Album Reviews

Sisters Of Transistors – At The Ferranti Institute

(This Is Music) UK release date: 9 November 2009

Graham Massey could never be accused of not having a vivid musical imagination. The 808 State founder has hooked up to drum with the self-termed ‘UK’s premier organ quartet’, the culmination of a musical fixation ongoing since 1993. 808 State were in their heyday then, of course, so Massey’s Hammond organ fixation had to wait. But it comes into full bloom on this invigorating record.

Four organs conjures up images of Steve Reich, though the press release suggests a strong whiff of Women’s Institute about it, harking back to a time when people did rather more than sit boggle eyed in front of a rectangular screen. The group, who really are a four piece girl band and not the figment of somebody’s imagination, are a living, breathing hub of musicality.

It certainly sounds like it shouldn’t work, with a drummer in tow and all, but the Sisters marshal their forces expertly, only occasionally overdoing the dense texture when all four keyboards are playing. While the aim of his project was to closely reproduce the work of Lillian Meyers, a late 1930s pioneer for the transistor organ, plenty of humour comes through. Searching for the organ equivalent of Phil Spector, the ‘Wall of Cheese’? You’ll find it here.

The perky, treble rich electronica is bright and breezy, likely to gladden many a day, though there are occasional moments of extreme weirdness. It’s unlikely the ‘Dies Irae’ has ever been set to something quite so weird while retaining its original melody, but having done so it forms a strange sense of devotion.

Far more immediate is Volkswagen, a romp through a Mr Scruff-type house number, while Pendulum is beautifully constructed, an interlocking web of melodies and textures. Only occasionally does the chatter become too much, with the end of Solar Disco feeling claustrophobic, but more often than not the combinations of organs and occasional vocals are extremely warming.

This is something of a sonic adventure, then, and is certainly a long way removed from the norm – which is what we’ve come to expect from any projects featuring the ever-enterprising Massey. All hail to the organ grinders.

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Sisters Of Transistors – At The Ferranti Institute