ASVA "Futurists Against the Ocean" CD
Whew, talk about a whopper! What you'll get here are four massive tracks (at a minimum of 10 minutes each) consisting of slow, pounding, pulsing rhythms and the surging drones that swell in their wake, covering an intense range of dynamics and exercising a great deal of effective restraint in consideration for pacing and arrangement. All of this is brought to you by one hell of a lineup consisting of current and former members of Black Horse, Burning Witch, the Master Musicians of Bukkake, Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, and Sunn - so these cats certainly know what the fuck they're doing, and as veteran musicians one would assume that's why this disc really reaches a significant level of quality for the particular niche that it explores. Though certainly not to be tagged as "doom" or "stoner rock", the compositions would indeed appeal to such fans due in no small part to the sheer force of the density achieved throughout, not to mention the menacing atmosphere of the music in general. But at the same time, it's not just a throbbing drone fest either. Hell yeah, there are a lot of extended passages that are made up of deep, resonant pulses with a little bit of faint distorted texture and a queasy sense of motion (it takes nearly seven minutes for thudding percussive hits to start filtering into "Beyonsense", and when they do it's almost with an oddly industrial sense of mechanical cadence), but when they lock in... they hit hard. And when they don't? There's still a lot more going on than what most listeners would be accustomed to, and it gives this disc one hell of an edge. For example, around five minutes into opener "Kill the Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take the Money", things die back to a minimal layering of hums and drones as rather disturbing whispered vocals swirl around in the center, but things pick back up into a more active set of crushing power chords accented by piano, Hammond organ, and a few sparse noise textures created by various scraping and gnashing string sounds or additional percussion (tabular bells among them), so there's definitely subtle character coming and going throughout the tracks, so each piece has its own individual flare while remaining true to the vision laid out from the start. And "Fortune" (the longest selection at 15+ minutes) starts out more like a somber dark ambient soundscape, gradually shifting over as bits of the organ and some grueling bass notes create a presence for themselves. Eventually harmonics and additional string scrapings add grating contrast to an almost melodic organ backdrop and some excellent female singing that fits the slow paced and sustained tone of the music perfectly. "By the Well of Living and Seeing" closes the disc and feels the most like a "song", in the sense that things kick in right away with both instrumentation (percussion, clean and distorted guitars, and bass) and choral male/female vocals, allowing a rare sense of concrete structure to take hold and persist for its duration. The production kicks ass, too. I have no complaints and I don't know what to say other than the fact that the sound is pristine for this particular outing. There's plenty of texture, each element has a lot of breathing room but somehow manages to swallow up any hint of space that exists, and it just creates this oppressive mass of sound that's crystal clear yet totally warm and natural. Excellently handled, indeed. The disc is housed in a great looking digpack printed largely in black/white/gray on matte brown chipboard, with some curious color paintings inside with a satin finish. The visuals are a combination of Stephen O'Malley's layered geometrics with the sketchier and more figurative illustrations, and the text is crisply arranged with most of the album and song titles done up in a strange Russian looking text that takes a minute to figure out how to read properly. No lyrics are included, but the vocals really act more like texture in this work anyway. Bits of the content can be deciphered in "By the Well of Living and Seeing", but all such contributions are still somewhat abstract (and the lyrics seem to aptly follow suit). This is a very nice effort that marks a creative milestone for any form of extreme music based largely around drones and sustained sound collages. It's not the kind of thing that I personally would listen to on a regular basis, but it's a very artistic endeavor that possesses an admirable sense of creativity and thought, straight down to the way that all of the songs sort of flow together and build into one another. Anyone who's into these recesses of heavy music would be extremely well served to look into this one as soon as possible. Very nicely done. (7/10)
Running time - 52:22, Tracks: 4
[Notable tracks: Kill the Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take the Money, By the Well of Living and Seeing]
Mimicry Records - http://www.webofmimicry.com
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