Tuesday, May 31, 2011


"The title’s a misnomer, because there’s absolutely nothing sweet about this whirlwind tear through current era Melvins ragers. From the opening bloated fuzz vomits that give way to “Nude With Boots” into the freaky bloodletting anthem “Die...s Irae” this is a band that hasn’t forgotten how to punish in the live arena. Lumbering behemoth “Eye Flies” leads the charge to a thrashtastic metallized latter half of the set, culminating in a ferocious shitstorm of songs that would make Slayer slit their wrists out of dizzied jealousy. Fast, tight, and still sounding chaotic as fuck, “Sugar Daddy” is a rock maelstrom."
This was my entry for a contest the Melvins are having to win an autographed t-shirt. While the review is brief, i think it's a pretty good summation of the new record. I've been pretty harsh on the four-piece Melvins in the past; the last time i saw them live they were as spot on and tight as a band could be but there was something missing. Maybe it was me, maybe it was the weather (they played pretty much in the middle of a blizzard in Roseville, MN), but it just felt like i was watching a unit go through the motions without injecting any real passion into it. Even Dale's drumming seemed oddly clinical (didn't make it any less amazing to watch, though.) So what a pleasant fucking surprise to hear so much ferocity screaming through on this disc.
This is as visceral as the Melvins have been on a live record since the genre-defining megalith "Colussus of Destiny." All the rage on that album was channeled into an audience-punishing swarm of sonic vomit; here it's channeled directly into a lean, throatcutting performance that flays the flesh and hollows out the brain cavity, leaving the listener in a state of lobotomized violation. All four members go for broke, playing hard and pushing everything to its limit. Buzz's guitar is a huge cloud of thick viscous sludge, the twin drum kits break the earth into tiny pieces with every matched snare crack and the bass looms large behind, coating everything in a molasses like drape of warm audial tar. While the set list is composed of mostly material performed by this lineup on record (something i saw as a major shortcoming the last time i saw them) this time the songs seriously destroy. Listening to it i couldn't help but think of Slayer, such is the level of breakneck chaos that the Melvins inject into these performances. The back end of the set features a massive four song medley of "Rat Granny," "The Hawk," "You Know You're Right," and "A History of Bad Men" that absolutely fucking shreds and reminds me just how mean and hungry the Melvins can be when they're frothing at the mouth and thirsting for live violence. If this is where this line-up has gotten to since i last witnessed them i'd be eager to see them again and give things a total reappraisal; such is the strength of this performance.
You could be forgiven for wondering if the world needs another Melvins live album. As best i figure, they've already put out about eight (!) across their lengthy discography. But this one is really fucking good. I'd put this right beside "Colussus of Destiny" and the "Live at Slim's" eight-track as a nice demonstration of the sonic extremes the Melvins are capable of getting at. "Sugar Daddy-Live" is easily the best thing they've put out as the four piece line-up as well as a major triumph in terms of essentializing the live album. Recommended.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Pure psychedelic assault bordering on total holocaust. Government Alpha's brand of noise is broiling, hot and defiantly harsh but there's a transcendent, mirage-like element to his work as well, something that looks to take you to some other realm and melt your eyes right out of your skull. This album is a gorgeous atrocity, a hyperfierce meltdown intent on beating the shit out of you and then wiping you away into some noxious cloud of fuming, rancid heatstink. Think Merzbow leaning more towards the AMT side of the spectrum and you're beginning to get the idea. The screaming voids of Skullflower are another good reference point, but whereas Matthew Bower's landscapes are frigid and crystalline windstorms, Government Alpha's environments are more desert sweat and duststorms, an amalgamation of violent weather patterns scooped into a tornado of sonic horror.
The bruises begin the moment the disc opens up. It sounds like a swarm of bees run through an octave pedal and amplified about a thousand times before being run waaaaay into the red. This whole album feels like it's going to break into pieces under the weight of its own violence-every sound is created to bludgeon and render into piles of nullification, to reduce and make into nothing what once had form. This music goes nowhere and everywhere at once, content to inhabit its space in absolute dominion, oozing and looming, trying to fill every possible hole, crack, or crevice. Like the majority of power electronics, you could read some sexual violence in Government Alpha's work if you really wanted to, but the overwhelming attitude seems to be one of simply that-just a massive overwhelming. "Venomous Cumulus Cloud" is designed to destroy, and this regard it comes close to Hell Militia's credo of "Cut your flesh to widen your sight." Through destruction comes understanding, through pain comes hallucination followed by revelation. It wouldn't be totally off base to suggest that Government Alpha is looking to reach some sort of "spiritual" experience through these cataclysms-the idea of being immersed in something so formless and so much larger than yourself is certainly presented here. What you choose to take away from that, however, is completely left to you. It could be horror, pain, transcendence, joy or utter nothingness-all are equally valid and equally possible. Usually noise music isn't this open-ended; it's to Government Alpha's credit that this record is so expansive without making philosophical or dogmatic demands on its listeners.


