Seen and Heard
Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker unleash the
potential of Iannis Xenakis’ UPIC sound system
by Dan Fox
At the end of last year, in the windowless basement of a North London educational establishment, I heard the sound of the blackest ever black and listened to the shape of leaves, terrorist atrocities and kebabs. Tones the texture of grit ricocheted between 14 surrounding speakers, low rumbles bulldozed their way through bodies, whilst smoother high frequencies fluttered above our heads, clearing the air with elegant sonic vapour trails. Ears were subjected to thick barrages of swooping, bending, sandpaper-timbred noise, then left free to roam in open quiet spaces. At no point did I know which elements of the micro and macroscopic visual world were being parsed into sound. All I could see were the loudspeakers and drab beige walls of the studio space. And nor should I have known, for this was no exercise in dumbly literal sonic analogy; this was the synaesthesic result of Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker’s UPIC Diffusion Session #1.
Organized by David Bussel during his tenureship as curator of Cubitt Gallery, the event was the first presentation by artists and musicians Haswell and Hecker of an ongoing project utilizing material generated during their residency at CCMIX, (Centre for Composition of Music Iannis Xenakis) in Paris, using the unique UPIC system of sound synthesis. UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique de CEMAMu) was conceived by Xenakis (the composer and electronic music pioneer who died in 2001) in collaboration with engineers and computer scientists at CEMAMu, the Centre d’Etudes de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales, also in Paris (and equally fond of confusing acronyms). Very basically, the system is made of a drawing tablet, the size of a large sheet of paper, which allows the user to make a direct sound composition using graphic elements. The tablet has vertical and horizontal axes – the former representing the character of sound produced, the latter controlling duration (represented as a left-to-right timeline). With an electronic pen, the user can ‘draw’ lines onto the board which are then directly translated into sound. The pitch and texture, or timbre, of a given sound is controlled by both the type of mark made – a single line is typically ‘smooth’ sounding, whilst many marks on a given page tend to have a ‘rougher’ quality – and what aspect of a sound the vertical axis is set to control: envelope, waveform, pitch or timbre. The parameters of duration can be controlled – you can set the scale of the horizontal axis to anything from minutes to fractions of a second.
Xenakis originally envisaged the system to have far reaching pedagogical and democratic implications for the role of music in people’s lives. By utilizing simple drawing methods, UPIC would do away with the need for people to have technical knowledge of musical notation and scoring, and allow them to engage directly with the question of what constitutes sound and music. Xenakis, an architect by training (he famously worked as Le Corbusier’s assistant) and fascinated in science and mathematics, was interested in the point at which programmatic systems meet ‘chance’, or ‘stochastic’ variables in the creation of music; he wrote ‘mathematics gives structures that are too regular and that are inferior to the demands of the ear and the intelligence’. ‘The great idea is to be able to introduce randomness in order to break up the periodicity of mathematical function … the hand stands between randomness and calculation. It is both an instrument of the mind – so close to the head – and an imperfect tool.’ Every house would have a UPIC machine and access to the means of creating complex new music – ‘anybody, even myself or you, or children, can draw lines or graphics.’ However, the first attempts to market the UPIC occurred at the same time as sampling technology emerged and caught people’s imaginations. Only seven machines were ever sold.
Xenakis himself wrote very little using UPIC (Mycenae Alpha in 1978 was the first piece ever composed entirely with the device), and Haswell and Hecker’s engagement with the project came from their belief that its potential has barely been tapped. Rather than concentrate on simple forms of mark-making and the sounds they produce, they experimented with different types of visual material – tracing onto the UPIC tablet images ranging from news photographs of disasters and atrocities, through depictions of the natural world to microscopic images of molecular structures (such as that which makes up ‘the blackest ever black’, a coating for telescopes that is purportedly the least reflective material on Earth). Despite the limitations of the system (it won’t, for example, allow a full circle to be drawn – a sound that occurs over time can’t, after all, travel back on itself), their research was in the spirit of stochastic exploration Xenakis advocated. Haswell and Hecker took the material they recorded at CCMIX and developed it for a diffusion system. No mere PA or surround sound set-up, a diffusion system is a multiple set of speakers that distribute sound through space, and allow for a high degree of real-time control over volume levels, equalization and, most importantly, spatial placement by the operator or performer at the mixing desk.
