Drum Beaten


Another near-violent and primal piece of music-making from Fritz Welch, the American drummer who used to play in Pee-Ess-Eye, now exiled by Papal decree to Scotland for his various crimes of treason against the state. I find it hard work to describe what Fritz is getting up to on either side of Nothing To Offer (SINGING KNIVES RECORDS SK024), a cassette tape that documents two discrete live performances. It’s equally hard to listen to them, not because the music is bad, but because it seems intent on engaging the listener in a life-or-death struggle with metaphysical forces. And physical forces, come to that. At least once or twice I felt like I was about to be attacked in a bare-knuckle fist fight – the atmosphere is that tense.

On the first side, Fritz starts out quietly enough agitating and rattling parts of his percussion set-up in imaginative fashion, but before long he’s kicking a bass drum in ways that summon ominous doom, as if he’s found a doorway to Hell on earth and is now knocking hard enough to rouse Sir Satan from his fiery pit. Further dangerous actions follow. It creates the vivid image of Welch wrestling his own drum kit to the ground in a sweaty arena. When he starts wailing, groaning and belching out non-verbal grunts like a reincarnated Neanderthal man, you know we’re witnessing some pretty spooky earth magic right there on the stage. This monstrosity was recorded in Ivrea at a music festival, and the venue was a synagogue. No reports have yet surfaced of the Golem stalking this area of Italy at the time, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. You don’t need to ask how the Golem, that 16th-century clay giant of Prague, was brought back to life.

On the flip side, it’s no less primordial, but at least there’s more musical activity and warmth on offer than the somewhat bleak and awkward A side. I gather it comprises two separate pieces. Both are a mixture of percussion and vocals, with vocals competing for more attention as Fritz Welch hurls himself, with brutal instinct and naive passion, into the task of creating his own brand of spontaneous sound poetry. The label press may wax lyrical about avant-garde sound artists like John Cage and Henri Chopin, but those two creators seem quite effete and aesthetic compared to Welch, ugly forms emerging from his mouth-like orifice in a singularly unpleasant fashion. His percussive actions here are like an ironic send-up of cool jazz, an inverted Joe Morello transformed into an emaciated horse, and sentenced to eternal hard labour at a basket-weaving factory.

One listen to this uncanny release and you too will end up like the flayed figure drawn on the cover…a grotesque parody of a drawing by Andreas Vesalius, the anatomist…with arms like Popeye, tendons and veins exposed, stepping out of your own skin, breathing the flames of penitence through bared extended teeth. You will also become an unwilling hermaphrodite, a Father Tiresias figure of tragic proportions. From 14th September 2015.

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