Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kevin Shields – Cavity Fever [Arbor]/Kevin Shields – Human Wider Experience [Tanzprocesz]

So after I discovered the greatness of Eva Aguila’s Kevin Shields project in the lovely summer of ’07 with the massive mind ripper/contender for album of the year The Death of Patience, I had snapped up some current (at the time) Kevin Shields frequencies right away. So now it’s almost the end of the year and I’m finally getting around to reviewing them, but hey, it’s rare when something I buy gets reviewed at all.
Starting with the Cavity Fever tape first, cause haven’t you heard? Tapes rule! This cassette is a bit more sedate than some other Kevin Shields work, but keep in mind that term is relative. The first track “Homely Straw” is a couple bass tones pulsing at various speeds and a slowed down alarm bell. There is some delayed contact mic’d stuff going on as well, almost chiming as the bass pulse gets more sinister. The track to me, actually occupies more of the drone realm than noise. “Lovely Day is a Hike Day”, however, gets noisy. There are plenty of high pitched sine tones against roughly manipulated waves of feedback. The thing then dissolves into to a strange keyboard part. Not a ditty, but close. The last track on side A, “Coarse Truth”, sounds like an extension of the previous track. The keyboard part is still present but jagged shards of fuzz being worked and kneaded dominate the track. On the second side, “Gaming Ritual” brings back the keyboard slowly adding layers of distortion. Eventually the keyboard is phased out leaving a vast shitstorm of electronics washing over me like the plague. For the all the noise, it’s a pretty moderately paced piece that builds to a great sputtering, spitting climax of charred circuitry and gnashing teeth. The oh so truthfully titled “Because I Know You Can’t Get Enough” closes out the tape, operating like everything heard previously condensed into three and a half minutes. The noise, the keyboard, the scrambled rhythms; they’re all there.
The magnificently titled half-hour of power Human Wider Experience is coarser and more forceful. After the one minute opener “Catalyst”, “Covenant Grunt” takes the stage. With a sustained bass note with actually some really sick beats. Well it’s not “beats” so much as just the way Aguila cuts up the tone but it works and little by little succumbs to a barrage of flames. After the frayed, 91 second inferno “Frecke Wrist”, comes the most interesting and best track “Children’s Court”. I’m not sure what the sound source here is but it sounds like a brittle clanking toy guitar or something. It sounds like there are also some soft vocals in the background which add an interesting “human” counterpoint to the ear piercingness of the other noises. Out of nowhere the whole thing coheres into relatively solid brick of sound (for a moment anyway). There is a lot more manipulated filter/synth type sounds that actually work really well with the harshness, both opening up the sound and adding a bit roundness to the serrated static. Aguila’s knack for composition really comes into play here but because the track, lasting nearly 17 minutes, never gets tired. She constantly adds new sounds and ideas, whether she’s building on previous ones or growing a whole new garden of sound. One of the things I marvel at most about Aguila’s work is how well she controls the chaos. A lot of noise stuff I hear sounds like the gear is running the show not the artist, but with Aguila’s work the effortless construction and grace of her style is unmistakable. As much as I love The Death of Patience, “Children’s Court” may be her best work; that I’ve heard at least. Utterly amazing. The short fifth track, “Shat & Boney Enjoying a Little”, features some help from Amy of Yuma Nora. Though I’m not exactly sure what she’s operating in the track. It’s probably the most harsh and heavy piece on the record. Unrelenting torrents of feedback. “Slug Mouth” really did a number on me because of its sweetness. After 25 minutes of noise, I was thrown off by the extended, clean solo keyboard piece. I kept expecting to be lacerated by a brutal feedback squall, but was even more thrown off when it never came. Just five minutes of twee keyboard plinking. I’ve got to hand it to Eva; she knows how to keep me guessing.
While neither are as brain collapsing as The Death of Patience both are totally sweet in their own right. Cavity Fever is sold out at source but you can probably still get it at a few distros, Human Wider Experience is available however, though limited to a hundred. Both releases are aesthetically pleasing as well which is a trademark of both labels. Arbor did a classy job as always. Cavity Fever features killer artwork by George Myers (Breaking World Records), a double sided j-card and the most beautiful, blue-green sprayjob I’ve ever seen on a tape. French label, Tanzprocesz has been responsible for some of the most innovative packaging ideas I’ve come across. The packaging of Human Wider Experience, while not particularly ingenious, is certainly out of the ordinary. A recycled fold-out, sprayed LP cover with pasted on art and info and the CD-r is floating on of those little numbs. Definitely nice to see when most labels are just doing the standard CD-r-in-slipcase thing. Collect ‘em all.

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