Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Che Chen - Che Chen [Pilgrim Talk]/Bridesmaid/Sunsplitter - Split [Bastard Sloth]

I'm pairing up these two 7inches for review for two vague reasons. They both have ties to Illinois and their covers look vaguely similar and alien to me. Otherwise, I'm not sure these have anything else in common whatsoever other than their size.
I'd never heard of Che Chen before but record features a complex system of "violin, sine wave generators, feedback and tape delay" which definitely got me excited and I always expect Nick Hoffman's Pilgrim Talk label to offer something interesting. I like violin quite a bit and it's rare I get to hear it in a solo or semi-solo context such as this. The first side "Pulaski Wave (Violin Halo)" features a beautiful pairing of overdubbed violins. They teeter back and forth between drones, half melodies and skronky aggression. The sine wave generator provides a round, near-constant hum which, while subtle, fills out the lower end of the spectrum to complement the sharper violin notes. I think the oscillators are somehow rigged to interact with the violin, though that whole business flies way over my head. Overall, the side is really tastefully considered. The range of sounds available from a violin are employed while keeping within the mellow context dictated by the sine wave generator.
The second side "Newtown Creek Mirror Lag" features tape delay in addition. It's more melodic that it's predecessor without sacrificing any edge or interest in the less "pleasant" sounds violins have to offer. There's a jaunty beat created via the electronics manipulation of the violin. I'm reminded of Cajun violin when the player's feet are constantly tapping a rhythm along with his action on the strings. Here, with the help of tape in the form of delay and overdubbing Chen applies this principle in a more integrated fashion, where the rhythm is derived directing from the instrument its supporting.
This is a great little record and I'll have to be on the lookout for Chen's name now. The artwork is super-minimal but the record comes with awesome blue labels which feature detailed diagrams of the systems used for each track. My favorite detail, on the second side, is "Violin Tuning: ?"
This split from the Bastard Sloth label is a small slice of metal.
I've never heard of Bridesmaid before but it's a double bass and drums trio. Something that's kind of funny to me is the two bassists play exactly the same thing almost the entire track. I am guessing they have no pretensions about doing some kind of dueling bass thing, they're just trying to sound fucking heavy. Who can't get down with a band that wants to sound really heavy?
The band's totally in sync; since it's one big rhythm section the drums follow pretty closely to what the basses are doing. The first half of the track "Vilkin' it for All it's Worth" plays around with a heavy lurch & groove riff, with sort of an ebb and flow to the rhythm eventually transitioning to a tighter arrangement. The band kicks into the next gear in the second half of the track which I really dig. They launch into "pummel" mode, with a surprisingly melodic touch. There's not a lot to report, just that Bridesmaid is rollin' hard and heavy, riding the riff to the end groove. Not too shabby.
I have a full length Sunsplitter tape on Land of Decay that I still need to give the review treatment but the band's offering here is probably the best track I've heard from them. On "Plum Blossom" (a pretty metal title if I do say so myself) you notice instantly that instead of basses SS has two guitars. In fact neither band shares an instrument. It's almost like a 6-person metal band split in half and put out a 7 inch. The guitars duke it out with their own slo-mo riffs while the vocalist sings and delivers swathes of noise and loops. A. Dunn's vocals are a good match for this sort of thing, they are low and sort of lethargic (only word I can make out is "flower") and they exist inside the mix rather than on top of it. Minimal drum programming occasionally kicks into full-on double-bass drum mode but it's the guitars that do the heavy lifting here from every angle. They really hold down the rhythm, the melody and control the dynamics of the song. Sometimes content to pound away at a measured pace other times delivering twisty leads. All in all, it's a pretty badass track with a lot going for it. The more I listen, the bigger the fan I become.
I dig the vibe of these guys because they retain a certain "classic-ness" but they aren't afraid to tuck vocals into just a single section of a song, or use a drum machine or smear acrid coats of noise over their arrangements at times. Also props to Bridesmaid for doing their own thing as well. And there's no cookie monster vox on either side; I'm in metal heaven.
Both records are available from their respective labels. The Bridesmaid/Sunsplitter record is also available in gold which is pretty sweet. Pilgrim Talk put out the Che Chen record in an uncharacteristically large edition of 300 so you can definitely get your hands on a copy and grab the deeply strange Psychophagi LP while you're at it.

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