Friday, August 21, 2009

Melvins + Lustmord - Pigs Of The Roman Empire (2004)

I picked this up on a whim when I saw it in a little record shop. I had never heard of the Melvins and I knew Lustmord through reputation only. Boy, what a nice surprise! It's like these two artists were made for each other.

The Melvins, for those who don't know, are a sludgy, grungy metal band who used to hang out with Nirvana, but whose music is way, way better. They have always had some experimental tendencies and they are used to good effect here. Lustmord is, of course, the undisputed king of the Dark Ambient genre.

The tracks on this release tend to jump back and forth between the two styles without much evidence of true collaboration... at first. The opener "III" is a spooky bit of slowly building ambient that centers around a clock chime. It leads into "The Bloated Pope," a classic Melvins style tune. However, this illusion is shattered when we get to the twenty-two minute title track, an epic slab of downtuned riffage surrounded by wonderful atmospheric textures. Honestly, I could listen to this track all day. It features the best of what both contributors have to offer.

The rest of the album has both metal tunes with dashes of ambient, and ambient atmospheres with dashes of metal. It all works terribly well, and many of the songs are actually quite catchy (one of the Melvins' strengths.) I know a lot of experimental music lovers out there hate metal, and if you're one of them you probably won't like this. Personally, I am a great lover of swampy, sludgy guitar riffs and those are present in abundance. Add to that the gorgeously sinister electronics of Lustmord and you've got a record that I return to over and over again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coil - How To Destroy Angels (1992)

This is the first Coil record I ever bought, and as such it holds a rather special place in my collection. It contains a number of remixes and reworkings of one of the band's earliest tracks "How To Destroy Angels." The original piece was made entirely with gongs and other metallic percussion and is one of the landmark achievements of early industrial music. Here, we have a variety of studio manipulations that surpass the earlier version in imagination and atmosphere.

"The Sleeper," at a mere two minutes, isolates and focuses on a weird pulsing sound like a wet jumprope being swung around. "Dismal Orb" strips away all but the most minimal of textures and simply hangs in the air, like swamp gas.

"Tectonic Plates" is a highlight, filled with violent scraping and grinding noises. It lives up to its title completely, as it conjures up images of vast rock formations smashing against each other under the mounting pressure of liquid magma. The vast array of effects the band is able to achieve from such simple source material is astonishing.

The album also includes a full length remix of the original sixteen minute "How To Destroy Angels" by Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound.) Unfortunately, the remixing is too subtle to really be noticeable unless you listen to the two side by side. The upside of this is that listeners who have been unable to acquire the the compilation "Unnatural History," on which the original track appears, now have a chance to hear it.

The album concludes with one second of silence, entitled "Absolute Elsewhere." This is a reference to the original one-sided vinyl, on which the blank side was labeled with this title. This albums is often referred to as an EP, owing to it's rather specific nature, but its length spans a good fifty minutes. More than satisfactory, considering the quality of the material.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Earthmonkey - Be That Charge (2007)

Earthmonkey is a project by the oddly named Peat Bog, best known for his collaborations with Nurse With Wound. On this release, however, he strays far afield from the avant garde sound collages and eerie soundscapes, tackling instead the trippy, strung out world of Ravers. The difference is that, unlike Rave music, this doesn't suck.

On this two disc set (three discs if you got one of the first 300 copies. I did not.) the listener is assaulted with relentlessly frenetic, out of focus music that drifts between rock, disco, trance, jazz and experimental. The guitars are fuzzy, the vocals are distorted and mixed way back. Everything is designed to feel like a haze of thick smoke and intoxication. The consistently fast tempos and overworked drum machines prevent you from ever really relaxing, though, which makes this an oddity among psychedelic records.

The fact is that the music is unnerving and it's hard not to be slightly on edge when listening to it. Combine that with the sheer length of the album (two hours without the bonus disc) and we're talking a seriously draining experience. For that reason, I don't often listen to this record, but it works well at parties where you want to keep the energy up, or when you're just in one of those moods.

That being said, the whole production is quite impressive, especially given that all the instruments were played by a single man. "Funhouse" is a standout track, with its repeated vocal sample and twelve minutes of Gong-like psychedelia. "Be That Charge" is certainly an interesting record by a talented guy. It just may be a bit much to take in a single sitting.