Saturday, February 5, 2011

Birchville Cat Motel: Two Variations

Here we have two albums by New Zealand's legendary Birchville Cat Motel aka Campbell Kneale (now known as Our Love Will Destroy the World) representing two very different sides of the same artist.

First is the two disc "Beautiful Speck Triumph," a drifting cosmic journey over two hours long. The album starts with a dark hum drifting beneath crackling, clicking machine noise and grimy static and whining feedback which swells until it suddenly cuts away and the original hum, grumbling and decaying, spins out the rest of the track, leading into the second piece, an 18-minute excursion that begins with clattering wind chimes and field recordings and spindly static skree, all of which is slowly consumed by a nefarious static blast which in turn is devoured and blotted out by creaking electro-decay and, seemingly out of nowhere, a droning organ which dominates in the third and final track of disc 1, almost an homage of sorts to Star of the Lid, a drifting, glowing soundscape with rustling percussion and a whistful tendril of crackling static seeping through for the first several minutes before surrendering to the organ and a mournful, lowing violin.

The second disc also begins darkly, a constant, resonant organ line with other organs, whispering feedback, and electronic bleeps, a very deep, organic sound piece of drone. This leads into the second track, built on the same single organ note but this time with layers of dense, wordless vocal haze and crunching, grinding percussion, the same static crackle ever present. Finally the music falls away altogether and we're left with a field recording - perhaps taken in a crowded restaurant - and analog decay. This in turn bleeds into the final, 36-minute track in which that organ drone rears its head once more, bigger and angrier than ever, almost roaring as it builds on top of itself, layer upon gauzy, thrumming layer, a giant wash of noise, percussion plodding and a guitar squalling throughout. The final ten minutes are a serene coda, chirping birds sing along with a delicately plucked guitar until it all fades into silence. The whole album is massive and beautiful, an enveloping sonic experience.

Disc 1
Disc 2

Next is "Bird Sister Blasphemy." Where "Beautiful Speck Triumph" was a paean to drone, a shimmering ocean of noise, "Bird Sister Blasphemy" is ungodly loud, absolutely unrelenting in its analog chaos. Track 1 is wildly shredding guitar, woozy, galloping feedback, crashing drums, vocals screaming beneath the muck, an evil sounding, grimy mess of noise, totally for the headbanger crowd. Things only get more chaotic from there, blackened vocals screaming luridly beneath an a torrent of buzzsawing feedback and a ferocious avalanche of drums, almost kosmiche but run through a sonic meat grinder, ultra heavy,  psychedelic metal meets total noise doom. It's ear shattering, deafening, an absolute blizzard of squalling feedback and guitar murk and reeling drums. Brutal, essential listening (at the highest possible volume).


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