Friday, August 10, 2007

Burnt Hills – Cloud Nine [Tape Drift]

So here’s the deal, Burnt Hills is a collective hailing from upstate New York who get together each week to jam out 100% improvised madness and host/play shows in a basement. On this recording, there are nine people—though apparently it ranges from four to fourteen—four of which spend time behind a drum kit, seven who spend time wailing on axes of destruction and Mike K., the lone bass slinger. (I realize that doesn’t add up to nine and sort of defies natural law, but, you see, that’s just what these guys do!) This a line-up so tremendously loony, so perversely awesome, so crushingly splendiferous, it makes be wonder why it took the human race so long to devise it. Thank the heavens that the brave souls that pilot the S.S. Burnt Hills push the record button every once in a while, so those outside the one mile blast radius can still hear the ruckus, even if it’s only in our headphones.
Anyhow, this record is called Cloud Nine, out on the recently formed Tape Drift label. The first of seven untitled tracks (from what I can tell, this is all one long piece divided up seven ways) opens with a few seconds of aimless jamming kinda like playing three Lambsbread records at the same time, but then, unlike most Lambsbread stuff, the jam starts going somewhere and it’s all the more awesome for it. This thing seriously sounds like a train. It is like a bunch of people got together and listened to a field recording of a train and covered it with instruments. It’s relentless, heaving, rumbling from afar and if you pay attention there is lots of buzzing and feedback and shred-offs. There is a real depth to the recording, which is probably because there are nine fucking people playing guitar!
The dudes playing drums must be American Gladiators cause they just keep on rollin’, keeping the band in a perpetual state of motion without taking so much as a breather. In my experience I’ve found that drumming can make or break a noise rock record, and here with four people playing, stakes is high. The drummers play really well with each other, all locking into the collective groove and don’t try to do too much or show off. They ain’t no robots though, they change up patterns often enough, throwing in little tom tom flourishes or cymbal work. The third track is an excellent example of the wicked drumming—as is the final, drums only track. The guitar drops back a bit, sustaining some and allowing the percussion folks to do their thing.
The next couple tracks see the guitarists getting a little more wild and unhinged (and even Mike K. slams a riff in there) and the drummers holding down the polyrhythmic fort. It is really easy to get lost in this recording and that’s without it being hazy or dreamy in the slightest. First, you get baptized in the cacophony and then zone out to the groove.
Burnt Hills navigate noise rock wreckage with ease and, more importantly, a beat. It’s hard to believe with as many people jammin’ as there are, that the whole thing stays coherent and in tune. There is definitely something special being brewed down in that basement of theirs. I do wish the guitars were a bit louder in the mix but that’s a small grumble.
So that rounds out the first three Tape Drift cd-rs. What I liked is that each release is pretty different and neat in its own little way. Like Century Plants and (VxPxC), Burnt Hills has a bunch of releases lined up, including ones on overseas heavy hitters QBICO, Ruralfaune and Ruby Red. So pick up Cloud Nine and warn Europe, cause Burnt Hills will probably leave it more ravaged than World War Two.

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