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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Heather Leigh Murray
Devil If You Can Hear Me
Volcanic Tongue

Rating: 7.8/10 ?


February 15, 2008
For four minutes, sour pedal steel strings produce a demented slackjawed screech against snowy amplification. Tones peel away from anything resembling chromatic notes and curl around a centerless vortex like lint in a dryer. Then she begins to sing, like a lost girl in the woods, in a carefree and slightly nervous warble, "Johnny told you to come out of the road." She plays with the phrase, moaning and ululating, scratching herself like a turntable or a scab. Only it never bleeds, only engorges and becomes infected, melting into coppery sheets, its only lyric hinting at a comeuppance that never arrives. The warnings shorten into small cautionary balloons: "You better/wouldn't/could've listen to him," and finally, repeating "get out of the road/ get out of the road." The horrifying "Porch Fighter," the opening cut from Heather Leigh Murray's Devil If You Can Hear Me, does this for nearly fifteen minutes. The closest cousin I know is Sonic Youth's staticky, flickering "Contre Le Sexisme," but let's be real; I've never heard anything like it.

No big champion of noise or avant-garde music, I usually find guitars at a dead end without melody or rhythm or at least shifting sound effects, and the austere quality of most noise albums more often puts me to sleep than annoys me (Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music is a hell of a lullaby if you turn it down). Heather Leigh Murray's sound, however, on what may be a one-off synthesis of the tension I crave, adds tangible feelings: black humor, sensuality, lyricism. And, crucially, singing. Hearing her vaguely Cat Power-ish verses of improv-blues juxtaposed with fuzzboxed, burnt-rubber pedal steel is indeed a unique experience, lyrical and disturbed, and it nearly carries the whole of the vinyl-only Devil If You Can Hear Me towards transcendence. "Porch Fighter" sets up the moaning whale-songs that make up the shorter "Wrecking Crew," a track that sounds like a backwoods run through Aphex Twin's ambient works, again until her strangely soothing vocal exercises (exorcises?) pick up the slack halfway through. I never, ever want to wake up in a pile of leaves while this is playing.

The less remarkable "Candy Butcher" is less confident of its ability to scare the shit out of me, so it attempts to shock via endurance torture, encompassing 21 minutes of mixed-down wind chimes and bewitched whistling before the obligatory feedback glazes over. It's sweeter than its predecessors, which is to say it's only mildly less evocative of an oncoming total nightmare. Because winding, ambient records were invented for hyperactive writing, I'll draw you a comparison: beat Joanna Newsom's Ys bloody, drag it through a sun-baked mud marsh, and turn its entrails out. I can't say other pop fans like me should take the chance, but if you ever find yourself seeking… I don't know, rewarding nausea, there are worse ways to treat your body.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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