Malatese - Malatese Oksom Tejah - LP (2012)

Labels: Bad Grrrl Records
Review by: Alex Hannan

I’m surprised that a copy of this LP has made it over to the UK for review in early 2014 – recorded in 2011, overdubbed, mixed and crowdfunded in 2012, re-overdubbed and mixed after the files were corrupted in what must have been a horrendous computer foul-up, you’d have thought that the release at the end of 2012 would have been the time to promote the 300 pressed. Maybe they were all tired after working so hard that year (they were offering to come round and cook breakfast for some of the crowdfunding pledges, which probably takes it out of you…)

A lot of the musical ideas on the LP orbit a sort of composite late-era Dischord Records sound, like opener “Shape shifters” – energetic, angular and arty, with bright guitars and busy basslines. Third track “Jamais vu” recalls the anaesthetised unease of certain later FUGAZI tracks. Sometimes they allow this sound to drift into meandering and tangled lines, like the blocks which interrupt the BEAUTY PILL-like flow of “œThe fly”. Gradually a rhythmic deepening and motoric repetition take hold through the LP, in keeping with their self-description as “trance-punk”. It’s this atmosphere which is the band’s most interesting calling card – the riffs themselves aren’t always memorable, but they are able to create interesting builds and climaxes over the length of a song. However, when the band try for heavier textures the sound becomes soupy and muffled “” last track “œHeaven would melt” suffers a lot from this.

The lyrics and vocals are the biggest drawback. “Malatese Oksom Tejah” was an assumed name of a stranger whose philosophy library turned up in second-hand bookshops, many bought by members of MALATESE. Early on they wanted “to create an outlet for the philosophical dialogues being played out in the texts we were reading.” Unfortunately this mostly results in weak pastiche. The song “Divine” is half-digested Camus, and throughout there are attempts at mysticism let down by hokey rhyming and would-be sassy wordplay. From the opening of “World panic”: “It’s the celestial spheres in rhythm with ancient fears. From the stars to the lake comes the quake, heart ache. Seasons dance enchanted across my wake.” “Paradise” begins: “I am the absurd constructor / let me construct ya / The adolescent scarecrow pushed aside in your mind.” I find it hard to warm to a band who deliver the line “Feel divine when I blow out my mind” with a straight face. All delivered in a dramatic, tremulous keen – aiming somewhere between Cedric Bixler and Richard Ashcroft. Ack, can’t deal!