The Heart is a Locus

Violin and percussion free improvisation from Blood Luxury on their cassette Blood Luxury (TUBAPEDE RECORDS #14), released on Dan Peck’s label from Astoria NY.

Erica Dicker and Dennis Sullivan recorded these nine cuts in 2019 and are making their publishing debut here today. Erica also did the cover art for the item, aptly depicting her violin bows piercing a bloody human heart against a background of abstract-expressionist turmoil. As an image it makes me think of the Tarot deck, as if it were a lost card from the minor arcana. As the “heart” trope indicates, these two players are going straight for the jugular on this one with their music, and aiming for an emotional rawness as they confront uncomfortable truths. The press note confirms they intend to “invoke the most raw and vulnerable aspects of their psyches”, which might be a tough thing to measure when your line manager is demanding benchmarks and metrics, but exhibit A would have to be the searing, intense music on the tape. All that intensity is not delivered by loud volume, rather by the extremes of sound which this pair are intent on reaching, and the pitch of sheer excitement generated by their frantic bowing and striking actions.

Interestingly, both players employ certain radical and unorthodox techniques: Erica Dicker applies metal bolts purchased from the DIY store to her violin and never settles for simply bowing the strings when she can rub her horsehair against any handy surface of the instrument. As to Dennis Sullivan, he not only plays the now-typical kit of metal junk and home-made electronic devices, but also wires up his snare drums with guitar strings in some way. These crazy instrument-modification approaches may come to us from Sonic Youth via Glenn Branca, for instance, but in Blood Luxury’s case it leads to a real enhancement of their astringent, nerve-jangling sound, ensuring that every moment of their music passes on a healthy, restless, angst, getting under the hide of the listener like fire-eating ants carrying little crumbs of sour bread in their jaws. Plus, with certain esoteric track titles such as ‘Mandrake Edifice’ and ‘Inverted Necromancy’, you can be sure we’re in the hands of two adept scryers working in the tradition of John Dee. That’s an association which might also endear them to the hearts of Earth or Sunn O))), especially considering that both members of Blood Luxury are also fans of many metal sub-genres. Label owner Peck has also made plain his love of stoner and doom metal with his powerful doom-jazz group The Gate.

Much to love in these very direct and honest performances here – nothing hidden, nothing undeclared, as the players writhe on a stark empty stage as if lit by one spotlight – and I especially savour the tough-minded abrasive tones generated by this duo, they’re not out to win friends by reverting to user-friendly harmonics or sweet folk-influenced melodies, and instead it’s dark, grim, abstract noise all the way. Great! Recorded at musical residencies in various locations and at a live show in Brooklyn, this tape comes highly recommended. 100 copies were made. From 28th March 2022.