It has been a hell of a long time since Nurse With Wound last surfaced with a proper new album on United Dairies, but 2019 is looking to be an uncharacteristically prolific year with the epic Trippin' Music looming on the horizon. In the meantime, however, there is the endearingly strange The Vursiflenze Mismantler, which pairs Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles with Australian vocal artist James Worse. It is very hard to imagine an artist more attuned to NWW's surrealist whimsy than Worse, as he is best known for his poetry crafted almost entirely from made-up and nonsensical words. Louis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky" is the obvious and unavoidable reference point with Worse's "Worsicles," but his poetry only escapes the gleeful mutilations of Stapleton and Liles on one piece here. The rest of the album is a Dada-esque collage of chopped, digitized, and gurgling vocal sounds that occasionally coheres into some unlikely and delightful grooves.
It is not difficult to guess who named the songs on The Vursiflenze Mismantler, as the first piece is entitled "A Thrasm for Pungdust."Pungdust is quite lucky to get such a fine thrasm in his honor, as it is one of the album's most endearingly deranged and instantly gratifying pieces.It sort of resembles a remix of "Rock n' Roll Station" made by a gibbering lunatic, as it has a similar half-stomping/half-lurching beat.The central monologue, however, has been replaced by a lysergic miasma of skittering electronic flourishes and growling, moaning, and whimpering voices.The weirdness naturally deepens with the following "Smarch of the Bomberdast," which is the album's primary showcase for Worse's playfully eccentric vision.It begins with some distracted, colorful muttering over deep vocal growls, calling to mind a drunken pirate trying to argue with a disinterested didgeridoo.From those modest beginnings, however, it slowly builds into a dense, howling cacophony of squirming, abused sounds that pan and scuttle across the stereo field.Eventually that wonderfully eruption subsides, making room for more gargling and strangled yelps, yet that jabbering abruptly stops as well and Worse ends the piece with a crisp, mannered recital of one of his Worsicles that sounds downright Shakespearean.It is nice bit of compositional sleight-of-hand, as it feels like I narrowly escaped some synapse-frying madness to find a perfectly sane and pleasant man reciting his poetry.But the word-like things coming out of his mouth are completely incomprehensible, making me feel like my brain has been well and truly broken (or mismantled) by the song's roaring crescendo.
Most of the other memorable pieces on the album also appear during its first half, but that is because the warped phantasmagoria of The Virsuflenze Mismantler increasing dissolves into pure texture and abstraction as it unfolds.The fifth piece, "Nana," is probably the closest thing to a fresh NWW classic on this release, as it is a stuttering and chaotic pile-up of chopped and diced sounds.It feels like a howling nightmare that prominently features a cartoon duck, but then the maelstrom dissipates to make room for a choppy, distorted monologue from a jolly man who has much to say about bananas.The closing "My Gloadious Parpinelle" is another strong contender though, as the trio are joined by Af Ursin and Aranos for a hauntingly weird twist on classic exotica.The lazy vibraphone melody evokes a tiki bar in a moonlit grotto, but everything else feels deeply wrong with that picture, as there are a host of metallic cranks, odd squeaks, clopping sounds, and menacing drones that curdle and confuse the experience.¬†There are also a couple of excellent "ambient" pieces lurking throughout the album.I especially enjoyed the eerie beauty of "Gwelt Awone On A Sursibass," in which warm, seesawing drones seem to be emanating from the bottom of a bubbling sea."The Ockenbloster's Froascum" is notable as well, as a simmering, crackling, and rumbling soundscape blossoms into an unsettling crescendo featuring a backwards robotic voice.¬†
The rest of the album is not quite as memorable as that handful of highlights, but that is mostly because the second half blurs together in a murky, hallucinatory maelstrom of buzzes, bleeps, roars, and machine noise.While the sounds that the trio conjure up are every bit as inventive, garbled, and disquieting as they are elsewhere, there is a dearth of "hooks" that might make any individual piece stand out from the others.Without a human voice or some kind of melody to latch onto, I am hopelessly adrift in an endlessly shifting sea of chopped up, processed, and disorienting sounds that rarely evolve into anything more.Admittedly, that is not terrible place to be and I would probably appreciate it much more if this were my first Nurse With Wound experience.That is not the case, so that second half of the album feels like very familiar territory (albeit quite well executed).The flipside to that, however, is that a healthy portion of The Vursiflenze Mismantler feels fresh and inspired.That is quite an impressive feat in a discography as deep as Stapleton's.Moreoever, this album works quite well as a coherent whole, effectively sinking deeper and deeper into foggier and more elusive realms of madness to pave the way for its resurgent and memorable finale in the form of "My Gloadious Parpinelle."While I would probably categorize The Vursiflenze Mismantler as more of a minor release than a major new statement, it is quite a likable one and the highlights are legitimately wonderful.I suspect this album probably could have been edited down to a near-perfect EP, but only an utter fool would expect Stapleton and Liles to embrace a "less is more" aesthetic this far into the game.