspirators of Pleasure (2013) is a compilation of the trilogy.

Emma Newell also released the solo album Serendipity (2016) of electronic experiments.

A broader instrumenstation and a better production make Shitshitshit (PopKatari, 2017) a friendlier experience. This 43-song monolith, ostensibly inspired by Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives and Frank Zappa's We're only in it for the Money (but also by the Minutemen's 43-song album Double Nickels on the Dime), although quite different from both, features Thor Vik on electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, flute, harmonica and percussions, Emma Newell on bells, chimes, glockenspiel, mellotron, rhodes, theremin, drums, cymbals, violin, viola and computer, and a third member, Sue Cyde, on oboe, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, trombone and electric piano. Not surprisingly, the atmospheres are denser than ever, but also more cohesive than ever. It helps that the songs are very brief, rarely venturing beyond a duration of two minutes. In fact, the whole sequence feels cohesive, as if the 43 songs were part of a rock opera. The countless interludes, that sometimes steal speech from movies and even cover Steve Reich, and often imitate/plagiarize pop melodies, seem to tell a story. The fact that they are all quite different form each other creates a sort of sensory overload situation. Nonetheless the flow is seamless and organic, no matter how much cognitive dissonance there is between the cinematic dance music of American Expressionism, the harsh industrial hardcore of Self Discipline pt I, the clumsy minimalist repetition of One Day you'll be Dead, the visceral power-electronics of Sources, the wordless torch-ballad You're Tearing me Worlds Apart, the country-metal-jazz Godspeed You Sneaky Mom, and free-form nuisances like Not your Average Indiecute History of Rock. The "thefts" of other people's music are clever and elegant, like the way The Late Great Toccata "remixes" Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky. The album is littered with mysterious creatures like Total Lack of Silence Pt I, Time Substituted to Itself and Something like Tennessee that make perfect sense without being anything in particular. Humor, not drama, permeates the show. The comic aspect is particularly visible in the Zappa-esque drive and wit of Don't Mess with your Admitatur and in the county-fair music No more Youth Never, but it's everywhere. It's a monumental assembly of musical debris, and sequenced in a way that one seems to set the next one in motion, and continuously change the route, while the destination remains the same.

Newell and Vik also collaborated with Bleeds (Belgian composer Victor-Emmanuel Boinem) on the two mini-albums Thirty Part I & II (2018).

In 2018 they relocated back to London.

Prepare Thyself to Deal with Treacle (2022), whose title is a satirical reference to Roland Kirk's Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle, opens with a dance novelty situated halfway between blues and charleston, Masses Bald As Love, that would have been a highlight on any Love Of Life Orchestra records. The 12-minute Dial 666 for Greta opens at a lugubrious and psychedelic pace, with a ghostly dialogue between a soprano and a bassoon (?), but, after some loose jamming led by guitar and saxophone, it turns into a radiant fantasia driven by the Farfisa organ. Alas, it largely loses its thread after seven minutes, when it turns into an Indian raga and then into a confused spoken-word piece, hardly rescued by a whirling Stockhausen-style ending. The eight-minute Just a Diamond Ring Away From Filth begins with intense industrial cacophony but, after a brief saxophone-driven fanfare, turns into a sequence of eerie interstellar sounds that become increasingly dissonant. The 15-minute Bruise Looks begins with some rustic garage-rock jamming that explodes and then mutates into tribal dancing influenced by swing and cha-cha orchestras of the 1930s. This too gets covered by abrasive noise for another chaotic ending full of surprises. Here the transition from rhythmic to disjointed phases is elegant and even poignant. The nine-minute We Wake Up Streaming deconstructs a cinematic leitmotiv until it becomes a loud and pounding syncopated funk and jazz miasma (unfortunately, it loses momentum after five minutes). The nine-minute My Government for a Horse feels like the rehearsal of a symphony orchestra before it turns into a drum'n'bass orgy and into the usual visceral and frenzied cacophony. After five minutes it pauses and then restarts even more dense and tense and finally decays into a quieter form of madness. There is certainly a lot of sonic adventure in these virulent collage-style compositions, but the impression left by this album is that the duo needs a producer who can edit/prune their compositions otherwise the filler hijacks the best ideas weakening what could be truly powerful music. Nonetheless, Emma Newell and Thor Vik rank among the most creative musicians of the era.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )