SLUG, the slimy moniker of North England’s Ian Black, has given us an album with endless possibility yet little resolve; an experimental, open-ended journey into the mind of an auteur looking to write a pop record, yet failing beautifully upwards towards something far more interesting and unique than the trappings of conventional rock music.
What I’m trying to say is it’s a fucking fantastic album.
SLUG’s last album, 2015’s Ripe, feels like a warm-up pitch compared to the high velocity curve of HiggledyPiggledy. Here, Black has fully indulged his love of cinematic music, peppering bits into every song on the record. On “Tongue,” he layers the chorus with a reverb-heavy guitar riff akin to Morricone’s spaghetti-western scores. Even more steeped in celluloid is album closer “You Are As Cold As A Dead Fish,” opening with a loving tribute to Goblin’s “Zombi Theme” from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead before launching into heavier guitar and bass territory. “Humming and Hawing” also has the feel of Italian cinema, featuring a rhythmic bass groove augmented by flute segments and some of the creepiest harmony work on the album.
While HiggledyPiggledy has a tendency to dip in and out of structural madness, it also has some fairly straightforward rock moments. “Gibberish” features some of the best guitar playing on the album, reminiscent of King Crimson during the early Adrian Belew years, while the surgical drumming keeps everything in place. “Arbitrary Lesson in Custom” is another heavy standout, full of droning strings and non-stop drums, sporting a slight East-meets-spooky-West feel to it.
While I don’t currently have the vinyl in hand, I do know it’s being released on “indie store exclusive” yellow vinyl, so be on the lookout for that. The mixing and mastering by Field Music’s David Brewis is meticulous and concise, with every instrument and voice clearly defined in the mix, so I have no doubt it will sound great on wax.
“HiggledyPiggledy” is available on yellow vinyl at Musicglue.