Friday, January 25, 2019


Speaking of my buddy Geoff from Philly, we were talking today about extreme volume in rockaroll. I've always maintained that if you start by turning up your amp until you can feel your solar plexus vibrating, you can't go wrong. Geoff takes it a step further: "If the volume is high enough, the music can get into your soul."

As if to prove his thesis, hot on the heels of their 2018 debut, CHORD -- the electric guitar duo of Nick Didkovsky (Doctor Nerve, Eris 136199) and Tom Marsan (Delta Garage, The Handler's Hand) -- just released a second installment in their ongoing exploration of the sonic possibilities of electric guitars and amplifiers driven to the outer limit of their capacity. Imagine a detail from a Sleep or Melvins song in extreme closeup (in the same way as those bands are like ECU re-imaginings of Black Sabbath's dark and durable sound), or the logical extension of the work of NYC noisicians Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, and you'll have an idea of what's going on here.

Initially, the sound can be overwhelming. But listen to CHORD II long enough and you'll notice shades of detail and nuance amid the droning sturm und drang. On the opening "Signal," jarringly abrasive chords (starting with Hendrix's beloved augmented 9th and going progressively farther out) lay the groundwork for swooping feedback howls and shrieks, raging harmonics, and splintered shards of melody. The effect is curiously cleansing -- an atonal exorcism you could use (as Amiri Baraka once wrote of Trane's Ascension) to heat up the house on cold days.

"Our Or Us" begins with pealing midrange tones like tolling bells that multiply echolalically to serve as the launching pad for rapid-fire, high-register pummeling (the heritage of "Sister Ray" and Sonny Sharrock audible here). "Dust" is a shorter piece that's quiet and moody, but maintains an undertow of menace, segueing into "It Fails Me," which begins in a meditative manner that gradually gives way to increasing agitation -- like Sonic Youth at their most exploratory -- building to an intensity that fades abruptly to feedback wisps. "Yellowing" is the tour de force here, a Wagnerian blast of amplifier worship. (Funny: In recent years, I've come to realize that childhood exposure to Strauss and Wagner -- my old man's faves -- at pain-threshold volume actually prepared me for the Who and Hendrix.) "A Retreat from God" ends things on a surprisingly lyrical note, like "flying brick wall"-era King Crimson in repose.

A bold and bracing spin that's also surprisingly varied. Physical CDs are available from Didkovsky's label Punos Music (link above) or Bandcamp, where you can also obtain digital downloads.


Post a Comment

<< Home