Sword Volcano Complex – Phosphorescent

Sword Volcano Complex - Phosphorescent

CD, Triumvirate, 2003
www.swordvolcano.com

I don’t know much about this group, apart from recognising some of their names from other projects, but I’ve been waiting for something to fill the astral void left by the departure of Jhonn Balance for other planes and the dissolution of Coil for some time now. And aside from some new bits and pieces from COH, this is the first thing that’s come close. Diverse, esoteric and fascinating, the Sword Volcano Complex are a fresh current in that underground stream which has been described as England’s hidden reverse.
While some of the tracks presented here are more or less conventionally ambient dreamscapes, it’s the quirkier ones that really shine. “The Better Angels Of Our Nature” and “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”, for example, filter playfully sinister narrative vignettes through glitchy electronics with the same sensibilities as Current 93’s albums “I Have A Special Plan For This World” and “Bright Yellow Moon”. They’re not flawless; the twisted nursery rhymes of “Bedtime Stories” just aren’t quite as clever as they could be, for example, but their overall effect is not lost.
Elsewhere — “Phosphorescent” itself, “The Other Side Of The World” and “Sending The Fetch” — one really could be forgiven for thinking Coil’s late 1980s and early 1990s archives had been plundered, for some expanded release of “Gold Is The Metal” or “Stolen And Contaminated Songs”. Not that I even think they’ve intentionally tried to ape that particular band in that particular era; they just have the same Weltanschauung. There’s even a touch of gay disco here and there. Just a touch though.
My favourite piece of all has to be the adorable “Falling Cat”, another little monologue delivered in a pitch-shifted falsetto, but there’s enough surprises, hidden gems and transcendent moments in the sixteen tracks here that it will take many, many listens before you feel like you really know this album. God knows it’s taken me long enough.

[9/10]

— Andrew Clegg