Another artist from the Planet Mu stable who I've been meaning to mention for ages is Chris Reeves aka The Gasman, resident in Portsmouth and purveyor of fine electronica that will appeal to people who still listen to, and derive immense pleasure from, 'classic' albums like "I Care Because You Do", "Tango N' Vectif" and Black Dog's "Spanners". Not that Reeves' music sounds especially similar to any of these milestones, more a sense that here is some 'proper' (I hate to use the word 'traditional') electronic listening music that manages to sound melodic and playful, texturally lush and rhythmically strong and groovy all at the same time. For an old 'Artificial Intelligence'-loving geezer like me, listening to the Gasman is like coming home. The first time I heard his debut longplayer "Remedial" I was grinning like a bloody idiot - Reeves knows how to tweak all my erogenous zones and if he'd suddenly walked in the room I'd have felt compelled to give him a big hug and say thanks for making an old wanker very happy, especially when those ancient Hip House samples pop-up on "Ajax". There's a gloriously unpretentious sense of fun about many of these tunes and a real emotional punch with all those uplifting arpeggiated keyboard parts. When I first heard "Pyrolic" I nearly went into cardiac arrest with the sheer fucking pleasure of it all - those lilting organ chords over an off-kilter rhythm that might be described as a jazz waltz and then when that ethereal synth melody came sailing over the top I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I get chocked-up just thinking about it. What a great little album! Buy here, or download if you prefer...
...but there is a darker side to Reeves' muse - you can hear hints of it in some of the more ambient pieces on "Remedial", but they've been heavily emphasized on his latest mammoth 2-CD collection "The Grand Electric Palace Of Variety" which, despite the child-like fairground cover illustration's promise of more joyful warm-heartedness, features a tracklist sequence that can only be described as 'courageous'. Disc 1 begins with a reverb-drenched suite of atmospheric pieces with ominous drones, choppy choral ensembles and ponderous piano noodles that make you wonder what the hell's been going on in Mr. Reeves' head in the intervening two years. The first hint of a beat doesn't arrive until track 4, but even here the vibe is more akin to the contemplative tracks on AFX's "Analogue Bubblebath 3". The first reminder of Reeves' former perky demeanor comes with track 6, the extremely lovely "Bifidus" which gets me feeling all warm and cozy again, but it's a brief glow in an otherwise oppressive series of frigid soundscapes that often verge on being positively solemn. But there's some wonderful moments to be gleaned from these too, like "Fridge", which sounds a bit like a breakcore version of Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" without the angst-Rock hangover, or the return of the choral stabs on the frantic, spine-tingling rollercoaster ride that is "Citrimax". Actually the female choir sound is one of the most dominant timbres on this album, recurring at regular intervals; the ultimate example surely being the gothic church organ-accompanied "Ark" which conjures images of graveyards, gargoyles and old Hammer-Horror films.
With disc 2 following a similar path it's quite tempting to use the old adage that this would've made a great single-CD, but having lived with the album for a couple of months now I'm coming out in favour of the over-generous amount of tracks. It's actually quite fascinating peeking into all the little nooks and crannies of Reeves' beautifully twisted mind. Maybe not as perfectly succinct as "Remedial", nor as enjoyable throughout, "Grand Electric..." should still be celebrated for the scope of it's ambition. It may not be quite up there with "Selected Ambient Works II", but it's a more satisfying album than "Druqks" if you ask me. Buy CD here, download here.
This Gasman can come 'round and service my boiler anytime;-)