Conditions of my Parole
18 October 2011
by Ruth Booth
Pick up a glass of wine and the latest New Scientist – there’s an idea that the act of thinking isn’t just the brain working independently. Your body is more than just ropes and levers, or sensory extensions to your mind – it is your mind, all of those experiences threaded and integrated together – as physical as the brain itself.
Anyone who saw last year’s Blood Into Wine documentary, which followed the trials of a certain “rockstar” grape grower in Arizona, might see echoes of this in Sensualism. It’s a favourite philosophy of Eric Glomski – business partner of and mentor to budding winemaker Maynard James Keenan; who you may remember as frontman of Tool and A Perfect Circle, as well as conceptual head of Puscifer.
Those who saw Blood Into Wine will know Keenan is not one for sitting on his grapes. While A Perfect Circle cut a rug across the West coast, and Tool continue to throw chalk at greenboards, Keenan somehow found time to hunker down with his collaborators (including Tim Alexander, Matt McJunkins, Jeff Friedl, ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, and more) in the Caduceus Cellars/Merkin vineyards warehouse to record this curious beast. Conditions of My Parole is strange Ustopian sound that twangs strings of of NiN, later eighties Electronica, nineties Metal, Tom Waits-ish scuzz, cowboys, aliens, and the Best of Ibiza Chillout Moods compilations. As Keenan himself puts it, it’s “Twin Peaks in the desert”, complete with its own Bob. Called, err, Bob.
Back from 2008’s V is for Vagina is Puscifer’s gyroscopic swing between dirt-covered wisdom and polished innuendo, though the latter is toned down. Not that the cover with touring cabaret characters Hildy and Billy Dee (a bewigged Keenan and comedienne Laura Milligan – I’ll let you work out which is which) is deceptive. It’s more a background flavour this time, one that’s strongest in recent single ‘Man Overboard’.
Watch the video to ‘Man Overboard’ by Puscifer:
Moreso than on the last album is the influence of the Verde. Having to express his motives both in winemaking and music on Blood Into Wine seems to have sparked Keenan’s creativity, so we get the likes of ‘The Weaver’, and ‘Monsoons’ and its intricately woven, cello-layered beats; while the acoustic-meets-electric-buzz of ‘Green Valley’ returns again to the Arizonan river. Maybe it’s a symptom of recording location, a more settled lineup, or subject matter, but Conditions… isn’t as self-conscious as the last studio album. Taken together, it’s less follow-up to V is for Vagina, more Sound of Blood Into Wine Part 2.
Conditions of My Parole is a genre-collapsing blend of complimentary flavours; difficult to define, and oddly human taken together. If you’re about music that shows you hints of other horizons, or if you’re genuinely after something that wasn’t signed up to fit the business plan, you owe it to yourself as a fan of music to give it a spin. Go exercise those tastebuds.
Personally, I’m expecting it’ll only getting better with age.
Sounds Like: Nine Inch Nails, William Orbit, Jose Gonzalez, Primus.
Top Tracks: Man Overboard, Telling Ghosts, Horizons