By: Sam Birkett
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Released on July 24, 2015 via Independent
With Panco Macaque composer, musician, and mad genius Raspelf has made an overwhelmingly eclectic record: it runs the gamut from garage rock to plunderphonics, touching base at almost every point one can imagine along that route. The spread of genres on this record is so extensive that it is frankly baffling that it manages to feel like an album at all – yet it does, achieved partly through an instinctive knack for mixing, but mostly through the currents of emotional disquiet that trickle from song to song.
Opener ‘Generally Speaking’ acts much as that phrase would in conversation – a statement of intent to reveal a broad truth. It’s a scuzzy, satisfying garage rock track with ambient breaks and noisy touches that hint at what is to come; the laid-back psych rock of ‘Sequoia’ eases the listener into the generic shifts of Panco Macaque before the glitched-out trip hop of ‘Point of Certain Failure’ can pull the rug under their feet. As the only section of the record that could be corralled under the rock umbrella, the opening two tracks are incredibly impressive; they don’t feel like throwaway dabbles in guitar music, but developed visions that could comfortably belong to a fully-fledged record of that style. This stays true for every section of the record, and is testimony to a fearsome talent.
The mid-section of the record sees a ripple of ambience (‘Mini Bayonets,’) powerful noise (‘East Bengal Dash,’) and manic plunderphonics (‘Mein Führer! I Can Walk!’) The sheer joy with which the latter is assembled is wonderful, and Raspelf’s ability to combine samples from Death Grips, Sufjan Stevens and Gregory Abbot into something remotely palatable is more than enough of an achievement for the one musician. The insanity of his sampling only develops, though: on ‘Actors/Wrong’ the opening sample offers us a chopped-and-screwed warning: “What you are about to hear is pure nonsense: a collage of samples of low quality with a fast-paced beat and noisy synths. But still, you can act like you are enjoying it.” True to its word, a frantic drum sample holds up a melody made from pitch-shifted samples of Kanye West’s ‘Monster,’ before screams, laughter, flashes of piano and gods know what else come churning past. It is a baffling track, but not as hard to enjoy as its self-deprecating announcer would claim.
I have the sneaking suspicion that that sample is the closest we get to the direct voice of the artist on this record, and that it is intended to apply to the whole of Panco Macaque. True, the album is a collage, but that is where the accuracy ends – the quality and appropriate style of production astounds throughout, as Raspelf painstakingly creates the correct space for these tracks to exist within. This is clearly a project of passion, and Raspelf’s personality and emotional experience are in the DNA of these tracks: the sense of anxiety and sadness that floats in each track is the key to their eclecticism flowing so well. Its presence is made tangible by Raspelf being the only person involved in the record’s creation – I have rarely heard an album that seems so directly entwined in a person’s life. Raspelf trumps Dr Frankenstein with Panco Macaque – a patchwork monster this record may be, but its creator has nurtured it, and so it has become a thing of chaotic beauty – and also far less likely to kill his wife.