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Guitarist Matthew Bower of Skullflower searches for the ultimate obelisk of riff.
photo: Rosalie Bower

Dream Syndicate Guitarist Blasts Into Distant Galaxies From Paisley Underground

Last Days of May
"The First Billion Miles"
Doubling Cube

"A 48-minute dreamy drone," the cover sticker says, from ex–Dream Syndicate guitarist Karl Precoda's sometimes keyboard-assisted Virginia power trio (whose 2000 Radiant Black Mind more and more feels like the decade's ultimate instrumental rock album); I'm putting the title in quotes in case I decide it belongs on my top-10 singles list at year's end. The credits list a "conductor" and a "fireman."

Noises suggest a barbershop's electric razor buzzing around your ear, aircraft breaking the sound barrier, a whole birdhouse full of ornithological species swooping down to the grocery store parking lot, the interstate during rush hour. Select sounds set a pulse for a while, then gradually switch off, but Precoda's eruptive spurts trailed by Sonny Sharrock–style shadows of notes are clearly the center.

Glen Branca's recently reissued multi-guitar symphonies sound cold in comparison; a closer starting point might be the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" or (note title) Miles Davis's "Rated X," but with God's bowling alley thunderstorms going bump in the paramilitary night à la '80s Swiss nuke-metal band Celtic Frost. Sundry recurring themes race faster and faster, and then, a half-hour in, coalesce into a blur that says if the rocketship's rocking, don't come a-knocking. Yet there's a mournful mood to it all: Why does space have to be so sad?


Redundant Brits Churn Heavy Riff Again and Again and Again and Again

Skullflower
Exquisite Fucking Boredom
Tumult

Matthew Bower's aging British "power electronics/extreme noise" collective, now apparently a quartet, repeat a 15-note Sabbath-style riff hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the same eight monolithic drumbeats (again, note the title), plunging you into dizzying states of vertigo if not seasickness. Explorations occur around the riff, though. The first section, "Celestial Highway I-III," lasts two-thirds of an hour; psychedelic astro-metal warlords weaned on Bloodstar's early-'90s cosmonaut classic "Hyperspace" have fun fun fun on the intergalactic autobahn for 17 minutes longer than Kraftwerk did. In Part II, a sea of electro-spuzz overtakes the main riff, which turns less and less prominent, until all that's left is the spuzz ringing in countless directions. By Part III, the riff's back, lifting higher and higher, chasing stars.

Some respite comes next: tracks called "Saturn" and "Return to Forever" (Sun Ra and Stanley Clarke references?), the former hissing its drum-rumbled electronic wah wah gurgle not unlike the old art-punk band Chrome; the latter spinning into a whirlpool of free-noise bullshit suitable for immersion. Finally there's "Celestial Highway IV," "reworked by Neil Campbell at the Yorkshire Drone Center": a relentless funeral march of lease-breaking dissonance and shop-class din, 12 minutes long, eventually spacious. But the riff's still alive, at least in some rudimentary, ancillary form, and you envision it light years into eternity.


Duo Protest Foreign Policy by Screaming Unintelligible Curse Words Into Abyss

Curse of the Golden Vampire
Mass Destruction
Ipecac

Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin, who also go by the name Techno Animal and who have sundry connections to Napalm Death, Head of David, Godflesh, Atari Teenage Riot, and DJ/rupture, disguise a densely dubbed megaton glom of sine-wave gloom as an apparent political statement, at least judging from the album title, song titles ("The Myth of Democracy"; "State Rape," which starts with a discernible metal lick; "Oil Money," which has a recognizable skank underneath), and the inner-sleeve picture of some guy pointing a gun at Bush 43. The music itself is less articulate, but still fills a room, and with a sense of composition no less. Amphetamized individual notes somehow coagulate into a monolithic mess of molasses, but if you listen close, you'll hear details—even, in "Insecticide," a hook.

Brief Middle Eastern or classical parts or a typing pool of hip-hop or drum'n'bass beats sneak in, and (as with Last Days of May and Skullflower) there are points where all the clamor disintegrates and you're lost amid the stillness of the shore, so you can count the wading birds. Mostly, though, two pained World War III–aftermath behemoths push their doomsday-abyss screech through wormholes of deep space, grieving for planets exploded into particles and mass. One screams stuff like "whenthefuckyoufuckingfuckyoufucking-diiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee . . . "; the other one's even more pre-literate: The first song ends with "I don't have any fucking words." Somewhere way in the background, beyond all the factory and war effects, a rock band hides in a foxhole, using entrenching tools as drumsticks.


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