Thursday, 29 January 2015

Foetus "Gash" (1995)

Starting from zero, the opening track "Mortgage" slowly progresses through a grudging beat that pounds as pounds as instruments and abstract sounds pile into the mix one by one. Narrated by musician J.G.Thirlwell the song evolves into a noisy, dissident dystopia of sound colliding together with strange harmony and balance. Its says much of this experimental record which juxtaposes all sort of musical styles with the ever-present noisy Industrial backbone in a chaotic fold of sound. Foetus is the main project of aforementioned Australian Experimental musician  J.G.Thirlwell who has built a large body of unique music over the years, under multiple pseudonyms. As well as developing connections with some prolific artists in the 90s, his own work has never seen much commercial success or critical acclaim but has certainly carved him a niche that sees him active to this day. "Gash" serves to be his biggest record, the only one to ever make a release on a major record label, Sony, who can be seen on the album cover, possibly intentional.

A lot of what is established in the first track is elaborated on throughout the album, noisy, Industrial tracks with a less intensive focus or vibe. Underneath the hard shell the guitars play out some Rock / Metal like riffs with minimal intensity, they often compliment leads and melodies brought in an array of instruments and styles that seem to consistently pull from different sources track to track. After moments of intense noise abuse, and eerie synths the album finds its way to a Swing / Big Band number "Slung", its jiving swing leads and clamorous undertone meld and stroll into a lengthy jam fest that returns to the main theme across eleven minutes. The track that follows couldn't find itself further away, a screeching, dark number. Thirlwell's vocal performance give this snarling shock rock track a Manson vibe. The bizarreness continues as a Classical, theatrical war like composition leads us into a quite genius dramatic piece that utilizes the progression of its noisy oddities with a peaking string number. Its an album of surprises and experimentation that doesn't fail to get your attention.

With the good often comes some bad, and this record would tip the scales in the wrong direction with its production which served to really hurt its potential to be great. This album is also produced by Thirlwell who's worked with big names before, but here on his own record his production style has held back everything great thats at work. I've listened to my fair share of Avant-Guard, genre blending music, and more so than often the unusual ideas presented need to be complimented by decent production. The guitars on this record are muddy, foggy and loose their impact in this messy production which fails to facilitate the needs of each instrument. The drums are thin and flat, the bass is a low fuzzy growl that occasionally gets noticed for something other than a loud rumbling, and for all of the extra instrumentation that comes and goes, none of it comes into the mix without clashing with something. Noise may be an important aesthetic here, but it can come from the layers of strange noises and instruments without clashing. With so much going on in the same space the low fidelity makes it difficult to absorb without focus and effort. Track after track throws down fantastic ideas, riffs and leads that are buried amongst one another and serve to suck the moment dry with lackluster fidelity. Its been a while since I've heard a record so hurt by production, but its a reminder that good musical ideas are not everything.

Rating: 5/10
Favorite Tracks: Mortgage, Mighty Whity, Slung, Steal Your Life Away, Mutapump