Monday, September 14, 2015

X_X's "Albert Ayler's Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto"

X_X (here confusingly billed as "X the Jazz Destroyers X," but wait -- there's a footnote) existed for a brief moment at the cleavage between '70s and '80s, while John D. Morton (who, as every Velvets to Voidoids reader knows, originated the "art terrorism" approach with the legendary, high-concept/low gig Electric Eels) was waiting to unass his native Cleveland for (where else?) NYC. They released a couple of posthumous singles, then decided to reform in the wake of an archival release (X STICKY FINGERS X, on Ektro) in 2014. Besides original members Morton and Andrew Klimeyk, the current lineup also includes bassist Craig Bell, who played with the Eels' proto-punk familiars, Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs.

Albert Ayler's Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto appears, in LP and CD editions, in the initial volley of estimable indie Smog Veil's "Platters du Cuyahoga" series -- yet another worthy installment in said label's ongoing documentation of Clevo's illustrious and muy incestuous music underground -- along with the Robert Bensick Band's French Pictures in London (1975) and the Mr. Stress Blues Band's Live at the Brick Cottage 1972-1973.

"I Am An Instrument" opens things ominously, with some dark atmospherics and musique concrete weirdness reiminiscent of fellow Midwesterners Destroy All Monsters before they added the ex-Stooges/MC5 members. Then Bell and drummer M.A. Harris kick off "The Social Whirlpool" with a groove reminicent of Ornette's Prime Time ca. Of Human Feelings before Morton and Klimeyk jump in with waves of bracingly abrasive guitar skronk and snottily intoned anomie. X_X's sound encompasses brittle textures that constantly totter on the edge of feedback, industrial noise that includes actual power tools (long a Morton trademark), and the ugly beauty of free jazz at its most aleatoric (including an actual cover of Ayler's "Ghosts").

Most of the rawk action is on the second vinyl side. Pick to click here is "Transmography," which starts out with a drum intro that's a distended version of the one from the Damned's "New Rose" and overlays it with layers of teeth-grinding, white-noise fury like the Velvets and MC5 only dreamed of. "My Terranean Home" deconstructs and reassembles Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues"; elsewhere, they take the piss out of Old Neil the same way Cobain did the Youngbloods (proving, I suppose, that they're '60s guys). "Felt Hammer" almost comes across as "Transmography (Slight Return)," but it ends things on a satisfying note. If you're a listener who likes to be physically pummeled by energy in musical form, you'll want to experience this. Proof positive, as if any more were needed, that Ohio is the secret music capital of America.

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