“Suspension of disbelief!” barks Charles Hayward at one point during Abstract Concrete’s self-titled debut. Some of that medicine may be needed during early exposures to this wildly ricocheting twisted fairground ride of bristly avant-pop and unwieldy prog-funk. The fruition of the veteran drummer/vocalist’s intent to be part of a fresh band creating new material after revising his pioneering work as part of This Heat, Abstract Concrete can initially be almost unsettling with its unexpected contortions.
Which is appropriate, as the tunes feel deeply steeped in these anxious times, with themes such as Covid-era isolation and the venal idiocy of 21st century politics. “Round and round the garden / Clap, clap, clap as if we care”, goes the 14-minute monolith ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ (which starts of stately and majestic before descending into a thrillingly off the leash noise-rock meltdown), referencing the events of 2020. There’s joy here too: both ‘Almost Touch’ and ‘This Echo’ manage an uncommonly seamless union of robustly physical funkiness and form-stretching experimentation, with Agathe Max’s swirling viola in a starring role.
It’s not without its challenging quirks: Hayward’s hoarse growl isn’t ideally suited to carrying some of the richer melodies, and a few of the slighter tracks – although held aloft by righteous indignation – veer dangerously close to the self-consciously odd avant-garde acrobatics of, say, Frank Zappa. But ultimately Abstract Concrete deserves a hearty round of sincerely-meant applause: at an age when most veteran musicians get a pat on the back for doing what they used to do, only worse, Hayward (now in his early 70s) pushes on into uncharted territory, mainly succeeding.