Tuesday, September 25, 2012

United Sons of Toil- Forces of Production

I'm a big fan of USOT, but not a big fan of remixes. Truthfully, I fully respect the notion of remix culture, and I understand the cultural forces at work, but I usually just don't care for the results. Even the most expert remixes end up sounding basically like gimmicks to me. Yes, that goes for the Bloody Beetrroots re-imagining of the Refused's "New Noise" that were performed with Dennis. So, much like that, this is a kind of collaboration, as well, in that USOT put the word out "Remix us and we'll assemble it into a release", and that removes one element that I don't like about remixes- that they become a method of putting one kind of Art into another type- sort of replacing the author with another. Also, I'm not hearing another of my pet peeves about remixes- either the out-and-out insertion of a synth that was not part of the original, or manipulating the sound so far that it is the same as if a new synth like was introduced. So, there are some serious counter-arguments to calling this a "remix album". Also, another pitfall is avoided- these songs sound playable. Don't get me wrong- I can get behind fully synthetic songs, and samples ala the Beastie Boys, but ultimately I like music that sounds like humans played it- and this still sounds like humans played it. Some of the vocals, maybe not, but the music sounds like it may be difficult, and might need some augmentation, but could be played by a live band. That's a huge plus for me.
Ultimately, it reminds me of dubs, more than remixes, if that makes any sense.
So, should you get it? That's up to you, of course. I'm not trying to tell you to sell or prevent the sale of records, here- I will say that it appeals to a slightly different aesthetic than most USOT records- you know how Broadrick went all kinds of strange in the mid to late 1990's? Ice, The Sidewinder, Youpho, Krackhead, Techno Animal, Love and Hate in Dub, Us and Them? All that stuff? If you got into that, like I did, I cannot see how you will fail to enjoy this. However, if I'm speaking a foreign language to you, right now, let me explain- this isn't exactly dance remixes. This more like ambient music- you crank it up, and you live with it around you. It makes for a great soundtrack to whatever it is that you're doing at the time. Me? I say you plot a revolution with this as the backdrop, but your results may vary on that.

Joe 4 Njegov Sin

It's been a few months, and a partial change of language for Joe 4. On their last EP, the gutteral grunts and hoarse exhortations were nominally in English, now it appears they're doing the same in their native tongue. That's a good thing. Seriously. I don't speak a lick of Croatian, so I couldn't even tell you if that's what the language is, but you can tell when someone is expressing themselves in a language they understand or not. Nothing is more unintentionally funny, nor more maddening than the horrible turns of phrase when the author isn't using the language their heart speaks- like teenage poetry, it might make sense to the author, but it ends there. Meanwhile, I can read the intent here- these are exhortations, grunts, and yelps- the impression is of alienation and passion in equal degrees.
So, how's the music? Remember how I said they were driving a beat into the ground, last time? They still go in for repetition, and drone, and heavy beats, but there's a lot more dynamics, now. The effect is not unlike an organic version of Big Black, or any other expression of Steve Albini's singular muse in that direction-The songs pound and pummel, while the guitars seek to play a counter to the machinery of the bass and drums- not a counter melody, necessarily ( though there are some pretty bits, like the first minute of "Houlihan") but a counter nonetheless. Yes, Albini recorded this, and Weston mastered it, like in the days of yore, but it doesn't entirely have the characteristic Albini dryness- there's a little bit more old school reverb and compression- you know who it sounds like recording-wise? Iain Burgess. That might not seem like much to you, but for old Chicago Hardcore veterans like me, that name carries serious weight. This seriously could be an early to mid 1980's Chicago or Minneapolis post-punk record- and here's where I get obscure, but bear with me- I could see them on a bill with Rifle Sport, Breaking Circus, and Big Black. Now, getting less obscure- they sound like the beta version of what became the AmRep sound. I know people will simply hear this as a variation of that fabled AmRep/Touch and Go/ "Pigfuck" sound, but quite frankly, it's the sound that came before that. 
So, here's my statement- they've improved greatly, and they were good before. If this were the golden days of Indie recording, I'd say somebody sign them, right now. However, as we're now in the digital era, I'm saying hie thee unto Bandcamp, get this, and start demanding your local greasy dive book them ASAP. Yes, now.