Monday, December 04, 2017

Azonic's "Prospect of the Deep, Volume One" and Blind Idiot God's "Undertow"

It is noteworthy to me how many of my favorite bands these days are duos: Pinkish Black, They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy, and Wire Nest, to name just three. Paring down the instrumentation doesn't necessarily equate with lower volume, but it certainly allows the listener to hone in on sonic detail to an unprecedented degree. A good example of this phenomenon is Prospect of the Deep, Volume One, a new album by the duo Azonic, whose members also constitute two thirds of the current lineup of instrumental trio Blind Idiot God. Here, guitarist Andy Hawkins continues the exploration of the vibrato-equipped electric guitar's extreme pitch potential that he started back in 1989 with the track "Drowning" on BIG's second album, Undertow.

On the Azonic disc, Hawkins' 7-string and doubleneck guitars are matched by drummer Tim Wyskida's unique percussion array, which consists of two tympani, a concert bass drum, and a gong, to which the estimable Bill Laswell added bowed bass and triggered samples as part of his mix translation. The gargantuan sound of their high-volume improvisations, replete with long tones and pealing feedback, is both heavy and deep: the full realization of things Hendrix hinted at with "And the Gods Made Love..." and parts of the third side of Electric Ladyland, and the logical next step after Boris' Flood.

Hawkins' Indivisible Music imprint is simultaneously reissuing Undertow, so that those who missed out the first time around can be gobsmacked by BIG's massive sound, wherein heavy rock dynamics collide with 20th century classical harmony, dub, and funk (a raging cover of Funkadelic's "Alice in My Fantasies" is a particular standout). The label also plans to re-release BIG's other out-of-print albums, the self-titled 1987 debut and 1992's Cyclotron. Lower Manhattan avant-garde godfather John Zorn adds alto sax to his composition "Purged Specimen," while Henry Rollins provides confrontational vocals on the galloping "Freaked" (originally cut for a soundtrack in 1993). Drummer Ted Epstein, who left the band in 1996, plays like a whirlwind and is a wonder throughout. Essential listening.