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Kemialliset Ystävät / Sunroof! split

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KEMIALLISET YSTÄVÄT - Kemialliset Ystävät / Sunroof! split

Led by Jan Anderzén, Kemialliset Ystävät (it translates as ‘chemical friends’) are a loose collective from Tampere in southern Finland. Existing in dialogue amongst (and beyond) the hugely creative / diverse microcosm of the Finnish scene including artists like Avarus, Lau Nau, Es, Paavoharju, Islaja, Anaksimandros, and labels like Fonal, 247 Laatijaa, and Lal Lal Lal, Kemialliset Ystävät has become an influential node on the outsider noise / folk / psych underground, finding international acclaim. Whilst many Kemialliset Ystävät recordings are solo productions, Anderzén has also employed many friends within this scene as floating / occassional members through the years, and other players on these tracks include Sami Sänpäkkilä (1, 2, 3, 5), Roope Eronen (3), Niko-Matti Ahti (3, 5), Tomas Regan (3, 5), Markus Mäki (3, 5), and Elissa Määttänen (5).

With nearly 50 releases (in all manner of formats) since its inception in 1995, Kemialliset Ystävät has remained a constantly moving enigma. Almost entirely self-taught and using a bewildering array of instruments and approaches, their sonic arsenal includes detuned guitars, bass, traditional / vernacular instrumentation (mandolins, balalaikas, etc.) hand percussion, all manner of electronic instruments, effects, toys and circuit-bent items, treated samples and vinyl manipulation. Playfully taking their own unique and unpredictable path, they have layered and fused together traditional Finnish (at times almost medieval-sounding) instrumentation and melodies with avant-garde electronics, psychedelic folk / rock, noise, electro-acoustic, and percussive tribal rhythms, creating a sense of ritualistic magic and flexible, group-mind improvisation, with the whole often subjected to brutal and precise editing.

A dense, tangled mass of independent roots, their music is rhizomatic, richly textural and riddled with obsessive detail, bizarre juxtapositions and hypnotic structures. Patterns form and dissolve again before fully apprehended. Whilst individually marked, the five tracks they’ve contributed to this 12” flow together as sections of one whole to form a fluid, simmering and restless journey through woozy loops, blurred harmonies and vocal contortions. With occassional jump-cuts, and all manner of spluttering, splattering electronics, its shimmering sense of tension eventually resolves as forms emerge – sometimes fleetingly, sometimes with a longer, more coherent rhythmic / melodic pull.

Brilliantly twisted and prolific, Anderzén’s home-baked output extends beyond his music to a vast flood of drawings, paintings and collaged artwork.Fans for a long while, FatCat’s initial hookup with Kemialliset Ystävät occurred in February 2006, when the band were invited to play at FatCat’s ‘Open Circuit’ Festival in belgium, at which they also played a live improvised collaboration with Múm. A fantastic live unit, they will be touring the UK / Europe this Autumn.

Sunroof! is the work of prolific, Bradford-based guitar-abuse legend Matthew Bower, who has been active on the experimental / post-punk / noise underground for over 25 years, releasing over 60 albums under a variety of pseudonyms. Bower’s vast discography of visceral, free drone-rock is one of the most formidable of its kind - a monumental / labyrinthine effort to get your head around, with continual shifts and dynamic reverses between - and even within - his various projects rendering it virtually impossible to pin down.

Bower first surfaced in the UK power-electronics / noise scene in 1982, when his band Pure, after just one limited cassette release, evolved into Total. By 1987, Total itself had somehow mutated into Skullflower (including guitarist Stefan Jaworzyn and drummer Stuart Dennison), whilst remaining as Bower's solo project. Skullflower differed from many of the bands around them in their preference for more traditional instruments and in employing massive volume and tenuous, near-formless structures still loosely tied to rock. Prefiguring the kind of freeform, bass-heavy, feedback-driven noise-rock now favoured by the likes of Earth, Sunn O))), Boris, etc., various lineups included members of Ascension, Terminal Cheesecake, Whitehouse, Total, Ramleh, Breathless, and Coil. Whilst Total began as a less rock-based and calmer, ‘isolationist’ / ‘ambient’ counterpart, the dynamic then reversed with Total's later releases often considerably noisier and more chaotic than Skullflower's. Having shut down in 1996, Bower returned Skullflower as a solo vehicle in 2003. Other projects he has currently running include Hototogisu (with Marcia Bassett), and most recently Mirag, which sees him working material of a vaguely black-metal nature.

Total was retired in the late ‘90s when the Puff Daddy-affiliated R'n'B group laid exclusive claim to the name, and Bower continued on from 1999 under the new name Sunroof! If anything, more wilfully diverse and leaning towards the ecstatic, Sunroof!’s trajectory has shifted from bubbling, transcendental pulse to coruscating feedback, jerky freeform soloing to sweet-shimmering dream-haze with traces of acid-damaged British folk, and brain-blitzing high-pitched psychedelic drone. Heavily layered and forming a rich, deep and fully immersive experience, the project has included collaborators like Richard Youngs, Mattin, C. Spencer Yeh (Burning Star Core), Sunburned Hand Of The Man's John Moloney and Marc Orleans, Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Mick Flower and Neil Campbell, and Phil Todd (whose Anna Planeta project featured on a previous FatCat split 12”).

Stepping between varying pressures and weights, the three tracks provided here offer a dazzling confirmation of Sunroof!’s quality. ‘Little Ornamental Lake Of Death’ and ‘Extinction Fantasy’ blow out a beatless, fizzing, corruscating, hyper-energetic scrawl / sprawl of guitar – a swirling mass of sound that’s blissfully immersive and hyper-coloured. Wedged in between, the far briefer ‘Spiritual Forgery’ hangs a frayed line of quavering guitar tone.