Charalambides are Tom and Christina Carter, and they have been exploring obscure regions of psychedelic improvised guitar for many years now. The deep jams of Strangle The Wretched Heavers were recorded in the mid-1990’s, and yet have retained their special feeling to this very day. Pressed to 180g vinyl and released by Drawing Room Records, along with a fold-out poster.
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The Charalambides moniker contains two musical naysayers, both of whom now make their own kinda weirdness elsewhere. Christina Carter finds new ways to unfold her guitar while also performing vocal pieces in newly intense and often suffocating ways (‘Masque Femine’ is a whispered avant-garde classic), while Tom Carter is a guitarist who most recently surveyed the land with a piece of psych rock classicism called ‘Long Time Underground’. Together they create what you might be tempted to call psych rock but might be better stretched to psychedelia in its entirety -- it’s distorted, formless and shambolic, strummed there and back again as vocals intertwine and wail through the canyons of solos and riffs.
This reissue of ‘Strangle of the Wretched Heavens’ is a good example of the duo at their most happily freeform, but it also shows them try on stints of melodicism and feeling: after the thirteen minute warble glory of “A Mile Is Only 5,000 Miles”, they spend some time doubling down into “Lay Open”, a song proper with modest piano and a vocal line that recalls the ricocheting half-singing of Sun City Girls. The riffs here are still warped and monolithic but are coupled with the occasional emotive riff, which is soon abandoned for more noodling.
The record’s title track, though, is the one at which I marvel: it finally commits to the distorted fog of the record, condensing what you hear into walls of guitar and Christina Carter’s sharp vocal. At points the track dials back, as if fading into an ambience, before the guitar squiggles come out once more in full force. The result is a mid ‘90s avant-garde record that feels uncompromising in its presentation of a time and a place. Call it private psychedelia, maybe? Thanks for intruding.
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