'There's more going on in any five minutes here than in entire rackfuls of ambient, techno or drum 'n' bass albums'

Barry Adamson Oedipus Schmoedipus Mute CD STUMM 134

Postponed for almost a year due to its composer's need for reconstructive hip surgery, this is the concluding (and best) part of a loose trilogy of imaginary soundtracks by former Magazine and Bad Seeds bassist Adamson. The earlier instalments, 1989's Moss Side Story and 1992's Soul Murder, were film noir-ish tableaux steeped in moody ambiguity; here, though those same mean streets beckon from the brash John Barry blare of "The Big Bamboozle" and the jazz-cafe ambience of "The Vibes Ain't Nothin' but the Vibes", there's a much wider sonic palette in use, and a more pointed thematic focus.

Sexual confusion is Adamson's target here, observed with a slightly raised eyebrow and an occasional wry smile. The album opens with the lusty "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis", featuring a desperate Jarvis Cocker begging "Save me from my own hand" over a monstrous funk groove that somehow manages to combine gospel vocals, urgent strings, raging power-chords and limpid vibes into one coherent whole; it closes an hour later in Twin Peaks-y mood with Nick Cave breaking off a relationship with abrupt tenderness in "The Sweetest Embrace": "I just don't want you anymore / And that's the sweetest embrace of all".

In between are a variety of bold musical strategies, ranging from the slinky organ groove and Classics IV sample that comprise "Something Wicked this Way Comes", to the seven-minute tone-poem collage of "Dirty Barry", with its sonic scribbles and echoing trumpet lines. There's also a distinct loungeward lean to several pieces, Adamson languishing among the flutes, vibes and brushed snares of "In a Moment of Clarity", and adding a new rhythmic wrinkle to his cover of Miles Davis's "Miles". Throughout, echoes of soundtrack composers such as Barry, Herrmann and Morricone sprout from Adamson's tunes, adding dramatic whiskers to his arrangements. And while he's far too facetious and frivolous actually to elucidate any of the thorny psycho-sexual issues involved, that same sense of fun and daring ensures that there's more going on, musically, in any five minutes of Oedipus Schmoedipus than in entire rackfuls of ambient, techno or drum 'n' bass albums.

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