The Sessions –  Saddle on the Bomb (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Rules are made to be broken. We all know that. To some that is a worn-out cliche, to others it is a way of life. Rule breaking for the sake of it is fine if you want to head off down some belligerent, non-conformist, punky-rant route, but rule breaking with a purpose is where it is really at. The latter approach demonstrates that there is method, and indeed melody, in the madness, that the music makers are so familiar with the rules that they know just which ones to bend, which to break and which to ignore altogether. After all it is such concepts as melody, rhythm, beat and nuance which separate song-making from wild sonic avant-gardening, and Saddle on the Bomb certainly employ all of theses things. They just get there via very different routes.

Drums become lead instruments, guitars become vocal lines, riffs evolve through each repetition, space becomes a building block in its own right, things are turned on their head and fall into ever more pleasing patterns and I feel that all of this is achieved through improvisation, through jamming, through going with the flow and exploring each idea to its (il)logical conclusion. To date they have two sessions recorded, a total of eight songs which wander progressive pathways, experimental avenues and square off somewhere between art and song, beg questions about where one becomes the other and even what music itself can be.

Jazzy meanderings merge with crunchy rock riffs, drums talk in ever shifting, staccato tongues, and the worlds of free jazz experimentation and fluid post rock-draw ever closer. And for all their strange and spacious ways the music is epic and weird, beguiling and disarming, strange but compelling, fractured and complete. If pop songs are built on the idea that repetition and predictability is key, Saddle on the Bomb make music which sits at the furthest echelon away from such thoughts.

Overture opens proceedings, a long, but by no means the longest, salvo of industrial groove and hypnotic spirals and 351 is an angular and off-beat swirl of skittering drums and guitar riffs which often seem like anagrams of songs you know so well. And with this template established they use these limited resources to build unlimited musical worlds, to explore, push and cross the boundaries, to wilful challenge you, the listener, to draw conclusions to questions you didn’t even know you were being asked.

6/6/6 is suitably brooding and sinister, though I suspect the title is more mathematical that demonic, and Mammoth is a heady and intricate race, all urgency and edgy energy. And of course such music is not aimed at the mainstream, it is music on the fringes, and is likely to be labelled important rather than popular, the cult favourites of the few rather than the shared love of the many. And that’s fine by me and I’m sure its fine by Tomislav Poje and Aleksandar Vrhovec, they know what they are doing here, they know its intent and its limitations.

Remember just because something isn’t embraced by many doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary. Just because it doesn’t provide answers doesn’t mean that the questions it poses aren’t fascinating to ponder. Genius and madness are two sides of the same coin. Okay, I’m not say that they are geniuses…but then again, they might be. Who are we to judge?

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