Jude C. Montague with Wim OudijkJude C. Montague with Wim Oudijk
Album: The Leidenfrost Effect
Label: Disco Fair
Tracks: 8

Back in 2010 I reviewed a CD (Doodlebug Alley) by one Jude Cowan (a London-based author, songwriter, artist, poet and performance artist), pronouncing the disc one of the most startlingly original and genuinely arresting creative adventures I'd heard in years. She followed this with an intensely focused William-Blake-inspired project, Lamb & Flag, since which things had gone quiet.

Until now - where Jude has re-emerged, under a new name (Jude C. Montague) and in collaboration with Dutch composer/arranger/producer/songwriter Wim Oudijk, the first fruit of which is this exceedingly intriguing, challenging and highly stimulating CD. I can't tell you anything about the background to the project, nor the music itself - which, by the way, is nigh indescribable by most accepted standards. There's also a complete dearth of information on the internet, but at least the booklet enclosed with the CD helpfully includes lyrics to all but one of the eight works (songs) within. These are sometimes literate, sometimes cryptic, sometimes maddeningly mundane, and they take on board a bewildering array of subjects. The title track describes a physical phenomenon arising from the properties of a vapour-producing liquid (since you asked!); this is fetchingly intoned in the playful, sing-song manner of a child's-ear view. Similarly, Three Species Of Ants resembles a matter-of-fact entry in an anthropological encyclopaedia or treatise, its buzzwords here given a spikily appropriate, poised neo-classical setting. The Green Bamboo Warrior moves from cheesy bossanova lounge to pseudo-orientalism, and Hello Pussycat is a cheeky, funny little pop-style vignette, while Aman Radio makes a melancholy, if inevitable, point, to a suitably doleful backdrop. The Mighty Seahorse scarily evokes the cautious wonder that comes with a child's discovery of the natural world. Holiday Magic is an excitable Cook's Tour cornucopia of onomatopœia that darts about all over the place with some of the wilful vocal extravagance of a Kate Bush. The carnivalesque glitz of Gifts For Sale provides probably the most extreme experience, expressively at least: it's over-the-top, wacky and provocative rather like an audio cartoon with its quick-fire progression characterised by ostensibly scattergun and random-event-generating yet clearly highly organised performance-artistry.

In summary - this project represents a considerable artistic triumph, for all that it's wilfully idiosyncratic and determinedly strange. Scoring is ultra-inventive and brilliantly executed, although it can sound "all over the shop" with textures that range from indie-electro to imaginative quasi-orchestral gestures. In some respects, it's tempting to reference Laurie Anderson in terms of both Jude's charismatic delivery, her performance-artist persona and attitude and Wim's comparably eclectic magpie maverick approach to timbres and textures. You need to give this album time, since for all that it's genuinely chameleon-like, often violently in-yer-face and larger than life, its unique brand of extra sensory stimulation is both all-embracing and mind-cleansing, and makes for absolutely compulsive listening

David Kidman