“Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a box set, and for my sins, Cardinal Fuzz gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice collection, and when it was over, I wanted another one”…

Please forgive my paraphrasing of this classic line, but what can you do when you have a game-changing release to contend with?!?  Such has been my absolute immersion in all things The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol, that though my soul tells me my initial contact, “seems a thousand centuries ago”, cold hard logic suggests it was actually with the release of the 2nd press of ‘Pathfinder’, around the tail end of 2014. All thanks to the Cardinal himself, Dave Cambridge.

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‘Symbol Box’ – double sided A4 colour insert

It was thanks to Dave Cambridge, his encyclopaedic knowledge, and refreshingly unquenchable musical quest, that Cardinal Fuzz alighted TBWNIAS into my welcoming lap. Lifted from the 8 page, A4 risographed hand stamped edition biographical document, accompanying the box set, in true Optical Sounds style, are these words of wisdom from Dave himself;

“Sometime in 2010, while trying to search out information on the bands The Gris Gris and Greg Ashley, I stumbled upon a blog called Birdman Sound, (you see, The Gris Gris were on the record label called Birdman Records) – I just presumed it was a playlist David Katznelson from Birdman Records had put together for a radio show. Little did I know that this was the work of John Westhaver – owner of Birdman Sound Record Shop in Ottawa and DJ over at CKCU FM. In amongst all the heavy weight vinyl platters John was spinning on his radio show, ‘Friday Morning Cartunes’, was a track by the mysteriously named, The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol. They completely and utterly blew my head off. But christ, trying to search for information on them on the internet was a nigh on impossibility… there was little bread crumbs here and there – but trying to track down any of their releases involved a lot of investigative work, as most were private pressings in quantities of 100, (or sometimes even less).

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‘Symbol Box’ – biographical document

When ‘Pathfinder’ came out in the Winter of 2014 I raved about it and was able to get over to the UK nearly 1/3rd of the pressing for sale in Europe – it sold out in 48 hours. It was good to realise others out there were every bit as desperate as I was to get this release, (and more), by these Cannuck heavy hitters. The thing was… this was their 8th LP release! All previous LP’s like ‘Pathfinder’ cared little for whatever the current fashion or musical trends might be – what you got/get is a bunch of Canadians who know a thing or two about music, having a drink, turning up the amplification and kicking out the jams till the energy runs dry. You can hear it rushing like a flood from the grooves of all 3 of the LP’s presented here. So it is with huge satisfaction, that I can once again make some of these elusive and long sold out titles available again in this box set. So sit back/recline with your favoured method of relaxation, and cue up any one of these LP’s – The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol are your favourite new/old band.”

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Originally released in 2010, ‘TBWNIAS Versus The Purveyors of Conspicuous Authenticity’, titled to cock a snook at the predictable mainstream, came cloaked in a ritualistic sleeve and the matter-of-fact promise of having been, “recorded in a single take, with absolutely no overdubs”…

‘Sour Kraut’, issues forth in stygian upsurge, backwoods cacophony steeped in mysticism, an underlying nod to Joy Division’s ‘In A Lonely Place’, is subtler here than on the live version, captured at the Dominion Tavern in the same timeframe; ‘Talk Back Fatherland’, bathes in teutonic synth washes, an autobahn call and refrain, underscored with a latin mystique; ‘Mezcal Temple’, conjures interplanetary engineers, ancestral spatial terraformers, bestowing hallucinatory gifts, shackled to ceremonial altars…

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‘West Nile Curiosity’, is an epic seventeen-and-a-half-minute, senses jarring odyssey, as invasively neurotropic as it’s namesake, equally viral, this snaking track, exhibits all the symptoms, adrift on a malaria malaise; ‘Humidex’, follows it’s meteorological genesis, it’s opening crescendo, evaporating any semblance of a comfort zone, a cumulus strafing sortie…

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‘Scrappy Little Jaw’ sauntered along in 2013, taking it’s name from all that appears to remain, of the hitherto unknown Gryphoceratops. 3 seemingly innocuous words, combined with an idiosyncratically Kraut-Punk, don’t f*ckin’ mess vibe…

