John McBain - Accidental Soundtracks Vol. 1: The Alpha Particle

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-06-02

Less than a year since releasing the storming Lost Chants/Last Chance album with Kandodo, John McBain (Monster Magnet, Wellwater Conspriracy, Desert Sessions) is back again with another album. This time he challenged himself to record a song every day. Accidental Soundtracks Vol. 1 is 'recorded with modern technology but recorded in an ‘analog’ way.'

Wind and feedback introduce Fade In Fade Out, before ominous analogue keyboard sounds approach. This short introductory piece then holds a balance between the two for its remaining seconds. The Alpha Particle is Motorik, very Neu with delayed piano, sustained lead and bass on top of the drums and one chord guitar. And it continues in this highly agreeable way for 6 minutes with the guitars getting slightly more gnarly towards the end. The analog synths (arpeggiated and in washes of sound) are back for Lower California.

There are a number of artists making excellent albums in this area (Steve Hauschildt, Steve Moore, Majeure) and, as you would expect, John McBain is a welcome addition. He also has the ability to add deft guitar figures, as he does here. A huge, dreamy, synth wash starts Captions & Credits as two chords fade into each other over the course of 3 minutes. Interloper is an easy-paced, synth and drum machine track. Still two-chord but also quite poppy in a Tame Impala way. McBain also cracks out a big old Robert Fripp-style guitar line. Accidental Soundtrack comes in with a soft patter before the drum machine and nimble bass-line arrive. Again, it is quite Motorik, with clean guitar lines weaving in and out of each other. Like Stereolab, simple parts are constantly layered to make a complex whole. First Earth Battalion is next and has more arpeggiated keyboards, rather like John Carpenter but with a rhythm guitar part. The playing is somewhere between Neil Young and David Gilmour. But, when the solo comes, it has the ferocity of Young. Focal Point starts out with a distorted keyboard, possibly set to Vibraphone. It's quite like Broadcast or Portishead when the trembling strings come in. As with most of these pieces it is mainly two chords with simple lines; the sounds and the way they are layered is where the interest lies. The analog synths and drum machine are back for the factually correct No Guitars. Layers of arpeggiated lines chatter away over two solid synth chords. The penultimate track is a cover of Randy Holden's Malibu Run, originally recorded by his surf band The Fender IV (also factually correct - there were four of them and they played Fenders). Lots of moody, distorted, surf guitar. The last track is the 7 minute Ecliptic Plane. It starts out quite ambient, like Klaus Schulze. There is a tremendous sense of stillness and space to this piece which sets it in contrast to the surf guitar of Malibu Run.

Everything that John McBain puts out is worth checking out and Accidental Soundtracks Vol.1: The Alpha Particle is no exception. A meditation on film music and instant composition it references 70s/80s synth soundtracks, 60s spy soundtracks, surf music and Motorik Krautrock. A very tastefully arranged and concise collection of sketches.

 

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