I’ve been pretty jaded/burned out from new underground music lately, and it seems like pretty much everyone else is too. Been talking to people about the negative creativity spawned by fame, as it seems like any underground musician who gets recognized lately and is thrust into blogger superstardom immediately stops growing as an artist and just churns out more and more of the same half-assed tropical/beach-pop/hypnogogic pop/shit-wave/cold-wave/chill-wave/whatever. Never been too interested in genres myself, as I’ve always felt like genrefication takes away from the music; Once it’s been stuck in a niche you have things that are expected of you and expectations of what you should sound like. And unfortunately it seems like lots of folks these days are more than happy to please the expectations of bloggers who don’t know anything about music.
Luckily none of this has anything to do with the new Locrian album “The Crystal World” on Utech. Having already neatly smashed out the walls of death metal, noise & power electronics on their previous albums, they wisely decide to keep smashing outward and take over whatever spectrums of music they end up in. Now a three piece, Locrian branch out into heavy psychedelic stoner rock (“At Night’s End”), kosmische synth jams (the instrumental title track), and strange as it may seem, psychedelic folk (“Elevation and Depths” towards the end sounds disturbingly like one of Bröselmachine’s better songs), with all 6 feet still formly rooted in the darkness and anguished screaming we know so well. Locrian’s music always has an unsettling presence lurking in the background, slowly spreading post-industrial pagan gloom over everything they touch, much like the Ballard novel the album is named after, and “The Crystal World” shows them seeping into new avenues of music and making them their own.
This is definitely the most musical thing I’ve heard from them yet, a nice change of pace in an era that doesn’t place much value on well-crafted music. Each track is a carefully-sculpted journey through Locrian’s signature sound that slowly unfolds to find something completly new hiding inside. It took me forever to review their last album, mostly because every review of it I saw was gushing praise out of every pore, and this one will probably get the same; but since they seem pretty immune to it so far I’ll go ahead and say that Locrian has once again raised the bar for themselves and suceeded in creating another incredible album that stays true to their aesthetic while still challenging themselves to make something different.
The obtusely named Vartan Mamigonian is the nom de plume of saxophonist Patrick Breiner, also of the sax/bassoon duo Manmouth. After I saw them do a killer free improv set this summer, Patrick slipped me one of his solo CDs. I was probably expecting some abrasive free jazz, but Vartan Mamigonian is generally more structured and contemplative than, say, Kaoru Abe. Lots of passages of lurching arpeggios that are almost Philip Glass-like, (but without all the gloss that has always caused me to throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear music by my least favorite minimalist). Some really great playing on this disc, might be too academic for someone expecting Wasteland Jazz Unit, but if you can get down with some Braxton records you ought to give this a shot and check out some new avant-garde music. Plus there’s tortured version of “Crepescule With Nellie” that’s a hell of a lot closer to Monk’s intent than the average whitey jazz musician gets.