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S*GLASS - Cesspool of the Angels LP

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First solo LP of 2023 by S. Glass of Glands of External Secretion, Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble, This Is Yvonne Lovejoy and Bananafish Magazine.

Numerous practices make up the electro-acoustic sound collages created by S Glass. He combines tape music, electronic processing, voice, found sound, and chance operations. Every show uses a different batch of curated audio, mixed live, while the self-produced studio albums are more refined assemblages. The playing of non-musical objects is sometimes incorporated (dental floss, aluminum foil, wind-up toys, metal lunch box, cabbage). Self-shot video is screened during sets, which are mostly textures made with multiple layers that slowly wobble out of sync, jump cuts, and a smattering of primitive animation. The overall effect is one of surreal disorientation.

S*Glass is a founder of Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble (a large non-musical music group begun in the early 1980s), and Glands of External Secretion (a duo with rock musician Barbara Manning since the early ’90s). From the late ’80s until 2004, he was the main driver behind Bananafish. Since 2017, he’s performed as a solo artist and completed U.S. tours of the West Coast, New England, part of the South and Midwest, England and Scotland, a handful of places in Canada. In late 2023, he tours Australia and New Zealand.

“The first time I tried to listen to this album I made the error of bringing it on a train journey to hear through headphones. Wrongly thinking I’d be able to absorb it in a focused manner this way, I was instead instantly enclosed by a gigantic family of tourists who spoiled the experience with their endless routine of stomping around, shouting constant updates or appeals for updates at each other and playing their shitty kid videos on an iPad. Following them, some rich-looking guy boarding at the airport sat next to me sporting a tan, a purple ‘VIP’ wristband and some of the most staggering breath I’ve ever experienced in public. Suffice it to say I didn’t quite get the full measure of the album in question. Imagine my guilt, then, upon playing it a few days later at home, in relative peace and quiet, and finding that the central nervous system level annoyance I felt that day had its roots far more in the music than the actions of those poor people.

“The truth is, Cesspool of the Angels is a recording of naturally jarring qualities and intent. There is a rippling, continuous pace to all proceedings which won’t allow you a whole lot of time to sink your talons in before throwing you into something new and not altogether meant to be a nice experience. At some distance shy of 15 minutes into this opus, I’ve already lost count of the incongruous sound sources to have been bent, warped, wrung and wrenched between my ears, as if my very brain is an object to be flossed by Glass’s quietly punishing dentist’s hand. I feel every bit as itchy and jumpy as I did on that fucking train. Was that Jimi Hendrix in conversation with Homer Simpson? Doesn’t matter — now it’s clattering machines and burnt-out organs fizzing as though amplified via a baby monitor. Brief, ad-hoc choirs of rendered vocals are now drenched in clicky synthesis and, yeah, I now even detect some train noises in the mix. Man, I’m so sorry for how I cursed that poor family in my head. Just wanting to see Big Ben etc. before they all died. England can be a difficult place to be if you’re not from here and I understand the need to keep your kid busy and stay atop of your travel anxieties. Mr VIP has fewer excuses though, the nasty sod.

“I don’t for a minute want anyone to think this means that S*Glass is motivated by the churlish desire to throw shit at a kitchen sink, then wall, with no sense of what he wants to stick. I’ve spoken before about the supreme deftness with which Mr. G sculpts his sounds and it’s all in shining evidence here. If you’ve paid attention to our man’s offerings for YEARS via Glands of External Secretion, Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble, This Is Yvonne Lovejoy, and the many various collabs, you’re gonna hear a tonne of now trademark things in ‘Cesspool…’ too — we could talk about how painstaking it must be to find and collect all these speech samples of American Assholes tricking themselves into believing something incorrect, or the nerdily inclined might be keen to know serial and model numbers responsible for the massive palette of often rich, pristine electronics and processes you get to hear, but what interests me is the skill of Glass’s editing. The ear for… production, lacking a better word for it. That overall awareness of what should happen HERE, THEN or NOW — and what should happen TO these things… it’s something I’m sure is based upon complete intuition and I say that it has yet to steer any of us wrong. I think it's fair to advance the notion that S*Glass is a relatively busy, shall we say prolific artist; steadily issuing work and staying busy with the right kind of regularity. Within this however, does not exist the release where Mr. San Francisco has dared to let his QC settings slip to anything shy of ‘Really Quite High’. Like I always tell my Mum — this stuff is not necessarily serious but the people are serious as hell about doing it. I’d say that describes this record and Glass’s craft on whole, which is deserving of consideration among some of the finest, most world class people pissing about with difficult sounds in the world today. Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Interested? Give this disc a try. It’s got action enough to suit all from the most bottom-feeding post-underground burnouts to all you guys who like to collect that INA GRM type shit.”

—Duncan Harrison, Brighton, England, June 2023