Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Conformists

The Conformists
Three Hundred (2007)
St. Louis, MO
54-40 or Fight Records

I was fortunate enough to catch The Conformists at a midnight show here in Chicago a few months back, part of their 'world tour' supporting the new record, Three Hundred, on 54-40. The band had been on my bands-to-check-out list for some time, cheaply defined in the margins as a 'spooky U.S. Maple'. I suppose an unfairly small snapshot of Three Hundred might fit that description, but the whole experience of a Conformist's live set is what really transformed my understanding of the band.

Aside from the opening to the sixth track, the album might give the impression of a band that is gravely bound to a morose set of artsy-creepy themes. It is 9 tracks packed with quiet, dark, 'minimalist' moments like the skeletal guitar dawdling and gentle tapping of the drumkit's frame on 'Tax Deduction', heavy-breathing, panting and slurping throughout, plenty of tinkering and noise-making, and a half minute of an amp's hum to open the album. But in the flesh The Conformists blend their unique musical ideas with sarcasm, dry humor, and a brand of bizarre showmanship that could be compared to The Jesus Lizard. They do make use of the vocalist as an instrument ala U.S. Maple, that is to say that the vocals aren't just melodies to sing over the instruments, but an assortment of nutso personalities assumed by the frontman. This is done nicely on record and in the live set is performed by a shirtless schizophrenic crawling through the crowd, grabbing limbs, mumbling nonsense, generally trying to freak people out.

As much as the band may or may not like to hear it, 300 is going to be called 'deconstructionist', which to me is a perfectly apt description. (For their own reasons U.S. Maple has taken issue with the term.) But however you want to say it, The Conformists have found a way to forge Trout Mask Replica's structural demolitions with the vigor of TJL's Goat and Liar records. If I worked at 54-40 I'd put a little sticker on the CD, "Deconstrutionist music you can mosh to!"

In addition to being excellent musicians all, guitar, drums and bass, the band seems pretty young too, as near as I can tell. This is only their second full-length, aside from that they have a 12" of noises, and a 7". So we're hoping there is a long future ahead of them.

The website.

The Myspace.

A Video:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Even in the Midst... (2007)
Asheville, NC

Ahleuchatistas are scheduled to officially release their fourth record next week some time. But it is now available by mail order. I've only had this album for a couple of days, so I have yet to really wrap my head around it, but the first impression is that it holds up to all that one would expect from an Ahleuchatistas record, and may even surpass What You Will and all it's Ahleu-glory. If you've never heard them, Ahleuchatistas is a guitar-bass-drums trio that plays a type of mathrock that is as loose as it is disciplined. (Some call it jazzy, or free-jazz, or jazz-core, but I try to avoid that lazy adjective.) By 'loose' we might say it sounds as though the three instruments are all telling the same story at once, but each account offers a version of events that disagrees slightly from the others. It all makes for a positively refreshing dichotomy. The band primarily blends it's own 'randomized notes' techniques and it's own kind of bizarro riffage assaults into wayward tangents that hardly look back toward their roots. At times these tangents move in such organic and natural ways while just as often they seem to be lawless and savage or even beautifully misplaced.
Woah. That came out pretty fast.
It really does make sense, though.
Listen to the record Here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blame Game

Blame Game
Ask Someone (2006)
Atlanta, GA
Stickfigure Records

It was only a little over a year ago when I first heard Blame Game's "Clear Change", the opening track from their final LP. Within a matter of hours I made sure that I had their entire catalogue in the mail and on it's way. Sadly, not but a few weeks later the band decided to call it quits. It's not very often you feel so compelled to reunite a band that you might not stop short of bribery or even entrapment. Well, maybe you might have that feeling often, but I certainly would never push beyond extortion. Like waterboarding or something. Thats taking things a little bit too far.

What I received in the mail a week later was a 2004 self-titled CD (a twenty-seven track collection of early hardcore-based material), Honey and Salt (an excellent and fluid 2005 full length, and milemarker of the band's evolution ), and the Ask Someone 12". The three releases, all profoundly different, each still proudly bare the unmistakable tattoo that is the Blame Game's uniquely amalgamated sound. I've never spoken to a member of this band, or come across a an interview dealing with the subject, but if I did I'd love to ask them what led to the dumping of two guitar players, and this deliberate evolution in only a few short years. I can only imagine that their youth played a factor in all of it, they'd gotten to write clever and innovative music, refreshingly devoid of conventional composition, before the world's stink of cliche was allowed to settle.

On this LP, two guitars "churn and weave" with one another, cutting and tearing into unexpected directions at impractical moments, synchronized so wonderfully that the two seem to be of one mind. One bass reigns them in like two comets on kite strings, and one drumkit will achieve just about anything any drumkit could ever hope to achieve for about 30 minutes and change.

I am sure there were influences, hidden somewhere deep beneath the surface, and they may reveal themselves one day. But as it was, in 2006, no band produced a finer blend of just such mysterious influences. Ask Someone is four tracks. Available on vinyl only.

"Clear Change" can be heard here.
More here.
Buy this record.