Mudsuckers – Mudsuckers
Important Records (2006)
I definitely feel excited about this record, especially when one half of the Mudsuckers’ quartet is made up of the Yellow Swans guys. I’m yet to hear a bad Yellow Swans release and their brutal psychedelia is stamped all over this. But it’s unfair to trivialise Mudsuckers that way. I’m not hugely familiar with Tom Carter and Robert Horton, who form the other half of this project, but their presence adds gentle drones, brass instruments and hollowed out tribal rhythms to the mix. Feedback, digital smear and general ambience also prevail.
Combined, these elements are allowed plenty of room to breathe. Individual sounds often go un-manipulated; the boys each pick a path and run with it, making subtle adjustments and delighting in the picture that emerges. On Here Come the Mudsuckers stale feedback and awry radio signals weave around a gentle drone and a distant rhythm; there’s little variation during its nine minutes and yet any subtle shifts that do take place feel seismic within the whole, and when feedback takes over in the track’s dying moment another dimension opens.
Mudsuckers has a very organic feel about it; nothing sounds obviously digital. It represents four guys in a room wrenching whatever sound they can from their chosen ‘instruments’. It has a live feel, almost like a band, albeit a fucked up one. This vibe comes to light in the closing number Sweet which kicks off with a thick atonal hum made up of feedback and reed instruments, and ends 16 minutes later with a crackling 12 bar boogie-woogie piano and a droning harmonica. The spirit of the blues and its improvisatory nature is present throughout Mudsuckers – this is a band making noise rather than a bunch of ‘artists’ making noise. There’s something very refreshing in that.
Yellow Swans – Going Places
These guys are nothing if not consistent. Seriously, it’s like everything they do is gold. And despite breaking up more than two years ago they’re still releasing material. Going Places will apparently be their last release and (no surprise, really) they’re going out in style.
I haven’t written about Yellow Swans before despite them probably being my favourite of the noise/drone genre. Whilst their vibe – melancholic, psychedelic and cinematic – has stayed the same, their sound has evolved greatly over the years. From guitar infused electronic wig outs, through found sounds, into white walls of beat-heavy noise and more recently haunting ambience. Yellow Swans are true explorers.
Going Places continues their recent fascination with swirling drones, distortion and moaning guitar lines. Each of the six tracks slowly emerges from a haze and spins into a kaleidoscope of reverb drenched colours and lights that loop around hypnotically. The pulsing drone of Limited Space rides on a gently beating drum and bell, and Opt In fabricates a sheet of noise that sounds like rain while bubbles rise out of a boiling cauldron. The water references also appear on Foiled where splashing sounds are spliced together in a choppy rhythm. Not knowing what’s sampled or electronic, and what’s being beaten out of an actual instrument is why Yellow Swans sound fresh time and time again.
I’m struggling to come up with comparisons to paint a more vivid picture for this review, but Yellow Swans’ schtick is truly their own. At times they enter territory tread by the likes of Double Leopards but louder, bolder and denser. They also share with KTL an ability to create a significant sense of space, but they’re nowhere near as black. And while riffs are lacking, Yellow Swans create something as thick and heavy as the best of what a band like Earth can achieve. If the love child of any of these bands sounds like your cuppa’ tea than do yourself a favour and hunt down Going Places. Fuck it, get yourself anything by Yellow Swans.
Yellow Swans + Moth Drakula: They do not Always Remember
Oedipus Records (2006)
I know nothing about Moth Drakula except that they formed in 2003 and disbanded in 2008. So, I don’t have any real idea of the influence they might have had on this collaboration with Yellow Swans, a now defunct act (sadly) that were capable of producing the most blisteringly visceral but beautiful noise around. Check out their At All Ends record, it will blow your fucking mind.
After listening to They do not Always Remember a few times now I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Yellow Swans were involved in its creation. The three tracks on here are a seriously intense experience. It’s like a being in a room with a hundred TVs all screeching white noise and a collection of amps melting down. There are dudes screaming somewhere deep down in the chaos too, and they want to eat your soul.
I’m yet to encounter a Merzbow record as relentless as They do not Always Remember. Merzbow records throb, pulse and shimmer with static and whitewash, you can almost see the sound. There’s little oscillation in what Yellow Swans and Moth Drakula are doing here, it’s one thick sonic slab from the word go. It’s not even until the end of the second track that they wind down the blowout for a few seconds and introduce a screaming amplifier stack.
However, showing more maturity than the average noise nerd Yellow Swans and Moth Drakula realise that they can only maintain this intensity for twenty minutes or so. And being a short, sharp stab is what saves this record from the too-hard pile. Like being struck by lightning, They do not Always Remember is a momentary shock to the system that electrifies your perspective and leaves you with the smell of singed hair.