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Silt Fish - Zabaranda
CD-R (Sheffield, UK)

-plant a fruitful walking stick
-we've come to sea
-nosing hot pennies
-navvy work
-where are the pills for my head?
-the tarmac of the town
-there once was a worm
-grandma's dressing gown
-the house with the dreadful nibbling in it's roots
-beyond the last house

Silt Fish: Mr. Quayle, Andy K., Jez

(All Music Guide) Eery is something that you perceive as utterly strange and yet exerts fascination, something that feels so wrong (physically or artistically, not morally mind you) and yet you cant help but come back to it. Eery is Silt Fish. Eery is wonderful. Imagine if you will: campfire folk singers in the middle of H.P. Lovecrafts Arkham, entertaining themselves while waiting for Yog Sottoth to appear; or Pere Ubus David Thomas trapped like Alice in a collection of Edward Goreys poems and drawings. Zabaranda, Silt Fishs first album, is pure delight for the strangely inclined. Mr. Quayle, Andy K and Jez have concocted a delightful batch of spooky songs. Acoustic guitar, bass, light percussion work, ghostly backing vocals, and the occasional synthesizer sweep ccompany stories about monstrous headaches, road pavement gone wrong, shaky houses, and Grandmas Dressing Gown. Mr. Quayle sings in a thick British accent (the group is based in Sheffield), applying Bonzo Dog Bands Viv Stanshalls distinguished enunciation to the aforementioned Thomas eccentric inflections. Melodies and arrangements keep a generally straightforward face, but there is always a light twitching at the corner of the mouth, a sparkle in the eye, a wart on the nose revealing that the song is not as normal as it tries to look. Both lyrics and delivery are steeped in dark humor, a cross between Monty Python and Goreys tales. The only strangest thing this reviewer has heard is Bob Drakes H.P. Lovecraft-inspired album The Skull Mailbox. And thats the biggest compliment possible. Highly recommended, despite the average sound quality and CD-R medium. - François Couture

(Ampersand Etcetera 2002_17) Silt Fish (Mr Quayle, Andy K and Jez) exemplify the willingness of PE to explore diverse musical fields. The Fish are part of a long line of quirky folkish acts – there are aspects that remind me of the Incredible String Band, an Australian outfit Tlot Tlot, aspects of Tull and more. The instrumentation is based on guitar and bass but with some synth and other adjuncts, and the songs are focussed on the vocal line which is nonchalant with an unusual English accent. Lyrics are clear and twisted folk. Track titles give an idea of what's going on. 'Plant a fruitful walking stick' leads us into the voice and guitar with some background hums and accompaniment, then 'We've come to sea' is a jolly sea-shanty with some squeeze-box sounds (possibly backwards tones). 'Nosing hot pennies', more melancholy; 'Navvy work' has a working rhythm and metal clanging; 'The tarmac of the town' with electric guitar; a sliding disorientated guitar in 'Where are the pills for my head?' Bird sounds are appropriate behind 'There once was a worm' which includes panning buzz, tonal play and a more Spanish guitar. Carnivalesque keys and kazoo romp around 'Grandma's dressing gown', restrained light guitar in 'The house with the dreadful nibbling in its roots' and a gentle instrumental conclusion with long aaahs. 'Beyond the last house' is more complex in its backing, a little contemplatively spooky and finally, though earlier in the album, the title track. This is the longest piece, has a Theremin wash running through it, some organ and a nice little musical break. It goes beyond the obvious to say that this is not likely to be for everyone, but most of us enjoy a change of pace, sound or variety, and this adds a lively string to the PE bow, with humour and musicality. - Jeremy Keens

