Daniel Menche - Concussions (Asphodel 2xCD)
Portland's Daniel Menche has been putting out records since 1993, and appears to have picked up the pace considerably in recent years. According to his official website, this is his third release in 2006 alone, with another three planned for the summer (including a collaboration with K.K. Null...intriguing!). Menche has long eschewed the term "noise musician" in favor of "sound sculptor", a term that's much more about accuracy than pretention. The title is well-earned: for the most part, his albums have generally stuck to a format of slowly building up into a monstrous roar, layering sounds on top of sounds into a dense, claustrophobic mess. Despite being certifiably Menche, "Concussions" appears to put a slight spin on the format a casual glance at the label description ("This is the true METAL! Flex your muscles!") reveals that much to be true.
Rather than beat around the bush and concerning itself with things like atmosphere and quiet contemplation, "Concussions" almost immediately thrusts you past the gates of hell, into some demonic black hole vortex. Harsh, angry, mutated electro-percussion pounds against your ear drums incessantly, with loops constantly falling out of and back into sync. I've heard comparisons to Steve Reich's "Drumming", and it's apt - only if Masami Akita had organized and conducted the drum orchestra. Other easy comparisons would be Einsturzende Neubauten or "Dumping the Fucking Rubbish" from the last Whitehouse album, minus the vocals but definitely none of the viscosity. There are 20 tracks on this titan, and they're all untitled (and all very similar in sound...this is more a long-form composition than anything) so there's no point in trying to pin down the "best parts"...although I will say that Menche locks into this one rhythm in the early goings of disc two that will truly get blocks rocking as the drums bounce back and forth almost cyclically.
But even though most of the tracks sound similar after a quick listen, if you slip those headphones on and concentrate there's a whole heck of a lot of subtleties going on. It's kinda like a Charlemagne Palestine piece - the changes are so subliminal that you start to believe there aren't any, but then you backtrack a few minutes earlier and everything somehow sounds totally different than where you're currently at in the song. So you re-listen, trying to find the specific point where everything changed, and you just can't nail it it's so constant. But on the other hand, while there's all this going on, it also might be just the touch to get some sleep at night if you're the type who throws down on some Palestine or Nitsch. It's long and seamless enough to get lost in, and the perpetual rolling drums are perfect for lulling you into a state of hypnosis. Works on both levels!
If I had to choose (from the ones I've heard), this album is most similar to Menche's "Flaming Tongues" release from last year, although the sounds are not nearly as diverse. Actually the single-minded metal hammering makes me think of one of his album's titles, "Eye on the Steel". Menche's turn to aggressive, fist-pumping, rock-out action isn't really a surprise given the AC/DC quote emblazoned across his website and, well, have you ever seen him? Dude looks like he should be in the studio laying down licks for the new Heathen album. I wholly approve. Of Menche and this album. Not Heathen.