Two Lone Swordsmen
From The Double Gone Chapel
ver the course of his storied career, Andrew Weatherall has just about done it all. He transformed Primal Scream from knock-off artists in leather trousers into one of the most challenging “rock” bands of the last two decades. His DJ sets are legendary for their restlessness and invention, covering everything from dub to garage rock to four-on-the-floor techno to silky house and all points in-between. And he’s remixed everyone from My Bloody Valentine and Flowered Up to Paul Weller and freaking Starsailor, making some very fine silk purses out of some really awful pig’s ears on occasion.
It is perhaps because of Weatherall’s unwillingness to stand still and adhere to a single style that has made following him as an artist a tricky prospect. Look no further than Two Lone Swordsmen, his guise with partner-in-grime Keith Tenniswood. They’ve made albums of deep electronic house music, sub-aquatic trip hop, tooth-rattling electro, and often combined the above (and more) rather effortlessly. Is there a Two Lone Swordsmen “sound”? In short: no. There’s more like three or four of them.
From The Double Gone Chapel, however, is a different kettle of eels altogether. Easily their most cohesive and satisfying full-length to date, Chapel shows that Weatherall still has a few tricks up his sleeve and isn’t afraid to use them. The opening track, the wonderfully menacing “Stack Up”, drops a major hint on where things are heading: into some dark, humid basement at three in the morning full of shady characters and perhaps some illicit activity in the corners. The sound is something entirely new for TLS as well—rattling live drums, bass, and guitar that recall PiL’s early moments (fitting then that the drum kit used on the album was previously owned by both Jah Wobble and Killing Joke), but with a decidedly modern electronic/dub feel. That isn’t to say it is slick—in fact, one can picture the master tapes being slathered in topsoil—just that Wevvy hasn’t gone all retro or copycat, merely taken the influence and done his own thing with it.
Next up is the first single, “Faux” and yet another surprise—vocals. And not some drafted guest vocalist, either; it’s the Chairman himself. To be fair, Weatherall doesn’t so much sing as he does rhythmically croak/talk/mutter, but it’s effective as hell regardless, pumping up the seediness factor considerably and proving a key counterpoint to the track’s electro pulse.
From here on in, things get blacker, more humid and even compellingly cinematic. Picture the widescreen soundtrack-style of Portishead made for a snuff film and you’re halfway there. One particularly inspired sequence: the distortion-heavy stomper “The Lurch” with its menacing bass groove, followed by a slashing cover of the Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” that would surely make even old Jeffrey Lee smile a bit, then the aptly named “Damp.” Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be half surprised to find black mold or a funky fungus growing on my speakers following a loud airing. You’ll practically want to take a shower after, or even before, it’s done.
The proceedings wrap up with closer “Driving With My Gears In Reverse (Only Makes You Move Further Away)” which somehow manages to sound a bit optimistic. It’s the aural equivalent of emerging from a long night spent underground to see the first rays of the sun coming up, illuminating things just enough for you to realize the shit you’ve been wallowing in all night.
So: where will Weatherall and Tenniswood end up next? It almost doesn’t matter—but it’ll probably be high quality work regardless. The only sure bet is that they will emerge with a long, sticky trail of filth behind them, tracing its way back to the doors of the Double Gone Chapel.
STLYUSMAGAZINE.COM'S CO-ALBUM OF THE WEEK - MAY 31 - JUNE 6, 2004