The accompanying editorial on the Squidco marquee begins, "When I see two guys playing 'electronics' on one album I'm usually quite reserved." Shadowing this, I will say that when I see "tribal percussion" listed as an instrument, I shut it down. Non-Western, the instruments associated with this phrase are tools for religion, ceremony etc. (djembe translates "everyone gather in peace"); on this side of the world, the use is often ornament, corniness, soundtracks for American movies set in India, stoner drum circles, failed homage.
Fortunately, Psychotic Redaction contains nothing of the latter — actually, there isn't much of the former in there. What is present is an element that elevates the label to "feral", and music that, based on the ensemble, takes the listener by surprise. "Anxious Expectations of Paradise" is the type of jolt and continued bombast you experience as a car collides with a living room or (running with "tribal") a tiger and elephant sequestered together. Behind a modified kit, Michael Zerang spawns a driven rumble of augmented tambourine, chimes, hand and bass drums to match Kyle Bruckmann's screaming shehnai (or an oboe doing a fantastic interpretation) raga. Pianist / ARP 2600 master Jim Baker's job is to literally tear up the sonic fabric; if the album were visual art, Zerang would be the subject matter, Bruckmann the abstraction that pushes the idea's direction and Baker as the cleaver that chops up the canvas and reassembles the pieces into something else. The "electronics" portion is anything goes, from ripping, glitching feedback to high register bleeps and sine waves to growling bass to patch cord static and pops, all cycled through with virtuosic speed and facility. As the work progresses, Bruckmann introduces digital manipulation to add microtonal harmonies and exaggerated speed to his already rapid movements. Then it gets louder — but you can hear every detail of the onslaught.
On "All Our Treasures Turned to Avalanche", Zerang applies even nimbler fingers and irregular patterns under more sustained notes and heavy lines of multi-tiered distortion. "Stretch Marks in Space Time" is a cooperative effort by the trio with Zerang's steady ostinato gradually comb filtered, pitch-bent and spatialized for six minutes, ending in a hissy gurgle. With "20,000 Light Year Ping Pong Party", all organic notions are replaced by an electroacoustic machine: choked micro-rhythms escape, are squashed into fizzes; microphones bang against a metal floor (maybe); someone trying to locate a station on a dying ham radio never finds it (because the user is too busy circling the whistles and hums in the spaces between the frequencies); a little bit of mulched piano in there...somewhere.
The draw of Psychotic Redaction is the unobvious lack of musical integration, the trio engaged in playing what they know best at their best. It's a devious juxtaposition that makes no apologies. But as Tōru Takemitsu wrote, "If there is a sound that is alive, some kind of order will naturally exist."
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