Monday, October 22, 2012

Sohns 'Ripe/Rot' on Flannel Gurl Records

Flannel Gurl Records is barely a couple years old now with already something like twenty releases and here comes another single from Sohns, of Texas which seems to have something to do with nurturing an epic approach to sound, it could be that horizon, or just cheap giant space I imagine is everywhere but NYC. Flannel Gurl is always surprising with a real cross section of underground stuff, from Buck Gooter to Sohns, there's no telling what's going to grab their attention. Jonathan and Kimmi seem to be pressing a huge variety of great stuff and it's always going to be great to hear what they've been up to, chances are I've never heard of them and they'll be worth listening to, of course.

A-Side's "Intro" sets the stage for this long, haunted medieval ride with an organ you're just catching pieces of, coming from down the block working it's way over an old man telling a creepy story about the gods... reminding me of that Godspeed track about the end of world (isn't that every track? -ed). Sohns are hinting at the ancient forces at work behind the scenes on this single, the sort of scope of things to come, they're gong to tackle it all here....good and evil and the actions of men and their higher powers. "Soul Train Blues of the Broken Skull" then busts in with layered distortion from epic guitars with force, but really Alex Mendez's vocal is the defining sound of this complex metal that's been honed and transcribed into all it's variations. The exact opposite of darwin, every possible permutation has been given room to spin off and rear it's mutated little head. But back to that vocal which is the highest, falsetto pitch scream, yelling himself completely raw in a combination of Cedric from At the Drive In and Ian Svenonius joined in high pitchery, rattling skulls and piercing through the thick sludge of the instrumnetation.
I happened to be watching that opera scene from Margaret this weekend and was struck by how the vocal in that genre works in this very specific register way outside the range of the orchestra and maybe there's a little of that thinking here. It certainly is dealing with similar subject matter in a lot of ways. They are rifling around real depths of creep here, abstract imagery, going for intricately crafted Illuminations, that same dense horror imagery Rimbaud was going on about has been applied to the composition of this rock and this ends up in a prog metal place not unlike The great Mars Volta, although Sohns seem to have carved out their own pretty specific heavy hitting direction. "Abomination" seems to run right out of the first track with more thick guitars and that throbbing percussion. Alex is back in that vocal screech, (there's really no other way to describe it) it doesn't just stick with a single pitch though...there's a huge range within that tortured yell and that depth
gives this lyric it's unique viewpoint. This genre is used to extreme's, you either have the black metal indecipherable growl or the banshee scream exhibited here. It's an extreme commitment to this style of performance, and your body be damned. There's no thought about not being able to perform like this forever either. There's a built in limited timespan. All those aspects make this interesting outside the content even, the way they're testing those limits which I think the lyrics are even referencing.

B-Side's "The Hole in the Foul" is another sort of intro to the other side, a slow, lonely organ with this slappy, clapping rhythm, footsteps thudding against wood... feet on a deck with far off chants, these are witch times, there wasn't any science, you just explain away misunderstood things with the devil. "Soul Salvation" takes that plodding rhythm and joins it to buried guitar that's working in huge swaths of distortion and then falls back in to follow this dizzy bassline. They also possibly get the most ridiculously heavy on this one, everything dropping in on that down note, completely pristine like the tones off In the Meantime, a real appreciation for each thick layer in it's own space. The guitar is still this blunt instrument most of the time, laying waste in big headbanging bursts, not sounding ominous in that sort of we-are-doomed way but in the revolutionary sounding destroy way, althought it's about the devil, and the darker side of things, it seems like it could be about fighting back. That thick distorted bass sound is always great. They flirt with all these melodies and come up with a cohesive master plan vocally in the middle of this swirling mass, building the layers, guitar tones winding up like jet engines. Wheezing, they hit a new peak every time this starts up again. It's a challenging vocal, but I don't think that any of this is meant to come across as very easy. Their wresting with primal sorts of things here and the instrumentation reflects that in every rumbling, frightening way.

Three different color pressings, from Flannel Gurl Records

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