Friday, April 11, 2008

Synesthetic Response 4

This is not review. This is response. Three on the list today.

Genghis Tron :: Board Up the House

(2008, Relapse)
Score: 9

Picture this, if you can. The frenetic drill-and-bass (keyboards, glitches and all) of Aphex Twin colliding head-on with Meshuggah's mathematics; sprinkle the wreckage with a (possibly) unconscious nod to Faith No More's textures (I hear it, at least), let the boys in Boards of Canada add some analog color to it all, and then market it to people who dig Dillinger Escape Plan. The result? Board Up the House. Remember, I said "picture this." Don't let the above comparisons linger in your head for long. Genghis Tron have delivered a sublime treatise, manufactured in filth on the surface of a neutron star, using a million pounds of noxious compounds, and several billion gallons of water to polish its aural surfaces to a toxic shine. Everyone should make music like this, but not all of us have access to a clean room. The chaos, the horror, the beauty, the relentless assault, and the wickedly soothing ambient lulls... truly original, and absolutely vital.

Opeth :: Watershed
(2008, Roadrunner Records)
Score: 10

Opeth's latest is a vast slab of conceptual density. So great is its weight that it's quite remarkable how high this material soars. This album is your destiny if dark rooms, trippy visuals, and quality headphones are the staples of your music consumption habits. There is so much going on here, it is difficult to know where to begin. Or end. It is sufficient to say that these aching and powerful compositions are supremely listenable. These songs are the darkness, and the light, caught in opposition. The songwriting is breathtaking. There is brutality in the mix, but it is all part of the plan. Watershed is perfect, from start to finish.

Meshuggah :: Obzen
(2008, Nuclear Blast)
Score: 11

Recall: the rating system goes from 1-10, with 11 reserved. Nothing ever gets lower than an 8, since material rated as such is not the focus of these digital droppings (remember: the system is arguably meaningless). Still, an 11 is important. Thus we have Obzen, the latest from Meshuggah. Perhaps it is an unhealthy bias (or an obsessive veneration), but the relentlessly addictive complexity of this music forces my hand: Obzen is Album of the Year, 2008. Nothing can touch it. After dozens of listens, one may finally grok its structures and intentions, but thereafter, this staggering work of genius takes on a life of its own. How can anything so heavy, so obfuscating, be so soothing? There are no answers. All we have is mystery. Luckily, Meshuggah made a stop in Tempe a few months back. Though their set was far too brief, it was a bit like popping by your buddy Erich Zann's place, finding the door ajar, and peeking your head in at just the right moment, when a stained glass window turns into a rift between disparate dimensions and something comes through. Unforgettable. The album's last track "Dancers To A Discordant System" is the skeleton key. It recalls "Straws Pulled at Random" (from their earlier album Nothing) but passes even closer to the center of a distant galaxy. To restate: Album of the Year, 2008.