Capri-Batterie — TANQ
(DPROMCD154. Album review by AJ Dehany)
Over a century since Tristan Tzara stuck his mitt in a dictionary and pulled out the word Dada, the absurdist artistic movement originating in Zürich has brought nonsense and the freedom from sense to a world suffering from too much of it; as TS Eliot noted, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” When the reality is seemingly a boot stamping on the human face forever, nonsense has a welcome ring. And so a new album from the experimental trio Capri-Batterie (Tim Sayer , Matthew Lord and Kordian Tetkov) is more than welcome.
TANQ is, like Dada, a nonsense word. If you put two of them together in a magnetic bath it becomes a machine for capturing lions in the Scottish Highlands. Capri-Batterie themselves are named after a late artwork (“I prefer late art”) by Joseph Beuys: a lemon plugged into a battery. Fine art, even when it obeys a philosophy of art for all, can be rarefied, but it can be measured by how far it seeps into the popular imagination. You may say it’s a coincidence, but I recently witnessed the return of the lemon in an awning for the new Lidl store in Stockton-on-Tees. When rock bands make it, they’re sold in Tesco… but Lidl has its own Capri-Batterie (below).
TANQ is a ragbag of spontaneous compositions, never to be repeated, that only exist in the moment or in a recorded form. Threadbare And Gifted recalls the atmosphere and strangeness of the 30-minute track on the previous album Bristol Fashion, where Stewart Lee went on about Birmingham civic architecture at exhausting length, but the driving bass propels it with a greater urgency in the relatively short track among a set of shorter selections. The album has a live, alive quality, partly from the agitation and enervation of the trio’s interplay but suffers from a thin piano sound and a somewhat on-the-fly lo-fi audio fidelity, though this gives it an appealing quality of stress, the sense of the return of the repressed (the return of the lemon). Theme from TANQ in particular has a strange compressed piped-in sound like listening to some madmen in the next ward.
The insouciant piano and inveterate bass remind you of the liberation aspects of sixties American free playing with some of the hardness of European directions. Untitled #5 dips into a spirited form of abstraction. Silverhalides delves further into the group’s dadaist interventions in unusual instrumentations before juddering into Not a day goes by, and the longer Visions of Eliane, with the trio fruitfully (lemonfully) picking restlessly through a slower admixture of irresolution and the suggestion of tonality.
As a sequel to Bristol fashion, TANQ lacks the sense of continuity and development that propelled Lee’s spoken word improvisations, but it continues to demonstrate the trio’s inimitable and impressive approach to free playing. If the Necks sound like they’ve found their thing and are sticking to it, Capri-Batterie still sound exploratory and committed to an experimental ransacking of the languages of free playing. TANQ doesn’t feel like a quite complete experience but it definitely captures lions in the Scottish highlands.
AJ Dehany writes independently about music, art, and hobbyhorses. ajdehany.co.uk