Land of Lurches
onight is bound to be a little wild. A Japanese cult called the Pana Wave has apparently predicted that the world will end sometime today when a mysterious tenth planet collides with the earth. Normally, I’d laugh it off but there is much more to this story. According to the Wave, the rescue of Tama-Chan, a bearded arctic seal that found his way into Japan, will somehow save the world from this. On top of it all there will also be a lunar eclipse tonight. Could the mystery planet strike while the earth’s shadow obscures the moon? Could there be a better time to review the new Kevin Drumm record? More importantly will this tenth planet be home to any Lurches? Best I can tell from the cover art, a Lurch is a seal-like beast with a sinister look and one hell of a claw. The kind of thing that would result from horrible DNA experiments at Sea World. Perhaps Tama-Chan knows a little something about these guys.
Okay. Back in the (hopefully-not-ending-anytime-soon) real world, Kevin Drumm has quite a bit of weight on his shoulders. With the success of last year’s Sheer Hellish Miasma he has become the new Alan Licht, the know-it-all indie rockers’ go-to guy in the noise world. Releasing the follow-up on the label run by Wolf Eyes’ Aaron Dilloway probably won’t do much to reverse that. While outtakes from the necessary-for-every-IDM-fan-claiming-they-‘get’-noise Mego album would surely please almost anyone, Drumm refuses to make things that easy for himself. Constantly evolving (rather than experimenting until you find what you’re good at and then doing it until your catalog becomes it’s own coffin like some noisicians), he pushes forward on Land of the Lurches with a much more dynamic and relentlessly abrasive work.
The tracks are titleless, so let us refer to the opener as Lurch One. It opens modestly enough with a light fuzz and some shifting. This lasts approximately 30 seconds until you first realize you’ve gotten yourself in trouble. After steadily gaining volume and depth for several minutes, all goes quiet. Probably quieter than the introduction moments before. A little bass comes in, quickly getting louder, louder, louder, louder until 1.5 seconds later it is completely erased. Suddenly it is a calm, beautiful day in the Land of Lurches. The sun is shining, all is good. You are about to die.
Like a cork flying off a champagne bottle, the Lurches pop up out of nowhere and strike. You are immediately engulfed in a volcanic explosion of grunts, snarls, moans and screams. Oh the Humanity of it all. This is the soundtrack to a lions-and-gazelles nature film. But even that comparison pales. This is so graphic that flecks of the gazelle’s blood would be on the camera lens. You’d hear the film crew screaming. It eventually lets up, but for just a moment. It’s just enough time to look up at the sun one last time before you are pummeled.
The track ends abruptly, giving you merely enough time to catch your breath before Lurch Two jumps into full force. The track is twice as upsetting, much more dynamic, and manages all that Lurch One did- and more- in less than half the time. While the chaos of the first track manages to stay in general frequency range, here it careens wildly. Six minutes of whirlwind noise in which pulsating bass and piercing treble teeter back and forth fighting for dominance. This track doesn’t paint a picture of violence, it is violence. Nonetheless, I’m torn on this track. On one hand I wish it was longer. On the other I don’t know how much of this I could handle. You may remember Mr. Drumm stating in his Stylus interview last year that his new material made Miasma sound like ‘a muted duck fart from a mile away.’ You probably thought he was witty. I hope you didn’t think he was joking.
The CD version of the album also has a third ‘bonus’ track not on the LP. Lurch Three is the only one of the new works that even comes close to resembling Sheer Hellish Miasma. This is not a bad thing, but it doesn’t really fit in on the album. Here we are greeted with glistening high end accompanied by bubbling midground and occasional bass. The main difference here is that the sounds seem to bounce around inside the defined perimeter of the track instead of all over your chest and skull. Throughout the thirteen minute duration of the piece, the high end slowly drops to a pleasant midrange drone that eventually ends up sounding remarkably similar to the one that opens the album. This is obviously a lot brighter than the previous two tracks, and it serves to brings things full circle. My guess is that it was recorded first, discarded and then added back on later as a reasurrance that all is well, no matter how ugly the things get.
Drumm has taken a chance with this album and it works. He has run the risk of turning off, not only the fairweathers who drifted over last year, but also the free improv fans that have been behind him since his first releases. I can honestly see large portions of both groups disliking this. At the same time, by releasing this on Hanson he’s reaching a whole new crowd just as he did with Mego. This is his chance to reach kids without an ounce of concern for laptops or improv. He’s in heavy rotation with Iron Maiden and Morbid Angel now and I’m pretty certain that’s where he’s wanted to be for a while.
Assuming we don’t all die in the earthquakes and floods resulting from the planetary collision, I can’t wait to see what he does next. I have no doubt that he can take even this to another level. I know a large amount of people didn’t think Sheer Hellish could be outdone. I know they’re all feeling a little silly right now, too. Midnight approaches and I’m starting to think we’ll all live to see the weekend, but I’m going to play this one more time anyway. This could very well be my last chance.
Reviewed by: Mike Shiflet
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01