Saturday, July 24, 2021
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Straight Panic: Flagging: First Four Albums

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Artist: Straight Panic
Title: Flagging: First Four Albums
Format: CD
Label: Oxidation (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Queer Power Electronics. This is not the kind of word order that one would generally expect for power electronics, but that did not stop Thomas Boettner from making it happen. First off, there is an essay by Isaac Tyler in the liner notes that really frames the whole thing. It is worth reading, unlike some liner notes. I was immediately reminded of Bob Ostertag's collaboration with Kronos Quartet entitled “All The Rage.” Indeed, one could consider each album to be fellow travelers, but while Ostertag and Kronos Quartet would be traveling in first class on an airplane, Straight Panic is driving on back roads at 100 miles per hour in a 1992 Astro van, stopping at dive bars along the way. This is angrier, grittier, and lo-fi as hell, with seemingly no desire to make this palatable to the masses. This was my introduction to this artist, so let’s get into it. Since this collects the first four cassettes by Straight Panic, I’ll break up the review by tape.

“Manifesto” opens it up with a movie sample about homophobic violence toward a man and then gun blasts. The music itself features garbled vocals and interesting noise compositions. The overall feel is reminiscent of Slogun, but more in emotion than execution. “Propaganda” features a woman speaking, buried under a wall of static and whining noise. It is hard to get a sense of what it is, but it sounds vaguely religious. This track was not quite as powerful or unhinged as other track, but still interesting.

“Rough Trade” brings us another sample at the beginning with a lot of really high-pitched and more of that Slogun / Genocide Organ feel with distorted vocals. “Trick” begins with a sample that states, "life on earth is evil." This track features analog / shortwave squalls over a pummeling noise wall. This is relentless and a nice ride.

“Cruise” opens with another homophobic sample and some droney noise. This was not as crunchy and jagged as the previous tracks and sounded almost like someone messing around with analog synth filters. It’s definitely on the experimental side, but not really my cup of tea until it dramatically changed directions during the last 20 seconds. “Vice Squad” is a short track that opens with another sample about "lifestyles." This is incredibly harsh noise with more high pitched squeals and unhinged vocals. Short, but intense, and a definite counterpoint to the previous track.

“Balance” is kind of odd, in that it sounds like carnival music distorted and mangled. Imagine if the Residents were remixed by Masonna. “Fun” is not a descriptor I often use in describing power electronics, but here we are. It only sort of fits, but who cares? It's a good time. “Fuse” brings back the looped noise with yelled vocals buried in the mix. This doesn't have the same quality as the previous ones, but it is interesting, if a bit repetitive. “Cruise (Return)” brings the disc to a close. This is a lot darker than the other tracks. Low base drone and scratchy static over the top of it all gives it an ominous feel. I really liked this track, and for me this was the best track on the disc. At 14:54, it is a hefty track that really works with the time, slowly evolving and shifting. There are voices that have been processed beyond recognition, but they end up serving more as atmosphere. Really well done.

These kinds of anthologies are interesting in that you get to see the progression of the artist over time, and this is no different. While I appreciate the rawness of the early tracks, the later tracks seem much more well-constructed and varied to me. But as with any review, your mileage may vary. This disc is limited to 200 copies and comes with a postcard detailing what color of handkerchief one should use to signal a desire for various acts (the first 60 copies come wrapped in a handkerchief).



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