4 out of 5
Label: VHF Records
Produced by: Vibracathedral Orchestra (?)
Of the improvisational / experimental artists that we find linked across the VHF roster, Vibracathedral Orchestra have often occupied an interesting space that straddles both the noisy and caustic side of things, as well as the more guided and glittery. They’re certainly not noise, and the err more toward psych than folk, but you can find element of all of that within a given release. The Queen of Guess is one of their most varied and expansive albums, and also one of the most surprising at points, with fairly legitimate riffs (!) emerging alongside “normal” 3-4 minute runtimes, casting the accompanying songs as the closest thing to a single a group like VO could possibly produce. Married to the album’s general progression from more rambling stuff to a fairly focused midsection, and then a blissed-out ending, ‘Queen’ sorta does it all, and pieces it together into a logical listening experience. There are a couple of frayed edges that result from this, though – some abruptness, and some unnecessary wandering. To the former, while abrupt endings are somewhat status quo for this kind of music, such endings generally come after an appropriate amount of instrument wanking or, if we’re going louder, several minutes of an assault; the abruptness is because we’re done with whatever was being pursued. ‘Queen,’ though, has a bit of a “get in, get out” mentality at times, cutting tracks short, before it feels like a mood has been able to fully set in. It’s mostly notable on the opener, Our Head Shone Like A Stone, because it’s before you’ve had any chance to sink into the material, but it does crop up on those 3-4 minute tracks. Elsewhere, when VO is operating at the opposite extreme – 20 minute songs – things get to logical ending points… and then proceed, puzzlingly. Closer ‘Goodnight Stars Goodnight Air’ can get away with this as a sort of coda, but ‘Ramshackle Sunrise’ just seems to go on and on, when it’s had an incredibly strong lead-in otherwise.
But again, you have a lot of variations on Vibracathedral’s themes to choose from here, and quite a bit of total album time as well, so these are pretty much blips. The Queen of Guess is, on the whole, an engaging and exciting listen, giving noise fans some value, showing off some lurking pop chops (y’know, in a very loose and relative sense of the term), and amping up the psychedelic greatness.