Somnambule - Writing About Music

Æ ~ Bootleg

On listening to the first few minutes of this cd Amy, my six year old daughter, observed that “this is pop”, a moment later she added “untidy pop”... Bootleg fires scattershot samples from a hundred potato guns, each shot hitting the target/missing the target/not knowing there was a target there in the first place/dropping the gun/baking rather than firing the potato/etc, etc.

Bootleg initially appears like a manic depressive on the upswing – the emotional equivalent of approaching the top of a big dipper while simultaneously suffering motion sickness and vertigo. As the album continues it begins to slow down and focus more, the twists and turns occurring a little less frequently. Second track ‘Cocktails’ is a fine piece of Farfisa mellowness thwacked with bent notes from what might be a violin strung with steel strings. ‘Scarlet’ begins like an Italian spy thriller before taking a detour off the strada to visit a fairground.

David Toop in his 2004 book Haunted Weather refers to a generally unacknowledged parallel history of sonic experimenters who worked in populist rather than avant-garde spheres. He initiates this analysis with reference to Danish wildlife recordist Carl Weismann. Weismann edited together outtakes of dogs barking into a canine rendition of Jingle Bells which eventually and entirely unexpectedly reached no.1 in the US 16 years later. Æ appear to follow in this populist tradition by creating challenging musical collages out of sonic detritus reminiscent of fairground rides, distorting halls of mirrors and, perhaps most appropriately, those humorous illustrations in which holes are cut for people to stick their heads through and be photographed. Although frenetic, hectic and exhausting, Bootleg is a lot of fun, chock-full of sonic detail, surprising juxtapositions and revelatory moments of unexpected beauty.

Colin Buttimer
April 2004
Published by Milkfactory