odernism in art was perhaps great for two reasons:

1. Getting rid of rules felt genuinely liberating. The “space” of a liberated, modernist piece of art was an enchanted frontier in which the audience could surrender to the simultaneous madness and ecstasy of the modern world.

2. Those who made the breaks with the rules were often bold, visionary figures in the Romantic tradition.
But modernism is not an infinite expanse. Modernist aesthetics hit all sorts of walls beyond which they cannot proceed (and have seemingly been doing so since the ‘50s). The modernist aesthetics of underground art music in the almost three decades since the origins of “post-punk” have hit numerous walls. No wave was supposed to be the end of rock. Noise, according to Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan, was “the last genre.”

The no wave revival was postmodern, but a couple of artists had an expansive definition of no wave that needed to be played out on its own. Perhaps the most notable of these are Weasel Walter and his Flying Luttenbachers project and the guitar and drums duo known as Orthrelm. Both bands incorporate extreme metal aesthetics for their harsh, dissonant, cold, technological, and robotic elements, all of which work in the no wave context.

Extreme metal aesthetics play themselves out in terms of chops. You go beyond by shredding more. And the degree to which Orthrelm shred is staggering. The difference with Orthrelm, though, is that theirs is not a heavy metal in which the goal is to conquer, but rather metal as a mere academic exercise. Modernism (notably entrenched now in academia) can only be an academic exercise at this point and not a visionary one.

Sounds boring, yes, and Orthrelm guitarist Mick Barr, in fact, says in a recent interview in Blastitude that he probably wouldn’t even be bothered to pay attention to Orthrelm’s music if he himself was not the one making it.

So why should I pay attention to it? Why should you? Well, because maybe you were a hardcore modernist and you show up when someone scrapes the barrel and actually comes up with a new idea, revealing that there was, in fact, at least one more wall for modernism to hit here in the year 2005. Moving away from their earlier hyperspeed, through-composed, infinite spray of dissonant notes approach, OV is one forty-five minute track of mind-boggling repetitions of single hyperspeed phrases. God knows how long it took them to compose and practice this thing.

What the album is, then, is essentially the no wave revival underground’s equivalent of Sleep’s Jerusalem (complete with a green cover, no less). Fortunately, it’s just as good as that album too.

Buy it at Insound!

Reviewed by: Tim Ellison
Reviewed on: 2005-06-17
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