Hearts Of Darkness
Music For Drunk Driving
here are a number of different ways to structure an album. There are so many, in fact, that attempting to discuss them all could easily fill up an article; but for the purpose of dealing with Hearts Of Darkness’ (aka Frank Musarra) first album, one contrast is particularly instructive: The collection of relatively few longer tracks as opposed to the collage/patchwork method of stitching together many smaller bits to make a whole.
This latter method has been used successfully by everyone from Guided By Voices to Prefuse 73, and Musarra attempts it here: giving us 24 tracks in 36 minutes. There are generally two ways the patchwork approach plays out: Either wildly disparate parts are sewn together to create a kaleidoscopic, panoramic whole, or each variation on a theme or sound accretes like silt, slowly building up to a larger picture that despite the similarity between many of the pieces lends them all new importance. Hearts Of Darkness tries the latter tactic here, but it simply doesn’t work.
The album is coloured, to paraphrase REM, headache grey; individual minute-long tracks of harsh digitized beats and Musarra’s screams and sobs are semi-interesting, but when repeated a few dozen times any initial novelty or joy wears off. Very, very few of these tracks are identifiable without reference to a track listing. “Whispehr” is softer than usual, “Bicycle Patrol Go!” more beat-oriented, but mostly the tracks end up sounding indistinguishable from one another. For the first five or six minutes it’s kind of bracing, but the sound Murasso has crafted isn’t interesting enough to warrant the repetition Music For Drunk Driving indulges in.
The title, at least, is apt; the songs here lurch back and forth, all mental faculties and hand-eye co-ordination blunted. The album actually plays like a selection of the short, jokey, willfully unenjoyable tracks that Aphex Twin placed frequently on his albums; imagine if Squarepusher’s Selection Sixteen consisted entirely of tracks like “8 Bit Mix #1” without any “Square Rave”s or “Tomorrow World”s to provide balance. In the context of that album, such short distractions are tolerable and even welcome as interludes and refreshers. Making an entire album out of them is a mistake, akin to baking chocolate chips without the dough.
About the only part of Music For Drunk Driving that provides interest is Musarra’s vocals. Heavily distorted, muffled by the music, his incoherent cries and occasional breakdowns, maniacal laughter and shouted commands put a personal stamp on the songs that keep them from being completely unbearable. If he’d actually gone more extreme than the rather pedestrian modern IDM backings and focused more on his distortion of the human voice Music For Drunk Driving would be both a more enjoyable listen and a far braver album.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-06-01