steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Al Qaeda / D/A A/D

Split C71

Husk Records

Genre: indie rock

San Francisco CA / Halifax NS

February 2010

This is a match made in heaven, by my estimation, as chronic bizarros Al Qaeda team up with the lovely (albeit new to me) D/A A/D (Alex Pearson). And as I sort of surmised from the cover art, it's a frequently ominous adventure. Pearson seems to emerge with the crown when it comes to sheer, menacing darkness – a formidable feat, methinks, considering he's armed solely with a modular analog synthesizer – whilst Al Qaeda brings a more eclectic and unpredictable approach to the table.

On their precisely thirty five minute and thirty second exploit, Al Qaeda's three brethren test out a quartet of experiments. The first (and perhaps most significant) attraction is the shifting, evil drone of somehow aptly-dubbed “Rotten Trail,” which is ornamented by various pulses, ebbs, rubs, hums, rushes, and the ilk. Amid the carnage lie remnants of contact mics and oscillators, but as the track rolls on the listener comes to hear various facets concealed deep in the muddle – faint percussion, nautical bubbles, feedback gurgles – until the composition segues into a brief, almost pristine bit of guitar prettiness by track's end. It's a spirited and disconcerting romp, no doubt. Subtle “Late Bloomer” follows, bringing with it a trail of ringing guitar loneliness with enough longing to milk your eyes dry, though it's the curious down-and-out ambiance that really piqued by interest – I couldn't help but imagine this as the score to an abstract wandering-around-town scene in some obscure mumblecore flick. And I mean that in the best possible way. I'm not sure how the remaining two tracks fit together, as things get a little confusing from here on in, but the A-side concludes with a clean little spangling guitar line over which echoed vocals and assorted electronic oscillations ferment blissfully. As I alluded to earlier, this is patent weirdness from this talented troupe.

Moving on (or, more precisely, flipping over), Halifax's Alex Pearson teaches me that not every Nova Scotian is as cheery as my stereotypes would have me believe; instead, his side is a chilling ether of morbid synthesizer respiration. His expansive stretch boasts an impeccable dark ambient atmosphere – “Seventh Layer,” the first of his three compositions, is exemplary in this sense, as it layers a menacing subbasement of foreboding hums below assorted eerie synth excreta. And as if that weren't enough, “Dreadfull [sic] Resonation” lowers matters further into the ground with a spectacular, slowly pulsing trail of analog growl. The rest of the side then putters out in a quiet, endlessly-repeating feedback-grumble phrase – very somnolent in its manner. Perhaps dulled a bit by its lengthy conclusion sequence, D/A A/D's half of this hefty split is nevertheless an excellent example of the sorts of vivid atmospheres one highly customizable instrument (a modular synthesizer) can produce.

Ultimately, this charming, limited little analog nugget is a worthwhile treat from the notably prolific Husk label. There is no shortage of oddball noise releases pouring out these days, but this one is remarkably solid.

al qaeda's myspace D/A A/D's myspace

"I've Got Some Numbers" live

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 5 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2010]