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Label Spotlight: Load Records - USAISAMONSTER, Prurient & The Hospitals
by Mark Hensch

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What's in a label? That's one of the questions this special series explores. For this go around Mark Hensch takes a look at 3 releases from LOAD Records. 
 

The USAISAMONSTER- Wohaw

I'd be lying if I stated that I knew of this excellent little band before this review. The truth is, "under-the-radar" music often holds the most pleasant of surprises for discerning listeners like us, and The USAISAMONSTER's fourth disc, Wohaw, is a stellar example.

The USAISAMONSTER is a two-piece hailing from Brooklyn, New York. According to my research, the duo (Tom Hohmann on drums/keyboards, and Colin Langevin handling guitar and vocals) released two CDs first on the obscure Infrasound label. Following this, the two recorded Tasheyana Compost circa 2003 for LOAD records, and two years later the band has returned via LOAD again with Wohaw.

What makes Wohaw so interesting is the fact that it holds diversity to it's chest with a sincerity of the highest level. Wohaw is an odd see-saw between loud, raucous, and angular rock. Most critics would term this spacey, futuristic, hum rock something horribly lame like "Indie" or "Post-Rock," which, face it, does nothing for you the prospective listener. 

Wohaw's heavier rock elements are straight-up jams laced with a sense of orgiastic bacchanalia. The release hints often at the state of modern Western culture (i.e. America) and what is wrong with it, also taking the occasional worm-hole ramble back through time to salute the Native American cultures sadly harmed by Caucasian greed during America's messy birth. The album also flirts with blatant folk-rock, simplistic melodies and quiet political protest being chanted with a quiet conviction of honest belief. This refreshing medley combines the two, at times seeming like Kumbaya around the campfire or a prairie-fire raging beyond any sense of control. The folk nods are especially enjoyable; besides the fact they're damn good, it's not some bull-crap retro-folk retread. The folk here sounds modern and freakishly abstract, garish, and surreal. This is what Americana sounds like in the Computer Age.

There are many highlights on a disc this sure of itself; "Clay People" is a pow-wow dance of scalping tomahawk rock, and the disc's best cut (in my opinion) "Tecumseh" does great justice to the famous chief, mixing warm, fuzzy, quiet folk with straight-ahead rock, and a shamanistic series of vocal intonations free of stupid things like lyrical constraints near the tune's fist-pumping end. Most excellent. The next track, "Poison Plant" is an acid trip freak-out, ranting against the concept of a Western-run global village (Colin screaming in terror "The Whole World is American!") and rambling outwards into laid-back lamentation mocking "safety in numbers." Sorry to stay in a linear path, but track 5 "Riff Scientist" features extreme drums, neo-hippie folk, and barely-containing guitar vitriol all in one fantastic song. "Waterfall" is simply one of the best takes on acoustic rock I've ever heard; quiet, subtle, and unforced. "George Catlin and the Mandan Chief" carries on after "Waterfall" with even more fantastic crooning over tasty guitar arrangements. So tasty in fact, one has to give mad props to Langevin who has some serious guitar chops. This song is basically nothing but acoustica folk, and Langevin carries it all by himself with sage wisdom. In fact, there is lots of Americana on towards the albums' end; Wohaw is actually two LPs and one of them is definitely more laid-back and non-confrontational then the other...that is until the sprawling "ML king of the Punk" hits you like an arrow through the eyeball. Didn't see this one coming did we? Tribal, wild, woodwind passages seduce you into a whole New World of reinvention....does one detect King Crimson or Genesis here, perhaps Yes? A strange cross-pollination of grandiose 70's prog keyboards, acidic, scratchy, guitar rock, and vocals sounding like the indifferent ghosts of the down-trodden laughing at modern man's slow dissolution into oblivion.

Surely one of the more surprising releases this year, and definitely worth the price of admission. I recommend many go out of their way to find this piece of unfiltered art. It's like finding a cave-painting in the cliffs none have yet to climb; oddly surreal, primal, and definitely against tradition. Wohaw is an iconoclast dressed in the clothes of the past, riding their horses of talent into the future. A band truly for any age, The USAISAMONSTER take no prisoners in their singular wars against indifference, progress, greed, and the destruction of first-born culture. Like these cultures themselves, Wohaw is an infinitely worthy preservation and a delightful piece of sandpaper scraping away against urban sprawl and the conformity it brings. Hail Wohaw, the sound of discontent in an age where it is truly out of fashion to feel it. We hear you, and we are not afraid.

