If you're a seasoned W&H watcher, you might already know that this reviewer has high expectations for this one: the debut mini-album from this fascinating and resolutely unclassifiable quartet from the depths of London's New Cross.
For the uninitiated, though, let's have some background first. The enigmatically-monikered ONE MORE GRAIN are led by one Daniel Patrick Quinn, esq. A burgeoning experimental pop personality of some repute, he was formerly the driving force behind the under-rated Suilven Recordings label, under whose imprint he released a string of increasingly intriguing and organic albums recorded from the corner of his bedroom, culminating in the tremendous 'Ridin' The Stang' (2005). This latter was received warmly in critical circles (not least by The Sunday Times and this very organ) and - in a fairer world - ought to have helped introduce Quinn to a much wider audience.
In reality, DPQ was still struggling to mesh with like minds in his adopted Edinburgh base. Yes, his all-important hill-walking needs were serviced by the close proximity of a fine range of peaks, but his creative juices struggled to flow when it came to putting together his pre-OMG outfit, The Rough Ensemble. Ironically, just as he seemed to have found a combination which blended, he upped sticks and moved to London where a re-think and a frenzied internet search procured the equally individualistic talents of trumpeter/ sound manipulator Andrew Blick, bassist DuDu and former Israeli army member and drummer Gal Moore. As apparently disparate as you like on the surface, the four meshed beautifully in the creative sense and - narrowly avoiding London's flash floods in the summer of 2006 and attending rehearsals in a flooded basement in Bow - they began laying down the remarkable sounds you're about to hear on 'Pigeon English.'
And - make no mistake - 'Pigeon English' is a good thousand country miles from the kind of regulation indie you're liable to be fawning over if you still subscribe to the beautifully-coiffeured twats hoisted upon us by the likes of the NME every week. It's also bloody fantastic and the sort of record which reminds you that you once listened to bands who did this kind of thing for the same reason Dan and co. do - because they bloody well NEED to make this music and don't give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks about them doing so.
Not that we're talking revolutionary, three-chord, two-fingers-aloft gestures, here. 'Pigeon English' proffers us a heady esperanto all of its' own volition, but it's a language you'll be glad you subscribed to and became fluent in because it's fascinating from start to finish. It's also the only 'official' set of recordings liable to emerge from OMG Mk.1 because since they finished 'Pigeon English' both Moore and DuDu have departed, to be replaced by bassist Merek Cooper and drummer Laurie Waller. I've not heard the new quartet live in all their glory as yet, but I'm told they're equally inspired, so that augurs well as this will take some following up.
So why exactly is 'Pigeon English' so earth-shatteringly exciting? OK, well how's about this for starters: it favourably references names like Can, Pere Ubu, Miles Davis and occasionally The Pop Group at their most disciplined. Also, it makes precious few concessions to the 'zeitgeist' (or "the Zeitgeist, the zeetgyst, hur hur!" as Dan so adroitly puts it on 'Against King Moron') and inhabits an Inner Space all its' own. It's broody, inventive and topped-off magnificently by Dan's tremendous Mark.E.Smith-treats-Alan-Partridge-and-Mick-Derrick-to-a-bottle-of-Glenfiddich rants. Magnificent.
Parts of it will already be familiar to those of you who have dropped in on OMG's MySpace page. The hilarious, legally-explicit 'Tropical Mother In Law' boasts not only the best title of the year, but lurches around the corner like Viz comic's anti-hero The Brown Bottle clutching copies of 'Dub Housing' and 'Ege Bamyasi' and attempting to out-run a herd of wildebeest. Yes, it's that good, as is the sneery, anti-complacency rant 'Against King Moron' where a charged and lethal Quinn lets fly against the scenesters ("Who wants to be king anyway? Who wants to piss around the perimeter fence?") while the band lever up a visceral and (whisper it) monstrously rocking backbeat. It's hugely exhilarating and suits them surprisingly well.
Elsewhere, a curiously upbeat perkiness pervades the be-bop/ bossa nova instrumental 'I'm On My Way', while the 'dark horse' factor is upped by 'Down Roman Road' and the excellent 'A Shout In The Street'. The former is broody and dubby and features skirting melodic flourishes that seep further under your skin every time you hear it while 'A Shout In The Street' revels in the drone-y abstraction of much of Quinn's best work. The whole band are fabulous on it, with DuDu's bass setting up a semi-subterranean, Jah Wobble-style pulse, Moore's drums pushing and persuading, Blick's trumpet swooping like a hungry seagull and Quinn's hypnotic Juno and guitar figures transplanting the rustic, country-wise setting of his previous work to a more evil, urban world.
By this stage, favourite tracks are queuing up, but if pushed, this hack would probably set 'Northern' and the closing 'Won't Get Fooled Again' on a collision course for his top honours. Unsurprisingly, the latter is anything BUT a cover of The Who tune of the same title, and is actually a sinewy, motorik-style near instrumental egged on by Quinn's leery vocal invective. Blick's trumpet (closer in execution to woolly mammoths engaging in a mass suicide pact at Beachy Head) has to be heard here to be believed and the way the tune speeds up maniacally towards the death is one of many highlights to savour here. 'Northern', by comparison, is the one direct link with Quinn's recent past, and this full-band rendition of the 'Ridin' The Stang' standout is both magnificently evocative and just possibly the most moving five minutes Dan has yet committed to tape.
'Pigeon English', then, is a stunning statement of intent. It's enigmatic, inventive and multi-faceted and its' deliciously oblique angles and heady, nocturnal rhythms are endlessly seductive to all discerning heads out there. It's the one where a uniquely promising sonic explorer and his ultra-talented musical sherpas plant their flag on the creative summit at last, even if - knowing Dan's work ethic - they may not hang around to enjoy the view for too long.