Trembling Bells – Dungeness
Ultimately Dungeness is a fun psych rock record, but it could've benefited from being reined in a little
Dungeness, the coastal desert in the south of England from which Trembling Bells' seventh album takes its name, has been described as a place where the “wild west meets the post-apocalyptic,” and Alex Neilson, the band’s maestro, has gone to great pains to create art that echoes that doomsday wasteland.
Dungeness takes itself extremely seriously: from the relentlessly pretentious list of inspirations laid out in the album’s presser (the work of Flemish Expressionist James Ensor; Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal), to the equally alienating and important-sounding track names (My Father Was a Collapsing Star; Rebecca, Dressed as a Waterfall). However, behind all the bluster, there’s actually a fun, pretty ridiculous, psych rock record to get stuck into.
The Armageddon evoked by its title is most vividly expressed in the way the songs hold together – everything seems to be teetering on the edge of a cliff in constant danger of collapse. Sometimes this is for the better – such as on the chugging Devil in Dungeness which builds steadily and hypnotically. Trembling Bells have mainly left behind their folk rock credentials for something more reminiscent of Swedish experimentalists Goat. However, sometimes the lack of structure becomes numbing: My Father Was a Collapsing Star runs through a tonne of ideas and yet still feels three minutes too long.
It all comes to a glorious crashing climax on the penultimate I’m Coming, which is basically a psycho-sexual Book of Revelation, with Lavinia Blackwall’s incredible howling vocal swirling to a crescendo.
It’s true that psychedelia of this type is often frameless by its very nature. Yet, despite the album’s delights, one wonders how tight Neilson’s eccentric work would be if reined in a little.
Listen to: Christ’s Entry Into Govan, Devil in Dungeness, I’m Coming