If you are unfamiliar with Mugstar at this point, please picture this scene: there is underground bunker somewhere underneath the beach on the Liverpudlian coastline. Maybe that one with the rusting statues of naked men by Anthony Gormley on it. Somewhere within this labyrinthine structure lies a cobbled together laboratory typical of your common or garden mad scientist .You know the type; plasma balls and Tesla coils crackling all over the shop. This mad scientist may or may not resemble Ken Dodd in a lab coat. I’ll leave that bit to your imagination. Gingerly, he takes his scalpel and splices a large clump of Hawkwind, a sliver of Man Or Astroman?, a dash of Clinic and strain of Sonic Youth into a petri dish. He then releases his creation on to the unsuspecting UK psych scene to play exhilarating live shows and to release two amazing instrumental long players in the shape of ‘Sun, Broken’ and ‘Lime’, all the while cackling through his toothy smile and threatening people with his tickling stick.
Ad Marginem, if I remember my Latin correctly (or more accurately after consulting Google), means ‘within the margins’. And it’s in the margins where we find Mugstar’s latest release. Composed in collaboration with film-maker Liam Yates, this is Mugstar moving into unfamiliar, marginal territory. Whilst the last two albums (‘Serra’ and the fantastic split with Oneida notwithstanding) managed to meld muscular, pulsing space rock with beefy surf guitar to fantastic effect, this an altogether different beast.
Having not heard the music in the context of the film here, I’m imagining the process of writing music to an accompanying moving image has made them call upon their inner resources. There are influences here that weren’t immediately apparent on listening to their back catalogue. You can hear Can at their most menacing, Godspeed at their gloomiest, Slint at their most coiled, John Barry’s chiming spy themes, post-punk fidget and jazz-inflected guitar.
‘Rite I’ opens the proceedings in a dark, foreboding fashion, giving you an indication of what is to come over the next 35 minutes. It reminds me of a darker twin of Damo Suzuki-era Can (sans vocals, of course). ‘Inquisition’ and ’Memorial’ continue in this blackened vein. I don’t think this film is a slapstick comedy, lets put it that way. ‘Island – Red’ is perhaps the most familiar Mugstar territory here, as it patrols the spaceways in their typically wonderful fashion. Album closer, ‘Rite II’, collapses in on itself like a black hole with its hypnotic motorik finale.
This is another triumph for Mugstar, a band who seem to be coming into their own after a long time as stalwarts of the UK psych scene. It also bodes well for their forthcoming full length release due in October. Limited editions of Ad Marginem will come with a DVD of the film, and it will be interesting to see how the music marries up with the moving image (plus, you get to see various members of Mugstar in an acting capacity). Recommended.
Posted: Mon 9 July 2012