The Shortening of the Way
USA TUBAPEDE RECORDS TB02 LP (2013)
This ominous double whammy of gnarled bass skronk was kindly sent to us by Dan Peck of Tubapede Records, though the star of the show is Tom Blancarte: a New York improviser of Texan origin who built his chops in metals death and black, honed them in jazzier line ups with trumpeter Peter Evans and now sculpts them solo – divested of genre signature – into a visceral and highly individualised solo dialect. His chosen instrument is, unconventionally, an amplified upright touring bass with which he has – out of necessity – developed a sensitivity for, but which has been groomed for the agency of two of the most impressively focused performances I’ve heard in some time. In what is entirely a game of two halves, each side consists of a single piece in which Blancarte hews away like a very methodical demon possessed.
In ‘The Golden Path’ he favours squeaky-door bowing techniques, which on this side of the speakers sounds rather like someone polishing the other side of a window with great gusto, only in reverse: thus a dense, opaque but undeniably magnificent sedimentary layer accretes before our eyes. Blancarte’s execution is exploratory, leaving no stone unturned and permitting no ear the opportunity to alight on his slippery dance of tones; an exhausting pace he maintains for all of seventeen minutes without once tripping or repeating himself. If side A is all polish, then ‘Typhoon Struggle At The End Of The Universe’ sees Blancarte flay and disembowel the beloved bass with similar relish, and with seemingly more than the standard issue of fingers per hand he strums, plucks, pets, pricks and prods the stringed instrument with the unwitting violence of a child and a beloved pet rabbit; manipulating and contorting the object to an excruciating yet fascinating degree; no less to the listener than musician. While it’s an acquired taste admittedly, it’s a taste worth acquiring: both the single-mindedness and the stylistic contrast between sides are awe-inspiring, though I would caution readers that this record is not spouse-friendly and WILL result in tetchy comments. Proceed accordingly.
Ich Bin N!ntendo
NORWAY VA FONGOOL VAFCD005 CD (2014)
Few words seem necessary to describe Ich Bin N!ntendo: LOUD, careening noise-jazz-rock Godzilloids with all the delicacy and rhythm of a demolition derby. Of Norwegian nationality naturally, they made space on their debut LP for sax gladiator Mats Gustafsson: hardly an influence to tame the spirit of youthful enterprise, though on the strength of this follow-up, Mats was clearly well matched. In their commitment to value the group has smashed several albums’ worth of music into forty minutes of pure, driven mayhem. Towering over one and all are Christian Skår Winther’s mountains of jagged guitar, though barely visible through Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard’s blinding blizzard of feedback bass and Joakim Heibø Johansen’s thundering, octo-poidal drums that avalanche through everything with the kind of stamina that mountain climbers can only dream of. With the odd snatch of inaudible yelping here and there, they blast through the minutes, the way Sun City Girls had a tendency to do at the end of a stressful day; pursuing their muse wither it takes them, powdering all walls in the process, then onto the next demolition job. Thorough work handled professionally, though not without a fair dollop of mirth. This album was recorded in their old rehearsal space after plans to take it to the studio were discarded, probably to the relief of the potential engineers.
USA ILSE ILCD001 CD (2013)
No sooner had I reviewed Lithuanian madman Gintas K’s most recent album, Nota Demo, than along pops a predecessor from the same, fertile year of 2013. While Greit (‘Quickly’) is audibly a similar proposition to its digitally volatile, junior sibling, it’s relatively earthy and unrefined nature (only relatively, mind you) owes to the employment of a wider, more ‘try-before-you-buy’ array of psychoacoustic strategies to bore holes in unsuspecting skulls than in that unyielding, magmatic stew. There’s no mistaking Gintas’ handiwork anywhere; certainly not in the digital chatter that resolves into a dense vibration in ‘Greit 2’, though the radiant hum of ‘Greit 4’ – hiss-soaked as it is – betrays more human warmth than he’s hitherto shown off. Still, Nota Demo’s signature sound is signposted by the neon sand-wash that opens Greit: a grainier approximation albeit of those ‘liquid glass eruptions’. As if following Gintas’ eye-line, the scene swiftly microscopes into a crystal clear image of a boulder-battered barricade: an invasive tenacity that matches Gintas’ scientific rigour as he glides around a lab of contact-miked beakers with strangely coloured liquids he cooks to boiling point. The blend of cold curiosity and childlike wonder he affects while abusing a droning synthesizer and other objects, resulting in many pleasant surprises – including three minutes of silence in the closer – reminds us that he was playfully sifting through many a sound source before arriving at the present point of focus.