Rating: 

Click here for more info on this artist - One can contact The USAISAMONSTER at either massdistro@yahoo.com or cosmicelffriend@yahoo.com

See the links at the bottom for order links. 
 

Prurient - Black Vase

Black Vase is probably one of the most hypnotic, soul-destroying, ear-bleeding monsters ever. The band dropping this bombshell on an unsuspecting populace is none other than Prurient, a sort of one-man digital-age middle-finger to pretty much any trend inherent in music. 

So what makes Prurient so extreme you ask? Simple...Dominick Fernow. Fernow is all of Prurient, that is and was and shall be. Fernow crafts long, daemonic "songs" that aren't even music, more just large amplifiers perverted to meet Fernow's sick sense of art. You know how there's always something nice and kinda and pretty, and then somebody comes along and ruins it for you or makes you think about it in a much less favourable light? Prurient is like that...it is seemingly insane that one person can play nothing but horribly simple drums and two constantly tweaked speaker stacks and create a universe as utterly unholy as this. This is nothing but the sound of eroding metal, car crashes, and steam-roller fights. It is the most depressing and horrific thing I've ever heard...hell, it even beats Wolf Eyes. Despite all of this, soul-crushing doesn't instantly equal classic and as such there are many faults on a disc like Black Vase.

Vase suffers from a mix of exceedingly long length and repetitive ideas. Thought the idea of blowing fuses and torturing amplifiers to record the wails they give us, such sadism can't be taken to far. The squealing cacophony of opener "Roman Candle" is almost exactly akin to say "The Black Vase," with mild variation in tempo, lyrics, and length. The disc itself runs a little over seventy-three minutes, and though it is difficult, only the most hardy of noise junkies will be able to last that entire time (my mind was wandering too much around forty-five minutes in). Some songs like "Silent Mary" really kick ass, as the addition of drums to the avant-noise department gives them a sense of grim resolve never present in most other noise acts. "Silent Mary" has drum lines here and there, and it makes the apocalypse that much easier to weather; despite all the chaos around, one finds the sound of basic drumming oddly familiar and yet oddly discomforting, as if the drums are evil now to and just weren't before when you heard them in other bands no where near as nihilistic as this. The sadly short "Sorry Robin" is actually a really entertaining noise track; deep amp grooves are forced from the speakers (moans of sonic torture as opposed to outright wails) and sinister drums added for one of the shortest yet most interesting songs on the album. The last two songs "Lord of Love" and "Myth of Love" are knockouts as well, so visceral and downright horrifying you scarcely can believe they exist. 

I know the general tone of this review has been kind but in reality Black Vase is good but not great. Even for hardcore noise enthusiasts (for the record I'm not one but I dabble) probably will get a tad bored here; again, this album is really long, and really brutal. Fernow crafts sparse, interesting, poetry that is screamed hoarse over these freakish aural concoctions. He has some of the most disturbing vocals I've ever heard! However, they are short and rarely used, making one sitting through almost thirteen minutes of high-end wailing amps a major chore rather than anything fun. Stuff like this detracts from Black Vase alot, as there's tons of SOUND but not so much MUSIC. Cold, confrontational, and downright frightening, Black Vase is a strange collection of loose noise that sounds interesting on paper but probably won't amount to anything more than a curious novelty when the smoke clears. If you want something heavy though, probably heavier than anything else in existence, this might be a good place to start. Recommended for masochists, noise fanatics, and avant-garde music completists...a good CD, but not usually great.

Rating:  out of 

Click here for more info on Purient and a MP3 or two 

See the links at the bottom for order links. 

