City Witches

Excellent album from the American trio Street Priest, sent to us by their drummer Jacob Felix Heule in Oakland…More Nasty (HUMBLER RECORDS HUMBLER-001) is made from just guitar, bass and drums recorded live in a rehearsal room in 2012, and contains all the rough edges and sharp spikes a man could wish for. A man who wants to hurt himself, that is. Listening to it is like climbing voluntarily into one of “Jigsaw’s” horrible mutilating death traps from the Saw franchise. The opening ‘Turk’ is abrasive and incoherent, performed at impossibly high speeds, the trio struggling to sputter out phrases of musical coherence in between writhing in pain from viral infections and vomiting out their profound despair at the grim state of the world. ‘Taylor’ is somewhat more reflective, the players sinking further into a morass of hateful feedback and mournful tones, starting out hesitant and then growing increasingly furious with power chords, side-swipes and frenetic percussion attacks, only to sink back into the black despair of suicidal humming feedback. ‘Sixth’ contains even more depressing emotions, the instruments growling and purring like disaffected big cats sharpening their claws and contemplating their next victim, i.e. you – who to their big feline eyes look like a walking plate of raw meat. Strings and metal chime and pulsate like tiny bells, creating a dream-like reverie, a palpably threatening atmosphere of slow-burn brooding and hate. Lastly, ‘Market’ propels us back into the energised free-noise realms that will very likely endear this trio to fans of records made by Sonnny Sharrock, James Blood Ulmer, and other notable free-form shredders.

Street Priest take their name from a 1981 album by Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, which is new to me – an area of free-jazz funkiness and guitar noodling which I must investigate soon. It takes a lot of imagination to find the funk in a record like More Nasty, where the band are working hard to pull all known musical genres into pieces just to see what makes them tick, but the bass player Matt Chandler here has enough articulacy and control of his intonation to deliver the goods, emerging as a sort of rag-tag reversed double negative of James Jamerson. The guitarist Kristian Aspelin appeared on a 2007 LP by Paul Hartsaw’s SocioCybernetic Music Machine, but a quick survey on YouTube reveals he’s played in all manner of free improv and jazz situations, some of them involving the mad drummer Weasel Walter. As to Street Priest’s drummer, Jacob Felix Heule is also one half of Ettrick and the SF duo Basshaters. Lasse Marhaug did the cover art for this splendid release of lively art-noise, which is available as a cassette and a download. From around June 2014.