Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The advance word on New York’s Wetnurse was that they were a noise band, a definition that makes me think of either the classic Touch & Go bands like Killdozer and the Butthole Surfers, or the pure anti-music of Japan’s Merzbow. Wetnurse are not a noise band, they’re a precise heavy metal drill team executing some avant-garde musical manoeuvres. They’re hard to pin down, which I like. Although there’s death metal, grind and hardcore in their sound, they chop and channel those genres, welding together their own hyper-agile vehicle of destruction. It’s easier to describe what their music lacks. It doesn’t have rehashed Slayer riffs or an over-technical, blind-them-with-weird-science approach. It doesn’t have guitar solos. The guitars harmonize and crush in tandem, Hunter Schindo’s bass snakes around every sudden turn, Curran Reynolds’s drumming finds clever new ways of bolstering the chaos, and Gene Fowler throws vocal tantrums in a variety of voices. This self-released album never flags in applying its own pretzel logic, Wetnurse striking the perfect blend of advanced math and riff-pounding catchiness, with dissonant, jagged riffing that makes this Voivod fan happy. There’s enough repetition to keep you grounded, but the music is always finding interesting new possibilities to explore. For example, the twin-lead thrash breakdown in the middle of “Idolized in Pink,” where the bass suddenly comes to the fore to take the song into the next part, or the Melvins-like bass-skulk intro to “Live Wire Touches Wet Blanket” or the “dub” section in “Rhetorical Question.” Martin Bisi’s recording and mix is excellent. It’s big and natural and I can hear air moving in the studio. The album peaks on the epic final track, “Urgently Missing Something,” where the riffs drill straight into my pleasure centers. I especially love the section where the song bursts into what sounds like a fragmented Budgie riff and joyously rocks out for a time before fading out…then fading up with an extended outro riff that sounds like it could segue into another song entirely. Maybe they should start the next album with that riff. It’s difficult to describe how cool (and musically nourishing) Wetnurse are; you’ll just have to take my semi-adequate word for it.

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