The audience at UPIC Diffusion Session #1 was never aware of the shapes or images used in its creation. Xenakis himself believed that audiences should not necessarily have to know about technical form in order to appreciate his work; Haswell and Hecker are similarly uninterested in instinctive analogical responses. Rather, the process of translation is key. If a sonogram – a technique by which a sound can be ‘scanned’ and represented as a visual waveform – can be taken of a diffusion session, would the initial image source still be legible? (Apparently, if you look at a sonogram of Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker from 2002 at a certain point Richard D. James’ grinning face appears in the wave pattern.) According to Haswell, their ideal audience member would be someone suffering from a particularly acute form of synaesthesia and thus able to hear a passage from a diffusion session and actually see, say, the leaf in front of them.
A good deal of current electronic music – especially within an art context – is moribund. The age-long desire for some kind of integrated music and art Gesamkunstwerk persists, but invariably most projects fall somewhere nearthe basic levels of Scanner’s drearily workaday samplings or the crassly literal art and Pop relationships flagged up by artists such as Christian Marclay. Electronica seems to signal little more than a fetish-ization of contemporaneity, technology and dance music subculture. Haswell and Hecker – both long associated with the more interesting outer limits of electronic music and installation – consider their re-engagement with this particular episode in postwar music history in the same way in which many artists have recently re-engaged with the Conceptual art practices of the 1970s; looking to Xenakis and Pierre Boulez rather than John Baldessari and Dan Graham. In their ‘UPIC Diffusion Sessions’, the historical importance of electronic music as part of the soundscape of life for the past 50-odd years is richly evident. The formal and conceptual properties of the project may be inseparable, but they also explore deeply human questions of how our senses apprehend and interpret the world. As Xenakis said, ‘the hand adds inner richness and charm’.
Dan Fox is associate editor of frieze.
We finished mixing the record last week (Atsuo, greg, Randall, Mell and myself)... just needs to be mastered. Its a mega!!!!!!
June 18, 2006
Summer of Love Redux
By WILL HERMES
ASA IRONS of the Vermont musical collective Feathers is stroking his beard. It is formidable beard; a biblical beard. He and his band mates — who mainly operate out of a rural farmhouse without cellphones, Internet, manager or booking agent — are at WNYC radio to perform their enigmatic, pixie-ish folk-rock on the long-running show "Spinning on Air." Today their instruments include a lap harp, a toy xylophone, a Middle Eastern hand drum and an acoustic guitar hand-painted with animals and rainbows.
Ruth Garbus, a dark-eyed 24-year-old whose T-shirt depicts tractors flying through space, is talking about conjuring mystery with music, "that whole psychedelic thing of letting your mind go where it will." Mr. Irons, 24, his long hair tied up in a bun, chimes in with a story about working as a carpenter and about growing up with parents who were "woods hippies, not town hippies."
"I'm all about the old world, man," Mr. Irons says with a mischievous laugh.
Perhaps. But he and his band mates are also about a new world: one of the most creatively vigorous strains of underground music. Initially dubbed "freak folk," it looked like a trend of the moment a couple of years ago, when two California artists, Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart, attracted attention with charmingly shaggy, deceptively whimsical, largely acoustic albums.
But the scene they spearheaded has grown steadily and expanded sonically, getting less folkie and more, well, freaky. It has also gone international. And this season — the Summer of Love 2.0 — it comes into full, wild bloom with releases, tours and festival appearances that promise nothing less than a new age of Aquarius.
The new music is more a mind-set than a genre. It usually employs acoustic instruments, though it's as likely to have roots in progressive rock, free jazz or Brazilian pop as in Appalachian ballads.
Vocals tend toward the willfully eccentric, arrangements toward the exotic, lyrics toward the oblique. The sound can range from gentle ensemble music befitting a Renaissance fair to electric psychedelia befitting an acid test. The musicians often conjure the 60's in grooming and countercultural/utopian/back-to-the-land vibe. Many are friends, cultivating a communal network of informal collaboration: they tour together, play on one another's records and sing one another's praises. But with a tendency toward art that's both homespun and solipsistic, and that shows little interest in music industry trappings, they can seem less interested in Making It Big than in keeping it small.
