Sunday, March 29, 2015

Strangers No More

It's pretty rare to hear a recording so amazing that the live act seems to pale in comparison.  Especially for loud, heavy bands, the experience of seeing said band crushing it (your face) on tour can be transformative.  Recently when the VVers went to Baltimore's Metro Gallery to see Brooklyn's A Place to Bury Strangers things were more in the reverse.  This is not a slight to the band (having only seen them once live) and instead has shed new light to how truly impressive their recorded work is.

The VVers have more than a few platters by these guys, but it is their second album, the titanic Exploding Head, first introduced by Brother VV as a gift, that has spawned such musical affection.  Even though drenched in feedback, the production values on Exploding Head (and most of the APTBS records, for that matter) are fantastic.  It's hard to get enough of that signature APTBS sound: crisp, echoey, devastating.  Exploding Head is a frenetic batch of songs with sonics so over the top that by the end it's not hard to imagine the recording studio being blasted off of the map.  Even more amazing is how the mix of sharp drums and direct guitar riffs easily sticks in your head.  That's right, high speed noise-rock that is catchy.  Exploding Head is on crystal-clear vinyl and the band often does a respectable job pressing their vinyl on fun colors; Strange Moon is bright tie-dye yellow and the new single is translucent blue (read on)!

Back to the aforementioned concert in Baltimore, VVer #2 spied some highly unusual looking vinyl at the merch table and had to claim it as her own.  The packaging contains the equivalent of a solid quarter-inch thick metal trivet (this thing is really heavy!) for a front cover of the 45.  The single "We've Come So Far" is from APTBS' new album, Transfixiation.  It is a moody track that briefly enters the realm of radio friendly, but that thought is quickly atomized by the instrumental pulverizing that ensues.  Singer Oliver Ackermann takes an impressive vocal journey with female vocalist Emilie Lium Vordal through speeding guitars and CHAOS!  It is a fine melding of relatively calm vocals overlaid with serious reverb.  Somewhere mid-way dissonance overwhelms melody into disintegration, to reform back again just in time for the close of the track.  Yes, thar be serious loudness here, but it be quite pleasing to the spleen.  The sleeve notes indicate it was recorded by a cooperative in Etne, Norway.  Good job Norge on loving crazy music; the VVers have been to Norway and approve.  Hah!  On the B-side, "Resistance" combines patient industrial mayhem on what, at first listen, sounds like a purely instrumental track.  Credits to vocals beg another few listens.  The singing in question, which is 99% muffled so that the lyrics might just as well be about anything.  It's as if the vocals are transmitted over a CB, then beamed to Mars, and back again to be played over the speakers in a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.  Enter drums like thundering machine guns and done.  APTBS keeps this track short as it's more or less a fragment, but not in a bad way.   Nice tour purchase for VVer #2!

The VVers have plans to see APTBS in the near future at Austin Psych Fest, "Levitation."  The venues couldn't be more different: tiny club in Baltimore and giant outdoor festival in Austin. Fingers crossed that they play a night set and bring "the goods."  The Vinyl Vagabonds will be there; earplugs at the ready and eagerly looking for the merch table.

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