This is my first experience with the wonderful dense and almost airless sound of To Live and Shave in
There seems to be some sort of story/concept behind it all (this from the press release) :
Horóscopo, Vatican temporal assassin, is ordered to fall 300 years through time to prevent Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière) from writing the scabrous Tartuffe. A portal divides, doors fly open... Horóscopo’s eyes roll back into his head, and an empty scabbard clatters across marble. "Taisez-vous, et songez aux choses que vous dites." The Nightgaunts descend...
Which to honest is just as odd and bewildering as the sound of the album itself, so the best thing to do is just let it all rush out at you like a sped-up film as your ears pick out strange melody flourishes, weird mumbled diloguloge, and every other sound element you can think of. This truly must have taken hours upon hours to construct, but this isn't just random audio rubbish piled on top of each other - there seems method to the madness, but quite what it is is unsure. Seemly using elements from their older material, among other things, to make the album... You almost feel like your part of some strange sound experiment, or maybe trapped inside one of those old Victorian machines that were meant to make the mad sane; strapped into a seat, images whiz by and by at seemly faster and faster speeds.
Really I’ve not heard anything quite like this before maybe the closest comparison would be a Nurse With Wound collage track on speed. But, To Live and Shave in LA very much have therir own take on chaos - whether any of it makes sense is another thing, but I’ll enjoy trying to figure it out over the coming weeks.
All that’s left to say is if you enjoy sound collages with a distinctive odd air, apply here. To hear sample tracks and buy direct go here .To be even more puzzled and confused, go to the band's website here.
KUDOS: 5 out of 5
When I was a kid I was reading a copy of Ben Is Dead when I came across a review of the first Three Mile Pilot LP. The entire review (keep in mind, this was 1993) said, quote:
Sounds just like The Replacements. Where’s my check?
I read this over and over. I was totally into 3MP (see?), yet at the same time strangely attracted to the arrogance of this “review”. I thought, “one day, I’ll be a dick too.” Now I’m inadvertantly asshole enough in real-life (57% according to one online – and therefore bulletproof – quiz), so I chose to pay homage without transgression. I’ve taken liberties with the reference, and indeed the newest release by To Live and Shave in L.A. actually does sound a whole lot like Shalabi Effect at their most experimental and the closely related work of Et Sans (see: musique concrète, sound verité, extreme cut-and-paste). Compiled of recordings from the last four years, the concept of Horóscopo: Sanatorio de Molière is characteristically high (from the Blossoming Noise website):
Horóscopo, Vatican temporal assassin, is ordered to fall 300 years through time to prevent Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière) from writing the scabrous Tartuffe. A portal divides, doors fly open... Horóscopo’s eyes roll back into his head, and an empty scabbard clatters across marble. "Taisez-vous, et songez aux choses que vous dites." The Nightgaunts descend... - Got it!
This incarnation of TLaSiLA features:
The cover art of the digipak is particularly eye-catching, and I spent a good five minutes staring at it before I realized I had yet to hit play. Track One opens on a collage of death rays, cut-up conversation/crooning, and a little late-night piano melody, all woven through an increasingly pervasive tone-riff. The frequency is always in flux, as this fucked-up radio won’t stay tuned, dialing-in nearby planets and cable satellites. Two intros on a verse and a swarm of digital gnats, the radios continue to shifts, and a glimmering beat actually develops among the alien pulses and bleeps. Streams of liquid spurt through the soundscape and this is all very surrealist. Armies of sound continue to enter at random through track Three, now as a brassy overture bleeds into a traditional minimalism akin to Terry Riley’s live recordings (‘Olson III’ comes to mind in particular). Nothing lasts long on this album, and soon a whole new barrage of transmissions blast through, laced with static and cosmic timbres. Four opens and closes with an exceptionally stimulating series of vocal samples, book-ending a mudslide of thick, greasy rudeness. Either the album becomes more consistent by track Five, or I have just grown accustom to the patterns of randomness, but a theme apparently emerges for each track from this point on; a theme that is introduced early, then slides underneath each successive layer, always audible but more so when new layers are thin or gapped. Seven plays somber like an early requiem, and Eight takes us outside (who knew we were In?) to the sounds of earth-nature, interrupted by what appears to be a five second sample of the history of rock-n-roll, collapsing into a hot, dense little dot.
