I, Thighpaulsandra

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I, Thighpaulsandra is somewhat of disappointment. Thighpaulsandra's epic, genius guitar work with the likes of Spiritualized, Coil, Julian Cope, and the Waterboys doesn't prepare a listener for the free-form ambient wonderings of the artist's solo debut. Spanning two discs and more than two hours, one would expect moments of grandeur around every corner. Instead, Thighpaulsandra struggles with his influences and drops the ball too often, as he juggles collaborators who fail to contribute their finest work. One gets the impression quite frequently that he has been studying up on the ambient albums from Brian Eno's past. Indeed, somewhat sadly, these songs suggest at times "Music for Sci-Film Themepark Rides" and "Music for Haunted Houses." The collaborators are mostly lost in the shuffle of jazz skronk, violin battles, and rambling sound effects. John Balance's vocals are cut and pasted at lightning speed on "Optical Black." Julian Cope turns in a lazy performance at the conclusion of the meandering "Michel Publicity Window." The album is most successful when it's aping Coil, as on "Terrible," a song whose gothic medieval sounds seem to have been recorded in a bubbling castle moat. The madness of the violin duel on "Abuse Foundation IV" is also quite compelling. The song sounds like a Bernard Herrman score for an Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation of Dante's Inferno. "We, the Descending" is also borderline interesting, if overly tame, with its Foetus meets Depeche Mode feel. He is definitely a talented artist, and judging by the sleeve, where he's pictured wrapped in kingly capes brandishing a strange wizard's wand extended to the heavens, he's got a boatload of compelling ideas to unleash upon the world. But the album's overlong arrangements and ambient, unfocused noodling certainly don't showcase the best of the artist's abilities. With more focus and a better sense of what to discard and what to release, Thighpaulsandra should have it in him to release a series of great albums. In that sense, this probably works best as a set of stepping stones to and from genres and styles he might traverse.

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