Scissorgun – Psychological Colouring Book
New twelve track album by Scissorgun on the Cue Dot record label. The band are a duo of Alan Hempsall, ex-Crispy Ambulance and electronic whizz Dave Clarkson and this release is a follow up to 2017’s Assault Two and All You Love Is Need from 2020. Ian Canty gets his crayons out…
I was pleased to review Scissorgun’s unique and engrossing 10 inch release Assault Two back in 2017 (read more here – there is the slight possibility I may have got some of the titles incorrect, something I apologise for and will endeavour to improve on this time round) and the All You Love Is Need album back in 2020 (reviewed here). Now this new album Psychological Colouring Book has arrived, which feels like a natural progression from their previous recordings. As before what is presented by Scissorgun is a mixture of heavenly electronica tones, dance grooves and clattering industrial sound, often as part of the same piece. But none of this is achieved in a way that is at all jarring, everything feels a perfect fit. Which sums up the unique abilities of Alan and Dave.
Psychological Colouring Book gets underway with The Grind. A rough, almost guttural treated voice fronts up electro not unlike early Cabaret Voltaire, if they employed a glam drum beat. This makes for surprisingly accessible and also grimly menacing listening and adds up to a positively enthralling start.
The ring of a bell heralds the scuttling sensation of Deep Six Your Wristwatch. Here surreal strangeness is neatly juxtaposed with a simple and repetitive rhythm. This eventually develops into a crunching dance beat, complete with synth washes and odd breathing sounds. There’s a feeling of something just below the surface, a lot of fine detail that repeated plays will tease out. Scissorgun often present the listener with the appealing alongside the puzzling, but surely that is all part of the fun and when chimes and flute emerge towards the end of this piece, it is completely bewitching.
This is followed by The Tandamy Man, a short piece with sickly synth warps alongside mighty percussive bashes and the hint of a highly treated voice. The overall effect is great edgy electronica that put me in mind of the more commercial works of metal batterers SPK and Test Department.
A repeated, distorted sound acts as the introduction to Tangie Biscotti, which possesses more of a clear vocal and song structure. The instrumental work behind the voice is still as inventive and fresh as ever – this would make a cool synth pop single, with a dash of Neu! motorik to the pacing. It is also danceable, addictive and memorable. This segues into the brief warps and water sounds of Seasick.
Significant Gesture shapes up initially as far more sedate than what has gone before, but then moves steadily through echoing guitars and insistent, chanted vocals towards something truly hypnotic. Moving into the second half of Psychological Colouring Book, Sybarite cuts a speedy percussive figure, with some cool guitarwork coming into play again and smart organ sounds in the coda. Norris’s Head is a short and abrasive bite of sound, rather than a soundbite and leads to the electric noise of the intro to Honeymoon Guy. But this offering soon settles into a high quality chill-out dance song, bookended with that backwards tape rewinding thing you used to hear a lot on dub records.
A quick ringing blast of Coersion then exudes an ominous and sinister mood, leading us straight into the static handclaps and squeaks of Wheels Turn. Piano keys and voices floats in and out of the mix, while the beat shuffles ever onwards, with a dream atmosphere like a ghost dance evoked. The final item on Psychological Colouring Book, Histories Yet To Be Revealed, presents itself as an almost relaxing exit. There is a unspoken sense of completion here, with the wide range of sound that has been explored over the course of the LP tied up in laidback style. The guitar lines seem eternal, set against some skipping electro drums. It is a cool way to end an experience of a long player.
On Psychological Colouring Book Scissorgun manage to balance the “out there” with the dancefloor with enviable skill and taste. There is a very film-like quality to what they do, a bit like David Lynch showing the observer the sudden contrast of great beauty and then brutality. These two elements are well balanced here and feel absolutely in context. As I have noted above, there are also a number, ahem, what I believe the kids used to call banging dance tunes too. Since forming back in 2016 Scissorgun have carved out a singular and beguiling path, but is one that is easy to pick up on and actually pretty catchy, once you have got a handle on their work. Psychological Colouring Book is a bright way of gaining VIP access into Hempsall and Clarkson’s mysterious dancehall.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here