Thursday, March 3, 2011

98 The Hard Way: EPs, Day 3

Six Going On Seven / Hot Water Music: Split 7" (Some)
I'll say this much for the set up here; at least the two bands presented here sound like they could conceivably play together without any sort of tonal whiplash. That said, it's not like either tune here is a total winner either. HWM's entry sounds like an outtake from Fuel for the Hate Game, both in terms of sound and quality, but it's much better than SGoS' track which sounds like the bland middle ground between HWM and Jimmy Eat World. Neither song is horrible per se, but this is probably not worth seeking out unless you're a HWM completist or actually think that my description of SGoS sounds compelling (and even at that the song was reprised on their next album, so it's not like you need to find this one in particular to hear it.) [6.8/10]
Lowercase: Imbedded in Ice (Punk in My Vitamins)
At first this doesn't really seem to fit the Lowercase sound I'd been accustomed to, but as a bridge between the massive catharsis of Kill the Lights and the more reserved The Going Away Present this does make some sense. The B side especially could have been slotted into the latter without much trouble, although I don't think it would improve the album too much even if it wouldn't ruin it. The title track is a detour though, a pure piano piece that recalls Chokebore more than anything else. That's not a slight on it, it's a nice moody piece of atmosphere building, but it feels like an experiment on the band's part rather than a fully formed idea. "We Don't Need the Wolf" is much closer to their comfort zone, full of subtle interplay and moderate menace, threatening to erupt at any minute but pulling back without it seeming like a cop out. It's like a dry run for Present's best material, showing that the band could do as much when they don't erupt as when they do, but once agian that's not a slight on the song itself. [7.8/10]
Knives in Greenwater / Racebannon: Split 7" (Witching Hour)
Oh, Racebannon...if only you could see yourselves a few years from this release. How you'd offer the definitive take on noisecore, how you'd push yourselves into more and more complex arenas, how you'd craft epics that were as irresistible as they were uncomfortable. If only you could have showed any spark of that here you might have had a hope of making an impression at an early stage. Instead you offered a couple of decent tunes - "Jeff Seet" especially is a cut above what you were doing at this point even if it's well below the level you would achieve a few years later - that do little more than lay down in surrender to the other side of the record. Knives and Greenwater are another one of those artists with a ridiculously small output - I think they have another split outside of this, 5 songs total - but one which shows a band that gets it from the start. "On Horsell Common" especially is pitched just right, the way that what most bands would have left as a fake out piano intro is woven into the song itself, the relatively huge drum sound, the harsh guitars that stop just short enough of being a distorted mess. I like to think that Racebannon listened to that song after this was pressed and had a minor epiphany as to what they could do with the basic sound they were carving out at this time. [7.6/10]
Bästard and Yann Tiersen: Bästard~Tiersen (Ici d'ailleurs)
How do you classify a release like this? If you're at all familiar with Bästard's material it might be a bit easier, just imagine Radiant, Discharged, Crossed-Off's  weird, menacing qualities amplified and arranged for a small classical ensemble, but without that sort of a reference point it gets a bit more nebulous. Just imagine the sort of music you'd hear playing in a David Lynch short, or the branch of modern classical music most concerned with making each instrument sound like it wants your soul. It's an oddly threatening little album, full of dissonant strings, icy marimbas and pulsing bass that coalesce into a vaguely nightmarish set of sounds.

"La Mancha" is the most minimal, but it's also the most undeniably eerie of the set. The marimbas sound like drops of ice water dripping on the small of your back, the bass reaches out to tap your shoulder in the dark, the odd trumpet hits come out of nowhere to make you jump a bit. "Twins" is the most classical-minded, albeit so dissonant and quease-inducing that it borders on atonal. "Marvelous Marvin Agler" is a pure rock out, with an insistent drum beat and a frantic string lead that is at once chilling yet so inviting. The album is less about the sound than the mood it evokes, one of vague paranoia, mild claustrophobia and most importantly, utter enthrallment. No matter how uncomfortable the sounds are, and especially during "Twins" they can get quite uncomfortable, it's impossible to not listen to see what happens next.

If it doesn't come across that much above, the best part of the whole experience is that it messes with my moods a bit. I'm a very emotional listener/rater, so any time that an album can invoke a new set of feelings in me, one that music rarely accesses that is, I'm inclined to look kindly upon it. The fact that this is just marvelously composed on top of that is just icing. [8.9/10]
Faraquet: Parakeet (Mise en Scene)
This being the first material to emerge out of the break up of overlooked DC art-punks Smart Went Crazy it's obviously not going to measure up to the brilliance of their swan song Con Art. What's shocking is just how close it manages to come. Drummer Devin Ocampo and guitarist Jeff Boswell's side project-turned-main band was already an established unit in the final days of SWC, and as presented here it seems to take all the artier inclinations of that band and separate them from Chad Clark's overriding melodic edge. It's a mere 7 minutes of material, mostly instrumental and lacking the sort of instrumental variety that made The View From This Tower one of my favorite albums of the 00s, but within that scope it does remarkably well. It's already obvious the the trio (Ocampo, Boswell and Chad Molter) are a remarkably tight unit, navigating the sharp turns and odd time shifts of "Um Die Ecke" like it was nothing and imbuing the fairly straightforward, loping "Parakeet" with the sort of subtle colors that a lesser unit would leave out. It's also obvious that as good as it is there's plenty of room for growth, and that's outside of knowledge of just how much growth there would be between here and Tower. [8.5/10]

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