Hototogisu & Prurient - Snail on a Razor (Hospital Productions CD)
The second of recent Hospital Productions sessions featuring Marcia Bassett, this time she's in the much-acclaimed duo with guitar noise legend Matthew Bower (Skullflower, Sunroof!, Total, etc) as the Hototogisu. And joining them for this excursion is the Hospital head honcho himself, Dominick Fernow aka Prurient. Thankfully "Snail on a Razor" is a real live in the collaboration between the three, and not some lame snail mail job (not to suggest all snail mail collab jobs are bad, but these kinds of demons just demand to be exorcised in person). At first glance this might seem kinda like an oddball team-up but it really isn't....Hototogisu appear to have abandoned the airy ambient skyhigh drones from their first releases (when it was just a solo Bower outlet) in search of something darker, something harsher, something kajunga. This fits in perfectly with Prurient's recent modus operandi, as he too seems to have closed the book on shortform ear-destroying noise blasts (see "Shipwrecker's Diary", "History of AIDS", early live shows) and pursued a fuller, more "mature" sound (see "Black Vase", recent live shows). Not to mention Bassett and Bower's individual investigations into harsher turfs (see the last Zaimph record on Hospital, Bower's Mirag project). Heck the more I think of it, the more I feel like this collaboration was destined to happen!
First things first, I really don't know who's doing what and the packaging offers no help. I'm guessing that (obviously) Bower and Bassett are primarily using guitars while Prurient is most likely attuned to microphones, amplifiers and maybe even synths but it's a crapshoot. When there's this many effects loaded on, it's a wide open ball game. "Snail on a Razor" sticks it to you from the get-go, opening up with a colossal 40 minute chef d'oeuvre called "Flashing Like the Void". I read a review that described the album as 2/3 Hototogisu and 1/3 Prurient and that much seems true from this baby at least. Picture Hototogisu's mind-wiping cloudscapes at their heaviest, meanest, and most ferocious and you have a decent enough idea of what to expect. A whole mess of guitar agony and sculpted feedback are sent up and collide against one another in mid-air, tectonic plate/Pangea-splitting styles. An elephant's trunk engulfing your head and trumpeting as loud as he possibly can styles. Playing every single record from every person involved's back catalogue at 99 styles. It's just a totally dense, murky soup that defies words and challenges you to get in the ring and take your licks. Man alive it never felt so good to have my chin painted with the sweet red leather.
The title track occupies the middle position and it's no pushover either at 15 minutes, although it isn't quite the abrasive firing-on-high bad motherfucker like the first one. There's some guitar being played like the howling wind and another shooting out shards of ragged light, decorated by somebody hitting something to produce a kind of cymbal effect and if you listen closely you can even pick up Prurient's wordless shouts and howls somewhere in there. It's not as heavy on the low end either and towards the middle I'd swear I could almost make out something like the riff from "Exquisite Fucking Boredom" but I'm surely just imagining things. Track ends in almost full-on Prurient territory, lots of feedback, some shouting, and definitely some ringing ears. The last track "This is Now" (a Bowerian song title if I've ever heard one) finally starts to take it eas(y/ier), digging up a round of spectral float with gently bobbing sea-washed guitars and the kind of electronic/feedback torch that by now I'm so used to (from listening to this album, I mean) that it sounds to my ears the same way a sunset looks to my eyes. The trio access the full palette of colors hear, touching on almost psychedelic drones, prodded guitar jolts, gaping abyssic cries and threatening lo-fi ambience to round out the other. Fucking beautiful, man.
It goes without saying that this album is a safe bet, especially if you like just about anybody involved. But "Snail on a Razor" is really an occurance of the sum being greater than the parts, because it rules in its own special, crossbred kind of way. I'm not sure what Prurient's up to these days (musically speaking) but Hototogisu have a whole shitload of stuff either out now or coming soon - "Chimärendämmerung" on De Stijl, "Some Blood Will Stick" on Important, "Sculpture Built Upon the Graves" on Heavy Blossom, and "Robed in Verdigris" on Nashazphone. Jeezus! I haven't heard any of those yet so I can't tell you that "Snail" is the must-buy option, but I gotta say it's going to be pretty tough for them to top.