Over the course of some 60 albums since their 1980 debut, Edward Ka-Spel’s Legendary Pink Dots have carved out a unique niche with their quirky blend of electronica and psychedelia. At the same time, Ka-Spel has released around 20 solo albums and numerous side projects. Pieces of ∞ is a 2004 addition to this vast body of work. It’s a very uneven collection, crying out for the kind of quality control that Ka-Spel, given his prodigious output, would appear reluctant to impose.
The album begins in undistinguished fashion with “The Writing On The Wall,” a laboured mid-tempo plod dominated by wheezing French-style accordion. The vaguely surrealistic lyrics are delivered in a mannered style that is not to my taste but is certainly distinctive. Partway through, the song lurches clumsily into a dramatic, piano-led interlude; unfortunately, it then returns to the dull accordion motif.
“Here Comes The Night” is immensely more satisfying – a dark ambient piece that magically evokes a drifting interstellar journey. Twinkling piano clusters sound like a music box floating endlessly through space, while electronic currents pulsate and a softly intoned chorale adds to the lambent beauty of the track. Here too, though, things go awry towards the end, as the piece morphs inexplicably into a tame electro footstomper.
Both “Comedown” and “Alms For Lepers” are routine, blustering synth workouts, the former redeemed by some splendidly disorientating Nurse With Wound-like effects. “Shanti” sees the return of the accordion, this time not without a certain goofy charm. Ka-Spel goes out on a definite high, however, with the mysteriously titled “8.2 8.3.” Here, bustling analogue textures recall the poppier moments of Throbbing Gristle, until the piece dissolves into a meditative dreamworld that evokes Tangerine Dream at their spaciest. One only wishes that Ka-Spel had reined in the tendency towards the novel and absurd that mars some of the album, and concentrated on the imposing electronica that provides it with its many wonderful moments.
(Originally published in The Sound Projector 14, 2005)