Gorilla Tactics – Grasslands (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Mixing music with more environmental considerations might seem like something that the modern music maker might do to stay relevant, to follow the current fad or fashion, but Grasslands has been doing it for years. He’s mixed green conversation and ecological thought, as well pulling at plenty of other lyrical threads, with everything from understated folk guitar performances to brilliantly chaotic electronic-meets-rock-meets-alt-everything-meets-the-kitchen-sink live shows.

The latest album, Gorilla Tactics, (always start with a pun if you can) is an album that can be considered fairly representative of the Grasslands experience, in that it sounds like nothing else doing the rounds and even perhaps not massively similar to anything he has done before. But that is the Grasslands experience.

Although usually a solo performer, Gorilla Tactics is based on several collaborations that he did with other local musicians, a series of free-form jams and improvised pieces that form the basis of the songs and that span everything from sea shanty hip-hop to the sound of a solo rave next to the Manchester Shipping Canal, kitchen utensil-fuelled punk and electro swing played during a hilltop storm to ambient, slide guitar, chilled out blues to a Jeff Wayne style, spoken-word, Bladerunner soundtrack to a novel you’ve never read.

And even such a strange set of descriptions hardly does justice to the scope and scale of the music found here. Intravenous Flytrap (which for the title alone should win an Oscar if ever they introduce a category for punning) is an intense collection of beats and bombastic synth salvos, Sliding Through The Rising Tide is a gorgeously ambient blend of electronic washes and blues guitar and The Troubled Dreams of Idling Computers is the introduction to a dystopian fiction that is already lost to time, a blend of dark futurism and exotic arabesque bass grooves.

Strange is a word that is often used when talking about Grasslands music. But strange is good. Strange is unconventional. Strange is challenging. Strange is unique, adventurous and evolutionary. Strange is necessary. So when I say that Gorilla Tactics is the strangest album from Grasslands to date, and his benchmarks are already high in this regard, then it has to be taken as the ultimate compliment.

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