Traveling (2009, Imperfect Music)
Byline: 4 Ramblin' men lay down 15 minute odes to the road.
For: Mmm, Brian Grainger, German Shepard, Millipede, MOTH
There is something about the concept of traveling that produces great art. From Kraftwerk to Lindstrom, William Least Heat-Moon to John Steinbeck, Dennis Hopper to Jim Jarmusch; the open road is an giant open void in which to hurl your greatest fears and perceptions into. Traveling is an hour long opus of four top-notch experimental/noise artists to add to this growing canon of wandering troubadours. The concept is simple enough 4 musicians from 4 different parts of the country get 15 minutes each to lay down a composition that loosely adheres to the theme of traveling, and then 50 words to accompany the piece. While trying to convince someone that an experimental/noise piece has any type of compositional value is a tough sell, taking four musicians from disparate ends of the noise/experimental spectrum and convincing someone that each track shares a narrative undertone is even harder. Given these limitations each musician performs admirably. 3/4 musicians were unknown to me before the first listen, the only exception being Millipede, so I guess I will start from the top. Brian Grainger has it going on. Gloriously thick and beautiful washes of guitar and synth feedback processed through some beautiful oscillator that smoothes out each tone like a million-year-old-river-rocks. All the edges have been polished off and we are left with layers and layers of lush noise, incredible stuff here. German Sheperd, quite possibly my favorite compositions on here. German Sheperd spaces his 15 minutes between 3 tracks of loose, minimal acoustic guitar drones on top of muted tape fuzz and buried in the ground distortion. German Sheperd's guitar parts fade in and out of being the prominent vehicle of the song to parts of the general corpus of surging noise. Beautiful stuff. The third and perhaps most prominent is the Hyrulian guitar slayer, Millipede, whose combination of My Bloody Valentine layered guitar distortion and harsh noise has as many detractors as admirers. I have never been able to fully embrace Millipede, I have always been kept at arms length by his generous use of ear scathing tones and a perceived enjoyment for giving me headaches. But getting past some of the unpleasantness I can say I generally enjoyed his tracks on this compilation and look forward to giving his previous albums another go over. I was finally able to pick out the underlying guitar parts (and a beautiful piano piece!) that propped up each song rather than being turned off because I thought my ears may bleed. The final artist, MOTH, compresses his short tracks into one 15 minute mixtape of Grouper inspired vocals buried underneath distortion and tape fuzz to some generally out there vocal samples and repeating guitar lines. While not my favorite track(s), MOTH certainly feels the most fresh out of all 4 artists, all the contributers sound pretty comfortable sounding like themselves and inhabiting their little niche within the bigger canopy of experimental/noise artists. MOTH sounds like the little brother to these 3 luminaries who is willing to try anything to get noticed, the result works and certainly the most memorable on the album. So, if you are interested in any of these artists or looking to expand your palette in the experimental/noise scene, please track down this album. It is like 4 limited run CD-R's in one! But actually listenable!