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A Couple of Satisfying Musical Freak-Outs
New York Chaos, Wailing Weird Sister
Channeling a no-wave era dark primitivism with pummeling dissonance and controlled insanity, the New York quartet Cellular Chaos kicks down the front door to deliver its debut album, a refreshing blast of spastic rage like hellhounds running upright, wielding tasers.
Band founder and guitarist Weasel Walter is known for a notable career of adrenaline-fueled boundary-pushing noise-rock and improvised music, in groups such as The Flying Luttenbachers, Behold…The Arctopus, Lake of Dracula and XBXRX, and for those familiar with his oeuvre, Cellular Chaos fits right in perfectly.
He’s joined by drummer Marc Edwards, known mostly in the free-jazz realm for collaborations with notables such as Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware, lead vocalist Admiral Grey of the electro-avant-pop duo Ecstatics and bassist Ceci Moss.
Admiral Grey’s singing style fuses a bratty discontent with an impulsive kind of terror, evoking a genetically engineered spawn of Lydia Lunch and Kathleen Hanna, and Edwards offers a brutal, primal rock pounding, only seemingly drawing from his free-jazz background for a few choice fills or outbursts to keep listeners on their toes.
With Moss’ ultra-distorted fuzz bass and Walter’s precise, electro-shock-damaged buzzsaw guitar licks, the quartet frantically detonates in unison with a mind-weld tightness, demonstrating that the crazed aural dance is choreographed.
In this artificial tornado, the standout feature of Cellular Chaos is Walter’s guitar work, with impressive chops and unusual sound effects that are simultaneously stimulating, irritating and fascinating. The album never gets a chance to ever get boring, and it ends gloriously with “Hum,” which opens up the floodgates for one of the most satisfying musical freak-outs of recent memory, like a runaway bullet train hurtling through a decaying city that derails, launching into space for a sci-fi horror flick.
Cellular Chaos will play Sluggo’s North on November 9
Slumberland Records is one of those labels that has forged an identity over the years in the indie world with a recognizable aesthetic that accommodates a certain amount of variation.
Much like Dischord was known for hardcore or TeenBeat was known for Anglophile guitar pop in the ’90s D.C. scene, Slumberland built its early reputation on noisy indie-pop from groups like Velocity Girl and Black Tambourine.
It relocated to the West Coast, and in recent years, it has experienced its second wind, earning success with bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Crystal Stilts. Notably, the label’s aesthetic hasn’t changed very much, but what is remarkable is that for the most part, it yields a consistently high quality output of material.
The new, debut album Weird Sister from the Cardiff, Wales quintet Joanna Gruesome is pretty much exactly what one might expect from a Slumberland record, in terms of both manner and quality.
It’s got the irresistible boy/girl singing style like labelmates Veronica Falls, stimulating and thumping floor-tom/snare-drum beats like Black Tambourine, and fuzzbox-distorted discordant guitar chords along the lines of My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realise” heard on the tracks “Sugarcrush” and “Madison.”
If there is one thing that’s surprising, it’s that Weird Sister rocks more than you’d anticipate from an indie-pop album, and its kinetic and spirited tunes sometimes bring to mind the ’80s British group Talulah Gosh, gleefully assuming a punk attitude while motoring through songs about mental illness. “Lemonade Grrrl” keeps itself together with tension despite sounding like it could fall apart at any moment behind the vocals, with a swift, basic rhythm and carpal-tunnel-syndrome-inducing minimalist guitar strumming.
Weird Sister is a well-executed album, and although Slumberland fans may pretty much know what they’re getting into, it exceeds expectations just a little.