The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – Endless Sea (2015)

If there’s one thing I hate it’s a reviewer banging on about themselves, but in this case it’s necessary. The Chameleons and Puressence are colourhorizon’s two favourite bands, bar none. So, when news came out that not only were Dave Fielding and John Lever from The Chameleons were working together as Red-Sided Garter Snakes, but they would be working with Puressence’s James Mudriczki I was excited, beyond excited, I was staring at a musical dream come true. All this wittering is to explain that my expectations were far too high and, expecting something epoch shattering I was left deflated on first listen to the resulting album, Endless Sea. First time round I was expecting huge, monumental songs in the vein of ‘Swamp Thing’ or ‘Street Lights’.

However with second, third and fourth listens Endless Sea revealed itself to me as an altogether different creation and, having readjusted my foolish preconceptions I began to see the music for what it was…

The dawning realisation creeps on you that there are shapes, hints and ghosts of grand, bold songs under the layers of delicate guitar patterns. In some ways the piece is closer to a Durutti Column album, artistic sketches that test the capabilities of the electric guitar. Once this realisation has been made, you can sit back and enjoy both the underlying drama and the ornate surface decoration. The best metaphor for the album would be to imagine a pristine ornamental garden; beautiful and tranquil, but with a Velociraptor prowling the grounds…

snakes

Let’s look at some of the highlights:

‘Shape Your Spine’ starts the album with painfully twisted guitar lines jutting into the air like branches of a deformed tree. Yet there is a stateliness akin an emerald pagoda in a wooden glade. The song ripples into infinity as what resembles a chorus lurks on the periphery.

Manchester’s noblest, purest singing voice, that of James Mudriczki, formerly of Puressence, who joins to provide his trademark fractured angel vocals on ‘Crack In A Paper Cup’, weaving a kitchen sink drama of “chicken shops and betting shops”. A little low in the mix but then what is more kitchen sink than a voice struggling to be heard? The simple fact is that a collaboration between members of The Chameleons and Puressence makes this album a compulsory purchase.

‘Feel Alive’ boasts a luxurious, silken chorus and needling interplay’s of harsh guitars, with slow, creeping drums.

‘Gallipoli’ sprays backwards-fire of paranoia guitars as James Mudriczki makes his second appearance, emerging from swathes of effects to take us into the chorus “when I look outside, when I look outside, when I look outside, I see Gallipoli” before his words dissolve into sounds. Hearing James behind the mic again is like a gift from the gods…

‘Go Away’ starts simply but soon adorns the Spartan environment with towering power lines.

‘John’s Dream’ is a laid back piece with a home-on-the-range western twang that builds into a joyous dappling of sunset hues.

‘Pistols At Dawn’ turns the heat up with John’s drums being at the friskiest they appear on the album. A driving, focused song with lines of the purest Dave Fielding vintage and the track that will appeal to those wanting to see the lineage from The Chameleons. There is still a certain amount of obfuscation however as they tease the reveal of the chorus til past the two-minute mark. This is the closest Red-Sided Garter Snakes get to a singalong… but that isn’t what they are about…

‘Trancer’ concludes to bring the album to a striding end. With throbbing electronics and a guitar sawing straight through the song.

As the beauties of the Endless Sea reveal themselves, you will surely become entranced…

Endless Sea is available on CD and vinyl here or digitally via the usual suspects.

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