H.C. Turk: Thenever (2011)

Bio (from the artist):
I’m H. C. Turk (HC or Harold), a writer, visual artist, and recording artist living in Florida. I have novels published by Villard and Tor, my images have appeared in many magazines and web-sites, I won the Toray Digital Art Grand Prize, and my album, Thenever, is available at Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc.

Musicians:
H.C. Turk (production/vocals)

As soon as you see the cover for THENEVER, you know it’s not going to be your average listen. According to his Bandcamp page, Turk calls this album “indie rock,” according to ExposureRoom it’s “rock.” I have to disagree. While I’m not a big fan of labels on music, when it comes to me writing about something it helps in making people understand what the hell I’m talking about. I think the closest to accurate description for THENEVER would be “ambient drone,” but that’s not quite right either. Maybe “new age nightmares?” Hmm.

I say “ambient drone” because the tracks on THENEVER are made up, for the most part, of repeated synthesized musical riffs with very little “traditional” sounding instrumentation, but it is not truly ambient drone for a few reasons. First, the songs are too short, with the longest track being 7:36, and drone being known for its extended compositions (for an extreme example look to The Turning of the World, a 24 hour drone piece by Lawrence Chandler). Secondly, there are some non-ambient elements, like drums and sound effects. And finally, all of the tracks have lyrics, which really take THENEVER out of the “ambient” arena, and also puts it on the fringe of “drone.”

Turk’s digital self-portrait

Bits and pieces of THENEVER remind me of old Aphex Twin, but are not as complicated, and other bits remind me more of Kraftwerk-lite, and other pieces invoke Phillip Glass. The vocal styling Turk uses evokes early eighties nostalgia for me; I can’t quite put my finger on who, exactly, he reminds me of, but early eighties British music comes to mind… a little Ian Curtis from Joy Division, a little Bernard Sumner of New Order, and almost a little Pete Burns of Dead or Alive. However, H.C. Turk doesn’t sound exactly like any of these guys, more like an amalgam of all of the above and some other bits too. I get such a “British” vibe from his music that when listening to THENEVER I was thinking he was from the UK, it was only when I sat down to write this and I reviewed the very little info I could find about Turk that I was reminded he lives in Florida. I wonder if he is originally from England, or if he is just highly influenced by British artists, or if I’m just completely making this all up!

The lyrics on THENEVER are somewhere between poetry, active exercises in alliteration, and a joke. When I say “a joke,” don’t take that to mean they are bad or laughable, more so they are almost like a joke on the listener, daring you to figure out what the hell Turk is talking about. On “I Eat Puppies,” Turk sings “I’m your puppy in bad dreams / You stroke me from tail to paw / I beg for calm / You tell your mom / ‘I eat my puppies raw’ / I’m your killer in past dreams / Where kings and queers have it made / A royal hex makes backwards sex / Wake, your pet wants a rise,” to which I say: “Huh?” A lot of the lyrics found throughout THENEVER are plays on words, or plays on structure – Turk will say the same thing from verse to verse but flip around the way he says it to make different meanings – and really feel like exercises in writing. As Turk is also a novelist (a review for his book RESURRECTION FLOWERS will be coming on this site later), this wordplay does not surprise me.

One of Turk’s digital paintings, “Fstvl”
Copyright the artist.

Unfortunately, too much of THENEVER just sounds like too much of THENEVER. It’s good to have a “sound,” but that sound needs to be expanded. There’s lots of bands that I can hear played and know very quickly who it is because of their sound, and I think that would be the case for Turk as well, but the songs were just too much of the same thing. Most of the songs have a synthesized backbone, some glitchy drums, a sound effect here or there, and Turks layered vocals. There are some differences, but they are few and far between, and not different enough to really catch my attention. I found THENEVER to be very repetitive, and by the halfway point I felt like I had started the album over. This is not to say that every track is exactly the same, it’s not; but each track has the same building blocks and those building blocks are very similar in their design. Occasionally Turk does something different, like the almost-rapped verses and areas without synthesizer in “Not a Dance,” or the synth/sampled dog bark riffs in “I Eat Puppies.” Turk also added something that you often see with movies but not music: “outtakes.” The final track, “I Don’t Want To Do That,” is basically just clips of Turk’s vocal flubs, various accents, and other silliness, and it was nice to have this normally filmic element represented in music.

Overall, THENEVER was an interesting experiment that just went on too long. Fans of drone music, or experimental electronica, should take note as I think there is certainly an audience out there for THENEVER. There are people whose musical tastes are aligned with Turk’s, and they are going to love this album and think it is one of the coolest things they’ve ever heard. Those are not my tastes, and it was just a little too much too often for too long for me.

Overall 5 / 10

THENEVER for sale: http://hcturk.bandcamp.com/album/thenever

THENEVER site: http://hcturk.com/

THENEVER videos: http://exposureroom.com/members/HCTurk/

H.C. Turk: Thenever (2011)
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