Ausgang - "Electric Arc" (Foundry Recordings 1999, fr004cd)
From Aural Innovations #11 (July 2000)
Here's one more exciting entry in the neo-krautrock/post-rock category, championed by the likes of Tortoise and Stereolab (a certain "Laetitia" is thanked for 'support' in the liner notes interestingly enough), but including lots of others we've reviewed here in the past. Of course, the entire movement (as it were) was built atop the pioneering mix of hypnotizing percussive rhythms and freakish electronics and tape-manipulations that blossomed in the industrial heart of Germany in the early 1970s... I would be remiss if I didn't mention Neu! and/or Can at this point. Or are you tired of hearing that? Nevertheless, 'post-rock' has gathered a name of its own in recent years, and it's truly been honed into something new and deserved of its unique name, no matter how stupid it sounds. London's Ausgang is one of the finest of the lot, and 'Electric Arc' is an hour's worth of stunning works. (I should note before we continue that the track instrumentation listed in the booklet doesn't seem to match the tracks as indexed on the CD, though since both contain exactly 11 tracks I will assume that the song titles are correct as given. But that assumption is perhaps wrong.)
'Electric Arc' kicks off with 90 seconds of f/X and ambient swells, and then charges right into the pseudo-industrial krautrock of "The Highs and Lows (A through Z)," a full eight minutes of strange and wonderful sounds and ideas. "E.I.G." explores even more territory, rarely sitting still for more than a minute... it features a 'funky groove' section, a Police-like reggae phase, an ambient break, and more grooving to end up. Martyn Barker's drumming here (and everywhere) is excellent...displaying finesse, dynamics, and the right amount of 'busy-ness' throughout. The two biggest highlights are the 10-minute "Speak to Me" (?) and the finale "Tunnel Vision." Drumming by Jaki, bassline by...say, Mike Howlett. These two are on a par with some of the best stuff Circle has been doing lately. Sonic swirl and gliss bliss...that's what it's all about baby. "Speak to Me" takes a good four minutes to build up into something substantial, but the payoff is well worth the wait. "Tunnel Vision" is of the fully-fledged kraut romp variety, again peaking out about four minutes into the piece during a stellar jam with Mark Bandola pulling double duty on the old Juno 60 synth and a Lesley Guitar. Given the level of f/X used on this album, I hesitate to suggest I could tell one from the other.
I recommend 'Electric Arc' whole-heartedly, especially for those who like freaky sounds, tape loop experimentation, and hypnotic rhythms. I don't know where these guys came from or where they're going to, but I plan to try to keep up with them. They've made some very exciting music here. Ausgang supposedly has a webpage at http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/Rodeo/1955/ausgang-entrance.html, though I didn't find much of anything there when I visited. Drummer Barker is also in Shriekback, so perhaps more info about Ausgang might be discovered through that link.
Forced Exposure carries the disc in the US, and CD Services in the UK (CDSer@aol.com).
Reviewed by Keith Henderson