In June last year, Barn Owl player Matt Weston's "Not to Be Taken Away" (7272music) was reviewed in these very pages
, where Robert Oberlander
wrote that "Weston's creations have an uncanny ability for getting under one's skin and scraping at bone and sinew, making the listener wince in pain". Not being overly famil' with Matt's work other than a drum contribution to one track on Smog's "Red Apple Falls" (!)
and with that in mind, I was expecting an aural bludgeoning. I gotta say "Seasick Blackout" may be some kind of departure from his "schtick" since it don't come across that way at all; its more an exquisitely-crafted work of multitracked digital orchestration than an oppressive harsh noise scenario.
For the first minute or so of the first track, with the neatly grammatically-woozy title "You're Not That's Right", you would be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a couple of kids goofing around improvising duos using sax mouthpiece and digitally-bastardised electric cello. And a little internal shudder, and setting your expectations accordingly. (If it's not a mouthpiece its a mic'd up balloon I reckon, or else the most fucked trombone in the history of ever). So when the dismantled-radiator piano-frame cymbal-stand percussion kicks in after another minute or so and you realise with a jolt it's not a couple of kids goofing, it's Lester Bowie and the Art Institute of Chicago weirdly playing through some ancient effects rack, and you relax a little; these dudes are pro, after all.
Now you find now yourself at 3:45 in and you're totally hooked but feeling a little creepy because the sound is morphing weirdly like your trip is shifting like rotating shards like helicopter blades; when a penny whistle and micro-cassette dictaphone voice jam come crashing in on the back straight just to piss off your mood you know you're in the hands of some kind of a master manipulator. BLAM hard cut straight into the next track #2 "I Just Saw Fog And Dust" (I did, too) and right up front an orchestra warming-up cuts to a lo-res mp3-player recording of some North Africa headfuck unit like the Master Musicians of Joujouka (no dis' intended) comin' on like a paranoid psychotic episode of 1,000 mutant clarinettes looped in unison and again BLAM there are two bad men fighting over that same busted-up trombone and the drummer is still flailing away on the dismantled-radiator piano-frame cymbal-stand but has added a couple of timpani to the setup. It's crushing. It's actually upsetting. It's fantastically, imaginatively evocative of something unpleasant and so I'm not displeased when it's 6min 50-odd seconds worth of hassle tails out in a flurry, a tumbling of temple bells.
A blast of lo-freq buzz announces the entrance of pt. 3, "This October, All Octobers" which honest-to-god rings with the grandeur of a granularised, reconstituted, 8-bit rendering of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. The drums are being drummed like the drummer's got somewhere to be, now, there's sinews of synth/electronic melodies looped over and over and shards of detuned string sections which blow on and on and on and on and on and on and start to resemble a train horn blowing at a level-crossing. And suddenly ends in a cold, dead stop.
Arg, enough gushing impressionistic batshit, now. What you need to know is that Matt Weston has pieced together this short suite of engaging electroacoustics in such a way that it has been imbued with the unusual ability to get the agitated listener feeling like a wretch, a fugitive; rather than wince in pain at the immediacy of a prolonged blast of white noise, "Seasick Blackout" has the uncanny subliminal effect of making one feel like something brutal and horrible is going to occur shortly, and its going to happen to -- oneself. Last night I fell asleep after playing "Seasick Blackout" and slept badly, enduring a succession of bad dreams about creeping, incremental, and ultimately utterly comprehensive personal failure. This morning when I awoke I knew that the secret my unconscious was trying to impart was that I needed to remind my conscious self to look beneath the veneer of sentimentality and nostalgia, remove the blinkers of aspiration to see the true nature of the horrorshow of this fuckwitted civilisation and our miserable existence. An existential, psychological cold-shower, if you will.
At just 17:10 min long "Seasick Blackout" is everything I ever wanted from a seasick blackout; you couldn't and wouldn't ask for a more or better queasy sonic pressgang escapade manoeuvres than Weston's proffered within. 9/10 -- Young Savage (24 March, 2010)