The Hospitals - I've Visited the Island of Jocks & Jazz

The fact a CD like this even exists is travesty enough by itself. Things are even more disheartening once you find out the Hospitals once released a self-titled full length prior to this garbled mess. The disc parades by in a thankfully short, gaudy mess of annoying, scratchy vocals courtesy of drummer/singer Adam Stonehouse. Sorry to report this newsflash, but Adam can't utter any type of vocal intonation without totally sucking. His drumming prowess is nearly non-existent and he sounds like a toddler banging pointlessly on wads of tin-foil. 

Alright, that's perhaps a tad harsh. Stonehouse really can't sing or scream or anything worth hearing courtesy of his vocal chords, but his drumming isn't bad, the production it's awkwardly smushed into is. Come to think of it, the production is trash no matter what; the band's twin guitarists, Ned Meiners and Rob Enbom, play haphazard, simplistic riffs distorted to the max and have the gall to tell us this is the pinnacle of art in music, and the production doesn't exactly help. 

To be honest, this ranks amongst the top five worst CDs I've ever heard (and I've heard some stinkers) with ease. I have no vendetta against noise/noise-rock of any kind, but in my opinion noise rock still has to be crafted with a flair for musical excellence, being noisy and all but still appealing to listeners. The goal of music (let's face it, noise is a perennially non-conformist genre) is to rebel against the norms when playing a genre like this while getting people to realize your form of art is actually better than what's popular at the time. No one would listen to punk or grunge or metal or any other genre if it hadn't come at a time where it seemed rebellious but still managed to entice people into ACTUALLY listening to and/or enjoying it. The Hospitals offer no such thing; they play a vain-glorious din of near-pointless, blaring, sonic excrement that offers no reason why a non-noise fan should get into noise and listen to similar bands. I'm sure a band like this has fans, and those people probably worship the Hospitals for the exceedingly stupid reason that no one else could actually like this, and that it totally and whole-heartedly sucks. This is laughable as good music flipping off the mainstream still has to be good; no one should like a band who writes trash to say it's trash and proclaim it's different just for being sloppy and terribly pretentious.

For anyone still interested in listening to this refuse, I'll try to point out a few tracks that were less grating or scathing to my ears. "She's Not There" is a still frustrating piece of noise, but it actually has fills and structure and hooks, something noise should still have...mainly because without them noise is noise the concept and not noise the music if that makes any sense. "Jocks and Jazz" has a few decent segments, but not much else. "Art Project" actually got my feet tapping with it's apocalyptic drum intro, and the guitars are thankfully drowned out for once and retain a place that fits; as low on my speakers as possible. Actually, the last three tracks following this almost give a slight glimmer of hope for a band like this' future. "Be" manages to submerge the listener in completely chaotic noise, but is still hooky and fun in an acid-trip kind of way. "Boom Bap Bif" is a quieter track, but slowly builds into a cascade of sonic firewalling. "Thank You" is me saying thanks to the band for keeping this horrendous album short, but it is actually a passable track as it means the end of this waste of time is nigh.

An almost intolerable mess. It never ceases to amaze me what will get signed for a simple dig at pop-culture, and an "artistic" response to it. I tried everything I could to give this album a fair chance; I listened to it in my car, my stereo, my head-phones, my computer speakers, even several top-of-the line sound systems at work during my day-shift at an appliance warehouse. I showed it off to as many as I could, imploring them to tell me if I was being an unfair bastard, and giving no credit to a place it was sorely due. Sorry Hospitals, no such luck, and all that was for naught. From any angle or logical perspective, this CD isn't worth any sum of money and has few if any glimmers of hope for anyone foolish enough to blow a paycheck on it. It probable deserves no stars at all, but I'll give it 1 and a half, the half-star for making this review a tad less annoying to write during the end, and 1 whole star for the fact a band like this has managed to fool people into thinking they're actually any good. I appreciate the clever, and any band that can market this in any quarter deserves some kind of respect for that. The Hospitals may have been to The Island of Jock and Jazz but after only seconds one wishes they'd stayed there forever and never come back to give us a disc soaked in pointless crap like this. Jocks and Jazz doesn't get any respect from me, and hopefully anyone else would be wise enough to hear my words and avoid it like the Ebola Virus...it's about as fun, and hopefully after this review sounds every bit as bad on paper. 

Rating: 

Click here for more info on The Hospitals and a MP3 or two 

Order Links

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