I don’t know about you, but for me, one thing that acts like a real clear warning sign as to the likely merits of an album are glaring typos on the album artwork. I know it’s very judgmental of me, but I can’t help but think that typos on the album artwork suggest sloppiness, a lack of care, and dubious artistic abilities. Doubly so when they are on the front cover. So I wasn’t expecting much from Golgotha Communications Limited: not only do they have a glaring typographical error right there on the very front of the album artwork, but it’s the name of the band. If I hadn’t been able to find the band name spelled correctly elsewhere on the album cover, I might very well have thought I was reviewing a band called ‘Golgotha Communications Limired‘, and assumed it was some kind of French word for being stuck in a bog. So yeah, it didn’t bode well for poor ol’ Golgotha Communications Limited right from the outset—but, well what do you know, you can be a poor speller and/or a lazy proof-reader and still make some pretty good music.
The CD begins incredibly quietly with slow waves of ambience that take their sweet time to peak in a kind of flurry of reversed vocal creepiness. But then the next piece very quickly cures us of any illusions that this might be an ambient release as almost Autechre-like electronic percussion kicks in, with a tightly reverbed metallic-sounding rhythm loop pulsating like something out of a John Carpenter movie. More reversed vocal slivers slowly rise in a glitchfest of warmly distorted voice fragments, the distorted reversed broken voice-loops gradually threatening to overwhelm the constant drip-drop of small stalactite percussion before the whole thing slowly fades to nothing. A disorienting approach to voices appears throughout the album: reversed and/or distorted vocal loops, snapped into small repeating sections, startlingly cropping up in unexpected bursts over other rhythmic loops, occasionally musical, sometimes electronic, very often perplexing. Behind the strange sliced-and-diced vocal manipulations resides a variety of backdrops: sometimes we’re given a bed of tiny metallic percussion; sometimes a sonically abused section of what sounds like some kind of Sufi dervish ritual; sometimes it’s a synth-heavy pulse, an unchanging loop whose timbre is tweaked hypnotically; and sometimes, there’s nothing at all, the weird vocal experiments roaring up and backwards like exorcismic exhortations that our human ears can’t comprehend.
I’m not fully sure how I feel about this CD. On one hand, it’s definitely interesting. There are two tracks called ‘Kikul’, and both feature this reed-flute Sufi-vibe I mentioned earlier, and there are two tracks called ‘Mitan’, neither of which seem to have much in common at all. There are surprising sections, excellent textures, and great ideas throughout, but it feels almost like it’s unfinished. The piece ‘Isogloss’, for instance, sounds like a documentary about middle-eastern countries has been randomly rammed through an effects pedal without much thought for the results—an activity that I’m absolutely behind, and support in every way—but as a finished track on an album that is being released to the public, it just felt a teensy bit lazy/unpolished/fillery. There are a bunch of tracks here that the album would definitely be better without, or with a tighter edit, or with another layer. There’s amazing stuff here; Gatha Yasna is really quite great in a whole lot of ways, but it’s kind of let down by the amount of unmoving and/or unfinished material sharing space with it on the album. And the stuff that is really great more often than not just sort of drifts away without going anywhere, or is way, way too short.
According to Discogs, Golgotha Communications Limited have released a huge amount of music, but I really don’t know how typical an album of theirs Gatha Yasna might be, or how well it fits into their overall oeuvre. But to me, it’s a dissatisfying balance of remarkable and slapdash. Like the spelling on the front cover, I feel like this album lacks an attention to detail which really lets it down; with maybe one more pass, this could’ve been an exceptional release.
01) Nomadic and Pastoral