Still, the music is on the rise: for every backwoods group of musicians like Feathers, there are equally beguiling bands like Lavender Diamond, which is based in Los Angeles and engaged a publicity firm before even making a full album. This summer kindred bands like the darkly pastoral Espers, the gorgeously lyrical Vetiver, the raging Comets on Fire, the entrancing Six Organs of Admittance, the boogie-rocking Howlin Rain, the molasses-grooved Brightblack Morning Light, the computer-enhanced Tunng, the improvisatory Wooden Wand and the noisily experimental Grizzly Bear are all releasing CD's, as are others — Jolie Holland, Ane Brun, Cibelle, Juana Molina and M. Ward — less connected to the scene but reflecting its aesthetics. And that's not to mention promising artists like Alela Diane (www.myspace.com/alelamusic) who are popping up almost daily on Internet showcases.
These acts mainly play clubs, and their records remain tiny blips on SoundScan. But that may soon change. Virtually every major indie-rock label has embraced the style, including many veteran marketers of punk attitude that would recently have avoided anything vaguely "hippie." Even Warp, the standard-bearer of British techno, has signed the woodsy Grizzly Bear. And Mr. Banhart is now signed to the hot British XL label, home to the White Stripes and Radiohead's Thom Yorke.
If the major labels are lagging — well, that's what major labels do. But with the endless-summer, hippie-folk-lite of Jack Johnson hitting No. 1 on the charts earlier this year, they probably won't be for long.
Mr. Banhart, who got so much attention in 2004, remains the king of the scene and has extended his reach beyond it. He was recently invited to perform at a Chanel fashion show, to help organize the British alternative-pop festival All Tomorrow's Parties and to perform at this weekend's Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. He was even romantically linked, for a moment, to the starlet Lindsay Lohan. Along the way the neo-hippie revival he represents is gaining cultural traction. Vice, the magazine, clothing line, record label and all-around hipster franchise, has scheduled psychedelic-rock acts (the veterans Blue Cheer and Roky Erikson, and Boredoms, a Japanese band) among the top acts at the Intonation Festival it sponsors next weekend in Chicago. And "Just Another Diamond Day," a 1969 song by Vashti Bunyan — an eccentric British singer who's a folksy patron saint of the new scene — is now playing in a T-Mobile ad.
To make the most of all this interest, archival labels are busy bringing out albums that have been out of print for decades. "We're living in the age of the reissue," said Michael Klausman, a buyer for Other Music in New York, a store that is a major source of experimental folk. "For some of the younger musicians, these old records are their formative influences. You see them engaging with the music of their parents' generation almost like it's a contemporary phenomena."
This summer's version of freak folk tends to be darker and more experimental than first-wavers like Mr. Banhart and Ms. Newsom. The guitarist Ben Chasny is a Northern Californian whose pleasantly droning electro-acoustic recordings date back to the late 90's. He appears on three impressive new records this season: "The Sun Awakens," a haunting mix of fingerpicking and feedback by his main creative vehicle, Six Organs of Admittance (who perform at the Mercury Lounge in New York on July 6); "Black Ships Ate the Sky," an "apocalyptic folk" song-cycle by the former industrial rockers Current 93; and "Avatar," a ferocious psych-rock set by Comets on Fire (out Aug. 9).
Mr. Chasny, like many musicians on the scene, is a self-confessed record geek. "The whole thing for me at first was getting the beautiful, mysterious record that made you wonder, 'Who are these guys?' But then I'd mail-order these crazy psychedelic folk records and feel, 'Well, that wasn't really crazy enough.' So I started making the records I wanted to hear."
Mr. Chasny's work with Comets on Fire of Santa Cruz represents the noisier side of new psychedelia, as does the self-titled debut by Howlin Rain, a side project of the Comets' guitarist Ethan Miller. Their screaming guitars are worlds away from the laid-back sound of most modern "hippie rock."
"I come from the biggest hippie area in the world," said Mr. Chasny, who grew up in Arcata, Calif. "But they don't listen to the real hippie music. They listen to Phish and that groove stuff. I love the old psychedelic music because it wasn't just imagery."
"It was music that meant something," he added.
Precisely what the music meant then, and means now, is an open question. "It's a very Aquarian thing," explained Jay Babcock, editor in chief of Arthur, a free-distribution music magazine (with articles on progressive politics and herbalism) that has become the central voice of the new scene. "Hallucinogens, rock 'n' roll, love of nature, interest in social justice. These are all people basically fleeing in horror from the homogenizing, materialist, bottom-line corporate monoculture that's overtaking America."
Greg Weeks of the Philadelphia electro-acoustic group Espers said, "There's an element in this community that's tied in to the most valid aspects of the counterculture and learning from the mistakes of the earlier generation."
