Friday, September 30, 2011

BURIAL GROUND "DAY OF THE DEAD" (Worthless Recordings)

At its most intense, fear becomes a constant. Infinite, without recession, an unfocused stumble to the nearest exit, a heady mixture of adrenalin, sweat, tension, and pure white-heat terror. Few film cycles have captured this idea of non-escapism as well as George Romero's zombie mythology, and now Burial Ground has taken those films as inspiration for a series of HNW recordings that reflect the blood-soaked violence of the genre while highlighting the total blind fear and caustic sense of looming death felt in the celluloid depths.
I honestly can't think of a better idea. Film and cinema are closely tied, and this pairing works so brilliantly that i feel i barely need to describe its intricacies. Romero's films are about fright incarnate, the point at which the human spirit is driven to think only of survival. Every option save for one is removed; the world as we know it recedes and becomes something totally alien and hostile, our only choice to map out its coordinates in blood splatter and the resounding crash of shotgun shells booming in the air. It's an aura of suffocation oft imitated but never equaled, a depiction of humankind as potential provender, as pure an evocation of will as has ever been put to screen.
Burial Ground only seeks to echo this notion. "Day of the Dead" is a total immersion bath, a scathing blast of blackened crumbling wall electronics that reduces the world to the very narrow point of what's truly immediate, an illustration of a moment in which you're forced to contemplate the reality of your own messy end and decide whether to take action or submit to evisceration and memory. It's done with an animal intensity, the tar-shrieks of the wall forever rolling forward, threatening all that stand in its inevitable forward path. There is no ignorance; there is only the choice to resist by the bloodiest means possible. Compassion has to be erased and primal aggression must be embraced, the very human essences within have to be silenced and compartmentalized in order to continue. This recording serves as a question to each listener personally: could you? The cost is a willingness to accept forever grey, an agreement to exist in this carved out endtime of viscera and shattered brains, to hold hands with violence and the regressive instincts of all living things. Kill or be killed, black and white, living and dead. Burial Ground's world is one of complete and total extremes, with on middle ground to gravitate towards. Neutrality becomes an impossibility, or maybe an actuality, depending on how you view death and survival. The philosophical complexities suggested by this recording (and its film source) are staggering and cavernous.
Across a span of an hour, the wall becomes a force of sonic nullification, a totem of living electricity and crumbling rocks that seem to fall out of the invisible depths of the sky. There's no peace, no respite; the only tangible demonstration of emotion comes at the beginning of the piece, where a bit of the film's haunting synth figures give way to utter annihilation. That soft moment of frightened contemplation, that doorway to the bloodbath reality of personal minimalization and cosmic inconsequentiality, becomes almost more anxiety-ridden than the impenetrable black cloud vomit that follows. Like a bullet separating brain from skull, ending all remnants of intellect and therefore humanity, the wall slumbers over everything in its path. Everything before it is consumed, everything is sacrificed. The notion of strength in adversity is made to stand before the cold obviousness of true obstinancy, the eye of endlessness cast wide. All figures are painted in shadow before that gazing mass; all are cast beneath the choking dirt of what must be. The will is a very human concept made to hold against that which seems insurmountable; Romero and Burial Ground both understand that will can be broken, collapsed, immolated. "Day of the Dead" is that break; reality is hopeless. Eat the gun or feel your flesh flayed and torn away from you. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Another gorgeous re-release from Essence Music, this time rescuing the very first Acid Mothers Temple live album from nostalgic oblivion and illuminating just how little this group has changed in near two decade of existence. Appearing super early in their discography, "Live in Occident" shows AMT doing what they do best-flying off into noise-streaked tangents of head-nodding psychedelic excess, with little regard for touring behind an album or even having some sort of "songs" to play (aside from the quintessential AMT track "Pink Lady Lemonade," which does appear here, maybe for the first time); the resulting record is simply another demonstration of AMT's live abandon, slightly more woolly than usual but nothing out of the ordinary.
This is the sort of record that makes up 80% of the merch booth at an AMT live show. There's nothing you haven't heard before but you have to fucking get it because it just might be something you haven't heard before. Across hundreds of releases the quality of these live documents has remained astoundingly high-there are few, if any, live albums by AMT that i would consider weak or tepid. Some are more aggressive than others, but it all depends on the band's mood at any given recorded performance. Having seen the band umpteen times live, it's easy to tell when they're in the zone and when they're simply going through the motions. Both make for fine concerts, but one can be revelatory to the point of transcendence. The other is just another exploration of outer space's deepest wastes.
"Live in Occident" is a little more the latter. As a live record it's quite visceral, maybe one of the more in the red performances from the band (more than likely still carrying vestiges of the PSF aesthetic shown on their first few records) ranking near the top with the "Hotter Than Inferno Live in Sapporo 2008" release from the AMT Cosmic Inferno unit. The drums are thunderous, the bass a gooping wobble, the keyboards and synthesizers all bleeding into the ultimate saturnian howl and whine. Kawabata's guitar screams and skronks, shredding itself into bleeding chunks of postmortem metallized obfuscation. The folk leanings are completely absent here (to a certain dismay; what's an AMT show without "La Novia"?), the record given over almost entirely to fuzz-bomb distortion and effect-heavy mind fucking; this was AMT out for blood. The only real respite comes in the aforementioned slog through "Pink Lady Lemonade," obviously in the infant stages here (i've witnessed performances where the band riffs on it for near an hour) and plagued by delay-pedal problems and a general lack of direction. There's no huge guitar solo, no real growth across the track, and very little of the open sense of wandering that seems to accompany more modern approaches to the live centerpiece. When those ringing guitar lines come in, you're ready for a journey-here the road dead-ends after a mere seven minutes, consumed by the roar of decimation and the band's apparent need to melt faces at 1000 mph.
"Pink Lady Lemonade" aside, the rest of the record is serviceable, if not essential. The blanking redundancies and krautrock guitar eruptions of "Astrological Overdrive" are hypnotic bliss, and the end run tears through "Speed Guru" and "Lucille" should more than satisfy anyone looking for brain-melting psychedelia and multi-color psychic splatter splashed across their consciousness. This album is more or less the template for everything that would come after, and in that historical sense its value is near inestimable. Essence Music, as usual, has done a superlative job in reintroducing this record to the ears of the world, packaging it in an oversized heavy-stock mini-gatefold style jacket that faithfully reproduces the original artwork. "Live in Occident" is worth it as a fetish item alone. Beyond that, completists (myself included) won't be satisfied without it; for neophytes and understudies it's not a bad place to start, but there's more varied records allowing for the band's myriad talents to shine. This is just another live record by a group whose discography is littered with them, struggling for true distinction amongst the throng.