Sprawling and deliriously psychedelic collection of mostly unreleased work from French-Iranian punk-industrial-world music free thinkers Vox Populi! with a collection primarily pulling from their creative highpoint of 1986-1990, splicing together the sort of weird, killer gear you'd expect to hear on Stroom, Fonal, Freedom To Spend, Finders Keepers and Rune Grammofon completely seamlessly.
It shouldn't have been surprising that Vox Populi! co-founder Axel Kyrou was able to make such veil-piercing experimental material at such a young age. He and his partner Mitra weren't musically educated, but his mother was Mireille Kyrou, the Greek-born musique concrète pioneer who worked at Paris's GRM Studios. Along with Mitra's 14-year old brother Arash, they linked studio-as-instrument DIY techniques with a growing interest in religious music and mysticism, bringing in Persian poetry to reflect Mitra and Arash's Iranian heritage.
Throughout the 1980s, Vox Populi! released some of the most intriguingly genre-flexible - yet still mostly under-heard - music we've come across, peaking in 1987 with the dubbed-out cult classic "Half Dead Ganja Music". And while they've experienced renewed interest in the past decade, particularly after Cut Chemist's 2014 retrospective "Funk Off", the band still feel like a difficult proposition for many listeners, despite serving as a missing link between improv, folk, fourth world experimentation, Antipodean DIY, no-wave, dub and industrial noise. At times, they sound like a mystical blend of Popol Vuh, King Tubby, Organic Music Society-era Don Cherry and Étant Donnés: slithered grooves that lurch from bass-heavy filth into resonant, patchouli-scented prayer at the tip of a hat.
"Psyko Tropix" is a complimentary addition to their canon that collects up rarities and unreleased tracks from the band's most creatively fertile period, between 1986 and 1990. These tracks are presented alongside three newer compositions from 2017, and everything's been remastered by Rupert Clervaux to give it some sonic coherence. And honestly, despite there being a three decade gap between some of the recordings, it's hard to notice. Vox Populi! manage to create a sound that's so doggedly idiosyncratic that it's out of time 'cuz it was never part of that continuum: opener 'Caballo Blanco' sounds like krautrock (think "Faust Tapes"), lounge and ritual music simultaneously, and ends up harmonizing with the Stereolab/Broadcast axis almost accidentally.
'Mush Dubby Gnarls & Vrooms' is one of a handful of tracks here that dissolves Mitra's Iranian poetry into cyclic dub-jazz rhythm 'n bass sufism, disrupting the flow with anxious radio chatter and angular synth noise. She sings a sweeter song on 'Golpari June', with an almost nursery rhyme folk quality that's set against hand drum patter and acoustic guitar - but rather than descent into pure folk, Vox Populi! spike the recording with unsettling studio effects and bizarre reverberations, sounding closer to something on the more recent Stroom axis than a Pentangle record. 'Koutchoulou' is even weirder still, held together by a sturdy electric bass groove but fractalized with reflecting-pool vocals and hissing ASMR tape echo.
It's a stunning compilation of tracks that shouldn't be missed by anyone into the outer reaches of psychedelic music, post-punk, DIY or improv.