For one thing, he notes that "there isn't so much reckless abandon" with regard to drug use; just alcohol, marijuana and the occasional psychedelic, most say. Politics, meanwhile, tend to be expressed subtly, through the way people live rather than through explicit song lyrics. "You don't have to have a grand statement," Mr. Weeks said. "You can just do things in your own little way, put them out there, and if people respond, it's going to have a chain reaction. And I think that's kind of what's happening."
Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes of Brightblack Morning Light are an example of that. Hailing from Alabama, they have spent the last couple of years living in tents (and a renovated chicken coop) near Lagunitas, Calif. Their group — whose Crystal Totem tour, with Espers, comes to Brooklyn's Southpaw on Wednesday and the Mercury Lounge on Friday — will release a marvelously hypnotic self-titled CD this week that's awash in liquid slide guitar and burbling Fender Rhodes progressions.
"Most of the album was written on hikes at Point Reyes National Seashore and is about interacting with the wilderness," said Mr. Shineywater from a truck stop en route to Joshua Tree, where he, Ms. Hughes and their dog planned to do some camping with friends (including Mr. Babcock).
As he speaks about nature worship and what psilocybin mushrooms "could do for our collective consciousness," he obviously relishes his role as hippie ambassador. But he and Ms. Hughes are clearly sincere back-to-the-landers: they work with the eco-activist group Earth First! and organize the Quiet Quiet Ocean festival, an annual music event in California. Naturally, their friends Mr. Banhart and Ms. Newsom drop by.
Community building is an important feature of the scene, both in the United States and abroad. Members of Feathers single out the Finnish experimental folk scene for praise, specifically artists like Lau Nau and Islaja and labels like Fonal, and talk of forthcoming collaborations. Juana Molina of Argentina, whose "Son" is one of the year's top electro-acoustic records, plans to record this month with Mr. Banhart and Andy Cabic of Vetiver (whose new CD, "To Find Me Gone," showcases some of the new scene's best songwriting).
Judging from the number of international artists exploring similar sounds, collective consciousness may be at work. Last month the debut CD by a Swedish singer named Ane Brun was released in the United States; its slightly surreal folksiness suggests the influence of Mr. Banhart's music, though Ms. Brun says she had not heard it. And in England, Adem and Tunng expand on folk influences with electronics. "You may be in a London basement with a laptop and a guitar, but you can make the city your rural area through music," said Mike Lindsay of Tunng, which will release its second set of clattering fusion music, "Comments of the Inner Chorus," in the United States in August.
Tunng, like many of the scene's players abroad, use loops and digital beats more prominently than its stateside counterparts, an impulse that may have to do with electronic music's larger cultural presence outside America. But the experimental appetite of the new music is inherently broad. "It's not about genre," said Cibelle, a São Paolo musician whose recent CD, "The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves," was partly produced by Mr. Lindsay and features a duet with Mr. Banhart. She says the current movement has much in common with tropicália, the omnivorous Brazilian cultural movement of the late 60's. (Os Mutantes, the reunited tropicália act, is also touring this summer, performing at Webster Hall on July 21.) "This new state of mind," she said by phone from London. "Even if musicians don't know tropicália by that name, they are still making music that way, by intuition, without rules, following their own uniqueness."
Perhaps that is as good an explanation as any for the new aesthetic, which is not everyone's cup of herbal tea. Critics and listeners raised on punk's supposed anti-hippie credo can be suspicious, if not wholly dismissive of the scene, while some 60's folk fans find the new incarnation too politically disengaged. As one critic wrote in The New Republic, artists like Ms. Newsom and Mr. Banhart "tend to communicate nothing except self-absorption."
Other old-schoolers, however, are impressed. Neil Young has invited Ms. Newsom to perform with him, and the Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson has been a devoted supporter of the scene. "For me," he wrote in an e-mail message, "the collection of artists involved in the so-called psych-folk revival serve as a reminder that in the corporate morass of today's sterile music industry, there are artists unafraid, confident and talented enough to flourish creatively in a homegrown environment."
And so it seemed last month while watching Feathers perform at Tonic, a New York club known for its openness to the new music. With five singer-songwriters, the members constantly exchanged instruments — clarinet, violin, mandolin, flute and an electric guitar that threatened like an approaching thunderstorm — and sang of searching for a home "in the fields" and "in the air."
When they finished, they packed up quickly. One needed to be back in Brattleboro by morning for an early shift at the local food co-op; others were visiting friends in Connecticut. But they took time to exchange hugs with members of the audience, leaving a little pixie dust behind before heading back to the woods.
