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Flies Inside the Sun - Burning Glass

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Artist: Flies Inside the Sun

Album: Burning Glass

Label: Metonymic

Review date: May. 3, 2004

Is there any truth in this scurrilous rumor that the New Zealand underground is dead? There have been passionate discussions on the Routes for War and Travel mailing list on the matter. Given that many of those posting responses were New Zealand underground musicians, one sensed the light touch of the defensive. Ultimately - unsurprisingly - the debate was easily won by Birchville Cat Motel, the Pseudo-Arcana label, the Armpit and Pumice axis, and other members of the New Zealand underground music community.

It would be churlish to disagree. In some respects, New Zealand's underground has never looked healthier. There's less dogmatism about the aesthetic choices made by those involved than there used to be and more of a sense of humor and freedom surrounding the work, and the CD-R floodgates have unleashed releases that range from highly articulate, idiosyncratic, visionary music, to endearingly slapdash takes on disinterred rock. If there was a death in the New Zealand underground, it wasn't due to these artists; it was down to outside forces suggesting that NZ noise shifts fewer units. This matter actually seems more problematic for 'the old guard' - artists like Bruce Blucher or Peter Jefferies, whose subcultural capital within a certain field of music obsessives has somehow diminished. Or The Metonymic Trust, headed by Peter Stapleton, who've just resurfaced with the fifth album from Flies Inside the Sun, now reduced to a trio of Stapleton, Kim Pieters, and Brian Crook.

On Burning Glass, the trio's playing is totally attenuated and on-point. Each of Flies Inside the Sun's albums have sounded quite different from its predecessor: An Audience of Others privileged song-at-the-point-of-dissolution; Cactus Sky presented rock music as a ghost of itself, reducing it to a puddle of oil and slick; and Le Mal d'Archive was thunderous free music that owed little to anyone else. Burning Glass continues in the tradition of Le Mal d'Archive while re-interrogating rock's moments of freedom. Flies' music is now strident and thoroughgoing, with swarms of keyboard sputter emanating like gas hissing out from under your feet, running rivulets through protean noise cartographies, and Crook's guitar shooting white light all over an arced web of freedom playing. Crook's guitar playing sets the mood for the record; when he is in full-blown destructive-force mode, the music boasts an almost unbearable radiance, a gorgeous cracked core splintering in every direction.

Burning Glass isn't just a great document of free music; it resolutely rocks. If you've ever considered yourself, at any point, a fan, an aficionado, an obsessive follower of free music, this record is your new limb. Prosthetic or not.

By Jon Dale

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