Band recommendations, like deaths, are rumored to come in threes. Obviously that’s just selection bias, like a lot of what we’d call “folk wisdom” or “making shit up”. Oral traditions are a tangled web, and say what the Zerzanites and the back to the land types will, but I’m all for indexed Google searches and WYSIWYG interfaces. And antibiotics.
So I was told by others to seek out works by Asva and Nadja, described as avant-doom lunchlady/persons in the drone-ateria. Shitty wordplay aside, both operate with a relatively similar approach, low and slow into a set pattern of swells. Their palettes are vastly different, with What You Don’t Know Is Frontier showcasing a synthy gleam and some Trey Spruance-related orientalism. Nadja is more traditional, with slow, grinding guitars and fuzziness upon fuzz and the like. And a Swans cover of “Only the Lonely”, which was not half-bad indeed. (The third band recommendation I got was not worth delving into.)
This is off of Trembled, a live compilation. I found this live work far more engaging than the other Nadja CD I picked up during the same run, The Bungled and The Botched. That’s mostly uninteresting, like a lot of drone/doom stuff. It gets a bit wanky around the slow grind of the first live version of “Trembled” but at 17 minutes and change there’s a lot of ground to cover. That the group is two people, famous beardo Aidan Baker and a lady named Leah Buckareff, is pretty impressive, since they sound a bit like an angry and despondent Bardo Pond, minus the massive dopehead aesthetic. The second live version of “Trembled” is more compact and gains quite a bit from being trimmed down. Out of everything, however, the clear favorite is “Stays Demons”, whose plodding, muddy thud is endearingly emotional and almost anthemic. Almost.
All in all, I would definitely see them live. They have about a billion releases, so perhaps picking at random isn’t the best strategy but there aren’t a whole lot of other options. It’s not like the Alien8 press kit* is going to help you much.
This Asva album is four very chunky songs. The opener, “What You Don’t Know In Frontier” (nice minor word change there, guys), is a horror movie soundtrack for Earth fans, and features this awesome squeal that’s about as close as the slowest of the slowcore gets to a Steve Vai-style geeeetar freakout. “Christopher Columbus” is a jangled mess of drums n’ hums that only untangles itself near the end for a 70s slow-and-evil vibe.
I do love the odd slice of guitar tenderness that opens “A Game In Hell, Hard Work In Heaven”, before it turns into a weird little slice of Secret Chiefs-meets-a-falafel-stand-on-top-of-a-Casio-keyboard. That’s right before it goes back to the 70s slow-and-evil-but-a-bit-more-cheerful classic riffage, which itself turns into a crazy, happy post-rocky good time. With 15 minutes to fill, there’s room for a lot of things in here.
As a closer, “A Trap For Judges” is about as plodding and deliberate as 18 or so minutes of the same motif falling apart into a classic synth drone can get. It’s interesting, but obviously very slow.
As an aside, I’ve been told third-hand that many fans who have been in it to win it consider the rising popularity of Sunn O)))** (i.e. they get reviewed by the Haystackers, or girls listen to it, or something like that) to have really been fucking things up for the doom purists. All I figure is that it means the sonic pallette of “cool music” has continually expanded and reconfigured itself. Creative destruction is ugly, folks, like democracy and anarchy, and if you’re going to let some obnoxious college kids in funny glasses piss on what you love simply by knowing about it, perhaps you need to reconsider what love means to you.
Better yet, read The Collector by John Fowles. If you recognize the main character in the mirror, you’re doing love wrong.
* I can appreciate what a pain in the ass trying to write about music like this is, especially on a commercial level. But it’s still not very descriptive.
** They’re rather boring.