Pengo - a nervous splendor


For all the rave this rec was getting, I thought it started on a slightly dubious note, with what is officially the 1,014th combination of post-Siltbreeze "atmosphere" and post-Fahey "roots music" on record, but it's really short and you quickly realize that it's just a bookend, a fanfare, a prelude, or whatever, and the record immediately begins to rule when an extended sample emerges, of a chipper young fellow, who is obviously a narc, telling a story, fragments of which include ". . . and then I met some Christian brothers" . . . "I was really surprised at all the love they had!" . . . "So that night I asked Christ into my life, and it's been a joy ever since."

And then, track two, "The Ill Fitting Tourniquet," fully turns my appreciation from tentative to full-fucking-on, as the Pengos take a one-chord folk pattern and soak it in the very mud of, well, Hades! (Y'know, the muddy banks of The River Styx?) Loudness, distortion, overbleed, "the red," it's all here. This is Doom. Side one stays great, finishing out with some free jazz freak-flutter and more samples of people talking, some sort of weird-ass phone stuff.

And side two is where the Nervous Splendor really gets a chance to roost and lay mutant pterodactyl eggs in your mind's eye. Of course, it takes time for that sort of incubation period, like at least 20 minutes, and when side two of any band's record is just one song, you know something's up. Pengo pull it off with another brooding jam, kill zone bystander music. Lead vocals by Idi Amin Dada.

So everybody's right: great record. Definitely better than the not at all bad Pengo Climbs the Holy Mountain. By copping the BYG Actuel design for the cover, they predict with complete accuracy their own shit-hot appearance as 'token white freaks' on a theoretical JAZZACTUEL-type compilation to be released 30 or 40 years from now.

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