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Usurper – What Time Is It? 1000 Bux (Blackest Rainbow)

Four stars
Thrrp! is a 1987 comic book by Leo Baxendale, who created Minnie The Minx, The Bash Street Kids and a million other pop-eyed cartoon urchins. Published by the tellingly named Knockabout Comics, Thrrp! spins a near wordless yarn concerning twin brothers Spotty and Snotty Dick, who rid a town of 'a mysterious plague of Snotties and Bogies' by leading them out, Pied Piper fashion. With the book's title referring to the noise made by the towns-folk as they let rip en masse with particularly soggy follow-through farts, Thrrp! was hailed twenty years after its publication on Now Read This!, a blog by former chair of the Comic Creators Guild, Wim Wiacek's, as a 'gloriously gross, pantomomic splurt-fest' and 'the most lunatic slapstick to grace the music hall or comic page'.

There is something of this in Usurper, the Edinburgh-based duo of Ali Robertson and Malcy Duff, who, for a decade now since disbanding their sludge-doom-racket combo, Giant Tank, have worked with 'disabled instruments' across a plethora of Cdrs, cassettes and increasingly theatrical performances. These exercises in absurdist vaudeville have turned the pair into the Vladimir and Estragon of the Noise set, their table-top ticklings of assorted bric a brac resembling Michael Bentine's Potty Time if scripted by Reeves and Mortimer by way of sound poet Bob Cobbing and veteran vocal gymnast Phil Minton.

The two extended untitled pieces on this limited edition vinyl are more akin to self-reflexive radio pieces, as Robertson and Duff slurp, gurgle, cough and splutter their way into a series of feral routines that sound like an army of chain-ganged trolls playing pitch n' toss down the salt-mines. Rhythmic squeaks come on like out-takes from some 1970s sex farce as the vicar casts his appalled eyes ceiling-wards to where the noise is making a tit-shaped chandelier jiggle while the corners of the cucumber sandwiches wilt in unison. If there are hints of more serious punchlines beyond the things-to-make-and-do soundscape, Robertson and Duff remain spotty and snotty enough to amuse and entertain. Thrrp! to that.

The List, January 2014


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