Music Reviews

Artist: Abiku (@)
Title: regency/feel/bobby
Format: 7"
Label: Automation Records (@)
Rated: *****
The music of Josh Jaworsky and Jane Vincent has been called Computer punk. It combines the cute 8-bit sound with the aggression of pissed off punk. Jane does the vocals and does she sound upset. Angst baby in spades. Life does have it's disappointments and what better way to purge the emotion than to listen to this. You are not alone.
Artist: Abiku (@)
Title: Novelty
Format: CD
Label: MT6 Records (@)
Distributor: MT6 Records
Rated: *****
There are many music projects out there that really don’t need to exist; people doing their version of the kind of stuff that’s already been done, and done better by others in the past. The Baltimore-based duo of Josh Jaworsky and Jane Vincent, known together as Abiku, is NOT one of those entities. Although grindcore and sludge-metal combined with techno-electronics is said to be their root-genres, I think a better description would be experimental primal-dada electroclash. Jane and Josh predominately employ synthesizer keyboards and twisted guitar blasts, along with primitive old-school sounding drum machine in their music often giving the music a late 70’s, early experimental 80’s vibe. That in itself is not so unusual, but what makes Abiku interesting is Jane’s vocals. Often wailing, ululating screaming, it’s a primal expression that you don’t hear a lot of these days, except maybe in the metal genres, and then it tends to sound contrived, like the singer wants to give the impression she’s the bride of Satan or something. Jane’s vocals also sound a lot more genuine than anything I’ve heard in the screamo genre. I imagine it must be very wrenching to do, but she does it well. It’s not like ALL of her vocals are done this way; she tempers them with a sort of semi-monotone chant-singing that offsets her more violent expressions.

Since they’ve been around since 2002, Abiku have released a wealth of material, a lot of it on CDR which probably had quite limited distribution, making them a culty-cult kind of outfit that afforded them little exposure. What has impressed me most is that they’ve managed to stay together and keep Abiku alive for all this time. That has likely been due to their perseverance in live performance, managing to find venues that welcome their brand of fringe sonics. The more people you reach live, the more fans you’re going to attract. So "Novelty" is mostly a compilation of their favorite earlier stuff (circa 2002) re-worked re-mastered and re-recorded. It really isn’t radically different than recent material by them, and makes an excellent introduction to the band. With 26 short tracks (most are under 2 minutes, and only one is a little over 5) there is hardly room for ennui, and a lot of opportunity for variation. The ethereal bellish introduction of the first track, "Rift" gives you no clue what you’re in for, but the second track, "Action Toy" sets the pace, tone and temperament for the rest of the CD. A number of different moods, shades and expressions are explored, with cathartic releases aplenty, and impressions that range from being trapped in machine hell to experiencing a nightmarish carnival scenario, to just drifting in the ionosphere. The brief tracks go by so quickly that you hardly notice that the CD is over just before it ends, as ethereally as it had begun.

I can’t purport to wrap my head around what Jane is singing about most of the time, but I think it’s more gut feeling than trying to comprehend the lyrics on an intellectual level. There isn’t much in the way of processing or effects used on Jane’s voice, a plus in my opinion. The way she uses her pipes, there really doesn’t need to be. I’m not wild about every track either; some are easier to digest than others, but I wouldn’t have them change anything at all. Sometimes a really cool little slapping beat, like on the track "Feel" can make Jane’s acerbic and angst-wrought vocals sound nearly humorous. As for the music, it does owe a debt to synth-punk and electroclash minimalist outfits like Nervous Gender, Crash Course in Science, Adult and Add N to X, etc. Perhaps Abiku tend to sound less quirky-jerky and dizzy than the aforementioned outfits, but there are parallels. Every once in a while the band veers toward melody too, as on "Proclomotion". The majority of the music though is a lot closer to performance art than anything suited for the dancefloor owing to some of the chaotic rhythms and/or breakneck tempos they employ on rhythmic tracks. Still I wouldn’t doubt that they attract their share of slamming thrashers in a live performance environment.

Although this band isn’t for everyone, those who can appreciate thrash punk at one end of the spectrum and experimental electronics at the other end should dig them. "Novelty" offers a real smorgasbord of bit-size music courses, some of which snap back at you. I’d recommend tracking it down and seeing how much you can consume. I wouldn’t waste time though; the CD is limited to 1,000 copies.


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