Red Wine and Sugar – Chattels + The Confidence and Humour of John CD Index Clean 2016
Perhaps I am missing the metaphor or slang reference of the chosen moniker, but regardless, the unusually named Red Wine and Sugar are an Australian duo featuring Mark Groves (of Dead Boomers, Von Einem etc) and Samaan Fieck (of Ghost Gums, Smash Tennis etc.). Musically this CD revolves in experimental industrial spheres and is a re-release of their 2015 debut cassette ‘Chattels’ on Mazurka Editions, with the addition of the track ‘The Confidence and Humour of John’ (lifted from a 2016 Mazurka Editions cassette compilation). The material has then been remastered for CD pro-pressed with a 4 panel digipack cover where all lyrics/ text are included.
Although musically describing this as ‘experimental industrial’, this is extremely restrained and minimalist in sonic execution. A creepy mood and tensile atmosphere permeates the entirety of the album, while its structural minimalism generated through sustained drones, low semi-harmonic textures, distant radio static, fractured clatter, micro-tonal scrapings etc. Much of the impact of the album then comes from the lyrics and vocals, where a psychological/ analytical angle has been taken, as is evidenced by the lyrics focus on describing: personal desires; perceived failings; social perceptions; anxiety disorders (panic attacks etc.); and what may be text lifted from an instruction manual outlining management techniques to prevent re-offending (…’re-offending’ in exactly what manner remains unclear…). Although the lyrics are constructed in such a way to form a disjointed mix of phrases, scenarios and thoughts, their impact is maximized given they are presented clear and upfront in the mix, being delivered in a low spoken whisper and in a cold a detached style and arc between being that of personal commentary, to that of an third person ‘observer’ perspective.
Of the 5 presented tracks, the pairing of ‘Often Burns Rarely Tans’ and ‘Bitter Almonds’ are particular standouts, by presenting variations on dour semi-melodious synths, looped drones, creaking metal and subdued static. Likewise the final addendum piece ‘The Confidence and Humour of John’ is another excellent track of wonky, disorientating loops and rough textural clutter, whilst the multi-tracked vocals range from the upfront and clearly enunciated, to then being sonically warped and relegated to the background.
Given the collection of 5 tracks spans a little over 30 minutes, even in that short time-span it showcases a project with distinct musical ideas and thematic concepts, with the results being very much individualistic and not derivative of any particular genre or style. Minimalist in sonic scope, yet intense and affecting in final result, this is a recommended release.