Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neurot Roundup

It's part of the Neurot Recordings mission statement to only release albums that are created by members of the Neurosis nuclear and extended family or share their penchant for originality and epicness. Chalk up two more victories and a semi-victory for this recent trio of Neurot releases:

U.S. Christmas - Eat the Low Dogs (Neurot Recordings, 2008)

U.S. Christmas kick up dust clouds in their native North Carolina and send them up into orbit on Eat the Low Dogs. There ain't an untreated guitar tone to be found on the album, and in fact there's not much in the way of a proper riff, either -- everything is a quiet-to-loud surge of pulsing noise crusted with space barnacles, like a less Celtic, more psych Primordial. U.S. Christmas evoke Neurosis in the galactic dynamic shifts of their droning dirges, and the profusion of non-musical sonic detritus is reminiscent of Noah Landis's contributions to the Neurosis gestalt, but that's where the similarities end. 

U.S. Christmas - "Say Sister"

"Say Sister" and "Silent Tongue" inflate chest-beating Appalachian howling with cosmic portent, yielding an even more awe-inspiring "heavy country" sound than the last Across Tundras record. Songwriting takes a backseat to interstellar whooshing on Eat the Low Dogs and that's just fine considering the uniqueness of U.S. Christmas's sound. Crazy Horse riding the tail of a comet? Yes please. Dunno about screaming, but in space, everybody can hear you twang.

Soak up some more cosmic country from U.S. Christmas at the band's MySpace site.

Grey Daturas - Return to Disruption (Neurot Recordings, 2008)

If I take off my critic's hat (it's a beret, actually) and let go of my urge to encapsulate this album with some grand platitude like "noise is the new punk!" (it always was, really) and try to just hear it as I would any other record, Grey Daturas' third album Return to Disruption is pretty difficult to listen to, just a big wave of distortion that may or may not coalesce into a guitar chord, may or may not be framed by a drum beat, might be channeling hardcore rage or just basking in white noise. Not to say that the circuit-frying instrumentals "Beyond and Into the Ultimate" or "Answered In the Negative" are devoid of structure -- even a a full-song crescendo is a compositional form. But it's a pretty limited form as forms go, and it's the better of the two tricks that this Melbourne pony has, the other being the improvised motherboard fart track, on display on "Balance of Convenience" and "Undisturbed." Near-total wastes of time -- these shorter droppings are not so explosive/creative as standalone avant-noise pieces go,  nor do they relate meaningfully to the longer tracks surrounding them, so they come off as irritating ear-cleansers. Put back on the critic's beret and Return to Disruption becomes a squealing electric "fuck you" in the face of instrumental post-rock and its insistence on pretty textures. But I can't in good faith recommend a record just because it sounds more like Sonic Youth than Red Sparowes. Grey Daturas sure can raise one hell of a racket, though I'd probably be lukewarm about Return to Disruption if Sonic Youth released it, too.

Come on, feel the noise at the Grey Daturas website.

A Storm of Light - And We Wept the Black Ocean Within (Neurot Recordings, 2008) 

Sounds like Neurosis. Packaging looks like Neurosis. It's on the label founded by members of Neurosis, and features Neurosis member Josh Graham. And yet it's not Neurosis? Unfathomable! A Storm of Light frontman Graham may not have had much of a hand in the Neurosis songwriting department over the years (he's responsible for the visual aspects of their live shows), but by the sound of the note-perfect mimesis on And We Wept the Black Ocean Within he's soaked up the creaking-boat doom of latter-day Neurosis, especially the excellent Given to the Rising. However well-worn And We Wept's theme of ocean-as-unconscious is in the metal world (see Mastodon's Leviathan, Isis's Oceanic, Ahab's The Call of the Wretched Sea, Thrice's Alchemy Index Vol. I&II: Fire & Water), it makes for fine accompaniment to the album's roiling tidal sludge, simpler texturally than your average Neurosis album but just as finally wrought by guitarist/vocalist Graham, bassist Domenic Seita (Tombs) and drummer Pete Angevina (Satanized). 

A Storm of Light - "Mass"

Here's the catch though: with the exception of the album's centerpiece "Mass", which lodges in yr skull like a whale harpoon with deep-sea riff heaves and the anthemic chorus "I could have saved them / I could have sunk down," And We Wept just sounds like a second tier Neurosis record. First rate second tier Neurosis mind you, and I'll take Graham's quality, unadventurous doom over his harder-to-swallow but more innovative work with Battle of Mice and Red Sparowes. Still, you're better off starting with the original, then plumbing the sludgy depths for A Storm of Light if ya just can't get enough. Heh...unfathomable.

Swab the sonic poop decks at A Storm of Light's website

1 comment:

Wayne said...

A Storm at Sea has a nice record there, but, jeez, am I getting tired of bands who sound just like Neurosis to a T.

US Christmas, on the other hand, is probably my favorite new band. "Eat the Low Dogs" is on pretty constant rotation 'round my quarters.

Great blog!