If pushed, I might call this my favourite album of the noughties, although I don’t really believe in the idea of cast-iron favourites in that way. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a record I love, and probably the one I’ve written about the most times – a full review and an in-depth interview with Graham Sutton for Stylus and a capsule review for an American magazine at the time, a re-listening for Devon Record Club a couple of years ago, probably something else somewhere, plus all the messageboard talk and tweets and other sundry assorted web-words I’ve spouted about it in the interim. In all probability I probably talk/write about Dustsucker more often than I listen to it – it’s not a record I find I can just put on whenever and have soundtrack me doing the dishes or whatever.
Because there’s something immersive and all consuming about Bark Psychosis’ second album, which came a full decade after their debut record, when the band had effectively dissolved and gone their separate ways. Graham Sutton spent five years and countless hours tinkering with sound, playing instruments and programming software, singing, uncovering samples of his band’s previous incarnation and editing them into unrecognisability, inviting friends and acquaintances to come and record drums or vocals or guitar or vibraphone or trumpet or sindhi tamboura or ‘Gonk Vocal’ or bass, approaching the concept of the album from an architectural ideology rather than an emotional or narrative one; that is, music as a physical space to move around in.
Not that the results are emotionless or abstract; it’s just that the sound – ominous basslines, beatific acoustic guitars, creepy, burbling 303 lines, sheets of caustic guitar with skylarking trumpets atop them, female voices, piano, strange, distorted studio crashes and samples of threatening, sardonic answerphone messages – is so rich, so powerful, so meticulous, that it becomes its own purpose, its own phenomenon. As I’ve said before, music doesn’t have to mean something; music is something, and that’s never been more obvious to me than here.
It’s now nearly ten years since //Codename:Dustsucker was released; although I only became acquainted with Bark Psychosis circa 2001, it seems like a much shorter gap than the one that followed Hex. Probably this is because I’m older, so ten years now is proportionally less of my life; I suspect that we perceive time in relative sensory / emotional proportions rather than strict metric divisions. Plus, with a vague hint of irony as I write this on the day that My Bloody Valentine have finally released the follow-up to Loveless, we’re used to big waits now – eleven years for Portishead’s third record, twelve for Kate Bush’s Aerial, Scott Walker’s decade-plus gaps between Climate of Hunter and Tilt and The Drift (even if Bisch Bosch only took a paltry six). In the 90s The Stone Roses made four and a half years look like a suicidal gap; despite the fact that the pace of the world seems to have been upping exponentially year-on-year since then, huge chronological chasms between records no longer seem all that unusual.
I have no idea if there’ll ever be another Bark Psychosis album after //Codename:Dustsucker; I kind of suspect that there won’t, but I have no evidence to back this feeling up. Whether there is or there isn’t, this twilight trip through the isolated urban British psyche, taking in rock, dance, the avant-garde, jazz, and whatever else you can identify (is that a hint of folk? ambient? pop? noise?) remains a singular record; others may have similar sounds or similar atmospheres to isolated parts of Dustsucker, but nothing else combines them in anything like the same way. At least to my ears.