Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mandible Chatter-Drinking Out the Hourglass(1993)+Hair Hair Lock & Lore(1994),CDs,USA

Mandible Chatter was amongst the protagonists of the San Francisco industrial underground scene in the early 90's. In the vein of Helios Creed, the group was made up of two guitarists, Grant Miller and Neville Harson. From the duo emerged symphonies of ultra-distortion which for the most part were improvised and had incorporated the ideals from the school of cacophonists like Zoviet France, SPK, and Zeni Geva.
Serenade For Anton (Russell, 1992) contains two extracts from a ninety minute jam of a black mass held in honor of Anton Lavay (founder of the Church of Satan).
Drinking Out The Hourglass (Russell, 1993) experiments with the song format of the most concise (Swallowing The Moon, Growing Fast In Stardust e Three Days Of Grey), and beyond that of the extended jam (Instigate Acquiesce).
Hair Hair Lock & Lore (Russell, 1994) borders on the avantgarde, as their technique of sound manipulation leaves nothing untried and a vastly improved arsenal of instruments allows them more ambitious targets. The gothic frescos of Mass For Broken Needles and Coffins Filled With Earth are whirlwinds of found sounds, tape loops, overdubs and treated guitars. From Whence And To Wither retreats to human emotion via a sequenced flute. The monumental Death Of Sweetness is the ultimate industrial collage, a jungle of thuds, drones, screeches and hisses that would make even Pierre Henry proud. Grace (Manifold, 1995) is another tour de force of thundering noises, but the shock is somehow tempered by an atmospheric and psychedelic stance, one that yields more relaxed compositions such as The Silent Presence.
The natural evolution of this trend is Food For The Moon (Manifold, 1996), an almost ambient recording that employs the same techniques to a different effect. Tracks like Sad Tree Song indulge in their artificial flavoring rather than splattering its ingredients all over the acoustic range.
Measuring The Marigolds (Russell, 2000) marks a retreat into psychedelic rock, from a mellow Paisley-Underground perspective, but with an almost baroque attention to arrangements. The album is structured like a fairy tale. It opens with the county-fair organ (a` la Beatles' Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite) of The Toymaker's Dream that leads into Wynken Blynken & Nod, a mellow lullaby with echoes of Walkabouts and Donovan. And the tradition of Donovan and Simon & Garfunkel permeates simple ballads like Trampoline Town. If the roots of the work are in these dreamy folksingers, they are devastated by a sensible use of the avantgarde (the burbling, Terry Riley-an keyboards and a Bach-ian pipe organ in the tender The Lizard And I) and of ethnic music (The Grape Scrubber's Lament, for piano melody and chirping birds, raga tempo and middle-eastern cantillation). The duo (Neville Harson and Grant Miller) truly shines in the instrumental pieces, surreal chamber works like the cosmic country & western theme The Dust Blows Back (like an early Grateful Dead nightmare spun through Hosianna Mantra-period Popol Vuh) and the celestial, medieval dance for flute, cello, melody and guitar of The Willow Tree. And, just to cheer up after so much pondering, the duo concocts the epically demented vaudeville of Signposts On The Sea (a gentle version of the Holy Modal Rounders) and the ragtime/blues of Eastward Ho. The only surge of noise comes with Hurricane, a seven-minute whirlwind of neurotic guitar distortions a` la Neil Young and solemn drumming. Too bad the concept is occasionally marred by Beatles imitations (King Waterfall) and languid folk tunes (Silver Apples Of The Moon).
Grant Miller and Neville Harson turned to Robert Rich for producing Of Foreign Lands And People (Relapse, 2003). The effect is immediately evident in the smoother textures of a collage such as On The Needles of These Days, in the sleek cohesion of the nightmarish Intraference, in the subliminal musique concrete of Knight Of Coins Reversed. Whether it's Rich's influence or a new stage in their artistic growth, the duo seems to aim for a higher dimension and deeper meaning. Man Bites Spoon is two pieces in one: a sequence of organic cycles of industrial beats, and a celestial mantra floating inside a psychedelic cloud. The lengthy Native-American invocation A Sun To Lift Sleep From the Weary slowly dissolves in cosmic nebulae. Delphinium Blue converges towards a whispered drone, a vision of static transcendence. Turning to a more avantgarde approach, the duo focused on the acoustic values of their electronic mix and, indirectly, developed a more intimate aesthetics.
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