Ettrick - Feeders of Ravens (Not Not Fun LP) / GHQ - California Night Burning Dreams (Not Not Fun LP & 3" CD-R)
Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue. Well actually the GHQ vinyl is kind of a smokey blue marble thing, so maybe something blue. Britt at Not Not Fun was kind enough to send the Ettrick record to me an age ago, but it never showed and it was determined to be lost out there forever in the Canada Post wilderness. So Britt was cool enough to send another, and at the same time I put the money down for the new GHQ outing, so here we are (and we'll be here again once I sit down with those Mudboy and Family Underground stax, whoooiee). If you've been reading for longer than a month you know what a big fan I am of Ettrick's two-man black metal (okay okay I'll preempt you, "in image only" - now exeunt)/jazz stylings, and, well, I think I missed out on the last couple of new GHQ items so it's always good to catch up, especially when it's an edition as sexy as this one is (w/bonus 3" CD-R!).
I've been waiting on "Feeders of Ravens" for an age, ever since I heard it was in its larval stage, and after they steamrolled so hard on prior discs like "Infinite Horned Abomination" and "Sudden Arrthymic Death", they really would be hard-pressed to top themselves. And to be perfectly honest, I preferred the long bouts of those records compared to the morsel-sized portions divvied up on "Feeders". As you may know, Jacob Heule and Jay Korber both pull double duty on saxophones and drums, so "Feeders" sees them in all possible configuraitons. On introducer "You Will Taste the Teeth in Our Mouths", "The Horn Gjoll" and "Corpse-Strands", all damage is dealt via the horns, which are throttled half to death and skronked in all sorts of evil, screaming manners. The choked notes gobbled out on "Corpse-Strands" are most admirable and the pure fire-breathing intensity of the other two is impressive as well, I think I even heard the shock-therapy vocals of Abruptum's IT mirror through on here, but that's about as close to grim as it got (which is still pretty good in my book). The all-drumming track, "Demon of Filth, Demon of Woe" is a furious session which sees J. and J. knocking out stomach-knotting machine gun shudders, a sheer brute force cage brawl if there ever was to be one, whereas the remaining three selections stick to the "conventional" format, one on sax and one on drums, though I'm not so far advanced in Ettrick 101 to tell you who's playing what. "Sky-Bellower" plays right after the all-horn intro and knocks you flat as soon as the drums come storming through playing all sorts of ridiculous, blastbeat rolls. "Contriver of Evil" starts at high energy and then works into a curious sort of jazz kink, 'specially where the drums are concerned..."Raven Harvest", the album closer, begins with both men screaming bloody murder before the kit is taken hold, first by one, then by both, jamming out an extraordinarily fat slab of post-Graves/Ali/Jackson/Zorn/Sauter/Dietrich heave. Now don't get me wrong, these tracks slay and slay hard, but it almost sounds like this should have come before the marathon bouts of their previous discography, you know? I wouldn't not recommend it of course; if you can't get a handle on the CD-Rs then this one's definitely worth your time. If you've got the CD-Rs and a tight wallet, there might not be enough new tricks here worth your time. But on the other hand, Jesus Crow does this shit sound hot on vinyl. So there's that.
Speeching of going back thru time, this new GHQ release kinda does the same thing to me. I haven't really kept up with them too much lately but when I last saw them I thought they were kinda pushing out into more song-oriented turfs like Religious Knives, ex(?)-Double Leopards brethren, were going. So either I'm wrong or they've taken a turn for the severely dissonant. I was pretty sure GHQ added a new members like a bassist recently, but I couldn't find anything in a haphazard Google search to back that up, so it's definitely the trio of Marcia Bassett, Steve Gunn and Pete Nolan here. "California Night Burning Dreams" compiles a coupla live recordings (two from Sacramento and one from Eureka) while the CD-R does the same (Seattle). On the first selection from Sacramento, Marcia's heavily treated guitar sends out vast plains of white sand sound over which Steve sprinkles out crystal clear acoustic notes, perhaps at a level way more lucid than I've ever heard from these cats. Pete plays pretty solemn at first, limiting his contribution to a rousal of chimes, before slowly sprucing things up with a miltant march as Gunn's guitar strings slosh around like the flab hanging off Robert Johnson's heart. "Eureka" cuts in and presents darker overtones via downtrodden, languid phases from Gunn and gauze-wrapped droning vocalizations courtesy Nolan. Slowest of em all is the remainder of "Sacramento" which occupies the flip. Resuming the glacial burn of its predecessor, it focuses primarily on Marcia's tapestry of fuzzed-up gristle and Nolan's stoned plods through the vaguest of pentameters. Gunn, for his parts, adds occasional six-stringed tickles before stepping up full-time in the end to take it all out into the great nothingness. Funnily enough though, the "Live in Seattle" 3" might be the real crown jewel here, a terrific 13-minute stretch featuring an all-encompassing swirl from Marcia's guitar and black hole tearing electronics and Gunn's subtle guitar phases eventually fleshing out into a woozy, tangible stasis. Add in to that Nolan's subtle, stabilizing drumming, what sounds vaguely like a harmonica, chimes, and blissed-out, buried vocals from Marcia at her most Zazeelian, and you're fucking afloat, dude. Special mention should also be made to the mindblasting all-over collage cover art, and the sexy blue splatter vinyl job, totally making this package one worth a serious look, as if the sonics weren't already tempting enough. If you missed the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't GHQ Sloow Tape, here's yr solace.
Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album