Hugh Morris reviews Meat for the Guard Dogs by Wojciech Rusin, released under Takuroku, Cafe Oto’s digital label supporting artists in lockdown.

Meat for the Guard Dogs is a series of six dreamscapes conjured up by the mind of Wojciech Rusin. Like a Hieronymous Bosch tableaux, the release is earthy and delightful in its embrace of the strong and the strange.

Pigs’ drags us squelching and squealing into Ruisin’s sequence of vivid, playful nightmares, with distorted grunts petering out into a snuffling rustle that slowly shies away from the swiney opening.

The track quickly skips through a couple of scenes, in a fleeting exposition of some key themes; a quiet cafe clinks by, followed by bleeping synths underpinned by a shape of water that shifts, swells and parts throughout the release.

Experimental saxophonist and Joy Orbison collaborator Ben Vince quietly lollops into view for ‘House Arrest’, his squawky sustained notes commencing the overtone explorations that fuel Rusin’s dark, blossoming expansions.

Where much of the album comes in layers of contradictory material, Vince & Rusin’s distant collaboration brings some welcome moments of textural focus as Vince’s saxophone, the most prominent single voice on the album, becomes gradually buried under an oceanic mass of swaying sounds. The track ends abruptly as we’re ripped unsolicitedly from this throbbing psychotic dream, and rudely awaken into a panicked silence.

Prematura’ hits differently. Trickling water and thunder introduces a string quartet surrounded by inclement clouds; later, a bright clarinet poking out through the fog.

Flashes of full string sections give this light minuet a deeper presence, with faint glimpses of a wider expanse interrupted by rumbles of thunder. When the strings return, it’s angry but austere, offering yet another mood shift as the track evaporates into nothingness.

There are flashes of the gnosticism explored in previous releases; ‘Pile of Logs’ begins almost ritualistically; ominous war drums threaten to burst.

With shades of Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s score for the Channel 4 drama Utopia, lone adenoidal voices sit on top of this thudding, waiting expectantly for a dentist’s inspection that never materialises…

The release is bookended by another complementary curiosity. The voice of yoga teacher Hannah Aspinall surveys her ‘Hannasize’ class, a group of groaning, belching characters, grumbling reluctantly as they actively resist their instructor’s well-meaning advice.

Rusin creates a series of striking situations, with flashes of the real only occasionally disrupting a journey through a sequence of states of being. For those of us sleeping badly during lockdown, this release makes a lot of sense.

All tracks Wojciech Rusin only except Hannasize (ft. Hannah Aspinall) and House Arrest (ft. Ben Vince). Lengths marked in file name. Artwork design by Oliver Barrett

You can buy the record here – 50% of profits support the artist and 50% support Cafe Oto.

Hugh Morris is a composer and writer based in Manchester. He is a contributor to a variety of publications including Jazzwise, VAN Magazine, The Sampler, The Calvert and Bachtrack, and currently works as News Editor & Content Creator for Whirlwind Recordings. A composer with a particular interest in creating interdisciplinary pieces, his music has been played by members of Red Note Ensemble and London Sinfonietta, and he has collaborated with CoMA, Vonnegut Collective, Devon Philharmonic Orchestra, No Dice Collective and Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera.

Twitter: @hwfmorris