The official debut album from this lo-fi entity is miles beyond everything they've released thus far; for me "Nature Tries Again" is the moment when Raspberry Bulbs have finally wrested themselves away from the siamese like connection to Bone Awl and turned in a work of striking individuality. The differences are subtle but overwhelming when taken as a whole; gone are the choking cloud balls of noise that masqueraded as songs on previous RB releases, replaced with actual melody and structure. The drums are far more audible this time around, allowing the project to align themselves closer to raw black metal than pure noise terror. The vocals are crisper as well, as though an understanding of the concepts being advanced has taken on a frenzied importance. This record strips away alot of the mystery that surrounded the band's output, and while the idea of anonymity was certainly important the actual presence and weight of the material demands a more concentrated engagement.
Everything here settles into a midtempo plod, reminiscent of contemporaries like Satanic Warmaster, or most closely, Akitsa, but the allegiance to crust punk and d-beat is never overshadowed by the black metal framework. This is unpolished, crude, and imbued with a primal aggression; it's also thoughtful, hypnotic, and composed. Brevity is a major strength for Raspberry Bulbs and the fact that they achieve such a dreamy, washed out feel is testament to their growing strength as writers and assemblers of sound. This isn't restful by any measure; rather it's so forceful in its attack it simply reduces your awareness and somehow manages to take you apart a little. The aura summoned here is difficult to properly describe, but it's an actual feeling of nestling, a reduction of psyche that seems to shrink the listener down into something far more insignificant.
This is the idea at work. Raspberry Bulbs have always promoted a distance-from the world, from others, from the self. The music describes an inability, as wells as a lack of desire, to understand or appreciate the actions of others. It's a suggestion of removal that grows more and more defiant across each release. The songs themselves easily speak to this philosophy, questioning the value of existence and spiraling ever further into all out nihilism and despair. There's always a threat of destruction and harm, a menacing atmosphere to the works that communicates a self-imposed isolationism. This is near agoraphobic paranoia rendered into song, and the feelings of unease and nausea summoned up on "Nature Tries Again" are so thick and crushing that simple listening becomes impossible. There's something deeper at work here, prying and poking at you, trying to whisper in the dark amidst a gleam of knives.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


When two of the more creative forces in outer zone extremity exploration got together back in the 90's to craft ambient dubscapes, few could have anticipated this. Harris had left the rigid confines of grind metal behind to work on more frightening ventures like the superlative ambient death voyager Lull while Laswell was more or less fully in his own element by this point, deeply embedded in the cosmic bass dub universe he pretty much whipped out of nothing. Together the two crafted this masterwork, a slab of blastingly frigid liquid metamorphosis, an ever-mutating ocean of thick, viscous void. It's the sound of the dead of space, or of floating away to the bottom of total nothingness.
This is pure night music. It can't function near the light. All of its considerable power and effectiveness lies in the dark. Just closing your eyes isn't enough for "Somnific Flux"; it demands your total devotion for the hour it crawls along your walls and drapes you in its inky, cloaking clutches. This album will slither over you and cover you in metaphysical tar, as heavy as anything Harris churned out with Napalm Death and as awe-inspiringly cosmic as the farthest reaches Laswell explored on his magnificent solo bass recordings. This was an effort that reached for something deep and far beyond and came out with hands covered in black ice. Nothing less than the howling of Antarctic blizzards or the gargantuan stumble of Lovecraft's outer gods, this album oppresses the psyche like very, very few in modern discographies.
Harris continues to work successfully in this mold while Laswell seems to pretty much have abandoned it, turning in more tepid pronouncements of ambient adventuring. It saddens me that Laswell left the Subharmonic label to wither away into the void it so deftly brought into audial being; nearly every album the label released was worth hearing. Most of modern noise owes a debt to this sort of sound. It's more violent and terrifying than anything a project likeWhitehouse ever produced but its terror works inward, rather than the ultra-abrasive, direct (but no less interesting or commendable) attack that most harsh electronics dealt in. The most obvious successor to the crown forged and worn by "Somnific Flux" is the current deluge of HNW artists; the constancy and blank horror created by Harris and Laswell is merely amped up and fuzzed out, leaving a wall of void that fills the space in a slightly different way. It's hard to imagine Vomir's desire for total removal without landmark works like this one to pave the way. A demonstrative work of isolationist dread, "Sonific Flux" belongs in any insomniac's collection. Highest recommendation.