billy bao: urban disease (pan)

imagesmmm how odd. a noise record that’s all about the silence. dominated, as it is, by long uncomfortable tense creeps of it. like the dialogue at the start of lost highway. as much as what’s not said (or heard) as is. juxtaposed of course with clusterbombs of interference and harsh audio hallucinations.

s’pose on the surface you could consider silence the antithesis of noise. and strange then that while noise is considered (relatively) open and free and expressive, silence often comes with negative connotations; the tyranny of silence, the fascism of shutting up, making quiet, silencing. strange, given in music it’s an inherently antagonising quality. but yeah consider yves klein’s monotone-silence; consider john cage’s 4’33. think of these as the forerunners to noise as a musical concept. if you want to call it music. not silence as such, but where harmonic blanks are filled by the listener, by traffic noise, heartbeats, breathing, uncomfortable shuffling, the creak and rattle of performer. the question noise asks is, where do you draw the lines between music and ambience and sound and silence anyway?

urban disease sometimes isn’t there if you know what i mean. sometimes, reductively, there’s little to it. maybe there’s less/more substance here (depending on yr viewpoint) than the visceral sloganeering i know and love. compared to may08 this is a very different beast, aurally, aesthetically, personnel-y. there’s no sonic overload, much more sense of space. there’s no screed, just a note that’s as much about fashion (hey hipster, your hips is gone) as capital. i dig that fact it’s been built purposefully to annoy the noise rawk billy baoists. and i deliberately use the word built as i suspect this has been utterly tinkered with from top to toe.

this time round mattin and bao are joined by taku unami’s electronickerry and margarida garcia and barry weisblat’s string and electrick improv. the fact there’s an electric double bass on here should tell you something about the angle this shit’s being approached from. poking hardcore away with an abstract bargepole. a flicker of a smirk at the po-faced angry noisers. yes indeed there are moments of subtlety, of humour, of ambiguity at work here. it’s a violence that’s in flux betwixt cartoon misanthropy and political/art conceptualising.

the promo blurb makes reference to amon düül’s psychedelic underground. if it’s a joke, it’s a good ‘un. coz at times urban disease plays like a harsh cut-up version of that records peyote drum and chant jams, studio jiggerypokery and general psych-wonkiness. it’s a record that offers tiny bits of many things. from a two chord acoustic stumble and mumble flickering in and out of the foreground, disappearing and reappearing to hypnoretardo thumps edited into stuttering kraut crunch and grind. it’s a jarring, jagged meta-narrative offered up by industrial pointillists;

s’all good but the best of it resides on side b. twenty minutes sliced open with the kindof machine snarl found on the drunkdriver / mattin lp and bleeding into a jazz rock fusion that is so fucking not billy bao (grinned a huge damned grin on first hearing that) and bowing out with a sneering jackboot beat and grey martial synth. it’s got everything, like a communist-era soviet él-g, drunk on tribal drums, industrio hiss and screech, water and waves, bowed tones, lonely spastic handclaps; peppered with tiny slivered shards of audio shrapnel, incoherent, inchoate shrieks and feedback.

the thuggish cut-ups and unarticulated silences are disorientating; a collision of stuff that leads to occasional chuckles (it has been said that billy bao doesn’t believe in hypnagogia because he always sleeps with one eye open…) but mainly to dizziness and dislocation. a continual forty minute rewiring of the minds perception. maybe it’s a play on debords society of spectacle. or maybe it’s just a raped jazz fusion record. where’s those pesky lines again?

pan / mattin

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