‘Berlin, Ont’, wears it’s kosmische credentials with pride, a hard and fast driving, searing, gutsy improv; ‘Muldow’, simmers with noir menace, vacuum crushing riffs, command this Martian voyage of the damned, prog introspective; ‘Sask.’, is a gloriously fuzzed out swathe, a ripe Cree berry harvest, rippling with omnipotent violet hues; ‘Circus Has Left Town’, paints a catherine wheel celebratory canvas, it’s eastern tinged revelry, an embracive, blissed out affirmation…

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‘Blues In Goddamn’, featured on the ‘Live 2010 Dominion Tavern‘ release, which at the time inspired me to say, “is all it’s title promises and more, a finger to “the man”, re-chanelled, courtesy of those legendary bluesmen, who kicked this whole fucking can (sic) into touch in the first place.”; ‘Brass Balls Of Daedalus’, shimmers with sinuous lithe abandon, a labyrinthine paean, to a capaciously love-lorn Pasiphae, a skilfully crafted, free-form, expressionistic flight of fancy; ‘Neu Sudan’, epitomises TBWNIAS’ Kraut-Punk monicker, whipping up a malevolently motorik, sub-saharan, symbiotic sandstorm; ‘Wooden Soldier’, opens to a gorgeously eerie, evocative dirge, the deliciously phat bass lines, throb with an aching, melancholic longing, a solemnly sonorous soliloquy…

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Arriving back full circle, to where this liaison all began, this triptych  concludes with 2014’s ‘Pathfinder’ opus – the Pandora’s box that unleashed these, Odawa(n) Kenobi, Jedi ‘Masters Of The Mole Hill‘, upon my fevered brow…

Funny thing is, I genuinely believed I’d already written this album review – I even spent the best part of an hour looking for it! On checking back, it seems the timelines got a bit fuzzy, between the eventual physical arrival of ‘Pathfinder’ on UK shores, and the by then, already mooted release of the follow up, ‘Masters Of The Mole Hill’. I guess I had it “written” in my head…

‘We’re All Gonna Die’, engages hyperdrive, resurrection assured, drifting Orion-ward, aboard Khufu’s solar barge; ‘Half Hed’, growls with a dissonant eastern lilt, at a shade under 3 minutes, proving the adage that sometimes, less really is more; ‘I’d Rother’, resonates self-assuredly, a symphonic progeny, marinated in ‘E-Musik’ kinship; ‘Penguistics’, broils with frostbitten urgency, lissom expressiveness exemplified; ‘Prairie Doggin”, shudders with majestic urgency, it’s glacial rumblings, dislodge monolithic slabs, raining down shards of grandeur…

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‘Pathfinder Blues’, kicks in with rollicking reverie, a rousing frontiersman rawker, aurally recounting vistas of, Cooper’s rugged ‘Inland Sea’; ‘Indira’, shimmers beyond the mirage, a bejewelled beauty, rapt in arcane culture and elaborate language…

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By my reckoning, that luscious foil stamped presentation box, will easily hold The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol’s entire back catalogue – so I’m holding out for the siblings, to hopefully come join their brethren some day!

Thanks again to Cardinal Cambridge, for his good taste and determination in making this release happen. Thanks to TBWNIAS, for affording me the rare opportunity, to revel in playing these LP’s back-to-back – “oh classic gentlemen”, I salute each and every one of you.

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‘Symbol Box’ – double sided A4 colour insert

Talking with John Westhaver just yesterday, he too commented on the sterling effort Chris Hardman, (he of Dead Sea Apes acclaim), has put into remastering these re-issues, saying – “almost like listening to something I have not heard before…familiar but strange…Hardman put a “stamp” on these records…I approve {:>)”.

Officially released today, somewhat predictably all 148 copies of the ‘Symbol Box’ are already sold out! You can however avail yourself of the individual vinyl represses, via the Cardinal Fuzz Webshop here or digitally via bandcamp.

It’s not often a band are downright hospitable enough, to summarise their artistic intent in pictographic form, but this image of influence, shared by John Westhaver, neatly sums up the confluence of their sound…

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Back in April, I had the pleasure of talking to John Westhaver on my ‘revolutions on the radio’ podcast, I’ll leave the final words to John, with a rerun of that show, and all things TBWNIAS here…

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