Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chen Santa Maria on 333 Recordings/Zum Records

Zum records sent this single over from Chen Santa Maria and the 333 Recordings label, who I haven't heard from since the Girl Talk single that came out years and years ago it seems they're back with this co release with Zum and their signature hole punched edition system.

Chen Santa Maria are working with sounds that must take ages to construct. It's layers of distorted sounds you can't place, that dreamy, haunting, full of delay, masterpieces...the fact that the equipment used to craft these two was stolen is a damn shame, but I'm sure that kind of thing for Chen isn't so much a setback as it is an opportunity for future happy accidents to create something even more ear bending than these two tracks. But I'm partial to complex instrumental music of all kinds, from the Don Cab to the John Fahey's, there's no obvious message to get in the way, no vocals to distract you from just listening...and maybe that's what makes it so easy to fail when attempting this, you're pretty exposed, twisting knobs, so it better be good. Let alone in an already crowded genre with classically trained composers getting in on the act. That being said these two sides are both great.

"Jefferson Chopper", on the A-Side does invoke the obvious helicopter blade imagery with a harsh intermittent stutter that gives way to another primal electronic sound underneath; the sine wave hum of a cable, they even slow it down to it's most elemental...AC, the wave bounces down the cable and then back to the source. They will these kind of sounds out of nothing, and it's something that is instantly recognizable as inhuman. I appreciate that they celebrate the source. They are sounds that could only be made out of a mess of patch cables, at the end of a chain...you're not sure what that knob is even doing anymore, it can't be repeated in the lab, try to just capture it with a microphone, which is only going to really capture part of it anyway. It's definitely challenging and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The B-Side, "Great Society" takes that utopian mindset in instrumentation and builds up the delayed loops and quiet rumblings into one great climax, that's always ultimately how it's going to end after all. You can take the view that you should live in the present or give in to the idea it's all going to fail eventually, society, the sun, the universe. Chen Santa Maria is choosing the latter. It's also the sounds of inevitable progress, harsh, repetitive machinery, clanking away at something. Getting ever louder, taking over everything, drowning out the other sounds. The machine gun distorted guitar riffs layered and off set, become almost a didgeridoo; low, warbling, primal. It's almost as if they're working that last smash of the climax backwards from the beginning, some kind of reverse big bang theory. It was there all along, waiting to reveal itself. Even when the climax is over, there's a few machines sticking it out, mindlessly repeating their tasks.

I'm writing some kind of trashy sci-fi short story when I hear them, but really.... they manage to do a lot with the limited amount of time here and without falling into what you would imagine is the usual sound for sound's sake. There is plenty of thought behind this and it's easily as interesting anything Black Dice has done recently...a great sample of things to come given the room to really stretch out live or full length.

Jefferson Chopper/Great Society 7"
numbered green 1 through 49
numbered orange 50 through 109

The duo of George Chen and Steven Santa Maria document another phase in their half-decade collaboration of improvised sonic experiments. This co-release with 333 (7" single series that has worked with Deerhoof, Girltalk, Crack: We Are Rock) captures the band playing with rhythmic elements recorded with Brian Tester (Bulbs, Triangle) in pastoral Berkeley, CA. The pedals and effects used for this recording were stolen shortly afterward so this is the last of this type of sound, not by choice but necessity. Having toured Europe and UK in Spring 2010 (opening for Mount Eerie, High Places, Talk Normal, and Weasel Walter), CSM continues its California campaign. Numbered edition of 250.

Get it from Zum Records.

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