AFCGT (Sub-Pop, 02.2010)
For: Lightning Bolt, Dead C, Big Black
Byline: A snarling, claustrophobic dream-team collaboration between noise legends The A-Frames and Climax Golden Twins. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.
AFCGT is the reason internet acronym expletives were invented. The first few seconds of AFCGT’s self-titled album swoop in mid-death metal breakdown with a three-guitar-assault of palm-muted power chords, pounded out in an unholy trinity of compressed noise. Pretty much mind-blowing if you are into that kind of thing. Noticing the lack of color in my face and my jaw opened slack, my wife asked, “What are you listening to?” All I could force out was “O-M-G”. Putting on the headphones, she immediately recoiled with our favorite household internet meme, “W-T-F!” Visceral music begets visceral responses reduced to three letter semi-blasphemous epithets. Standing alone, noise rock can be instantly polarizing, but there is something about AFCGT’s swirling drone-soundscapes-meet-angular-noise-rock that is down right assaulting, claustrophobic, and one of the best headphone listening experiences of the year.
If the name AFCGT is confusing (I keep mixing up the G-C), but there is a simple rule to remember. AFCGT is comprised of members of Seattle noise rock group The A-Frames (The AF) and fellow northwestern semi-legendary (Animal Collective name checked them as influences during their question and answer period following Oddsac at Sundance) drone/soundscape artists Climax Golden Twins (The CGT). Get it? AFCGT. The whole of this sorta-legendary dream-team is ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Given the places that each group inhabits on the opposite ends of the noise spectrum, AFCGT would sound formulaic, Climax Golden Twins providing swirling drones that underpin the A-Frames angular blues-inspired-guitar-freakouts. The result, however, is more of an experiment in a collaborative mind-meld between six musicians. If the songs sound a little too jammy, it is because AFCGT use the artifact of recording to feel each other out, to push, pull, and prod into each other’s sonic territory.
Three guitars. Did I mention there were three guitars? You can do a lot with three axe-men, but Instead of laying on thick amounts of machismo driven, schlocky theatrics, AFCGT use them as exploratory devices, bashing into each other, wrapping around one another, creating oscillating drones while huge blues riffs pound over top of them. As I stated earlier, the album opener “Black Mark” starts mid-stride among some most brutal and painfully distorted riffs that recall Lightning Bolt and the Dead C at their most cacophonous. All of this buzzing and pounding stops dead in its tracks for the first of the album’s many guitar solos. Now, this isn’t the Eddie Van Halen display of technical virtuosity you are accustomed to in guitar solos, this is a gut-wrenching, expressionistic, buried-under-layers-of-reverb, attack on the senses – a tonal freak out that leaves an indelible smile on my face every time I hear it.
This old-school noise rock vibe (think Sun City Girls, The Scientists) bleeds over into the album’s magnum-opus. “Two Legged Dog” is a wandering, ten-minute track with a serious blues stomp atop layers of washed out guitar drones and a propulsive rhythm section that keeps the track as grounded as a track of this length can be. “Nacht,” while ignoring the pitch-shifted (scary!) German vocals, has a tight groove running throughout the whole thing. The last three minutes justify skipping over the first half of the song. “New Punk” and “New Punk 27” are by far the most snarling and mercenary. AFCGT take the John Wiese approach of completely deconstructing punk rock down to the brass tacks of audio distortion and rebuilding them into a fractured, fragmented beast of musical movement.
Every once in a while Sub-Pop will throw a curveball our way. This is one of those glorious instances where the label known for being the zeitgeist of slightly left-of-mainstream acts will actually oblige and put out something that is challenging, non-conformist, and will definitely not be used to sell anything.