Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blog to Blog - Rhetoric Reviewed

And this just in... The Smooth Assailing weblog posted a detailed review of the recent Locrian CD on BloodLust!, with a closing line in the opening paragraph that made me chuckle.


rhetoric of surfaces
[2008, bloodlust!]

locrian (named after a particular chord progression which produces a dissonant sound) is the duo of chicago's andre foisy and multi-media artist terence hannum (who seems to be better known for the non-musical aspects of his artistry). going into this, i didn't know what to expect. on the one hand, foisy's in unlucky atlas, a band that i basically described as something you'd expect to hear at open mic night at a coffee shop, when they sent me their cd a few years back. on the other, they have the endorsement of mark solotroff. somehow my mind can't fuse those two worlds together.

rhetoric of surfaces is an assemblage of some of locrian's out of print cassette and cd-r tracks, as well as one that was previously unreleased. speaking of which, that track, drosscape, opens up the disc with heavy guitar chords which will then drone away against an ominous backdrop. locrian's guitars will howl and moan as their drones slowly become entangled. soon, one of them will begin to emit waves which crescendo into screeching, and then droning, feedback. everything about this piece of music is fucking great.

burying the carnival seems to have a special place in these guys' hearts since it's the third time that it's appeared on a release. once on a split tape with arizona's continent, here and again on another cassette (which andre also sent to me, and, if tradition holds up, i'll be reviewing in three months). it builds atop a rather bleak landscape, replete with looping, emotionless drone. the main factor to carnival is the second guitar which trades off between feedback-inducing improvisation and the kind of self-indulgent shredding that seems to pay homage to every metal album from the 80s (i.e. makes me want to punch someone in the throat). oddly enough, though, i don't mind it. it sounds a lot more unique in this grim setting, with everything else moving at quarter speed. the distortion and feedback also help to soothe my anti-hair metal rage. the soloing of the latter, which is on display in the last four minutes (out of thirteen), is especially dear to me.

good thing i love me some feedback because there's another healthy dose of it to start off gruen transfers. slow, screeching guitar chords and high-pitched droning are matched up with a subdued ambiance, rather than what sounds like the aural definition of the word dungeon. the first half is all soft, moaning waves and rad guitar fuckery. after that, the ambiance is displaced by a pleasing melody and the fuckery is aided by a delay pedal for a spell, before the instrument drops out of the picture entirely.

despite the fact that tracks three and four weren't connected in any way (the first was from a radio show in '07, this one from a live performance in '06), the ringing church bells which gruen transfersvisible / invisible. the bells and drones make for a dramatic air, but once the driving rhythm and (what sounds to me like an) accordion come into play, v/i actually feels... optimistic, and rather conventional. the somberness of a droning wave is belied by the tone of the other instruments, even though it's the track's most forceful presence. eventually, the last eight minutes will swing into a pleasant post-climactic comedown of warm droning, even though there was never really a climax to begin with.

if you're putting together choice tracks from old material, the three minutes of chladni seem like a curious admission. it's enjoyable, but it's like a short rehashing of previously heard styles, whereas all of the other tracks on here have their own identity, which make rhetoric work as a condensed overview of what locrian is. still, it's enjoyable, and that's what counts.

closed out with will introduce the first six minutes of lengthwise, the twenty minutes of visible / invisible top the final track, amps into instruments, by two minutes, but this here is locrian's epic, and it's an excellent one. they'll open with the squall of one guitar competing with the methodical, delicate melody of the other. shortly thereafter, a vocal drone is added, with nice tonal changes. that will prove to be fleeting and then the intro melody will be abandoned as a ringing drone presides over a loud buzzing guitar drone and another constant one. the vocals will return, briefly, but this time, when they end, amps will take on a completely different tone and is it starts to hit its real stride. once it's at this point, it's hard to view the first eight minutes as anything other than a nice build-up, since it's vastly different. for starters, the droning is serene, as are the accompanying guitar chords. just before eleven minutes, they'll introduce something that had been noticeably absent, percussion. granted, it's just a steady throb, but it's a new dynamic. there's also some lovely, almost orchestral string-work which, very quickly, finds itself swallowed by an, all of a sudden, dark atmosphere, which was initiated by the entrance of heavier, delayed guitar chords. as it keeps rolling on, what was orchestral turns into heavenly hums; what was throbbing is now knocking. the guitar also breaks out of its randomness and into a soaring zenith which is half droning noise, half actual playing. i love the buried yells in the background, too. honestly, the last four minutes of this track are fucking amazing. this is how you end an album.
alright, any feelings of hesitancy that i had at the beginning of this review are dead and buried. rhetoric of surfaces is damn good. while i liked some tracks more than others (well, visible / invisible is the only one that i'm on the fence about), what i take away from this album is the knowledge that locrian can be incredibly good. hopefully you will, too.

Full link: http://smoothassailing.blogspot.com/2009/01/locrian.html