Diverse Processes
SET FIRE TO FLAMES : Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static (130701 Records. CD 13-13)
BONE : Uses Wrist Grab (Cuneiform .Rune 176)

Some bands and their sound are inextricably linked to their chosen recording environments. Can and Faust immediately come to mind with place and process being inextricably linked. So it is with this 13 piece Canadian collective. Their last cd ´Signs Reign Rebuilder' derived much of its atmosphere from the location in Montreal where they recorded it . They called the place ´an old falling down monstrosity' and ´something that couldn't be erased from the tape' and undeniably, ´the recordings were as much about the house as they were about the sounds made inside it'. Now they have produced something similar.

This time the band shifted their collective selves to a place which would become an essential part of what they played. Isolation and singular focus are key words. Holed up on an abandoned farm in rural Ontario they recorded in an ´huge cathedral-like barn' producing an album that is as fascinating to listen to as the record of the process is to read. It isn't often that promo leaflets are worth reading or offer any insights into the music they crow about. This one does.

But what about the music ? Some of it is the result of group improvisation while other parts are composed. The whole lot was gathered from 12 hours of recording and has been ´hacked apart' and reconstructed by the band. Whatever the process, it is, thankfully, difficult to categorise, blending as it does a wide range of instruments, from bass clarinet to glockenspiel as well as those assorted location noises. The place creaks, strains and filters itself into the overall sound. It is eerie and comforting, grainy and clear as sunlight through trees. A compelling combination.

On cd 1 guitars chime together and various combinations of violin, cello and keyboard drone, scramble and disperse in the air like throngs of tiny wings. Yes, it is pretty hard to describe but wonderful to listen to. For example on ´tehran in seizure/telegraphs in negative' something like rotating helicopter blades hangs over the opening before evolving into a shimmering wave of insect wings or calls. The music just seems to spread out effortlessly, tracks merging into each other.

There are some harsher moments, like some of ´fukt perkusiv/something about bad drugs, schizophrenics and grain silos...' on cd 2 But ´something about eva mattes in the halo of exploding street lamps' is a gently repetitive marimba feature. This is mostly music that uses space, sprawls and sometimes lulls you into disconnected dreamscapes. It ought to be listened to in one sitting in order to experience the way the music grows and mutates. The sense of place may be specific but there is a real timelessness about it, as though listening suspends time. What better effect could music have?
An entirely different type of process was brought to bear on the music of Bone, a band that have never actually played together. A long way from being a collective then. Hugh Hopper, fuzz bass pioneer, Nick Didkovsky, axe-wielding metal composer from Dr Nerve and John Roulat drummer from Forever Einstein are brought together by the magic of modern technology. This power trio recorded individually on both sides of the Atlantic and the resultant music doesn't always sound that modern. I'm not complaining though.

Shades of King Crimson's double trio are evident on ´Chaos, no Pasties' and ´Big Bombay'. The guitar on the former is of titanic proportions, reinforced by the performance of guest guitarist, Chris Murphy, who contributes ´unrestrained guitar'. The latter features ´relentless bass' from Hopper. That's a fairly accurate description and puts it in the same league as Crimson's ´Thrak'. There is a similar ponderous forward momentum that could easily demolish the sturdiest architecture. Among the riffs on ´Foster Wives, Trophy Hair' I'd have sworn there was a sliver of slide guitar from Beefheart's ´Clear Spot', specifically from the title track. I bet these guys like the odd smattering of the good Captain.

Other tracks are more abstract , brooding and ambient. ´Jungle Rev', one of Hopper's, uses his familiar loops and fuzz bass alongside a piece of interactive software, Machinecore, programmed by Didkovsky. I have no idea what the latter is but the results obviate any need to know. They create a disturbing maelstrom of distortion and menace and it is one track which evidences the modern aspect of this music.

Didkovsky has written for various dance companies and ´Sara's Wrist Grab' is clearly meant for different types of movement. It combines sections of sculpted grace with more frenzied attacks from drums and guitar. More extreme however is ´Overlife, Part 1' which is an intense percussive workout for drums and prepared guitar. I'm not sure what sort of dancing might accompany such primal electric battering but the sound of its relentless staccato, intermittently pierced by howling guitar, makes for riveting listening.

So, overall, the mix of dinosaur heavy riffing sits well with the technologically generated noises. What would they be like ´live' ? I hope they decide to get together in the flesh and show us.

© 2003 Paul Donnelly