(Aural Innovations no. 23) Here's something a little different for the Public Eyesore label. Silt Fish are a trio from Sheffield, England that play lo-fi and mostly acoustic driven songs with vocals singing in a quirky style that can be theatrical and sometimes have a folky storytelling feel. The music is often embellished by ethereal spacey goings on in the background and oodles of fun efx. The songs are arranged in imaginative ways, resulting in intricate structures and are far more interesting to listen to than most singer/songwriter tunes. A couple reviews on the Public Eyesore site make reference to the Bonzo Dog Band which I think is a fair analogy in terms of the sense of fun combined with creatively arranged music. Silt Fish cover a lot of territory and do often get adventurous. I imagined The Residents if they had decided to become singer/songwriters. The band incorporate folk, ethnic, and gothic influences, often throwing in all sorts of off-the-wall sounds. The title track is a standout, being an eerie Phantom Of The Opera meets The Monster Mash at a carnival type tune with Boris Karloff narration and freaky horror efx. Silt Fish also reveal progressive rock influences delivered in an oddball medieval style, a highlight in this regard being the closing track, "Beyond The Last House". Overall, a highly imaginative set of fun and wonderfully disturbed songs. Totally weird.... and totally cool. - Jerry Kranitz

(Aiding & Abetting no. 235)There's a song on this album called "The House with the Dreadful Nibbling in its Roots." In a way, that says more about Silt Fish's intriguing music than anything I might write. And yet, I ought to fill in a few spaces. These songs are jaunty with a warped wackiness about them. Imagine if King Kong and XTC were to down some peyote and put the post-puke results on tape. Except, you know, even more so. The kinda utterly self-absorbed stuff that either completely entrances or utterly disgusts. I can understand how many folks might find Silt Fish tiresome. Tiring, in any case. You've gotta commit completely if yer gonna truly get into this stuff. No half gestures. I took the plunge. I'm one of those folks who find self-congratulatorily clever music to be one of the few unfettered joys in life. And so I dove so deep into this disc that all that silliness at the top of the stew was nothing more than a shadow on the surface of the sea. Down where the critters reside there are jewels aplenty. - Jon Worley

(Vital Weekly no. 340) Sometimes we receive music that is so far outside what we normally review, that we have nothing to compare it with, unless we go for a blunt mistake. Silt Fish are from the UK and consist of Mr Quayle, Andy K and Jez. According to the label they play 'outsider progressive folk', whatever that is. I hear David Thomas in the vocals, and the music is played on organs, guitars and indeed a very haunting production. The sound is spooky and dark, a rather unsettling atmosphere, that really adds to the work. Normally I couldn't care much for such singer stuff, but the weirdness of the sound certainly held my attention throughout the rest of the release. Slightly absurd music, with probably likewise absurd lyrics (which I, as usual, miss out). Maybe Pere Ubu from Mars? - Frans de Waard

(I am Cancer 9/1/02) strange...i was expecting some sort of indian/sitar drone music, but instead i got some odd folk/sea ditties. reminds me at times of a more friendly grinch singing his not so mean grinchy tunes. it would be wise not to do drugs. - Chris Fischer

(Chain D.L.K. 12/31/2003) Hmmm... horror psych-folk from this Sheffield, UK duo. Bizarre folk songs which I'd probably compare, for lack of better examples, to Syd Barrett, but bear in mind that other reviewers have cited Pere Ubu, David Bowie, the Red Crayola and the Incredible String Band. I think somebody also mentioned H. P. Lovecraft (the writer), but I'd say that late Hammer films are a best comparison... less cosmic and more down to earth. Hey, this is pretty rural, actually. Silt Fish have a very peculiar sound, like it could have been recorded 30 years ago - also quite rich, considering it's only voice, guitar strumming, keyboards/synths and some programming here and there. But no modern lo-fi influences, as somehow everything sounds "seriously" and "properly" recorded in spite of its twisted nature. This seems to be lost in some sort of time-mist. The singing has a theatrical, cartoon-creepy and possibly sarcastic intonation which definitely marks the work, though it gets on my nerves at times. Crooked ballads, wicked nursery rhymes, the psychedelic folk version of a Tim Burton movie. - Eugenio Maggi

