When Darren Bauler a.k.a Medroxy Progesterone Acetate asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his new release, the excellently titled Something in the Weeds, on his vanity label, Midwest Death Cult; I obviously said “Of course!”. He said he’d send me a ‘promo’ copy soon and that was that. So, anyway, I assumed promo copy meant a sharpied cd-r or something (which would have been totally fine) but to Darren, I guess it means something else. I opened up his package last weekend, and holy shit, he sent me the real mccoy, which includes a folded up apx. 13” piece of paper with a black & white design printed on it and cryptic writings (poem? lyrics??) written in silver marker, literally a couple hundred snippets of text with more cryptic writings about invisible hearses and stealing suits off scarecrows (I wonder if you assemble them correctly they will make a cohesive narrative?), a blurry Polaroid photo, and oh yeah, the actual cd-r which is housed in a slim case with a printed cardstock cover/insert and more cryptic writings in white and silver marker on the insert, the cd and the case. The whole thing is bound together by a nice ribbon and sealed with wax. Whew. I feel a lot of pressure to do a good job writing this review now. I’ll give it my best, but I make no guarantees.
Something in the Weeds opens with trebly frequencies and a voice whispering the title of the track “It Is Later Than You Think”. Soon the hi frequencies are joined by some muscular oscillator/synth work and I think some bass guitar (probably coming from C. Gray, who is credited along with Darren on this recording). All the various soundwaves take turns fluctuating before they coalesce for a brief moment at the very end of the track. That track is the most aggressive the album gets, the rest of the album focuses more on building soundscapes, which is fine by me. The next two are both standouts. “Organ Reversal” features a minimal percussion loop and some dark but airy synth work as well as a scratchy, almost octafuzz type tone being manipulated. There is also some wind type of sound, I don’t know if that is coming from the electronics or if is maybe a field recording or something but it adds a eerie spaciousness to the proceedings. The best part of this track is that everything gels so well, it unfolds totally naturally and sounds very organic, which very few can do, especially in an electronic noise environment. “Hang Down Your Noose and Cry” follows and gets a tad bit noisier than it’s predecessor. It, however, still maintains the cohesiveness. Oscillating frequencies get a bit more active and there are some miniature rise & fall movements happening throughout. Very nice.
The 12 minute, and winner of the best title blue ribbon, “I Hope You Realize That You’re Not Really Native Americans” comes next. Amongst droning loops, there are some really odd percussive electronic noises, lowdown rumbles and cut up sine waves that are all woven together nicely giving the track a steady momentum. The effect is really hypnotic and almost soothing in a really strange way. This segues into “Waterloo Mushroom Monastery”. I can really feel this track in my stomach for some reason, it gives me a real uneasy feeling—and without any shitty Xeroxes of s&m or using lines like “Does our death turn you on?” (thanks for that one John). No, the track gets to you the old fashioned, effective way. It’s a very gradual but tremendous slowbuild causing immense amounts of anticipation and never really pays off (in a good way). I play right into its hands everytime too. Plus, there is a loop of what sounds like wind chimes in the background, that I enjoy digging through the other murk for. “Apparitionist” takes over from there, again Darren does a nice job crafting a dark synthosphere but there are also creepy scratchy vocals that kind of move through it as well. They don’t really mar the surroundings too much but I don’t really dig creepy scratchy vocals, so the track doesn’t captivate me quite as much as the others. However if you do dig those, this might be yr favorite on the album.
Speaking of favorites on the album, the best is saved for last, “The Pig That Stood Upright” (is anyone else flashing back to Animal Farm?). Over a bed of synths comes a fucking beautiful degraded piano/keyboard melody. Maybe it’s because it’s the first real explicit dealing with melody on the album but the track is utterly transcendent. The loop keeps cycling through whilst synth and other noises rise and fall and flutter and swell around it. Seriously man, it almost brings me to tears. It’s an incredible ten minutes, but I’m a sucker for beauty, so what can I say.
Now I don’t claim to be an MPA scholar, but Something in the Weeds is, from a personal standpoint at least, the best I’ve heard from the project. The thing that separates Medroxy Progesterone Acetate from rest of the 900,000 noise projects out there is its compositional aspects. Darren knows how to really compose music whether it’s unnerving or beautiful and not just fuck around with an oscillator. It’s hard to find really accurate comparisons, I’d say maybe zen-noise acts like Yellow Swans and Hototogisu, but those are kind of lazy comparisons cause they don’t sound particularly like MPA. I’d say maybe other contemporaries like Family Underground and, especially on the closing track, Bonecloud; but again, not really that great of comparisons. So, I’m just gonna give up on that and tell you to listen to it yrself and you can tell me. Something in the Weeds has already sold out of it’s initial run of 25 copies, but yr in luck cause there is a second run of 25 cd-rs and 25 c-60 tapes available now. There is also potentially a re-release on another label later in the year. But I wouldn’t wait for that, I recommend picking it up now with all the dressings. It should be noted that Something in the Weeds is not available for sale, only for trade. So drop Darren a line, I’m sure you guys can work something out. If you don’t end up being part of the lucky 50 though, there is a new MPA cd-r set to drop anyday now on Australia’s rad Music Your Mind Will Love You imprint, so keep an eye out.