The Carbon Manual – When I Am Memory Album Review

The Carbon Manual
When I Am Memory
Flicknife Records

The Carbon Manual’s When I Am Memory is a confident offering in a style that the band describes as krautrock ‘n’ roll. Out of Bristol in the UK, this trio is a beautiful merging of the tricks and talents of Iain Weir, Clifford Glee and indie legend Jeremy Gluck of The Barracudas fame. Often built on a dry drum machine beat that is perfectly retro without being overly knowing, the tracks on this album achieve the difficult task of merging the melodic with the morose. There are shades of Leonard Cohen, Don Van Vliet (without the throat) and also, more specifically, beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, in a style that is dark, powerful, personal, narrational and American. These direct and sometimes challenging vocalizations are delivered over music that understands both whimsy and the power that a well constructed tune has to unsettle and transport.

The track “That I Would Arrive At Your Door” combines lazy, mellow and pretty guitar riffs, whose sleazy pleasure is redolent of The Velvet Underground, with the aforementioned vocals and dry bontempi drums. Under and over this tapestry burble and gargle psychedelic and spacey audio signals from another age. A kind of love song of re-imagined, recollected, but now speculatory encounters with love, sex and domestic ordinariness, this track exemplifies the deft and subtly crafted qualities that run through the whole album. Highly visual, and driven equally by the mood of the music and the lyrical content, it evokes filmic imagery of New York’s Brownstone Buildings, of apartments and lives lived beyond the bustle of the city.

There are shades of Alan Vega’s and Martin Rev’s influential and groundbreaking electronic protopunk band Suicide, particularly in the track “Inherited Dysfunction”, with its Farfisa-eque organ, and it is possible to see their long and imaginative shadows across parts of the album.

The accompanying press pack speaks of “deep and philosophical modulation”. This is an apt description. When I Am Memory seems to be an album whose words are wrought from stories, both personal and real, that have been consciously examined and unconsciously ejaculated. Reflected upon, but fresh in intent and execution, these words then mesh and merge with a music that never upstages and never becomes secondary.

At one hour in duration and spread over thirteen tracks, this release is consistent and strong throughout and, although every track is spoken word over music that appears simply constructed, the effect is engaging and varied.

Those of us who enjoy music that was recorded on analogue tape and released on twelve inch vinyl long playing records will recognise and celebrate the vibe, tone and textures the production this album achieves. However, by harking back sonically to a time when valves glowed and delay effects were achieved by using tape machines this album only serves to enhance its challenging nature. The overlaying of this authenticity augments the undoubted influence of The Velvet Underground and suchlike, before doubling back and reflecting on a modern culture where all experience and expression is binary and digitised.

Inspired by bands whose influence and music has resonated through the decades Weir, Glee and Gluck have produced a new seminal work that could in time prove to be just as influential.


Greg Healey
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