Sunday, August 06, 2006

OF (plus PENGO)

Bit of a dilemma this week: lately, either through purchase or bequeathment, a hailstorm of great stuff has hurtled through the Noiseweek mailbox (besides the Cold 100 to the right, I'm also frantically digesting Mouthus and Panopticon Eyelids stuff on Our Mouth, tons of My Cat is An Alien slabs, the Maggoted collab on JYRK, all the new Three Lobed subscription missives, etc etc etc...). This deluge has made it hard to pick what to write about, not to mention the fact that the best thing I heard this week (if not this year) is an un-mp3-postable two-track live CD-R from Pengo entitled Cosmology of the Broken Saints on the Hippie Overdose label. Each track is super-long, plus I'd feel weird offering half of a release for free - and an excerpt would just be wrong, since my fave, "Seven Sparrows," is such a wholistic work of sound construction that it must ONLY EVER be listened to from start to finish. It starts with incredibly textured noise-drone, builds into a dilating climax of howl, then falls back into reflecting guitar chimes that evoke the Velvet Underground circa "Black Angel's Death Song" or "Hey Mr. Rain"... only to climb into another Green Monster-sized wall of storming noise. Maybe it's just my particular cortex, but every portion of this piece digs into my brain and stirs up cells that usually spend the day/week/year dormant. I beg you to find a copy - Fusetron, Volcanic Tongue, and Carbon all seem to still be holding.

Luckily there's lot of stuff this week that's almost as good - and the almost-est is a dense slab of solo stuff from Thuja/Jewelled Antler pioneer Loren Chasse, under his current nom-de-fume Of. The excellently-titled Awful Cloud is on Yellow Swans' JYRK label, and it's four head-busting pieces of noise, drone, ambience, field recordings, primitive beat, dark atmosphere, and everything else this highly-accomplished sound-maker has long proven himself capable of. I'm no Thuja expert but have loved everything I've heard (and also think their whole nature aspect gets a bit overblown in their press, since they do a LOT more than that)...and Pine Cone Temples was one of the best records/albums/objects/etc of 2005, two discs of thoughtful aural mayhem that drew on a few influences, but still had a thick, idea-heavy aura that felt blindingly unique.

The Awful Cloud doesn't offer quite that heavy a drift (and was made all with conventional instruments - no rocks or sticks here), but it's pretty fucking close. The four tracks here are all very different, but what I like most is not the overall diversity, but how in each piece Chasse fully commits to a small range of sounds, rather than trying to make each into a look-what-I-can-do roller coaster...yet in doing so he actually divines a wider range of texture, tone, and nuance than he might've otherwise. Which is just to say the guy can find more in a single cloud of sound than most can in a year's worth of passing fronts.

The concept of what's "best" here is kinda nonsensical - I pretty much equally dig the way the four-minute "Psychotic Episode" recreates internal implosion through reddened guitar attacks that ring so hard they catch fire, the way the 17-minute "Human Absence" forges a sonic black hole with echoing tones that multiply and negate each other, and the way the closing, 11-minute "Cumulus Deceased" offers both optimistic relief through rising tones, and bittersweet denouement through stoic refusal to ever reach the mountaintop it seems to futilely seek like a droning Sisyphus. Still, it's hard to beat the opening "Uglich Bell," a cluttered web of crashing drums, ear-plugging metallics, and growling din that seems to ripple through the rest of the album long after its last bit of screech has finally decayed. That might be the best way to describe The Awful Cloud: every track seems to reflect into the other, like an undending series of cast stones causing an infinite loop of watery ripples.

OF - "The Uglich Bell" from The Awful Cloud


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