’m currently up to my ankles in a myriad of limited releases from the noise scene’s latest mercurial trio, Lambsbread: homemade CD-Rs with pasted on covers and mad-libbed titles (Rodney King Was on PCP That Night being a personal favorite), unmarked cassettes of collaborations with like-minded youth and old street vermin, a lone brain-crushing 7" for Skulltones Records, and some live MP3s lifted from a kid in Denmark who has never seen their faces, even in pictures. When Stereo Mars, the Delaware, Ohio band’s first widely distributed release and debut for Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace, arrived at my door, it almost overwhelmed me. Do I really need anymore torture in my life? No one sits and listens to this shit all day.
I was tempted to write the review blind, not even put the damned thing on the turntable and wing the whole thing. After all, I know exactly what it’s going to sound like: long instrumental fits of guitar and drums in a grotesque knife fight for breathing room, with little regard for fidelity as long as the mic has captured the “energy” of the “jam.” My prediction is fairly spot-on. Stereo Mars is two sides of untitled, uninterrupted, infernal racket with next to no air, but that doesn’t make the record any less visceral or exhilarating upon initial contact.
It’s easy to call bullshit on Lambsbread. What they do isn’t exactly noise per se. There’s no knob-twiddling or tone sculpting, no pedal fondling or vocal manipulations. Guitarists Zac Davis and Kathy O’Dell relentlessly piss into the void while the band creates a chaos both transcendent and repulsive. Though the foaming, elitist enclave that has been privy to their new language might throw around descriptors like “pure improvisation” or “free-rock,” such superlatives would require a certain amount of technique, a psychic connection reserved for the finest jazz players, of which Lambsbread does not possess. What Lambsbread does best is shred, and according to a colleague of mine, in his enlightened interpretation of the band, Lambsbread “shred hard.”
Stereo Mars goes straight for the jugular with no rhyme, reason, or rhythm. It would be useless to give a play-by-play of the album’s separate sides—I can only say that these pieces, at times, find a plane of unity; whether it’s in a consuming riff that could be considered hardcore concrete (which the band considers a major turn-on), malnourished post-punk, or brief sublimity through the tribal drumming of Shane Mackenzie. The utter lack of mixing within the album—on the boards and between the band—is its most intriguing aspect. With repeated listens, and in varying emotional states, the listener could very well conjure up just as many takes on what exactly is going on.
Though there are revelatory glimpses of Othrelm’s million-notes-a-minute arpeggios, Lightning Bolt’s punishing sonic barrage, and Harry Pussy’s patriarchal influence, those bands presented ideas that eventually evolved and subsequently explored new terrain. At this juncture, Lambsbread suffer in a state of stunted growth. They are conducting a fresh sort of alchemy in the dark and are therefore unsure of the results—it’s either gold or coal, shit or shinola. Perhaps I’m being too critical. Perhaps I’m incapable of seeing into a future where this type of immediate, lowbrow ear candy is, intellectually, considered the avant-garde. Stereo Mars does well in projecting Lambsbread’s splattered vision and reefer-gorged modus operandi onto a larger stage, but my fingers remain crossed that this is their cork on phase one. In the meantime, I can’t get enough. If I were to die tomorrow, this would be my soundtrack.
Reviewed by: Kevin J. Elliott
Reviewed on: 2007-03-05