Sunday, February 28, 2021
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Emerald Suspension: Eruption / Ashfall

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Artist: Emerald Suspension (@)
Title: Eruption / Ashfall
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: * * * * *
Emerald Suspension is the rather bizarre sonic stylings project of Troy Curtis from Minneapolis. If you recall my 2017 review of Emerald Suspension's 'Divination' album, you may remember that I found it interesting, but wasn't completely sold on it. I don't know what ES has been doing in the meantime, but now, in Covid-19 Country ES has produced a 6-track CD (qualifying as an EP because it's only 16 minutes) titled 'Eruption,' and also a remix CD titled 'Ashfall' that remixes tracks from 'Eruption,' plus a track from elsewhere.

Taking the 'Eruption' CD first, I can say that it's not as all over the place as 'Divination' was, but it's nowhere close to normal. The EP title (and consequently, the title track by the same name) was inspired by the Van Halen song, "Eruption," as well as the guitar virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen who passed on October 6, 2020. The first track, "Level Ground," begins with a very brief recitation by (some girl named) Noodle, then launches into the song that sounds like Alvin the Chipmunk fronting the Stooges (proto-punkers, not Moe Larry & Curly) in a speak-singing rap style. Okay, this is different, kinda Residents, and I dug the female vocal chorus at the end. The voice processor used reminded me of an old episode of The Avenegers TV series circa 1965, I think it was the 'The Cybernauts.' (Check it out if you can; very Dr. Who-ish.) "Eruption" lives up to its name being a gradually more explosive noise-fest, but no Van Halen style guitar solo. Fortunately only 2:45 of that but noise enthusiasts should like it immensely. Donna Bayliss does an interesting recitation over semi-minimal music on "Jaded" and I'm reminded a lot of Anne Clark here, with a nod to Anna Wildsmith (Sow). "General Random" begins as something akin to an even more minimal Joy Division before launching into a 4-second military drill song about the commander in the title, then the song goes punk-rock crazy for the song's remaining 42 seconds. Goofy, but strange...or strange, but goofy?

"Mitten Fidget" is the lengthiest track on the EP at 4:05, and also the most muddled, yet enigmatic of the lot. It is semi-structured experimental noise that refuses to be contained inside the box. Finally, we have "Your Eurorack" which has a laughably bad vocal over old movie soundtrack music ("Fuck your Eurorack...in every tiny jack..."). For the uninitiated, Eurorack is a popular modular synthesizer format. As a whole, 'Eruption' isn't going to blow anyone's mind apart, but it has its fair share of interesting and amusing moments.

The remix CD 'Ashfall' (titled from the falling ash after a volcanic eruption) is 8 tracks in 32 minutes. First up is "Oddly Even" (Radio/Video Edit) which is a minimal bass figure, sequenced minimal percussion and some treated noise, with semi-muffled vocal dialogue samples occurring halfway through. Something one might expect from Coil. "Level Ground" (Headache Remix) bears only a passing similarity to the first track on the 'Eruption' EP, eschewing the chipmunk vocal processing for a different type of electronic vocal processing. The female vocals on the track are under-mixed, likely purposefully. The punk rock element has been replaced with a sort of EDM vibe. The Broadcast Mix of "Oddly Even" is sort of a trance-noise experiment with only subtle variations over the course of its 3:32 duration. The Noodle Mix of "Level Ground" plays with Noodle's prelude recitation vocal sample then bounces it all over the place - cut~paste~repeat; snip~fold~manipulate. That's really all this track is. "General Random" gets a Euro Remix that incorporates some elements of "Your Eurorack" given the Sonic Youth treatment. The "Mitten Fidget" Woolly Remix is as oblique as the original, but in a different way. The last remix of "Oddly Even" lives up to its Extended Club Mix name at least in terms of time (8:30), but dancing may be difficult as the club doors are all locked, and the electricity's been turned off. Finally, we have the last track - "Séance" (Jaded 'Live' Remix), which sounds a lot like "Jaded" but uses only snippets of Donna Bayliss vocal samples. I liked the original better.

I think these are really companion CDs and if you're going to buy one, then buy both, readily available on the Emerald Suspension website. As I suspected, Troy seems to be a fan of the Residents, and even has a neat cover version of "Smelly Tongues" on the Emerald Suspension website that was a winning entry in the "I AM A RESIDENT" project. In fact, you can listen to every song I reviewed plus a lot more there too. C'mon! What else have you got to do anyway.

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