Starving Weirdos - Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic (Root Strata CD)
Second installment of recent Root Strata transmissions, first was Pete Swanson's CD-R of a few days past and next is Machinefabriek, just so you know what page we're all on. And I'm still not up to date because label honcho Jefre just recently set loose a Grouper LP, not to mention the Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood disc in the works. Can't stop him, can only hope to contain him, etc. I guess the same can be said for the Starving Weirdos themselves, who've gained a lot of notoriety in a very short period of time with a glut of CD-Rs, a 12" (also on Root Strata) and another actual CD that came out not too long ago, "Father Guru", on Azul Discografica. I haven't actually heard "Father Guru" but I remember digging its BYG/Actuel mock-up sleeve. What I don't remember digging too much was the last Weirdos effort on Root Strata, that being the "Eastern Light" 2xCD-R. I guess I felt it was a few good ideas spread over way too much recording time, either that or I just don't have the amount of proper patience required for the task. Nevertheless, onward and upward. "Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic" features the core duo of Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay alongside like-minded, possibly hungry weirdos Phoenix Rath, Steve Lazar and Anthony Vrsaljko. I have no idea if those are real names or not because they seem way too American Gladiators to me, but hey, I'm not about to launch an investigative probe. Jefre has, as usual, done a bang-up job with the packaging. The hot pink CD is slipped inside a thin cardboard gatefold with psyche-annihilating dream doodles on the front and back. Monochromatic Cromagnon/"Orgasm" for the Next Generation? Well, maybe. If only it was in the full glory of a record sleeve though! Someday. Probably.
The label bills this as "by far the most coherent one to date", which might be true as I haven't heard enough to tell, but it's still pretty nonlinear all things said which is just where you want it to be, really. One of the two tracks to really feature any sort of guiding light out of the five is "From the Northwest Swells". A steady, krautish pattern is slowly birthed from a droning scrabble of guitar noise and various other inflections, allowing a whole sort of ominous, tribal slant to overtake the back half of the brief (by their standards) jammer. The other bite-sized morsel is the opening "Crewell" which serves as an invocation to the remaining fifty-ish minutes...at times the blinding bright rays shining from the speakers remind me of the introductory rousing from Lightning Bolt's "Hello Morning" (believe it or not) but I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the Starving Weirdos don't exactly go in the same direction as the Providence duo. Although the tune that follows ("Droned & Poned") kicks off in aggressive, blustery fashion, it quiets down pretty soon and sets a path similar to "Northwest" in that the duo's various noisemaking improvisations are grounded by another plodding rhythm. If you had Mouthus drummer Nate Nelson sitting in with a pared-down Vibracathedral Orchestra, the results might sound something like what's heard here. The album's title track occupies the ten middle minutes of the album and is a surprisingly quiet number with a glowing drone shimmer conjured up against a backdrop of seagulls and crashing waves - a fully engrossing and hypnotizing ten minutes indeed. Makes me think of an aquatic take on Drunjus' great "Thick Winds Off the Sargasso" track or a bunch of Fennesz records melted down and dragging your needle through the goop you're left with. Either way it's gorgeous and dreamy and worthy of one's immediate attention. The trick is replicated to a degree on the closing epic "Wartime Sunrise", except with a more ragged approach to dreamy and droney sky-dappling. The pieces moves with the slow precision of a Dario Argento horror, with sounds rising and falling and a heavy sense of tension being stirred throughout...it erupts briefly like a sunshower but slowly recedes back into the cosmic/basement crawl synthesis of the previous ten or twenty minutes, and I think the track (and album) is all the better for the tease. Besides, the chase is better than the catch, right?
I liked this disc quite a bit more than "Eastern Light" but there are still moments where I wish the two were either doing more, doing less, or doing something better. Sometimes it seems like they're content with resting on their laurels and playing along to a simple rhythm that was beaten out thirty years ago than constantly pushing in the direction that they hint of being capable of taking their sound to on a consistent basis. But I guess when you're working off ten or twenty albums of unreleased material, it's not all going to be stone cold classic. If you know what you like and you like Starving Weirdos, then you really have no reason not to pick this up. This tempts me even more to check out their "Harry Smith" 12" on the same label - just the name/premise/art alone were almost enough to persuade me into it when it was first released and that was back when I thought I didn't like em. Anyway whether you get this or you get that, be quick about it because Starving Weirdos documents are always limited and are typically gone before you can say "boux".
Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic (excerpt)
Courtesy Root Strata