Pancrace, Pancreas, St Pancras International, Pancreatitis, Pancake Tuesday. However you want to mangle their name, the French quintet's latest, a double gatefold, is so strange and so absorbing it’s taken two weeks for us to stick our heads above water to shout about it. If you’re familiar with their first, self-titled LP you’ll already be keen to investigate this one - and happy to discover they’ve pushed their muse even further on The Fluid Hammer, leading us Pied Piper-like down a garden path of thorns (?) to some kinda grotesque/beautiful medieval puppet freakshow (?!). In the same way that Księżyc plunge backwards and make the old-sound-new-sound-old, Pancrace create a very REAL time-warp with their "spatialized and midi-controlled" pipe organs, toys, hurdy-gurdy, violin, Pi-Synth, Uilleann pipes and - of course - antiquated water pumps overlaid with field recordings of a French pump-merchant and his sun explaining how these artefacts work. Whatever floats your hammer!
Over 17 tracks the Frans Zwartjes-esque pastoral stillness and lyricism of tunes like ‘In the Evening’ are interspersed with passages of levity and mischief (see, for example, ‘Cow Patch’). Pushed to think of accurate precedents for The Fluid Hammer and its strange synthesis or the mechanised and the improvised, nothing quite seems adequate, but in the futile churning names as disparate as Pierre Bastien, Akio Suzuki, Senyawa, Brannten Schnuere and Svitlana Nianio have come up. Absolutely walloping and highest recommendation.