Thursday, December 6, 2012

UV Race / Eddy Current Suppression Ring on Almost Ready Records

I know I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating, bands are defined by their live show. It’s one thing to listen to home recorded CD-R’s that have the benefit of intense tinkering and happy accidents but when that collection of musicians gets in front of an audience, they open themselves up to the very public hits and misses of their performance and those tensions or friendships at work.
Those unspoken elements are also present in the recordings of live shows. For those of us in the states, hard pressed to ever hear the Australian underground for ourselves, Almost Ready Records has re-released a definitive document of two of the greats: UV Race and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
Having limited experience with both of these bands before listening to this split 12”, it’s impressive enough to make me seek out full length releases from both. Originally released on Aarght / Stained Circles Records this is a stripped down document of both bands, live, May 2nd, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. But it’s not the first time Almost Ready has recognized the similarity in more than just geography in these garage punk bands, having first put them together for Volume 7 of the “The World’s Lousy with Ideas” series back in 2009.

The A-Side from UV Race begins with lead singer, Marcus Reichsteiner reading an excerpt from Vasko Popa’s poem “Give Me Back My Rags”, a 13 part abstract folktale about a “monster” side of the narrator. This internal struggle is tied to UV Race’s primal point of view, a sort of battle between instinct and the trappings of modern life like the track off their first single “Lego Man”. Played immediately after the somber reading, it sounds utterly ferocious, clawing at rhythms with a frantic desperation, it’s tough and punk. This record is soaked in that all important immediacy, except for the applause at the end of the track you wouldn’t have any idea it’s directly off a soundboard at a Melbourne record store, Missing Link. It’s bringing back those post-punk ideals and has everything to do with Gang of Four’s harsh jagged sound, which has been waiting years for an heir and UV Race handily does the trick. Their brute approach to rhythm is equally quick and dirty with an intelligent political edge... of course they would lead off this record with some Serbian poetry.
“Outta Control Kids” kicks up the tempo further as this tips further into traditional punk. Dodging flying chords, Marcus yells “They’re outta control!”, an irony that isn’t lost on anyone there. “Bad News” has a fisty chord sound, beating along with the melody, full of paranoia. A sloppy backup jangle, related to the West Coast laid back garage of Nodzzz surfaces. Here the looseness works to throw you off the scent before their deeper cultural commentary rears it's snarling jaws. On “Am I In Love” they practically do away with the vocals altogether, leaving nothing but a choir of animal howling over a straight ahead tom rhythm before the strumming electric comes in. There’s no room for solo’s in their stylistic metaphor against individualism. They repeat, hardly even changing chords, a bare melody marching on. “M.A.S.H.” even resembles something from Pink Flag in it’s darker moments with Marcus' bursts of verse creeping in between the angled construction. This track also captures their skill at live improvisation, when the chorus becomes an impossible tangle of changes, it feels deliberate once this snaps back into shape. Nothing phases these guys, they’re about creating this awkward tension with calculated mistakes. Like true minimalists attempting to avoid the problem of creation all-together.
Like the ancient, powerful sound of an old punk band's live cassette you couldn’t possibly been alive to see, this will be the monument of UV Race at the height of their power... unless they happen to put out another live album.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring cranks up the B-Side with “Memory Lane” off their second album, Primary Colours which incredibly went on to win the Australian Music Prize about a year after this recording.
It’s been tossed around in reviews that UV Race is a younger sibling of sorts to Eddy... and the similarities are clear directly after that A-Side, the minimal simplicity and the straight ahead pounding of “Memory Lane” is a fundamental template. Their slow build of easygoing electric guitar in winding rhythm patterns could easily fit alongside UV’s references. Brendan Suppression’s vocal is right in the front of this mix with his garage snarl and slight blues feel of his lyrics. “Pitch a Tent” off their first self titled, comes at this straight ahead rock with a slight distortion with Brendan half singing and half talking parts of the vocal in a style that goes further back to the Kinks or The Sonics. A blinders-on rock and roll that’s forever interested in a bluesy, scratchy solo ending in a deafening flurry of distortion. “Time of Day” only ever appeared on a single and they dust it off to lean heavily on this bass line. A heavy crunch effect anchors this low end, and once the guitar struggles loose, it’s not going back in that cage.
“I Admit My Failures” has a moogy sounding bassline again and like those classic Wire tunes, these have that ability to grow quickly into impossibly catchy tunes that aren’t about volume or speed. They spread out, the guitar periodically jerking, grinding down after the initial burst. Brendan breaks this hyptnotic silence, peaking out his mic.
This side is surprisingly absent of audience, feeling like a proper album. I can’t stress that enough, this isn’t a traditional bootleg, as appropriate as that would be in this case. Saving the best for last they finish this side with the last track from Primary Colours, “I Don’t Wanna Play No More”. A thick and heavy one note guitar line is the core of this pounding tom track, pulling off the best kind of garage rock, amazing out of next to nothing.
“throw down your dice / pick up your winnings / count your losses / don’t you think it’s time / to say goodbye”
barely singing, because it would be too much to dress up this ugly melody.

Pick up this essential re-release on white vinyl from Almost Ready. The sleeve looks like a combination of the original handdrawn cassette covers that made up a run of the 300 released originally. The reverse has track titles and a drawing of the actual cassette tape. Like all great 7inch splits, both sides build on each other, offering a sampling of the two, encouraging comparison. Even better, this recording started out on an even more obscure and overlooked format only to make this giant leap to vinyl four years later...further proof you'll be kicking yourself later.

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