SUN CITY GIRLS – 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond the Rig Veda (1996)

Review by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson

This is not an easy record to like; at least not on the first few tentative listens. Things are made difficult from the start and the first couple of tracks present a particularly serious obstacle to the casual listener, uninitiated into the ways of the Sun City Girls: hideous shrieking vocals that are reminiscent of nothing so much as a cat being slowly strangled or roasted alive over an open fire set to a feeble, scratchy accompaniment of out of tune guitars played with such obnoxious artlessness that your instant first reaction is to curl your fingers into a fist and head for whatever sound source that the music is emanating from. The point being that this is pure aural troll-ery at its finest and most music fans would feel no qualms about giving up on the record after having stuck it out for, I dunno, the first 5 minutes or so. 

I decided however to persevere and try and overcome my initial, understandable aversion to the Girls’ unrepentantly autistic levels of zaniness. And lo, my persistence was eventually rewarded. The album gets much more engaging and much less annoying as it progresses, and it improves even more on successive listens — and although those scrawny vocals continue to be a point of contention for me, taken as a whole the record is definitely more hit than miss. The idiotic swirling chaos that marks the very beginning of the record settles down to a much more compelling musical morass that edges towards drone-y minimalism on the second disc — and fuck those guys can really play. What you get for the most part is actually fairly conventional as far as late 20th century popular-avant garde music hybrids go; Sun Ra especially seems to be a big influence. 

I’m not really au fait with the rest of the Sun City Girls’ catalogue so I don’t know whether their other albums are this consciously ‘eastern sounding’ or whether this record was a focused attempt on the part of the band to discover affinities with a host of different asian musics, here ranging from gamelan and religious chants to hindi film tunes. They actually manage to do justice to the film tunes in question though with their thin nervy guitars and frenzied hysterical vocals it helps that the songs were utterly over the top in the first place. Cruel and Thin in particular seems fairly genuine and heartfelt rendering of the original (whatever it was; I wasn’t able to track it down) that really stands out in the midst of a record that is generally feels emotionally retarded if not deeply neurotic. But of course it wouldn’t be the Sun City Girls if one of the next tracks didn’t sound very much like a freshly castrated schizophrenic having a protracted argument with himself in an alley at three 3am to a vaguely gamelan-ish accompaniment. 

The highlight of the album however has to be Ghost Ghat Trespass, a collaboration with the great avant garde violinist Eyvind Kang that really showcases the group’s chops and allows them to stretch out their improvisational wings over the space of 34 minutes — and trust me they go all out. 

7/10

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Author: tomymostalas

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