The GR Record Head is the fifth solo album for French ‘deviationist ensemble’ GRegory Raimo, and it features ‘a multi-piece line up of GRs.’ In his words: ‘I get to play the drums and while playing it I hear the potential bass in my head that’s to come next; and likewise, when my mind hears the guitar while playing the Bbass upon the captured drums, I finally know it’s the whole band right inside me and ejected from me that’s to be heard next while I’ll be playing the Guitar’. Clear?
The GR Record Head was recorded to analogue 4-track tape, and released with mono sound, and the primitive lo-fi immediately evokes a bygone era. It’s fitting then, that the opening track is a tribute to 60s American activist and revolutionary Fred Hampton. The song kicks off with audio from one of Hampton’s speeches, and a passage from a gospel song, before GR’s guitar stabs in. Then the drums and bass come in and you finally know where it’s heading – lurching, swaggering guitar, pulsing bass, and propulsive drums, soon followed by gravelly vocals. It’s catchy and raunchy, but only GR knows the structure of the song. The bass keeps teasingly pointing to a key change that doesn’t always happen, the main riff is constantly punctuated with spiky flourishes, and the whole thing periodically stops, just to see if you’re paying attention. There’s even a touch of surfy tremolo tucked in there.
My Returning Sound begins as another snarling and dense piece of proto-punk, until GR grabs the controls and sets them for the heart of the sun. First there are a couple of shorter breakdowns, each one chock-full of far-ranging guitar madness, but kept under tight control, landing quickly back in vocals-and-riff territory. The longer closing freakout lets the bass go exploring a bit more, leaving the motorik-style drum groove in charge of momentum. It’s really deftly handled, and a clear standout track for me.
lurching, swaggering guitar, pulsing bass, and propulsive drums, soon followed by gravelly vocals. It’s catchy and raunchy, but only GR knows the structure of the song…
From here the album moves towards frantic free-rock. Instrumental Howlin’ Triangle gives us the template, with grinding bass and clattering, jagged drums that shoot in all directions like a nightmare of shattering glass. The guitar squalls and screeches, and ejaculates its tumult everywhere. There’s a tantalising hint of heavy riff on Spray Of Punitive Fumes, and a sweet ascending figure in Mind Rotation, but it mostly supplies little in the way of a melody or a hook.
Sometimes, as in Mind Rotation, the bass is melodic enough to pull off something like a hook, and the whole thing occasionally heads somewhere in the general direction of a groove. Ripples Thru The Beam has the strongest groove in the latter half of the album, kicking off with a growling surf feel, complete with swirling organ, and finding its way to another interstellar climax. I Owe You Nothing (But The Spirit Of The Protest) actually swings!
The album as a whole covers a lot of ground – it’s harsh, menacing, and compelling. It’s also ugly, strange and frustrating. Fans of Beefheart, Michael Yonkers, and a handful of other outsider and psych acts will probably get it.
Scribed by: Rob Bryant