Album Reviews

Volcano! – Paperwork

(The Leaf Label) UK release date: 1 September 2008

Surely never before has a band’s name been so apt. On this album Volcano! spew out white-hot chunks of sonic magma. Like a natural disaster it’s somewhat awe inspiring to behold; but you wouldn’t want to get too close.

Paperwork is a work of deliberately discordant sounds and improvised mayhem. Its scarily individual sound is part alt-Punk-funk, part jazz ethic and part stream of consciousness. In short, it’s altogether a strange and freakish aural experience.

Aaron With’s barely decipherable vocals sound like a cross between a choirboy and a insane freestyle poet. He’s Tom Yorke circa Kid A to the power of 10 with a pleasing dash of Sigur Rós-style gobbledygook.

All these avant-gardisms can make listening to the album an alienating experience at first. The band’s aim is to provide a perfect balance between melody and noise but it’s easy to initially dismiss this as pure chaos. Yet on repeated listens, patterns of rhyme and reason begin to emerge.

On the whole it’s a theatrical slab of rising and falling waves – as soon as something approaching coherence occurs it immediately launches into a jumbled free-for-all. This is not background music – it’s necessary to sit down and listen, and be careful not the let the orchestrated anarchy overwhelm.

Highlights include the track Africa Just Wants To Have Fun, a barbed attack on the likes of Bono and their messianic behaviour: “Looking like Christ on the cross… come to shoot your load on stage”. The album’s closer Kitchen Dance along with Sweet Tooth and the Radioheadish track Astronomy Ballard are also worthy of rapt attention.

A highly ambitious piece of work, Paperwork is epic in scale and covers pretty much every sonic angle imaginable. It belongs to the kind of genre typified by Lou Reed‘s Metal Machine Music: a difficult but ultimately rewarding piece of art. It’s tough work to listen to and arguably the tangential flights of fancy occur more often than is healthy. Maybe 50% of this is genius, but the rest can be a little frustrating.

This is something you’re either going to like or really hate. As with Reed’s divisive work, you’ll need to be in the right time and place to fully appreciate it. When and where the right time and place is might be, other than the erupting bowels of a hot volcano, is unclear. Just make sure you don’t get your ears burnt.

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More on Volcano!
Volcano! – Piñata
Volcano! – Paperwork