Mugstar - Collapsar

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-12-15
Mugstar - Collapsar
Mugstar - Collapsar

Collapsar is a collection of singles and rarities recorded over their fifteen year career and available in an eye-catching double vinyl package. This is a splendid place to start for anyone who, like me, has missed out on this excellent band. Here's a quick sprint through the 16 tracks.

Bethany Heart (their single from 2007) starts with a pulsating synth line to which is added some filthy-sounding guitar. It’s all fairly brutal, thumping and instrumental. All-in-all a good start, as the lads move from riff to riff, sometimes sounding like Sonic Youth, sometimes sounding like The Birthday Party. The single My Baby Skull Has Not Yet Flowered follows with Jason Stoll’s evil-sounding saxophone taking the lead. It’s a fairly intimidating six minutes of single chord build ups and Space Rock. Red Shift – from their 2010 single - is like demented Surf-Rock. The early b-side Man With Supersight is frantic, has many different parts and for some reason reminds me of Pixies. Mugstar’s debut single, Spotlight Over Memphis, with its monster bass, Space Rock sound effects and Wah-wah recalls The Heads. It successfully sets their stall fully out in under 3 minutes. Blue Shift (clearly) is the other side of Red Shift and is the most experimental piece here being six minutes of free-form noise and sound effects, occasionally sounding quite like Wolf Eyes and occasionally like a field of crickets in space. The intensity lessens for Trone, with its cleaner-sounding guitars and simple riff that moves between two chords. Again, it is quite close to Surf-Rock but throwing a little Sonic Youth in too. The single Technical Knowledge As A Weapon comes next with more space sounds and a Tracey Pew bass line. There is a lot more synth here. It would almost sound Prog if it wasn’t so frantic. Another single – Flavin HotRod – follows. It’s a combination of a vocal screamed through a distortion pedal and some more subverted Surf-Rock. Mugstar’s cover of ZZ Top’s I Got The Six combines a screaming vocal from Pete Smyth with a violent build up and is all over in just over two minutes. Smith’s vocal (still screaming) is put through a distortion pedal on Object (from a John Peel session), the music is again closer to the sleaze of The Birthday Party/Bad Seeds in a similar way to Hey Colossus. DikSik ( b-side from 2006) is another instrumental that edges closer to Sonic Youth this time. There is even a hint of the scruffier end of Emo about the frantic discordant strumming. Their cover of Tam Lin - the traditional folk ballad - recalls forgotten Psych/Folk legends Abunai, but also is a successful combination of their own sound with the basic elements (melody, riff) of the Fairport Convention version. There are also a lot of interesting noises going on just beneath the service. Mascon (from a Peel Session) has a slower build up until revealing itself to be another instrumental combination of strummed riffs. Mugstar’s guitar sound is more trebly than a lot of their Psych/Space/Noise contemporaries, relying on a filthier bass sound to fill out the noise. They are also more reliant on strummed patterns than single note riffs. A drum tattoo from Steve Ashton opens Floatation Tank (from their self-titled debut album). It is joined by what sounds like a franticly played violin. A voice mutters just out of reach like Spiderland by Slint. The compilation finishes with Bardo Head Finder (from a split record with The Oscillation, Listening Mirror and Ben Nash), this time they play a very clear collection of riffs, both strummed and picked. The separation on the mix is also better, with all parts discernible.

Collapsar is a frantic storming through the known and unknown corners of Mugstar’s back catalogue and a great place to start for beginners.

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