(Ambientrace 1/2002) As if a modern-day gypsy/minstrel troupe just rolled in, Mr. Quayle, Andy K and Jez cavort through an often-acoustic-like, charmingly lo-fi performance from some day/place of yore, adorned with a liberal flourish of surreality. A lowish, quavering voice (somewhere between a sad-clown and a Goth) theatrically emotes, though occasionally gets rather spry, as in Plant a Fruitful Walking Stick accompanied by off-kilter instrumentation and light haze. We've Come To Sea jigs energetically.... possibly drunkenly, to the tune of nimbly-plucked strings and pattering drums. Catchy-quirky (and non-electric) Nosing Hot Pennies is later revisited as The Tarmac of the Town, where the same refrains are backed by distant fuzz-guitar and bass. Against murky curtains of spookshow organs, eerie tendrils and faint rat-a-tatting rhythms, the tale of Zabaranda (7:04) is sung in equally-murky madrigal-esque form. A deep, slow shanty Navvy Work's richly strummed guitars meld with organ floes and occasional unidentified glares... and more vocals. Pleasantly jangling and thumping while murmury words traipse, The House with the Dreadful Nibbling in Its Roots precedes the closing number, Beyond the Last House, which manages to slip into more sci-fi-like territories by way of spacious cloudstreams and effected lyrics. Faraway-folky-strangeness is sprinkled with morbid fun. 11 time-and-place-defying pieces fill 42.5 minutes. Quite interesting actually... a B with an extra + for brightening my day with a sly wink from these most-unexpected troubadours. - David J. Opdyke

(Touching Extremes) I just love this record. A nice collection of folkish avantgarde tunes by Mr.Quayle and Andy K.Jez, sung with a David Bowie-on-alcohol voice amidst a torrent of strange melodies, acoustic arpeggios ranging from Beefheartian style to Pat Metheny's "New Chautauqua" and a general sense of purity that permeates the whole. Not even one of the eleven tracks of "Zabaranda" is under average, but a particular mention must go to the controlled craziness of "Grandma's dressing gown", with the guitars sounding like a laughing voice! Silt Fish make an excellent impression, leaving the listener absolutely relaxed and willing to go back to the first track; they make things hum without apparent effort. - Massimo Ricci

(Komakino 12/26/2002) This duo opens first three tracks with some odd alternative country folk, strange quick ballads or singsongs between cows and a ranch, - with sometimes some electronic elements jamming, synth noises and drum machine. Voice heatricalism a bit recalling Bowie, sort of western ballad singer. A bit of madness, and night comes, the title-trk, cemetary entry, wind blowing and howling, an organ playing sinister on acidulous distorted guitars. Psychedelic? - Paolo Miceli

(Independent Mind 10/22/2002) Zabaranda is full of psychedelic folk tales, narrateby vocd als that sound like David Bowie doing a Mayo Thompson impression. Guitar, bass, keyboard/synth (& accordian?), and drums (mostly drum machine, actually) complete the instrumentation. The songs are laid on a bed of chimes, atmospheric synth noise, and found sounds. It's all really well put together well. I'd say it "sounds great" if it weren't for the distractingly low fidelity. It sounds like they may have used MP3s as the master source (or it was recorded/mastered on a computer by someone who didn't really know what they were doing). Most of the songs sound compressed and have some digital distortion at the peaks. The songs are most all stories of isolation in a weird world, escape. The lyrics are dada-ist, dreamlike and, on occasion, genuinely poetic. There's a low cringe rate, anyway. The music is highly cyclical and has a gothic weirdness and that special charm that comes only from brain-damaged noise pirates. I hear little fragments of a lot of different stuff--the 'fore mentioned Mr. Bowie (at his weirdest), maybe some Incredible String Band, the Shadow Ring, some later Red Krayola stuff. I used to have a roommate who listened to a lot of goth/industrial music that I really had no interest in, but I think these guys may have at one point or another been keenly aware of some of that stuff. Even with the above mentioned mastering issues, I think this is a pretty decent record--not great, but definitely worth hearing for fans of gothic and psychedelic folk. - Edward McElvain

(Blastitude no. 14) The highly prolific Public Eyesore label usually deals in some variety of cracked international improv, but CEO Bryan Day does throw curveballs. Silt Fish qualifies, being a weird British art-folk duo. If that description brings to mind some kind of Betley-style bedroom thing, well no, this is like more produced and art-rockish, while still being pretty lo-fi....like it aspires to some sort of Henry Cow realm but has a setup almost like Suicide's: two guys, one playing an organ and one a guitar, and one of the two singing. I must say that I was immediately a bit taken aback by the twee-ness of Silt Fish. I finally realized what Byron Coley meant when he said of Red Krayola's Black Snakes album that "listening to the whole thing in one sitting makes my asshole clench." However, Silt Fish really hit their stride on track four, the title track, which is a long artsy spooky dirge. Think Roxy's "In Every Dream Home" only with a more wandering melody and crazier Carnival of Souls organ. And, now that I'm used to the Silt Fish sound, I kind of dig all the other songs too. Once again the question must be asked: where does Bryan Day get these people? - Matt Silcock

