May 25, 2024

Damo Suzuki & Jelly Planet – is another journey to the imagination of Damo and collaborators.


Damo Suzuki is a man so legendary that The Fall named a song for him. Damo is like the old legend of stone soup. In that story, a man sets up outside a village, boiling a stone. Intrigued, one by one, the villagers ask to try it. He says ‘yes, if you add an ingredient’. Pretty soon he has a tasty soup, takes the stone out and keeps it for later. Everyone agrees the stone soup is delicious.

Damo travels the world, joining a group of local musicians at each town, who improvise around his extemporisations. The result is often Can-tinged but has all the local flavours of the band, brought together to work with Damo and I’ve been privileged to experience half a dozen or so of the events. It’s a great idea and there are quite a number of live documents of the process. Damo will only record live. This is the only one I know of where the live improvisation has taken place in the studio and it really works. Mr Suzuki isn’t really the main ingredient but he has this strange thing where all his vocals are just vocals – no words, no meaning. How he does it, I don’t know, but he just makes sounds. Here, in a studio, it is so clear, you could swear they were words but on the periphery of your hearing and you can’t quite make them out. It is disconcerting.

This CD/ digital / 2 LP set has only 2 tracks, both half-hour excursions into Krautrock territory and seeing as this is a German band, it’s no surprise. There are Can-isms but who’s to complain when you borrow from the best. It begins with click clack metronome drums and impelling bass. Burbles and swirls of synth arrive and some eighties arpeggios add a strange sweetness. It doesn’t take long (8 minutes, the blink of an eye in this genre) for the first track to shift and change into a more exploratory form. Synths phase in and out, tones shift and Damo moves in and out as needed. Feedback and drone continues alone for a difficult period of time before a slow pulse resumes, Damo returns and soon after, the motoric beat, hidden below swooping ring modulators.

The second track, equally long form, follows. A deep bass pattern throbs, synths twiddle and Damo mumbles. The deep and low Suzuki growl starts, along with quirky guitar patterns and it grooves along nicely. More exploration atop the pulse follows, before an angry rock fuzz ramps up the volume. The rest travels nicely along winding tracks to the close.

This is an excellent document of what a band can do alongside the redoubtable Damo Suzuki. Long may he travel and play with bands around the world but this will give you a great taste of what can happen on a very good day.

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