United Scum Soundclash

United Scum Soundclash

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Discreetly ornamental hand-drumming, well-recorded, is how the collective ensemble United Scum Soundclash commences with the opening track on this impressive self-titled release, "And They Welcomed Thy Glory." Then United Scum Soundclash drops down a large, long, dark and resonant shaft into some kind of chamber where electronics are not a drag; rather, they are something dragged along a floor. Wisely, the following track, titled "Ladies and Gentlemen," kicks right in after the other one sounds like it was shot by a crossbow, or simply unplugged.

Perhaps it is actually a cheap boombox malfunctioning -- in the listener's house, not the recording session. Such a suspicion immediately validates the glowing rating for this effort, as dictated by one of the essential guidelines of record reviewing: the fear of broken equipment is inspired by listening to only the best sides. The setting for this one is Porto, Portugal, but the presence of veteran progressive rock saxophonist Steve McKay is one of several indications of an international influence. In one sense exuberance is an even more important quality -- the track with McKay goes the all-too familiar route of saxophonist with funky rhythm track, but surprisingly, the view from alongside the road turns out to be of giant robots made out of tin cans. A triumvirate of madcap multi-instrumentalists hiding under silly stage names is augmented only here and there by McKay, electronic drummer Scott Nydegger, and the effectively creepy processed vocal tracks credited to Kamil Kruta. The main trio hardly needs all that much help, the blindfolded set of ears treated to "And They Welcomed Thy Radiance" or "Folk You" easily becomes overwhelmed by a barrage of electric and acoustic percussion, harmonica, trumpet, electric keyboards, flute, electric bass, tablas, and guitar. Like the infamous Porto sandwich, "the French lady," combining fried egg, steak, ham, sausage, and cheese, the magic is in the sauce. In this case the players have stirred up a glowing blend of the processed and the natural, distortion and reality, the sampled and the trampled.

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