March 6, 2014
by Jasper Willems
Groningen-based Sexton Creeps’s sinister “The Sour Acre” was one of the more daunting Dutch releases of 2011, channeling The Doors and early Hawkwind with their intricate, Stygian psychedelica and unhinged, punch-drunk dementia. It’s cover art was equally unnerving, showing a bright collage of shellacked crushed beetles. Aesthetically, it fit Sexton Creeps’s MO to a tee, the dire serendipity of beauty unraveling from an act of rigid, callous destruction.
With a total of 17 members, Sexton Creeps is a pretty expansive unit, very much in tune with the concept of assembling different components to create something that transcends the sum of its parts. By design, Sexton Creeps’s new LP Lesbian Skies (Geertruida) seeks a similar paradigm: after the band successfully turned to crowdfunding platform VoorDeKunst.nl to release the album, all people who pledged could submit an image of their choosing for Lesbian Skies’s kaleidoscope-ish artwork. Sexton Creeps seem to pronounce this process in a more nonpartisan way, to take one particular track name’s assurance:“Everything is what it is, by virtue of it’s relation to everything else.”
The clear cut difference this time around is Sexton Creeps’s adaptation to a more, direct palatable songwriting approach. Still, the Sextons have no intent to suddenly lose their appetite for bleak imagery. Opening track “Door” ambivalently teeters between hope and dispair, vocalist Jan Harry Rus’s narcotic garble beseeching an unknown recipient.
In doldrums, he eventually appears to succumb to defeatism, confessing ”There should’ve been a father figure/there should’ve been a mother to tell you what to do”. As if the track wasn’t grim enough: at wit’s end, Rus reaches out for that last glimmer of hope in the wake of hopelessness with increasingly manic outcries: “I will make you a door!” It’s the same kind of disheartening, searing torment impacting you in the climax of Slint’s “Good Morning Captain”.
Sexton Creeps don’t give the listener much time to wallow with “Waitress”’s stark, moonstricken blues boogie and “Jazz”’s carousing yet doom-laden The Doors-throwback. By now, it’s quite clear that Sexton Creeps relinquish some of their previous experimentation to showcase the true crux of their music. With its crude syncopated organ blasts and Rus’s hysterical delivery – reminiscent of John Wetton on King Crimson’s Red album, “The Sour Acre” throws a combination to the gut and a left hook to the jaw. A quick finish, not delaying the inevitable with capricious instrumental exploits.
This level of directness continues throughout the album. Despite its eight minutes in length, “Jollof” sounds as if The Enablers were born in the late sixties era with those Hawkwind, Pearls Before Swine and 13th Floor Elevators-masterpieces. Over its brief tranquil cloverleaf looms a tempestuous, hot-blooded tidal wave of Sabbathian proportions.
With Lesbian Skies, Sexton Creeps discover that their collective prowess is best served invigorating the spirit of the song, without having to concoct moments to glint by themselves. The result: an album that manages to both bewilder and unnerve without prejudice.