I am not fond of tossing the term "weird" out to describe music. Not only is it a vague and somewhat stigmatizing label, I do not consider a lot of what I hear to fit that term. I mean, I have albums of car crashes (GX Jupitter-Larsen), noise made by a ballerina’s performance (The Rita), and on stage improvised masturbation (The Gerogerigegege). However, Carp’s Head is hard to describe in any other way. With painfully guttural vocals by Ghédalia Tazartès, percussion by Andrzej Załęsku, and everything else by Paweł Romańczuk, it is like an Eastern European folk album vomited on an electro-acoustic work and the two were just mashed together with purely malicious intent.
The beginning of "Danse Inverse" is somehow one of the more cohesive works. A pulsing bit of electronics at first; it suddenly becomes a mutant synth take on folk music, with the guttural vocals channeling darkness not unlike a black metal album. Later, on "Dobra Nasza," an expansive opening of improvised, shimmering electronics and inhuman vocalizations eventually give way to a jazz-heavy rhythm section and almost conventional rock music vocals (structurally at least, the voice itself is still quite inhuman).
Even with its rhythmic opening and occasional plucked string, "The Far Horizon" is overall dissonant and unpleasant, with a lot of menace in its occasionally open spaces. The drums on "Wild East Blues" may be an almost conventional reference point, but the slow shuffle tempo and terrifying vocals are anything but normal, and even the accordion thrown into the mix takes on a dark hue. Later, on the somewhat peaceful "The End of Western World," the nearly operatic vocal style casts a menacing shadow onto the piece’s bowed strings and chiming percussion, which, on their own would have an almost classical sound.
Perhaps the most unsettling moments are courtesy of the two part "Wolves and Birds" (the second piece is not on the vinyl album but on the companion CD version of the album). The title is rather descriptive, with the first part being field recordings of birds chirping in the distance. However, the hollow drone and far off vocalizations (the wolves part, I assume) give the ambience of an oppressive jungle at night. Things can be heard, not really identifiable and not at all human sounding, but just far enough away to build tension rather than having the trio opt for horror movie scares. The second part is more field recording collage based, with only a bit of cymbal sounding musical, and has the same sense of the oppressive unknown throughout.
The adorable kitten that features on the cover of Carp's Head could not be less of an accurate representation of what is included. This is one of those records where the weirdness comes across not as a contrived attempt to be bizarre or unique, but gives the record a genuinely unsettling quality. Even without Tazartès’ intentionally unpleasant vocals, the sound would be uncomfortable, but the voice just pushes it even further. But I am always an advocate that art does not have to be pleasant to be enjoyable, and this is definitely one of those cases. It is not the type of music I would put on often, but when I am in the mood to be challenged and a bit unsettled, this is one I will reach for.