I feel as though I’m stuck in a cramped elevator; brass and woodwind grunt and gasp as they shuffle to release trapped limbs, feedback sets every surrounding wall into unsteadying vibration, thin strips of noisy electronics writhe through any slight gap they can find. The sound is far too close for comfort, and there’s something rather ugly about having twangs of string and thumbing of saxophone buttons rubbing right up against my head. The end of the piece isn’t denoted by a graceful descent into silence, but by an unglamorous “peeling away” process, whereby the intimate congealment of improvisation starts to unstick and fall limp around me. Nasty.
It’s not until part two that the record starts to sound like the live recording it actually is, though the introduction of gaps and open space during the first few minutes doesn’t render the experience any less uncomfortable. The suffocating cloth of dissonance is replaced by a restless concoction of wooden string scrapes and breathy woodwind pops, clammy with a dreadful anticipation, which eventually bursts open under colonic tuba drones that resounds like a steam vessel coming in to dock. “Listen, there’s no such thing as silence,” says David Sylvian during the liner notes. “We are haunted, internally possessed. We’re the void waiting to be filled. We are the haunted and the haunting.” On Joining The Queue…, life and mortality feel as imposing and inescapable as such statements imply.