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Mutation Error 500

[29th October 2013]
[Ipecac Recordings]

01. Bracken
02. Utopia Syndrome
03. White Leg
04. Protein
05. Mutations
06. Computer, This Is Not What I…
07. Sun Of White Leg
08. Relentless Confliction
09. Innocents In Morte
10. Benzo Fury

If you are settling down with a copy of supergroup Mutation‘s crowdfunded debut album Error 500, you had better strap yourself in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The many-headed project has been masterminded by Ginger Wildheart, with long-time cohort Jon Poole, previously of The Cardiacs, and Napalm Death‘s bass monster Shane Embury joining him as the core of the group. Heading the extensive list of guest appearances are Japanese noise terrorist Merzbow and godfather of the awkward squad, Mark E Smith of The Fall.

With a list of contributing luminaries like that, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that Error 500 isn’t  exactly a straightforward affair. This is only confirmed by the album being put on general release by Mike Patton‘s label, Ipecac.

Mutation’s sound is as tumultuous and abrasive as being trapped in a sandpaper-lined tumble dryer. It’s a headlong collision of Devin Townsend‘s Infinity, Frank Zappa, the Fantomas Melvins Big Band and a hungry family of polar bears.

But what is a surprise is that, for all the teeth-shattering cacophony, Error 500 is a gloriously upbeat affair, positively revelling in its dementia. Dirty great slabs of grinding riffage give way to both fearsome blast beats and almost euphoric bursts of twisted psychedelia. The album is then peppered throughout with jagged shards of outright noise. The whole thing is as gleefully incongruous as The Wombles on a PCP-fuelled machete rampage.

Stand out tracks like “White Leg” and “Computer, This Is Not What I…” show clearly that, despite the chaos, there is method in the madness. Ginger’s pop sensibilities and undoubted song-writing skills mean that Error 500 is as bewitching as it is bewildering. The complicated song structures never completely lose their way or succumb to self-indulgence. Despite the extensive list of contributors, it remains a cohesive album and the tracks retain a shared identity.

Aside from Shane’s fuzzed out bass tone stamping around the back of the mix like a Yeti in the mountains, it is Mark E Smith’s contributions that are the most readily identifiable. His trademark incomprehensible belligerence features on two tracks. The results are polarised – “Mutations” is two minutes of barely listenable atonality, and is probably the albums low point. But all is redeemed with “Relentless Confliction”, where Mark can be found raving that “your shoelaces are bleeding”. Or something like that. Nobody else delivers total gibberish with such conviction.

That an album as completely hatstand as Error 500 even exists is testament to both the power of crowd-funding and the loyalty of Ginger’s core fanbase, who seem happy enough to follow wherever he chooses to venture. It’s doubtful anyone was properly prepared for the realities of Mutation, but we should all be thankful for the collective trust of the pledgers in his abilities.

Given that Error 500 was released with very little fanfare, it is a truly unexpected delight. As exhilarating, manic and lightly terrifying as whitewater rafting with a platoon of drunk clowns, it is a fantastic listen.  Even if a lie-down in a darkened room with a cold compress may be required afterwards.

It’s not immediately clear whether Error 500 is going to be a one-off, or if Mutation will become a going concern. But fans of awkward and unusual music should be firmly rooting for the latter.