So I have accrued a number of slammin’ Kevin Shields-related projects (yes!) and initially I was gonna do a massive roundup review of them all. But in a misguided attempt to create suspense(?) and keep the audience hungry for more(???) I am going to post a review of one of the items once a day for the next however many days. Sound like a fun idea? Probably not; though at least you get to read about Eva Aguila’s and her friends’ excursions into the weird forest of noise! (see what I did there?) Oh, and before we get any further, in case you're unaware Kevin Shields here refers to Eva Aguila's noise project not the guy who is actually named Kevin Shields. And I might add, her work is way better than anything that guy ever did, for serious.
Virgin Passwords is an LP split between a pair of signal crushing duos/collaborations. The Brian Miller & Kevin Shields side consists of three tracks recorded after a massive amount of touring—9 months apparently. “Noise like Weight” begins with shards of static and occasionally stable hi-pitched feedback. Competing with semi-steady arrhythmic shuddering, Brian’s vocals are repeatedly beaten down to the point of almost non-existence but a few lucky syllables slip through the cracks. Near the end the track erupts a little, blowing off steam before an almost pretty passage where vocals return with a slightly stronger presence against a loop of a half-formed melody. It’s actually rather reserved for a BM+KS recording. I’m always amazed by the duo’s ability to control their sound and the sheer amount of sounds they conjure up with a pretty simple, stream-lined set-up. The brilliantly titled, “Ain’t Never Been Down With OPP”, is a bit more confrontational with a thick wave of static before some scurrying pitch-shifted, tape-fucked sounds explode blowing out the walls of wherever they were playing. Lots of other stuff is going on too but it all goes so fast, I’ll be damned if I can get down two words before something new happens and distracts me. The track is over too quick but it ends with brief but seriously groovy stuttering sine waves; making me long for the day when BM+KS put out a dance record. The final piece “Virgin Mafia” may be best of the three but that’s a contentious issue in my mind. This track is heavy; I can’t help jamming it way too loud. It has a relentless forward drive and sticks to developing a few main ideas. That is until it takes a sharp left turn beginning with slowly building hi-pitched feedback before cresting, dropping out, bringing in some sing/speak vocals, and slowly building the whole thing over again but this time extra batshit insane. I’m afraid this fucking thing is gonna set my eardrums on fire or something, but that’s a risk I’m willing to fake. The piece ends in a sublime, ecstatic freakout of charred circuits and synapses. Fuck, man, it’s amazing. This side is the best piece of the Brian Miller & Kevin Shields collab discography I’ve come across and like all Kevin Shields works, it only gets better with time.
On the flip side resides a track by Pump Kinn & Don, neither of which was I previously acquainted. The side is one track, untitled as far as I can tell. It begins with pre-recording chatter and rustling. When things get moving there’s a low synth-y totally seasick groove cycling and slowly feedback bleats overtake it. There’s a kind of distant hypnotic element in the piece which is really strange for a semi-harsh noise track like this one. The piece unsuspectingly coheres with looped percussive clanks buried in distortion pedals before it, just as unsuspectingly, disintegrates before cohering again. The noise maintains its general temperament to sustain but becomes sharper. There is an almost drone-like quality to the piece (in a Hototogisu type way I guess) marking it with a certain patience and slow dynamics that definitely works for the track. There are enough patches where a rhythmic thrust materializes briefly and dissipates not allowing the track to get stagnant. That said though, the track does feel a bit long overall. I’m gonna have to keep my eyes out any more releases by these two though.
Pairing the two artists’ styles of noise is an interesting contrast of the way each assemble their work; BM+KS creating hyperactive—though ingeniously constructed—pieces while Pump Kinn lets their track ebb and flow a bit, coming together gradually. The LP is available for cheap through Deathbomb Arc and through Weird Forest and comes in a classy, multi-layered screen printed cardboard sleeve. If you like noise and vinyl this is the best deal you’re gonna get.
*If you are interested in buying this release, I encourage you to buy it through the Kevin Shields webstore, Eva and Brittany Gould had all their gear stolen in Europe on their Caldera Lakes tour and anything bought through Eva will benefit the extra costs now facing her.