A Relief Reviewer Writes…
AUSTRIA EDITIONS MEGO 137 LP (2012)
In which ol’ Kev hits us macho square in the lugholes with his 12 inch mastermix, noise on 45: Relief. Throws into. Is in stark. Is in bold. Bas (no bass, however). In fact, think back and recall when your friend and mine Howard Phillips L. used to write about grotesque bas-reliefs hewn from basalt etc. Well, there are some similarities, here.
Relief clocks in a relentless 40 minutes or so, packaged in a monolithic black sleeve with black inner bag. On the cover three dire creatures of the night pause whilst ripping an 18 century creature’s carcass just long enough to eye us balefully – as indeed we imagine Kevin is doing, peering hairy-armed over the foot high legend ‘Relief’ (‘by Kevin Drumm’ – similar to a perfume, but sweatier) that confronts us on the back. One slab, two faces, a ceaseless, pitiless, writhing, tentacles as the volcanic column (yes, I know. In fact, coincidentally, since I wrote these initial notes Ed has more fully explored the Freudian ramifications, as it were, of some noise approaches in his review of Seth Cooke’s Pneuma 1) emerges from the depths. See water streams off those hideous bas-reliefs, terrors which should not be named revealed by the flashing of convenient lightning and the insane dive-bombing of rotting Stukas. Piloted by zombies. Perhaps zombie Keith Rowes.
These imagistic impressions (which we should not disregard the influence of the deliberately calculated packaging in forming 2) are rendered unto us by way of a fair amount of high frequency feedback and what could be radio abuse – like Spinal Tap’s wireless mic picking up air base chatter this sounds like a table top guitar picking up Satan’s own CB radio, but unlike Nigel Tufnell and co. there is not much in the way of bottom end. Behind everything a relentlessly cycling maudlin orchestral motif grates away in the background. A mouldy melody of a sort of melancholy at three removes, cannibalised horror forged in the gleam of efficiency and commerce. Hollywood’s very own horror tropes, the signifier rather than the signified being deployed, in a similar manner to the artwork, although in that case other conventions are being used. And thus it goes, grinding, maximum on small details, minimum on large scale movement. A slab, indeed.
Flip the record over and it carries on where it left off. The stukas still swarming around the storm-wracked, pitted and hoary monolith. Which in fact as far as volcanic rocks goes is probably more of a pumice. Not that that doesn’t abrade, some, mind you. Excellent for calluses etc. It is just rather lighter in terms of overall mass.
We get no progression, no climax; rather an enervated and continuous crumbling.
But wait! What’s this? A minute or so from the end of the second side we are granted (a sort of) respite in a brief second track, a solo for distorted guitar, simple where the previous track is loaded with baroque details, brief where the other is long, dynamic where the other maintains a constant level, throwing things into… wait for it… relief. It’s still melodically over-egged and portentous, but it’s nice to feel in on the joke. A spirit of generosity which is echoed in Kevin’s exhaustive thanks list included on the back of the picture postcard you also get slipped into the sleeve.
- The feminine or anima – there I go mixing my Freud and Jung – has plenty to offer to noise. Think of the archetype of Kali, for example. ↩
- The music lies in a shifting hinterland between instrumental expressionism and the creation of illusory pictures, in a similar manner to the conversation in packaging Drumm has been pursuing since Tina Frank’s Sheer Hellish Miasma artwork, the using and subverting of an archetypally ‘metal’ or ‘noise’ presentation in the service of something more abstract and electronic. ↩