Government, the Belgium-based duo of English keyboardist Emma Newell and Norwegian guitarist Thor Vik,
debuted with the six instrumentals of
Unreviewed by the Press Which is Sold to Lobbies (Pop Katari, 2009).
The brief A Call to the Royal Families' Genocide is
a cute hybrid of chamber music and synth-pop.
The 15-minute Set Fire to the Prime Minister is a
jovial melodic fantasia, like a Dada version of a
Mike Oldfield suite or a glitchy remix of
a Todd Rundgren ditty.
The 14-minute Ladyboyz is a more somber composition, a
psychedelic soul jam with hard-rock guitar riffs that feeds traces of
the Flying Lizards' Money
into grotesque mutations of industrial rhythms a` la
Nine Inch Nails (unfortunately with a rather silly coda).
Newell also collaborated with Danish one-man black-metal band Bishop of the Dead
four-song EP Break Two Ribs upon my Heart (2010).
Soulpuke (Pop Katari, 2011), the first part of the trilogy "Conspirators of Pleasure",
begins with another deviant synth-pop ditty,
You're so Funny When You Lie,
one of the many skits of their futuristic cabaret
that sometimes feels like an electronic version of Frank Zappa's satirical prog-rock circus
(Audiences Use To Puke at Government).
They do a good job in the realm of aggressive and loud music with the
breezy punk-rock of She'll Take A Nation Of Billions in the Back (unfortunately spoken instead of sung)
and especially the
operatic and thundering heavy-metal lied Young Teeth Can Brake Fruits Attacks;
nor do they hesitate to hit the dancefloor with demented ideas like
the feverish decomposing house-music of Slicer
or the seven-minute no-disco of Lester Bangs Face in the Puke.
The ten-minute I Never Leave Traces opens in a pulsing frenzy, exales a
morose fractured refrain over funky beats, and keeps mutating, eventually turning into a loud distorted carillon of the same refrain.
The abstract electroacoustic chamber music of Teenage Sperm part I
and the surrealistic musique concrete of Cosmo Tribe Suite
scout other interesting directions.
Quite a bit of the album sounds like unfinished experiments, abandoned sketches,
but their multi-faceted project is already a dizzying destabilizing merry-go-round.
Even more unfinished are the compositions of Rabbittrap (2012), an
album of confused collages like the ten-minute Drake Late Swimmer
and of intuitions like the pounding madness of choir samples in the first half of I'm a Full Fuckin' Superband on my Own
that could have been much more.
The eight-minute Enjo Kosai mixes a
muezzin call or church prayer with
a propulsive garage rave-up.
Adelaide disintegrates after a
relentless beat and a distorted organ melody collided.
The satanic dance Prefect Manufactory
and the distorted organ elegy Like Thousand are also notable.
But too much needs to be reworked, or, simply, ditched.
The ties to new wave of the 1970s are move evident on
Periodsoup (2012), the third and final part of the trilogy, from
the melancholy adage A Drone for Super-doomed Youth to
the sample-driven power-pop of Chastity Belt via
the lysergic/horror Chrome-esque march Khatharakte.
Spoken-word commentary ruins the grindcore acceleration of Matrice of Chaos, which would otherwise be a highlight,
while Anti Warhol sounds like a glitchy remix of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.
The cacophonous collage Girls as Ruins belongs to their catalog of Dadaistic experiments.
Conspirators of Pleasure (2013) is a compilation of the trilogy.
Emma Newell also released the solo album Serendipity (2016) of
A broader instrumenstation and a better production make
Shitshitshit (PopKatari, 2017) a friendlier experience.
This 43-song monolith, ostensibly inspired by Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives and Frank Zappa's We're only in it for the Money (but also by
43-song album Double Nickels on the Dime), although quite different from both, features
Thor Vik on electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, flute, harmonica and percussions,
Emma Newell on bells, chimes, glockenspiel, mellotron, rhodes, theremin, drums, cymbals, violin, viola and computer,
and a third member,
Sue Cyde, on oboe, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, trombone and electric piano.
Not surprisingly, the atmospheres are denser than ever,
but also more cohesive than ever.
It helps that the songs are very brief, rarely venturing beyond a duration of two minutes.
In fact, the whole sequence feels cohesive, as if the 43 songs were part of a rock opera.
The countless interludes, that sometimes steal speech from movies and even cover Steve Reich, and often imitate/plagiarize pop melodies, seem to tell a story.
The fact that they are all quite different form each other creates a sort of
sensory overload situation. Nonetheless the flow is seamless and organic,
no matter how much cognitive dissonance there is between the
cinematic dance music of American Expressionism,
the harsh industrial hardcore of Self Discipline pt I,
the clumsy minimalist repetition of One Day you'll be Dead,
the visceral power-electronics of Sources,
the wordless torch-ballad You're Tearing me Worlds Apart,
the country-metal-jazz Godspeed You Sneaky Mom,
and free-form nuisances like Not your Average Indiecute History of Rock.
The "thefts" of other people's music are clever and elegant, like the way
The Late Great Toccata "remixes"
Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky.
The album is littered with
mysterious creatures like Total Lack of Silence Pt I,
Time Substituted to Itself
Something like Tennessee that make perfect sense without being anything
Humor, not drama, permeates the show.
The comic aspect is particularly visible in the
Zappa-esque drive and wit of Don't Mess with your Admitatur and in
the county-fair music No more Youth Never, but it's everywhere.
It's a monumental assembly of musical debris,
and sequenced in a way that one
seems to set the next one in motion, and continuously change the route,
while the destination remains the same.
Newell and Vik also collaborated with Bleeds (Belgian composer Victor-Emmanuel Boinem) on the two mini-albums Thirty Part I & II (2018).
In 2018 they relocated back to London.