Graveyards - Bare Those Excellent Teeth Vol. 1 & Unmarked Graves (Editions Brokenresearch LP & CD-R)
Can't even figure out how to start this review, I've been looking at the little box here for a few minutes now and nothing's coming. Can you tell it's Friday? Right on. I guess I don't even need to introduce Graveyards at this point, but just in case you don't know it's a trio of John Olson on sax, Hans Buetow on cello and Ben Hall on drums. They've been really, really, really busy this year as these are there eight thousandth and eight thousand and first releases of the year and we still have three more months to go. You can even own some of them, if you're lucky. I got these from the Troubleman Unlimited distro and I think you can also find them at Volcanic Tongue and Fusetron Sound, so there's a start. These are both on the Editions Brokenresearch label, which is run by Hans and Ben. And though the packaging may look ordinary, look again! Those images are actually printed on sandpaper. Rad! Reviewing these albums together Just Makes Sense as Ben has gone on record as saying they're the most satisfying Gy discs to date and I'm holding him to that. So there!
Probably the thing I like most about Graveyards are their album titles, and "Bare Those Excellent Teeth" has to be the best yet. And it's ironic too because the teeth depicted on the album cover are most certainly not excellent! So I won't attempt to read too much into it, I'll just take it for the poetry that it is. Also worth noting is that this 12" is of the clear variety, a pleasant surprise to me when I unsheathed the beast and laid it out. Howzit sound? Pretty good...it's super minimal, for starters. At least the first side is. Near the beginning it gets so silent or so near-silent that it sounds like silence and I thought I had gotten a faulty pressing or something. But as the aforementioned interview reveals, Ben is playing a classical kit and the sounds made didn't survive the mastering process so he's there...but not. You know. In fact the stretch of tranquility makes for an unbearable anticipation that beats out any old Wolf Eyes record in terms of sheer agony...that feeling of waiting, don't you hate it? The whole record is largely engulfed in said kinds of snatches, the odd scrape and antennae feel-out here and there, ghost whispers all over the place and Jennifer Love Hewitt isn't even in the band. So while Ben is pretty muted, Hans is living all over this one with huge drawn-out strokes and Olson is like a Keith Hernandez handshake - firm, single pump, not too hard but enough to know he's there. I got a very strong film noir vibe from this one except for the ending of one of the sides where the sustained tones hit like a ray of blinding white light straight from the mouth of Ifrit. It was that scorchy. If you don't believe me, come take a look at my eyelashes.
"Unmarked Graves" isn't too different, maybe the sandpaper layout is suggesting more of a unity than I'm immediately aware of. Most notable is Olson playing electronics on the first of three untitled tracks. Hall is beating out disjointed cavemen rally cheers and then Olson's machines kick in like someone flipping the switch of a massive generator to the "on" position. Ben continues his heavy stomp, subtracting wherever necessary and the other two weave in and out, crossing paths and abandoning ship as the mood strikes them. Middle track is the shortest (occupying 6 of a possible 35 minutes) and houses a good deal of Olson chamber horn boogie towards the beginning while the rest is dedicated to that cloudy, imminent thunder feeling. Third and last jam is the "activest" as well as the most troublesome, in terms of pure terror alert/rising panic sensibility and soundtracking not a 50's mystery but an 80's splatterhouse nightmare. Kinda like the former track but this one sees Olson huffing out crop circle smoke rings against his compatriots' colossal metallic Death Star structure, and when the two come together you definitely want to be in the middle.
I haven't even heard a fraction of their output but I'm shotgunning "Unmarked Graves" as the best Graveyards to hit my lobes or their surrounding areas. The LP is no slouch either, but it's more of a night time reader than anything. I should make mention of the fact that the LP is limited to 200 and the CD-R to 100 so no slouching about or you'll have to wait until the BYG/Actuel reissues. I also heard something somewhere about an upcoming box-set compilation of all the American Tapes "Endings" CD-Rs (they're up to at least volume seven now) on a "German label" but I've got no idea if that's sarcasm/fleecing or what. Let's hope not.