ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE
Starless and Bible Black Sabbath
You can probably guess by Acid Mothers Temple's name that they're taking more than the recommended dosage. But the Japanese group aren't the only travelers along the heavy-experimental-rock route to rise out of their home country. Going back as far as the early '70s with the criminally unknown Les Rallizes Denudes and continuing to the present with the work of Boredoms, Ghost, and Keiji Haino, Japan has had no shortage of out-there noise rock. Among the modern members of this academy, Acid Mothers are known for dwelling on hard rock's edge—and often for jumping off of it.
With Starless and Bible Black Sabbath, the band do the title a degree of justice. AMT reference several of Tony Iommi's famous riffs, but they also throw in vocals deep down a well of reverb and amazingly about 30-plus minutes of wah-wah-drenched guitar solos. Amazing not so much for its appropriateness or quality, but for how unselfconsciously long it goes on, even for a psychedelic-rock record. That being said, the album's title track is redeemed by its uncoiling of a mammoth guitar incantation as analog-synth bubbles pepper the dirge. A second track, "Woman from Hell," approaches similar territory, but at a Motörhead-esque pace that conveys most of the ideas of the prior song in about a fifth of the time.
While excess is largely the appeal of Acid Mothers Temple, it's also a deal breaker for many listeners, for better or worse. And that's their loss. SCOTT GOODWIN
Sleepless in Seattle: The Birth of Grunge
I once wrote a Melody Maker cover story featuring Kim Deal and Kurt Cobain: I traveled all the way from London for 18 hours in Seattle, ranted about Christmas being crap to the shocked pair, then left. The paper titled the story "Sleepless in Seattle."
This is by way of pointing out—yes!—here is another grunge compilation; the roots of grunge, no less. Compiled by erstwhile Stranger contributor Clark Humphrey, no less. Rare tracks, no less. Mark Arm's pre–Green River outfit, the zany Mr. Epp, no less. Mark Arm's post–Green River outfit, the wacky Mudhoney, no less. Mark Arm's circa Green River outfit, the ker-razy Green River, no less. The U-Men! Skin Yard! The Gits! Blackouts! Nice.
Trouble is, the album's title is misleading: Screaming Trees, Treepeople, Melvins, Seaweed, Babes in Toyland from Seattle? I think not. And hold up: What the fuck is Hammerbox doing on this comp? Birth of grunge? That's like saying Bush (the band) came before Nirvana. Were the Supersuckers grunge? They were a riot, sure—but grunge? What about Coffin Break? And why no Blood Circus, Swallow, Gas Huffer, Temple of the Dog... or Nirvana, for gawdsakes?!
As a compilation, it makes for some entertaining listening. As a historical artifact, the collection is flawed. EVERETT TRUE
Snaps! is a compilation of recent work by Seattle beat-builder Mr. Hill. The CD's 12 tracks feature guest performances from leading, regional MCs, including Anaxagorous, Onry Ozzborn, JFK, and Boom Bap Project. Mr. Hill's reputation primarily rests on the music he's produced for the members of the Oldominion universe. In the way that RZA's sound defined the Wu-Tang Clan, a large part of Oldominion's sound, and by extension much of the Pacific Northwest's sound, is defined by Hill's musical instincts and ideas. Strings are his specialty, which he employs for cinematic effects and moods that correspond with Gothic architecture and the dark factories of the industrial revolution. But as Snaps! makes clear, Mr. Hill is not confined to the cathedral aesthetic that he regularly programs for associates of Oldominion—particularly Greyskul, Onry Ozzborn, and Barfly. (Mr. Hill's new collaboration with Barfly, Niteowls, is worth checking out.)
Some of the beats on Snaps! are jovial ("Saloony"), others are catchy ("As I Talk"), and many are surreal ("English"—a track that successfully loops a Northwest thunderstorm with vocals from a Bollywood score). The disc's peak points are occupied by the Silent Lambs Project: as a group, "Runnin Traffik," and as solo efforts, Jace Ecaj's "Workshop" and Silas Blak's "Unorthodox Skill." Mr. Hill and Silent Lambs Project must never end their working relationship. Nor should Mr. Hill, who is currently building beats for Kool Keith, ever abandon the boom-bap gothika that he helped to create—it so accurately captures the spirit of a part of the world that has too many serial killers, too many days without sunshine, and too many people jumping to their deaths from the Aurora Bridge. CHARLES MUDEDE