As leader of the quite fantastic Misty’s Big Adventure (black and burned is the heart of any individual who finds nothing amazing in that band’s work) and a more than capable electronic wizard, Grandmaster Gareth has a rather fine pedigree. Once referred to as “the new God” by John Peel, his powers of creation shouldn’t be in any doubt whatsoever. And yet it is rather hard to be anything other than underwhelmed by Magical Sound Shower, particularly after a seven-year wait for new material.
On Thousands Of Years Of Progress, he seems to have pre-empted any critical savaging by including a 26-second snip of what might be Stephen Hawking (but almost certainly isn’t) stating “Grandmaster Gareth is a charlatan, a phoney and a fraud. Do not keep buying records. As I speak, he is spending your money on Lego. This small portion of the album is a complete rip off. It took as long for him to make as it takes for me to read.”
Whilst this is a tiny bit harsh on Gareth (and clearly tongue in cheek), there is an element of truth to be found in the statement. The problem with Magical Sound Shower is that it appears to be little more than a random collection of ideas compiled into an album and cast off. There’s little in the way of finesse or structure, so any semblance of a song is quickly dispatched and a new one takes its place. Whilst this approach might well reflect the title of the album – it is, after all, an unrelenting shower of ideas – the whole experience is rather unrewarding and quite frustrating. If he really is the new God, then this is akin to taking a peek at the blueprints of the heavens and Earth rather than waiting for the finished project.
Strip away the likes of Thousands Of Years Of Progress, the swells of The Sad Truth, or the dead end lament of A Passing Moment, and perhaps the album would have possessed a little more coherence. There are certainly occasions where the Grandmaster is on form and his ideas reach fruition; they’re just few and far between. Opening the album with Music On Planet Earth Is Dead, the notion that this is an album concerned with, amongst other things, slightly cosmic and spacey themes becomes clear. A kind of Plan 9 From Outer Space in musical form, it’s almost possible to imagine the tin-foil being scrunched and the sets wobbling as the tracks fly by. The bass heavy club stomp of I Am Garzuvius offers hope of something spectacular, but runs out of steam too quickly. Rather than develop the initial groove, the Grandmaster simply moves on to a new idea with A Glitch In Time, which ably shows off his glitch skills but destroys any momentum built up.
The Hoarder Of Moments is far better. A low key affair, it could happily have found a place as the score for one of the more tender scenes of Final Fantasy VII. The classical meets electronic dream/nightmare of The Nobelisk is quite stunning, but takes a while to come into its own. Similarly Watch Your Step evolves from a creeping detective movie soundtrack into a Euro tinged dancefloor filler and is thankfully given time to really take hold. The bouncy kids’ TV soundtrack sounds of The Dewormer show the Grandmaster’s playful side, whilst the positively epic (considering the nature of the album) The Magical Sound Shower proves that when Grandmaster Gareth is fully focussed he can really create quite phenomenal off-kilter classics. The mix of sci-fi noises, clever samples, cute keyboard motifs and string sections all delivered with a wonky grin contained herein show him at his best and in full command.
But as an album this is a frustrating mess peppered with moments of genius. Perhaps the self-styled hoarder of moments just needs to de-clutter a little.