ESTEL – A Massive, Glorious, Uphill, Shit-Fight ( Little Plastic Tapes/Headwrecker 2011)


Dublin is by no means exclusive in it’s ability to be a harsh environment to that which sticks around for longer than the ever decreasing attention span of it’s troglodyte and subterranean music audience, but operating here is far from favourable. It’s an undeniably difficult tunnel to crouch through, with no promise of a pinhole of light ahead, if you accept it be that way. The other way is to be that thing from some apocalyptic movie that keeps coming no matter how many rounds are pumped into it… But what do you do when you long outlive your original phytoclimate? Like fungus, like cockroaches, like feral kids and like Estel, some entities feed on this. 

“A Massive, Glorious, Uphill, Shit-Fight” by name and nature, Estel’s hardball belligerence has been self-serving them equal dollops of longevity, antipathy, respect and obscurity all the way through to this, their 5th album ( excluding the recent Watt/Mackay collaboration ) in more years than most of their audience have been present to recall. Verily, they are the Anvil of the Dublin underground.

The sprawling GANG OF MEN weaves an expansive mesh of cheap practice room spillover of 2 different bands trying to out compose each other through the plasterboard. One grinds out a dissonance of cascading guitar noise and the other loops incessantly   through a weird piano recital signature… this falsely relents after 9 minutes and then continues to build for a further 5, at which point it switches to a more familiar Estel mode with chiming keyboards leading a sludgy chugging riff which yields only when the every last dribble is spent. TEN TO TEN is very different territory. It drifts at a Calexico pace, although not quite rendering itself as sonically sedate, making excellent use of layers of   female vocal towards the end. Not dwelling for too long in a mood that could slip towards an uncharacteristic lightness of being ( TEN TO TEN is under 5 minutes, a soundbite by Estel’s standards nowadays ), the condensed psychedelic trudge metal of THE CONSUMPTION unfolds slowly alternating between a heavy gravitational pull and a teased pulse. In a welcome return to a structure that seems very old-school Estel ( with people who can approach the idea competently ) MONKEY KNIFE FIGHT is colourful, upbeat and manic, clocking in at a mere 4.34 mins. And just like a monkey knife fight would, this piece of music ends abruptly, the defeated monkey no doubt shrieking off at great speed through the mangroves. HEAD ON A STICK leads out like the Wurlitzer soundtrack to some innocent undulating fairground ride tweaked by evil carnies to mangle it’s patrons when least expected. This track is a very finely honed and progressive Estel, teasing out the menace without resorting to heavy dynamics or a final descent into 5 minutes of noise that nobody is going to listen to. Instead we are simply left with the closing statement from Ted Bundy’s trial to contemplate.

It’s been a huge gap since the last Estel studio offering and they are rumoured to have a queued stockpile of further noise awaiting release. In their definite favour, they recently slimmed to a more compact 4 piece, the size this band need to be to allow the music breathing space rather than crowding it, something they’ve definitely done in the past. “A Massive, Glorious, Uphill, Shit-Fight” drags an ever wider spectrum ideas into the Estel mincer and holds itself as a confident representation of a band with a lot of creative ground still to tread upon. For the Wretch’s ill-gotten currency, the final two tracks are the definite highlights.

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