Friday, June 20, 2008
Graveyards and Dead Machines - Machineyard in Soundworld (Brokenresearch LP)
Finally. Ever since I started this blog, I've been hoping that a new Brokenresearch run would come out so that I could review them. Run by Ben (Hell) Hall and Hans (Bunny) Buetow--respectively the drummer and cellist for Graveyards among other things--the label was probably the one, along with American Tapes, that led to my descent into contemporary experimental music. Packaged in elegant white sleeves with printed sandpaper on them, the whole sound and aesthetic really did it right for me. Well, the time has come, and a new Brokenresearch run has come. This time around Ben was nice enough to shoot me some copies of them, so thanks again Ben. They were a real pleasure to receive.
Figured I'd start off with the one I've been spinning most in the last week. Graveyards and Dead Machines are both groups I really dig, though this one could have just easily been called Graveyards and Tovah Olson (John's in both groups anyway). Still, I like the two on two set-up here, and either way you cut it this is some murky material that highlights the strengths of both groups: Graveyards' monolithically slow and ice-cold lurching and Dead Machines' ability to make beautiful soundscapes out of an otherwise dissonant sonic palette. Despite both group's reputations, there are some glimpses of warmth on the tundra here.
The one-sided LP starts out as quietly as one would hope. Just hesitant reverberation and the slight tinkling of bells. Already, Graveyards' always physical sound is present--I find it tough to hear this stuff without picturing a cymbal ringing or metal pipes being clinked steadily. When a strange fog-horn call comes out (I'm guessing John, though it might just as easily be Hans' cello), the piece starts to gain a bit of momentum before slipping right back into its opening section. This is some typically cautious material and they really do it right, never trying to blow you away. More like freeze you in place, really.
John enters on bass clarinet at this point, playing a slow and hazy line that's surprisingly classical in nature--sounds almost like a section of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" or something. Washes of electronic hail shower in and out over the trickling cymbals and thudding electronic undergrowth. The whole thing bobs and sways back and forth, and really manages to sound more taut than most things Graveyards have done--and that's saying something. The response times are spot on as the group bounces off each other, at times recalling Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," and at others recalling, well, Graveyards or Dead Machines covering Stockhausen as conducted by Feldman.
The real strength of the release though is how it hovers seamlessly between the harmonious lines of the horn and rich electronic and cello tones before swaying back into less clear territory. The thudding continues to hold it all together rhythmically while John's line flows back and forth. It almost sounds like the soundtrack to some Arctic horror flick, before the monster arrives of course. Squeaks and bells are coersced out of electronic equipment as Buetow's cello fits so seamlessly in that you barely notice its presence--his long drone notes keep it lilting along with a delicately weighty calm.
Special mention should be made of Tovah Olson, who acted as the mixer (as well as musician) on this number. The production really comes together, and one gets the sense that Tovah's really controlling the momentum of the thing, tying bits together and phasing things out with an unobtrusive and painstakingly careful approach. The distant rattling of Hall's cymbals blend into high frequency electronic mutterings before disappearing with the crack of the needle lifting, as if the whole thing was never there at all. The machine yard seems to have shut down, and the sound world just ain't the same without it. Way limited (of course) to 200 copiesand printed on thick cardboasrd stock with nice printed covers. According to the website they're still available, so grab one right quick if you're planning on it. The masters are back in town, and they're doing what they do best.