As choirs go, this one, Gaggle, does at least deserve the moniker of alternative, innovative and original. They may not win Choir Of The Year (nor do they probably want to) and they are unlikely to accept the tutelage of Gareth Malone or want the 'voice of an angel' amongst their ranks, however, Gaggle do take an established medium and all but tear up the rule book on style, interpretation, subject matter and target audience. To be fair, the use of the term 'choir' may be stretching the boundaries of truth a little. Gaggle, a 20-strong all-female group, are more alternative indie pop with a feel of high end performance art than anything you're ever likely to see on Songs Of Praise. The MC doing the introduction for Gusset, Lipstick and Wunderla (Just some of the cast of 20+) is never going to be Aled Jones or Russell Watson. (Thank God!)
'From The Mouth Of The Cave' is a 12 track set of alarming music that moves from pointed pop through to horrifying aural onslaughts that could scare the bejesus out of you. This, the debut album from Gaggle, is never boring. It is a very original, challenging, experimental and innovative attempt to deliver up something completely new. It does not just wash over you, it makes you pay attention; it commands your interest and, whatever your opinion at the end, it will have made an impact.
The album begins in a rather doom laden, oppressive style with the title track. 'From The Mouth Of The Cave' makes you feel as though you are being marched to your death through jungles and ruins in some terrifying scene from a slasher version of Indiana Jones. The tribal rhythms are heady and intoxicating, building a tremendous tension until thankfully a salvation is seemingly found and the powerful climax is dissipated. The single 'Army Of Birds' follows on and completely alters the perspective. The echoing, layering and harmonising in this near a cappella arrangement is first class pop. The sometimes conversational vocal battles and deep bass tones work brilliantly. (If Laurie Anderson ever decided to try her hand at pop again I would like to think it would sound a little like this.)
Retrospective nods to The Talking Heads and The Tom Tom Club can be heard on 'Power Of Money' as more vocal dexterity is brought to the fore to accompany the off-set beats. Voices with a possessed and demonic character show just how terrifying and extreme they can be when heard in unison on 'Happy Is The Country' (a sort of sonic exorcism) before a very percussive and hypnotic 'Gaslight' adds a jagged violin and more chilling and anxious vocals.
Rather than letting go, slowing down or changing the nervy mood at this point, Gaggle decide it best to add a little more edginess by way of sharing. 'Liar' is a tale of betrayal, adultery and infidelity. 20 plus women joining together in a deliberately paired back drum and vocal delivery about being wronged, abused, deceived, damaged and pained is a formidable thing. (Think twice before you date and ditch these ladies, would be advice to heed.) 'Congo' follows on with a brief but brutal blast of tribal savagery. Synths make more of an impact on 'Bang On The Drum' and mental stability is called into question, especially at the end on 'Crows'. A genuine choral contender appears late on with the most gentle of the album's tracks, 'Lullaby'. Penultimately, a more theatrical, stage musical arrangement about your ultimate date with insects comes around with some great orchestral strings on 'Hello Spider'. The album is closed out by the mildly industrial, electro scored, downbeat darkness of 'Leave The City'.
'From The Mouth Of The Cave' is a challenging album from Gaggle. Is it enjoyable? Yes, but an enjoyment on slightly different terms to the norm. It is an experience and at times it can be hard work. It is not easy listening but it does show real talent, it does break certain boundaries and above all it shows a great deal of promise for what else might yet come from the most unconventional girl group on the planet.