(Slippytown) Hailing from Sheffield, England, Silt Fish is the duo of Andy K. and Mr. Quale, with assistance from Quayle's brother Jez. These Fish specialize in an eerie folk-like music built around composed songs--not improv--but informed by lo-fi recording techniques, dark psych overtones, and a way-ousider vibe. The vocals are melodramatic, arty, and filled with a sense of dread--like Bryan Ferry crossed with John Cale, but a lot weirder. The lyrics are dense, odd, and filled with paganesque stories of worms, walking sticks that sprout from the ground, granny's dressing gown, and "The House With the Dreadful Nibbling in Its Roots." High-quality strangeness. - Eddie Flowers

(Dead Angel no. 57) Like many on the Public Eyesore label, these chaps have odd ideas about meter, noise, and found sound; unlike most of them, Silt Fish are working with instruments that don't lend themselves well to noisemaking (acoustic guitar, standup bass, and various other traditional instruments such as the jaw harp). Consequently, this is nowhere near as "out there" as some of the label's other releases... but it's every bit as good, just a bit more rooted in traditional musical stylings. These recordings have the same kind of feel as the off-the-cuff Americana of the Folkways records, and are not really noise or free jazz at all, but more like country field recordings of an Appalachian hillbilly band going at it on the back porch with a tape recorder rolling and the background noise left in for ambience. Of course, the band itself is a bit on the eccentric side -- at points during "We've Come to Sea" they carry on a conversation without ever stopping the music, and titles like "Nosing Hot Pennies" and "There Once Was a Worm" make it obvious that their cues come from somewhere other than suburbia. But as an acoustic neo-folk trio they're pretty tight, and they have a penchant for the kind of weird sounds that would alienate country purists but which Public Eyesore enthusiasts will find a balm for the soul. The ghost of John Fahey hovers over many of these tracks. Standout tracks: "We've Come to Sea," "Navvy Work," "Where Are the Pills For My Head?," "There Once Was a Worm" (which wouldn't have been out of place on one of the later John Fahey albums), and "The House With the Dreadful Nibbling In Its Roots." When you need to return to the land where the hill sound began, this is where you'll want to go. - RKF

(Indieville 2/10/2003) I can't quite put my finger on what's so appealing about Silt Fish's Zabaranda. It's a very bizarre work, an album full of weird folky stuff unlike what the Public Eyesore label usually produces. It kind of sounds like the type of sea ditties you'd expect from a bunch of senile old pirates on a ship headed to Hell. You've got guitar and vocals stuff with other instruments in the background (some flute? some cello? some accordion?). And there are melodies, mostly minor key - but the whole thing is so eerie, so spooky, that it doesn't seem that different from the Public Eyesore's more experimental material. The lyrics further convey the spooky image of the album. Frightening narratives about fantasy worlds filled with angels and other things, the songs tell stories of isolation and loneliness. The Sheffield-based band's creepy, British vocals further enhance the freakiness of the narratives, though are hard to decipher for those not attuned to the accent. Let's take a look at the title track. It starts off with a bird chirping and then quickly introduces a funereal church organ along with some wind-like electronics and vocals about a Kafka-esque isolation. The words depict many bizarre, creepy images that help enhance the effect. Guitars back the organs, strengthening the frightening atmosphere. Eventually the organs are stopped, only to be replaced by bizarre, ritualistic moans and drones. After awhile, the organs make a return, even creepier before, and the track ends on a climax that will make the dilapidated haunted house you're living in fall apart and collapse into rubble around you. Altogether, Zabaranda is the most eerie album I think I've ever heard. Through the use of dark instrumentation, creepy Dracula-esque vocals, frightening lyrics, and a nice horror movie atmosphere, Silt Fish have crafted some of the most mind-fuckingly fucked songs ever committed to tape. Why did I write this review at night???? - Matt Shimmer

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