There are many ways to approach this album, both as a casual listen or a text to decipher; there is certainly too much going on to put into words. This is an exceptionally cerebral album and surprisingly user-friendly, asking no prerequisite from the listener. This is a mature experimental treat for gourmand and novice alike.
Where’s my check?
This album is a compiled remix of old works to get fans ready for the upcoming album: “Noon and Eternity,” which will finally feature TLASILA as an octet with newest band members Andrew W.K., Don Fleming and Richard Russo.* These reworked tracks span 15 or so albums from 1991-2006, beginning a new chapter for the band who have not released any new material since the original trio ended in 2002.** Cuts are loopy, grainy and crunchy with a mechanical robotic feel to them. Imagine being in a factory with robots shooting laser pens into your eyes. Frequent high pitched beeps keep your hands close to the volume controls with sound clips approaching unbearable levels at times. Some keyboard/piano clips accompany looped and half-eaten vocals, always surrounded by static, buzzing, churning and cyclical moving part sounds. The chaos and complexity of instrumentation makes sci-fi seem low-fi and empowers people who push buttons. Tom Smith and Thurston Moore could very well be the descendants of men who had to manually sound the alarm. Fine production and use of frequencies often create the sense of real world sounds occurring whirling around our heads. And then you realize its just Andrew W.K. bashing a bottle on your dome...
* Richard Russo hasn't as yet recorded with TLASILA.
** The original trio ended in 1996 when Ben Wolcott left to join Frosty. TLASILA went on a three-year haitus in 2000. The group reformed in December 2003. Ben, Rat and Tom will give a one-off performance as the "original trio" at the International Noise Conference in Miami, Florida in February 2007.
Pretentious art projects fail mostly on one level: they pretend that their conceits alone will win them accolades. The title of this recording and the description it has on Blossoming Noise's Web site refer to Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molière and a comedy he wrote that was censored from public performance for a period of time. While it doesn't sound very intriguing to me to begin with, the time travel crap added doesn't help, nor does the relatively lame music.
Thurston Moore plays on this record; maybe the Sonic Youth kids can appreciate that. And the band's name is a bit humorous, so maybe all the hip kids will catch on to that and praise the band's "down to earth" front. Then they'll stumble over French names, time travel narratives, an art for the sake of art cover, and bad sound collage and wonder what the hell is going on. I know irony is the new black and that hypocritical cynicism is the best way to win an argument these days, whoever you're arguing with, but nobody is going to convince me that it's worth trying to decode all the nonsense this group has layered into their release for Blossoming Noise. I'm a fan of whacky concepts, but this seems to be less whacky than it is absolutely unintelligible. If the liner notes are to be taken seriously at all, then everything on this record consists of sounds from previous releases by To Live and Shave in L.A. and are remixed in some fashion so as to capitalize on this concept of assassination and literary history. I don't buy it for a second and, after listening to nothing but electronic chirping for an hour or so, I'm not sure how many people will.
I love it when weird bands that have consumed too much acid over the years play with electronic devices. There's always a certain childishness to their work and, if that's missing, a fairly warped picture of the universe supported by a librarian's knowledge of the occult, the underground, or the otherwise ignored. What I do not like is when someone pretends to be just like that and ends up spitting out an hour's worth of wormy noise that doesn't belong together or doesn't fit together in the first place. Anyone can make a bunch of noise and act as though they've just completed a masterpiece: just slap some stupid arty machinery in the background and maybe some people will be fooled! After trying to find some redeeming quality to this record, I'm convinced it doesn't exist. Machine noise, some static, and some really repetitive analog sound bounce around without any sense of intrigue and eventually end in a wash of yelled vocals, half-dead pulsation, and static. The album is consistently flat, even when it attempts to juice things up, such as on "1643." No amount of turning the volume up to eleven will make anything on this record worth hearing.
So, we have four critiques, four moods.
Which of the authors would most likely enjoy a long day at a nearby beach with family and friends? Which author might conceivably serve as a Senior Needs Specialist for the Columbus, Ohio branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America? Which personable author might invite a neighbor over for tea and spirited conversation? Which embittered, luckless author is most likely not to have brushed his teeth in the past eleven weeks?
You be the jury...