In the small press, "under ground" way of doing things there really doesn't seem to be any particular place for “landmark albums”. Things move so fast with so many artists, so many releases and so many labels; not to mention the whole “limited to __ copies” thing. An artist can define themselves much quicker/easier because they are able to put out so much material so quickly but releases themselves rarely (if ever) are widely defined as a singularly amazing work. This isn’t a bad thing, partially because many records considered “landmark albums” aren't all that great(Loveless, Slanted & Enchanted etc.) and without them we can sidestep the whole bickering mess of “love it/hate it/like it but its overrated.” This makes sense, though, because the nebulously identified small press universe seems to be about unity through dispersion, where everyone can do whatever they want, define themselves how they see fit and there’s no centralized voice saying this is good or bad or classic or whatever—no taste making command center. That’s all positive but sometimes there are records that make me think “this is a landmark album” and I get kinda bummed that they (most likely) will never be seen that way. This Gang Wizard LP is one of those records. I couldn’t be a taste making command center if I tried but for the hell of it I’ll say it: God-Time-Man Universal Continuum Calibration Disc is a landmark, totally classic album of the free rock sector.
Alright, sorry for the pontification; I’ll get down off my high horse and back to review mode where I belong. Apparently, there are three flavors of Gang Wizard recordings: live, mic-to-4track and studio. This LP is the first entry into that last category. I, myself, have only been privy to Gang Wizard in the live setting through the DNT 7inch I reviewed a while back and some split CD-r with Yellow Swans from forever ago. That was the point I used to be at in my Gang Wizard odyssey, then this record arrived. For the past couple weeks I’ve been listening to this thing at least once a day. I am gonna try to communicate why this record is so good that, for the last however many days, I’ve been coming home and immediately putting it on before doing anything else. And I’ll let you know right now, I will inevitably fail. My recommendation is to stop wasting your time with this way-too-long review, get the record, play it a few times and witness the unforgettable, endless love affair between the sounds and your brain.
The first side of the record is noticeably a bit more “rock” than the flip. “Whoever Invents” goes first opening with a flurry of drums and guitar and electronics/keyboard. There are some vocals, but they wisely play second fiddle to the music, the main show here. The best and largest part of the track is when the fury dies down settling into a remarkably mournful passage. There’s Racebannon-esque mumbling over a bed of guitar and synth that, as my girlfriend pointed out resembles the Radiohead track in that shitty Romeo + Juliet movie with Leonardo Dicaprio. The whole thing has the vague feeling of a vintage brokedown Godspeed You! Black Emperor monologue. These are the fucking weirdest things to be comparing to a Gang Wizard record, and I’m aware of that. But it’s all true, and somehow utterly amazing. The Gang takes the last ten seconds to remind you they still like to fuck shit up with a final, bursting-at-the-seams freak out. Beautiful track. “Bad Teacher” is the album’s longest track and closes the side. Beginning with an addicting, squelching manipulated chime sound, scattered yells, practice-mode guitar and drum noodling. Even though it seems unfocused, it totally is and anticipation builds gradually from the track’s first second. Tempo is ramped up and I’m totally surfing on sound along with the band. They break off the momentum for a strange meandering passage with electronics that sound like squeaky, cooing baby babble with a great brief keyboard line that gently drives the track to its end as well as a menagerie of other sound. At one point, one the members says “You gotta do it right.” I’m not sure who he’s addressing specifically, but it might as well be the listener cause everyone in the group is for sure doing everything right. The track ends up resulting in total free float. What’s most interesting is that they achieve it without any reverb, or smooth sounds or even really that many sustained sounds. It’s constantly moving and dictating its own leisurely but focused pace. Ending in a downright lovely slow fade of repeating guitar and keyboard exchanges.
On the second side is “Why Pharoah Hanged the Baker” and it’s so good it gets it’s own side. I don’t want to commit to anything but this piece is probably the record’s pinnacle. It encapsulates what is so incredible about the record: that there seems to be this random occurrence of sounds but they are all very intricately and perfectly placed, regardless of how composed or improvised the process was. The first couple listens were intriguing but after a few spins I felt like I “got it”, that I could see the big picture or whatever and take in all the sounds as a complete whole. Not a single sound is out of place on this record. This is why “Why the Pharoah Hanged the Baker” is so fucking brilliant (I apologize for all the “fuckings” (and “totallys”) but, I don’t know how else to explain just how good this record is). Like, “Bad Teacher” there is a seeming mess of sound that is slowly resolved and shaped. The key player here for me is a brief flourish from what sounds like a keyboard on the “Harp” setting. It’s really the catalyst for the formation of the track, it cues a steady drum rumble and the other ingredients trickle in and find their place. The track continues to twist and morph, never losing the initial feeling but never sticking on one part. There’s an effortless, wandering flow to the piece and just makes me melt almost. I’ll close my eyes and it can take me wherever it wants to go. After totally reaching zen, Gang Wizard gets feisty before the track putters out. Oh man.
The whole record is fucking transcendent.
It’s anti-mystic and still totally mystical, anti-hippie and a total psychedelic trip, anti-meditation and one of the most fucking zen things I’ve ever heard. One of the best fucking records of the year, probably of the decade, maybe even my life. It’s so good that I, the super cheap bastard that I am, actually bought this LP to give to someone (never happens, friends). I’ve never heard a record this complexly psychedelic; and so absolutely, immaculately effective. A serious work of art. And a total “landmark album” too.
Limited but I’m not aware of the exact digits. This monster was put out by four labels spanning the Atlantic: Green Tape, Lost Treasures of the Underworld, olFactory and Tanzprocesz. So hit up your choice of those four or a distro or anyone else who’s selling it. Get it, hear it and cherish it for the rest of your days like I’m planning on doing. Props to the cover artist Zeloot as well, the artwork is slamming and, in a certain way, quite fitting.