Anything that reminds me of a happy live music experience is going to get immediate interest this year, and as soon as I read the word ‘Anthroprophh’ – as unwieldy and contrary as it is – I was transported to a dark room, Paul Allen (yes, from The Heads) wailing and spinning molten tones as Gareth and Jesse (of Big Naturals) laid down a ferocious ritual that would have shamed many a metal band. I missed their Toilet Circuit EP from earlier this year, but I encourage you to check that out if you’re here, as it’s a short but sweet bit of hard-driven brainfry psych with teeth.
Now to German Oak – this record shares Steve Dew (‘Bristol legend’) on drums, but aside from that is more notable for its differences, than similarities, to Anthroprophh’s releases on Rocket Recordings. Maybe that’s the point, this one on Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube Records drops a lot of the punk sneer that was so forward on both Toilet Circuit and Omegaville. Either it’s a step to the side, exploring new territory, or maybe they really are just ‘Too Old’ 😉 .
Very much an A/B affair this record, the title track on Side A at sixteen and a bit minutes, and slightly longer over four tracks on the B side. German Oak is a proper cosmic jam, warp engines warming up before a clattering crashing kit freak-out coaxes forth endless swirling echo from guitar and synth, bass rumble that my small speakers leave subliminal, but probably rattles teeth in the room. It hits a plateau a few minutes in, but we have not reached cruising altitude, this is just a launchpad for more. Deeper into space until Anthroprophh ground us with the sound of a passing plane, nature sounds and a spooky warbling synth, all wrong and 70s. Not exactly soothing, but bringing us back to a calmer state.
German Oak is a proper cosmic jam, warp engines warming up before a clattering crashing kit freak-out coaxes forth…
On into You Have Sailed With A Furious Soul, where we’re definitely soothed. Smoothly slinking bass and vibes lay the atmosphere for our arrival in an alien civilisation, future-retro groove that dissipates, we look around and are back in the woods (Goblin Coombe just out near the airport in fact). Are we on a walk with someone? There’s the suggestion of a footstep rhythm and voices, drifting free in wonder and unease, like a belly full of liberty caps that could go either way. Ah but maybe where we’re going is to this place where someone’s playing acoustic guitar, and it’s great! Gentle hand drum accompaniment underscores a skilful and compelling bit of picking. Grounding again, brief but satisfying. What’s left? Boxing Day, bittersweet, not quite settled with the hollowness of the space between comfortable bass and high echoing vocals.
German Oak is a turn from the harder fare Anthroprophh have put out over the last few years, especially the second half as it hits a much more ‘vintage psych’ sound that wouldn’t be out of place on certain classic 70s explorations. Less my thing than when they’re hammering and raging, but still gives me a little thrill of vicarious Bristol pride for the expert headscramblers that manifest here in the South West. My suggestion? Get stuck into Omegaville, skin up while you listen to Toilet Circuit, and then sit back with German Oak. Make a day of it, you’ve earned it.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes