Axis of Blood
ost bands that fuck around in the American underground electronics/noise/drone scenes try to capture 4-real grit of bloated corpse fidelity, instead of laying the skeleton bleached and bare. Herds of bands purposefully record on busted walkmans and go all out for the sound as opposed to mastering (in all the senses of the word) the content. So it’s good to hear something once in a while that hasn’t been steeped in piss. Blood Money utilize a comparable palette of sounds to most any other avant group, it’s just possible in their case to actually hear every nuance of vocal and every slip of the dial.
This trio (Tom Worster on modulator, Ken Ueno on vocals and Jon Whitney on rhythms) might claim, via the press release, to be putting the rock back into the experimental, but this is no dumb blow out. In fact, Axis of Blood is categorically un-rock—and all the better for sounding crafted, simple, and intuitive. The electrostatic pulsing that fills in opener “Russolo”’s ribs is like the wet crackle of rain on tarpaulin, avoiding the fury of digital fireworks. Like much of Axis of Blood, it has the feel of stripped down Japanese noise: the layers peel back to reveal the essence of the rhythmic patterns (instead of the violent overload) and shallower shadows of frequency abuse (instead of ear melting). The death-breath groan of Ueno’s circular breathing only adds fuel to the idea.
The mix of sounds swarms the vocals on “Delillo,” the rhythms and debris intermittently flagellating the vocal line and threatening to swallow it whole. These warm digitals provide a perfect balance against the organism-in-distress human sounds. Ueno’s vocals (and range of styles) are the immediate focal point of Axis of Blood, but repeated listens reveal the delicacy and freedom of both Whitney and Worster’s equally important contributions. The beats are wonderfully low-key, refusing to serve as a framework—like the pulsing of blood they manage to be utterly essential but removed from the spotlight.
“April” further showcases this intense symbiotic relationship between voice, rhythm, and pitch manipulation. Its fleshy squelch and cartilage creak build a metrical fog surge that pulls pneumatically. As the oscillator levels spin, the sounds are flitted into the far corners of the headset. But it’s the closer, “Jet,” that’ll keep you coming back for more. Here a metal scrape drone progresses at a snail's pace, becoming more aggressive / oppressive by tiny nail-pulling increments over twenty minutes. The squints of just audible liquid manipulation somewhere in the back right of the mix only adds to the sunken creepiness. Throughout “Jet,” a single bass drum note lumbers along (for almost nine minutes) before picking up a different drum sound and finally transforming into an off-kilter heartbeat. It’s done seamlessly, building the notes carefully until it slides into place as though it had emerged from nowhere. Time to rewind.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2006-08-11