Photo illustration by The New York Times
A growing genre sometimes called freak folk, featuring bands like Vetiver, Feathers and Espers and solo acts like Jolie Holland, will be much in evidence this summer in new releases and at festivals.
Lisa Kirk and Joe Latimore
Are Delighted to Announce The Grand opening of LEGION AT SENSEI
With a project/performance by Rose Kallal
June 20, 2006
9pm –10pm complimentary cocktail
10pm till we run out of things to drink and do...
58 Kenmare Street NYC
Rose Kallal, Infinite Pyrite, 2006, 16mm film loops, multiple projectors, sound.
Legion at Sensei is pleased to present the work of Rose Kallal, a film and sound artist who lives and works in NYC. Kallal recently presented her multiple 16mm projections/performance entitled Into the Prism at P.S.1 MOMA, the project was accompanied with a live music performance by Growing. Additionally, a variation of the project was presented earlier this year at Gavin Brown Enterprise at Passerby, NYC.
For Legion, Kallal will present Infinite Pyrite, a multiple 16mm film loop projection and installation that combines a complex use of color, light and geometrics. Kallal’s work implies a use of found and or recycled footage however; the artist has created all of the film work.
In this work Kallal states that, “primordial imagery is brought forth with the suggestion that form beholds a matrix of vibration”.
For the opening event, Kallal has invited Angela Means/DeMeath to work with her to create a live sound accompaniment with vinyl selections of prevalent recording artists who specialize in minimalist, low frequency drone such as Sunn O))), Earth, Boris and Growing. Other selections come from within the catalogues of Eclipse Records and Table Of The Elements.
These sound pieces will interrelate with the projections, thus creating a context within the space to complete the environment. Following the live performance Kallal’s, Infinite Pyrite will continue during gallery hours with a sound piece designed specifically for the remaining duration of the exhibition.
Angela Means/DeMeath works directly with said recording artists in live performance productions and is an active dj in experimental music.
LEGION at Sensei is a gallery and incidental space conceived by Lisa Kirk and Joe Latimore located at 58 Kenmare Street (between Mott and Mulburry) on the border of New York City’s Nolita and Chinatown.
LEGION is an ongoing rotation of video and film, as well as, site specific projects that are custom designed and integrated into Sensei by select international, emerging, mid-career and senior artists.
LEGION will attempt to debut a new project weekly and Sensei will host an opening event celebrating the artist' contribution to the space in the tradition of NYC underground parties.
LEGION does not represent the artists that are shown. Rather, LEGION will specialize in facilitating private commissions by the exhibiting artists to collectors staying true to an anti-gallery model.
LEGION will open to the public Sat-Mon, June 23-26, noon-6pm.
Les Rallizes Denudés - Heavier Than a Death in the Family (Live '73-'77)
(Ain't Group Sounds)
You hear so much about something; then you actually hear it. More often than not, profound disappointment ensues, the let-down directly proportionate to the hype and anticipation preceding the initial encounter. That said, Les Rallizes Denudés live up to, and probably even exceed, their legend.
I'm reluctant to add to the reams already written about Rallizes, but what was captured here is too astonishing to ignore. Since the story has been told elsewhere, and with much greater authority than I can claim, I'll keep the history lesson brief.
Japan, 1967. Fresh-faced garage bands whose creeping Western psych-rock excesses were kept carefully in check with infusions of corporate cash dominated the musical scene. Guitarist/malcontent Mizutani defied this trend by basing his fearsome foursome Hadaka no Rallizes (or Les Rallizes Denudés) on the pastoral Kyoto University campus, far from the big-city studios and power centers of the so-called "Group Sounds" industry. Rallizes followed in the Velvet Underground's anti-commercial footsteps, attracting an entourage of artists, free thinkers, and student radicals. Playing amid mirrors and strobe lights, Rallizes became the focus of Exploding Plastic Inevitable-style performances, the petulant, black-clad Mizutani - commanding an outrageously overloaded guitar tone to match his imposing presence - an ever-rumbling thunderhead of musical disruption.
