Back in the summer of 2020, that fabled epoch which feels so near yet so far, Glasgow tape label released a abrasive onslaught of synth punk cooked up by Clarks David and Craig with local artist, musician, shaman Katie Shannon under the collective name Kubler Ross. I think about that tape very often, about how it was probably one of the straight-out-the-block exciting releases by a Glasgow group in aeons. We’d often think it would sound so good on vinyl, as much as the loving job done by Akashic. Our prayers are answered courtesy of Suction Records sub-print Ice Machine with this Limited to 300 edition.
If you ever saw Kubler Ross live, you’d know it was a trip. Banks of modular synthesizers, performance art tropes and surreal costumes, the sight of freewheelin’ singer Shannon bordering on the unhinged but always maintaining a sense of self-possession, submerged in her own psyche and letting it vomit out of the mic, bottle of Buckfast continually threatening to splash out into the crowd. Their only releases captures this menace with aplomb. Dave Clark was brought up in the Glasgow techno and club world and brings a sense of surgical focus to the rhythms and textures. Together with the other two members the music veers from world-ending EBM-inspired synth punk (opener Daria sounds like DAF crushed under a big Glasgow JCB), while the ghost of the earliest Mute Records releases infect stuff like Bridges, with MS20 filter sweeps troubling the mix. Elements of Industrial Music, Throbbing Gristles’ more Chris Carter-dominated tracks creep in like on track Koss wherein Shannon intones in a distinct West of Scotland accent a Ballardian tale that feels like its encased in the hardest of concrete.
Something like Go On Your Way positively reeks of Front 242 but with live drums sitting underneath the analog rhythmic patterns: that sequenced synth bassline is just so exciting, forever pulsing and pushing forward, sweeping the ruins of dead urban landscapes to one side as it goes. Kubler Ross clearly have a knack for hooks though: amongst the industrial debris there’s plenty of synth lines they build tracks around. Victims Of Victimless Crime has a synth part ripped from an early OMD work maybe working with instead of against Shannon’s layered vocal. In fact Side 2 is overflowing with these kind of moments, as on the Clark (not sure which one!) vocalized Jump the Bluevale, which has a whiff of Suicide produced by Jacno. It’s rounded off by the incredibly live sounding You’re Ruining Yourself, probably a desk recording from one of the groups’ Aktions. In a way it’s the perfect memento of this moment when Kubler Ross, now seemingly on haitus, where the most chaotic, most thrilling group to have existed in this cursed city. Heavy, scary and absolutely thrilling as all hell.