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Review

Desmond Simmons

Alone on Penguin Island

Often more like a car crash in a studio than an harmonious meeting of minds, Alone on Penguin Island is the net result when you take a pop-loving friend of Colin Newman and introduce him to the mayhem of Dome's production methods. Stressed tape loops combine with catchy guitar riffs, and pop songs are stemmed by harsh experimental techniques. The result is much better than one might expect and tracks such as Counterpane and Pathenon are simply breathtaking. Sweeping instrumentation and atmospherics are complimented by Simmons' impressive vocals and image-saturated narratives: 'Carry a torch to the fire's edge; collect your halos of ashes and wood,' he sings on Pathenon.

A few upbeat tracks such as The Gymnast and Man the Lifeboats provide a useful counterpoint to the more laid-back pieces and, although there is a little too much abstract instrumental doodling towards the end, the CD is definitely worth getting hold of.

The reissue adds six bonus tracks, most of which are inferior live takes bar an impressive version of The Gymnast as performed by Soft Option. As Simmons remarks in the liner notes, 'there are moments that would not have surfaced had the album been recorded in a more worthwhile manner'. Certainly its like will not be seen again. Although this may be an unharmonious meeting between noise and pop there are definite glimpses of genius amongst the mayhem.

Craig Grannell (1998)

Cover artwork