Album Reviews

Ergo Phizmiz – Nose Points In Different Directions

(Womb) UK release date: 29 January 2007

Ergo Phizmiz: writer, ex-stand-up comedian and opera scribe, WFMU broadcaster, installation artist, mixmaster extraordinaire, and generally as mad as a box of frogs. Or so he’d have you believe.

Crazy Ergo ventures in the past have included sonic shots made exclusively from his mouth and a pair of underpants, an opus to soundtrack the life of a sculpture of Roger Butler, and a live gig release of an hour spent sampling old board games. He even offers subscriptions to his prolific personal output, wherby at �25 a year you can be treated to works in progress and all manner of new tricks, and I have to say after running this Nose Points In Different Directions set through a few times I’m pretty tempted to buy in.

Being a Phizmiz novice, the first things that struck me about Nose Points In Different Directions were his S.J. Perelman-like titles, which make you take a second look in some amazement, but the main thing is tracks like Gently Bently Beneath The Waby Babes, Aubers Vespers Farnaby Absalom Mix, and Valse For Lydia hold their own as nuggets of compositional grace that trap a certain balmy nostalgic flavour like fine teabags.

There’s unmistakeably some Ivor Cutler and Goonies surrealism here (mercifully more of the former), and a touch of P.G. Wodehouse-like quaint romanticism, side by side with the sideshow ingenuity of Harpo Marx. And it’s pieced together with a scattergun kind of feel that, when picking up some saucepans earlier, made me feel like I could replicate it myself with a bit of impromptu dancing. But the recordings didn’t quite work out.

This collection of choice cuts from the last “five years of Phizmiz” has a real direction, direction that comprises comedy of a certain self-awareness, and a subtle compositional skill that makes for a strange concoction of pleasure. Curiosity abounds from beginning to end, mystic chanting mixed with tribal rhythms and samples of noises of nature and human culture. Ergo’s not a guy to give you a drum loop to chew on for fifteen minutes like dry wood – he’ll flavour it with world spices, set it on fire, and shoot it to the stars.

The whole thing blends into a certain unfathomable, yet logical and soulful whole, so that there’s only one particular track that defies the immaculate madness and demands further description. Closer Fitcher features the delicate, child-like vocals of Martha Moopette and walks an idyllic, mysterious path of sun and shade into the eerie distance. It’s a track of startling beauty and crackling warmth, and it’s fitting that Phizmiz chooses to close an album of such virtuosic eccentricity with another blast from the totally unexpected.

Nose Points In Different Directions is kind of like the planet and his band moving in for the weekend, and any impulse to escape down the drainpipe should be avoided. I for one certainly await his re-working of The Velvet Underground�s White Light/White Heat in its entirety with unrepressed eagerness.

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Ergo Phizmiz – Nose Points In Different Directions