Mizutani's intense resentment of the studio system and solipsistic worldview made him a producer's nightmare, sabotaging the best of intentions on those few occasions when Rallizes were cornered or cajoled into a formal recording session. In the studio, the band's bristling electricity dissipated entirely, preserving a pale and lifeless revenant of Rallizes on record. Attempts to consign Rallizes' intangible essence to Super-8 film proved almost as futile. According to those fortunate enough to have experienced the real deal (among them a young Keiji Haino, Asahito Nanjo, and Makoto Kawabata), only certain live recordings were able to capture even a spark of the band's preternatural spirit. Not surprisingly, this has meant scant evidence by which to corroborate Rallizes' gargantuan reputation. Three double-album live documents in particular -Rallizes' side of the 'Oz Daysset, Live '73, and Live '77 - are so critical to the Rallizes legend that bootlegging them has become the backbone of several enduring cottage industries. Heavy as a Death in the Family is, in fact, merely the latest pirated incarnation of Live '77, better sounding than usual and re-sequenced to incorporate an orphaned 1973 recording,. I wish I could say that Heavy will be easier to track down than earlier Rallizes "releases," but the nature of the beast assures that this is not the case.
"Strong Out Deeper Than the Night" fills 15 minutes, but I suspect you'll be too entranced to keep count once the first minute and a half have elapsed. Nakamura Takeshi's trebly, vaporous rhythm chords, drummer Mikami Toshirou's sluggish semi-skank,and Mizutani's half-purr/half-yelp vocals are so swaddled in reverb as to seem reflected off a million mirrored surfaces. Without warning, Mizutani starts throwing charred guitar shapes that weld scathing feedback to pungently florid psychedelic strokes. Just imagine the effect combined with flashing lights and looking-glass walls! Only bassist Hiroshi abstains from excess, and his FX-free, devastatingly simple hook leads you in and out of Mizutani's maelstrom shaken but intact. Those are the ingredients, and they read well enough on paper. Yet actually hearing Rallizes thorough transmogrification of the basest of troglodyte Rock stomps is liable to snatch your breath as surely as a square kick to the solar plexus. You won't care how it was done or why it was done; just the proof that it can be done will be enough. And Rallizes do it again with the demolition doo-wop of "Night of the Assassins," a perverse delight wherein Skullflower stands by Ben E. King while Mizutani makes his feelings about those blasted Group Sounds unmistakable.
"The Night Collectors" pushes pop song to scandalous levels of distorted delirium where everything melts into a throbbing, hemorrhagic migraine. Two decades on, High Rise and Mainliner would "patent" this sound - not to mention Rallizes' magical combination of crippling distortion and cruddy fidelity - without really improving upon 1977's model. Sheer beautiful-noise overdrive of rarest pedigree, "The Night Collectors" points at a possibly unstated influence on Sonic Youth and their ecstatic kin. At the other extreme, the I-can't-believe-it's-not-Velvets exhibit "Enter the Mirror" tickles gently as a buttercup on the chin. Mizutani demonstrates a much lighter touch here, and he comes off just peachy. Shame about Hiroshi, though. The bassist seems utterly stymied by the pedestrian chord changes, and falls back on an ill-matched Loaded lilt. As Mizutani veers off into ever bolder and more spectacular Quicksilver-styled solo sprees, Hiroshi's bouncy bass line just sounds hopelessly lost. Whether it's deliberate dumb-brilliance or not, it hardly undermines the track's charming change of pace.
A complete 2CD bootleg of '77 Live is known to exist, but you want to seek out Heavy for "People Can Choose," a taste of Rallizes circa 1973 that ranks with the finest Krautrock of its era and attains a peak of exhilarating rock excess the Stooges would have surely recognized and applauded. Toshirou bashes the cymbals like a primal force unleashed. Mizutani and Takeshi drive the distortion further into the red than one might think possible. Hiroshi goes absolutely berserk, though the no-fi, umpteenth-generation recording plows him under the ruckus. If any ten minutes of recorded sound could be said to testify for the rawest, raunchiest thrills music has to offer, "People Can Choose" is a prime contender. A comprehensive "Funhouse"-style boxed set of alternate takes is most certainly in order and may be just what this world needs to set everything right again.
Heavy ends in the protracted Apocalypse of "Ice Fire." Mizutani's doomsday echo and the heavy, sulfurous stink of scorched earth mark Rallizes' passage into history, and I can't imagine anything following, or even surviving, in the wake. That outfits such as Haino's Fushitsusha, Kosokuya, and (to a lesser extent) Nanjo and Kawabata's Mainliner were later able to reclaim this obliterated terrain for their own flags verges on the miraculous - akin to perfume gardens springing from the salted soils of Carthage.
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