Clatter For Control
In this pack life where it is our natural drive to entwine our experience with than of others, the strongest union consists of two. Sure, adding more parties creates a meaningful distribution of power, and no relationship is truly binary (there is always an outside force of some kind) but there is something to be said for the power of two, for being able to stare eye to eye without glancing aside to the third wheel squeaking for grease. What do you think make the White Stripes the most potent cultural force in this new century of advanced networking (besides wholesale rip off of the shtick the Flat Duo Jets did a lot better two decades before) – its because of the power of two. (If you sense some sarcasm in that, I swear my love of the White Stripes is true! Please, Jack, don’t hurt me! I promise I won’t talk bad about you no more! covers face)
Montreal duo Hangedup embody this axiom in musical form, implemented by viola with effects pedals and a very expressive drumkit. Their loosely bicycle-themed Ragnarok Clatter for Control brings Gen Heistek’s viola, often a red-headed stepchild in the string family, up to the edge of the cliff so it may shoot off arcs of lightning and settle the violent seas, while Eric Craven’s drum kit operates in grumbles and cracks up in a thunder cloud looming overhead. The appropriately named “Klang Klang” opens the album, with a swarm of locusts, giving into the equally aptly-monikered “Alarm” where layers of viola build up in menacing air raids with bursts of distorted death from below spouting to the surface. All the while Eric’ percussive ghost train careens around the tracks at breakneck speed , coming together to create some of the most elegant tension these ears have clenched up around in some time.
“A Different Kind of Tension” provides exactly that, where staccato strains interplay with long echoed drones to create a surprisingly expressive cinematic sweep out of what seems at first to be a process-oriented piece.Eric’s drums come off like tympani thumping out the glacial march of time toward the end. “Kick Back Hub” engaged the racket and noise capabilities of this configuration, lurching around like a wounded tango gasping for life, fading into the alien invasion stomp of “Eksplozije.” Just as you think the shit is really about to go down and start to head off to a future of staring at each other eating cans of beans in the bomb shelter, the duo comes up with a surprisingly pleasant light melody of “Go Lets Go” invoking images of a bike race through bucolic countryside. You can almost feel the breeze of an endless line of bikers whizzing past you in the overlain melody fragments.
The feedback and drone of “Derailleur” dispel this little daydream, and the following “Fuck This Place” appropriately tears the house down, with strained ghost vocals emerging, reportedly recorded by Gen shouting in the sound hole of her instrument. Volume is the key ingredient here. Crank this up and this unassuming duo will knock the wind out of you like any be-muscled speed metal configuration , but they do it with more style. The album closes with the sublime “How We Keep Time” echoing the ephemeral orchestral works of Lukas Foss, where the cosmos’ rough clatter is represented by seemingly random percussive murmurings, while also bringing to mind an Eastern European sadness in the viola’s slow lament, and the final countdown of “Junk the Clutter,” pulling itself together in one last death gallop to a hazy fortune over the next hill. All said, this album is a strange enthralling listen, and though limited in palette, these two manage to do some marvelous things with their instruments and keen sense of dynamics. I highly recommend this little sonic excursion if you need a break from whatever genre’s to which you are stuck on listening.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com