Imagine if all the talking you do in your mind was actually a strange inversion of yourself whispering into your ear. You could feel the breath trickle down your spine; you could hear the smacking of the lips and the swallowing of saliva. In the background, a broken ballerina jewelry box plays a creepy tune that meshes into the melodies of a de-tuned piano. A digitized slur seems to pull all of this together and apart at the same time. You are having a bad trip, you are panicking, the walls are closing in and the voices are speaking over each other. You are in a cabaret, you are the play, you are the audience and the audience despises the show. What year is it anyway? Oh wait, did we mention that you’re in nineteenth-century Europe? Well, welcome to Superintendent Idle Tiger’s Sweeping Tendrils.
Quite honestly like no other collection of sounds I have ever heard, Sweeping Tendrils is a ferocious dive into the psyche of Ross Hawkins, the identity in question. Through the conceptual lens of nineteenth-century Europe, Hawkins expresses absolute absurdity. Reading through the liner notes it is clear that a lot of energy went into personal reflection to fuel the material and emotions of this record. Do not be fooled, this is not music; this is the musicality of our mind. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any sing-a-long verses or catchy choruses throughout the entire album. Rather, stories and dialogues take you through this rabbit hole.
The selection of words that tie together this work is wild. Some of my favorite lines are as followed: “Heterosexuals are ruining civilization,” “just because you’re not a monkey, doesn’t mean you’re not a monkey,” and “you are like Jesus on the cross discussing agony.” These lines get delivered like whack-a-mole moles; they just pop up and recede as quickly out of context as they first appeared. Strong opinions and emotions push their way past the line and right into your ear through this album.
In “(No One liked the) Pictures of You,” a troubled youth is revealed through an uncomfortably funny dialogue. You could hear the insecurity and could undoubtedly sympathize with it. It’s hard not to hate the narrator in this piece as they come off as cruel and cold. In other pieces, such as “A Son Like Me (sex scene involving Charles Baudelaire and a large amount of fabric)” you get more of a story rather than someone speaking to you directly. This song is off-kilter and seductive. Some ASMR is used in a very effective way. Tiny little bells ring in the distance. Squeals can be heard in the background, and the lyrical content creates a building tension. The result of having French poet Baudelaire and other historical figures involved in the lyrics is a massive sea of symbolism to swim through.
The amount of pleasure or satisfaction you get out of this record is totally up to you. Dive in and pick things apart if you want to, because there are a lot of layers ready to be peeled back. If you want to unwind and unplug from thought then that’ll definitely be a different experience. Either way, the concept behind this kind of work deserves a lot of respect and will surely get people to react in one way or another.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Danielle Kenedy