Monday, August 6, 2007

Century Plants – Sound System Sound [Tape Drift]

This is the first installment of a week of Tape Drift reviews or what I’ve taken to calling: “Tape Drift reviews week”. Tape Drift is a new label out of upstate New York, and it has recently released its first batch of releases. In order of catalogue number, there is the subject of this review, Lizard in the Spring by (VxPxC), and Cloud Nine by Burnt Hills. Despite the label name, all three releases are CD-rs (I guess ‘CD-r Drift’ doesn’t have the same ring to it… bad joke, I know. Don’t rub it in.) and they are classily(? What is the adverb there?) packaged CD-rs at that. Each comes in a square slimline snapcase with a full color wraparound cover, release info and a paper doodad (band logo or info) of some sort pasted on the inside of the case. So anyway, they all look real nice but they ain’t nothin’ without the sounds, right? Luckily for the whole world the sounds within are pretty rad as well.
Sound System Sound is the debut release by Century Plants, who is a guitar duo of Eric Hardiman (dude who runs the label) and Ray Hare (dude who plays guitar in Century Plants). It runs through two tracks in about an hour’s time. The first, “Glass”, begins with some tremwah-ed guitar strums and shards of feedback and stays rather minimal for about half the tracks time. Then things start comin’ together, and real nicely too. Distorted drones and plenty of feedback debris start blasting out of the speakers and ride the xpressway to yr skull. There is a particularly harsh onslaught coming from one of the axemasters that erupts and pushes the whole thing over the top as if there weren’t enough heaving frequencies already zapping yr braincells. I also really dig that in the final minutes of this mayhem one of the dudes stops raging and starts jamming a little pretty arpeggio until the end. A nice little curve ball, before the whole thing grinds to a halt in a colossal feedback swell. So yeah, my mind is blown and the damn CD isn’t even halfway over.
The last track “Glue” opens with a rhythmic drone (kinda like banging on yr guitar while it’s feeding back) and continues the rhythmicness of the situation by one dude playing notes in pseudo-patterns and the other chap doing some feedback levitation and other magic tricks. They flirt with bludgeoning you but always leave just enough breathing room to ensure yr survival. The track builds to a slight but noisy crescendo and then retreats backs to a fizzy guitar drone lull, refueling for the next attack. Again they flirt with ripping your head off and with high pitched guitar shrapnel punching holes in the sonic fabric and before long instantaneously disappearing, only to reappear again to shred some more. I generally don’t read too much into titles, but “Glass” and “Glue” fit their respective audio counterparts pretty well. “Glass” is much more fractured and clattering while “Glue” retains a similar idea throughout the track, though it is stretched and manipulated, and absorbs all the incidental noise that arises into its mass.
I’m a sucker for guitar duos and the C-Plants (it’s gonna catch on, just you wait) are definitely a nice addition to the canon, not only cause they’re good but because I haven't really heard anyone else do it quite like they do. I’m reminded a bit of Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s guitarwork and there are a few times that Hototogisu comes to mind but Century Plants are much more elastic in nature; rather than building layers upon layers of dense noise, there is a refreshing looseness to their music where no one sound sticks around for long or at least not in the same way. The C-Plant style is a constant tug-o-war between construction and collapse, and what happens when two people refuse to commit to either. I will say, though, that the tracks are both a bit long and take a while to get to where they're going but that is kind of the nature of improvised sound, so, it’s not really a criticism, just a note.
Century Plants just saw their second release Fingers come out on Phantom Limb, and I have, on very good authority, that it sounds way different than this release so I’m hooked. Rumor is they got plenty more comin’ on Abandon Ship, MYMWLY, Cut Hands and Peasant Magik. Awww, our little tykes are growin’ up so fast, it just seemed like an hour ago I started listening to their debut release—though considering they thank Guy Picciotto in the liner notes, I’d venture to say they already made the big time. So Tape Drift is one for one so far, with some heavy hitters on deck, based on the strength of this one you may wanna slide on over to their site already. And considering each release is limited to twin editions of 50 (which is a like a single edition of 100, I’m guessing?), make it snappy.

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