Wednesday, March 06, 2013

GR's "A Reverse Age"

GR is the nomme de disque of Gregory Raimo, who exploded into our consciousness in 2008 fronting the Gunslingers, a power trio that combined the sonic impact of the Velvet Underground's "guitar amp tape" with the noise and sheer momentum of Les Rallizes Denudes at their most anarchic -- a sound that, in its way, was as quintessentially rock as the Stooges' raw wails on Funhouse, Sleep's tectonic plate shifting on Dopesmoker, and the Monks' bluesless mutant garage grunt on Black Monk Time. Their debut LP, No More Invention, arrived on a tidal wave of hype from Julian Cope that it not only lived up to, but actually surpassed.

When Raimo -- whose Pinocchio lid is as appropriate attire for a fella from the Alpine environs of his native Grenoble as a gimme cap would be for a midwesterner -- arrived in my town the following year, along with his Parisian bassplayer and drummer, they fairly leveled the Chat Room, churning up more almighty racket than one would have thought possible from three guys playing on borrowed gear. Offstage, they were just nice cats, blown away to be seeing America from a rented van: every European rock 'n' roll kid's dream.

A second Gunslingers album was less impactful, not because it was bad, but because it had such a hard act to follow that it was almost bound to suffer by comparison. A self-released solo effort by Raimo, GR and Full Blown Expansion, added some new influences to the mix -- early Funkadelic, swamp blues Beefheart, some Krautrock -- but was still more of an adjunct to the Gunslingers' legacy than a step beyond it. On A Reverse Age, released on sweet, sweet vinyl (with download) by Brookyn-based Mexican Summer, Raimo proves definitively that he was the Gunslinger (in the same way that Prince was, uh, the Time), playing all the instruments the way he did on Full Blown Expansion, but this time with an integrated and edgy sound that could fool an unsuspecting listener into thinking it was a live band.

Not only does Raimo play his ass off on a full array of axes, he also manipulates tapes to create a head-spinning sonic canvas, like a noise-rock version of Electric Ladyland or some of Deniz Tek's more experimental '90s works. Opening track "Low-Born" echoes the frenetic forward motion of Tek's '70s band Radio Birdman and their Aussie countrymen/rivals the Saints in the same way Parisians Holy Curse did a decade ago. Here, though, Raimo uses crazy tempo shifts and tape speed changes to give the impression that some cosmic DJ is fiddling with the speed control. His malevolent monotone sounds like a Francophone's distortion of an American accent.

"Vapours Invisible" and the title track blend seamlessly together, starting out as a mutant boogie recalling Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," becoming a guitar tour de force as Raimo uses a lysergic echoplex to overlay dissonant double-stops, then kicking on the fuzz and wah for some staccato strumming. Underneath the sonic assault hides a gift for melodic invention, closer to Tom Verlaine than Takashi Mizutani. The jam comes to an abrupt halt after a clattering drum solo and is quickly followed by "Hymn of Pan," an acoustic piece that's no less forceful. Raimo intones verse by Percy Shelley in the manner of a warlock casting a spell, his obsessively repeated guitar patterns building intensity as they go.

Flipping the record over, one finds more variations to the basic approach. After the backward-masked blast of "Spectre of the Brocken," "Bradtenehend" gallops away, its relentlessly insistent beat anchored by a recurring bass figure, with more megaphonic vocals and bruising fuzz and wah damage. "The Primitive Hoodoo" is based on bass and drum clatter that could have been sampled from Lick My Decals Off, Baby, setting the stage for guitar riffage that's aggressive in an almost offhanded way. The notes Raimo tosses off are almost incidental; it's the feeling he conveys (or the spleen he vents) that's of importance here. "Action Vision" ends the outing with a manic hoedown that leaves the listener breathless.

While it'd be ace if GR could get a band together and visit these United States again, we'll keep an ear cocked for his communiques, as long as they remain as righteously raw and raucous as thisun.


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