Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Things we like: Vomit Fist, Gorilla Mask

1) Guitarist-composer Nick Didkovsky -- a familiar of both Fred Frith (of whose Guitar Quartet he was a member) and Alice Cooper (on whose recent album Paranormal he appeared) -- is a busy guy. In the last year, he's released two and a half CDs' worth of extreme guitar duo heaviosity under the rubric CHORD, and worked on new recordings with his prog outfit Doctor Nerve. But he wasn't too busy to don black metal face paint and crank out the ten mostly short, sharp shocks of grindcore ferocity that make up Vomit Fist's sophomore opus, Omnicide. Vomit Fist's an unlikely family band, the other members being Nick's son Leo Didkovsky (Liturgy, Kayo Dot, Chaste, Dog Date) on drums and Leo's pal Malcolm Spraggs Hoyt (Chaste, Dog Date, Megalopolis) on tonsil-tearing vocalismo. Something in the confluence of the guitar's harmonics with the drums' tuning -- or is it Nick (Vurdoth) and Leo (Lurkrot)'s shared DNA? -- makes Omnicide sound like there's a third instrument present, even when they aren't augmented by a bassist or second guitarist (as they are on a couple of tracks here). When they let themselves stretch out a bit, they create music of surprising dynamic range ("Single-Minded Annihilation") and complexity ("Mass Mutation"). Over the top (in more ways than one), Skrag shrieks and growls out only the bleakest visions (dig his ad lib at the end of "Remnant Light"), attaining epic grandeur on the climactic "Choir of the Submerged Church." Listen loudly.

2) Jazz records with hard rock dynamics are no longer an oddity -- Dan Weiss' Starebaby and the Young Mothers' Morose from last year being just a couple of recent examples -- and that's fitting and proper. In the same way as there's now a generation of jazzers reaching maturity who teethed on hip-hop, there's a sizable contingent who came up hearing rock through one ear and jazz through the other, and to paraphrase Living Colour, it's their culture, so naturally they use it. Brain Drain is the fourth CD since 2012 (third for the estimable Clean Feed label) from "angry jazz" power trio Gorilla Mask, and since I last heard 'em, they've become an even more robustly assured entity. Bassist Roland Fidezius' highly motile low end thunder locks with telepathic tightness into drummer Rudi Fischerlehner's propulsive polyrhythms, over which saxman Peter Van Huffel floats his alto architectonics, switching to baritone when extra skronk and grit is required (as on the free jazz dirge "Drum Song" or the galloping "Caught in a Helicopter Blade"). Whether they're essaying a heavy groove tune like opener "Rampage," the wildest freeblow (see "Avalanche!!!"), or a balls-out rocker like the closing "Hoser" (perhaps a nod to Van Huffel's Canadian roots?), the trio's music packs a visceral punch worthy of Naked City, Last Exit, or '73-'74 King Crimson, made even more impactful by the finesse and intention with which they wield it. To these feedback-scorched ears, their most memorable outing yet.


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