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Mind Flayer - It's Always 1999

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Artist: Mind Flayer

Album: It's Always 1999

Label: Load

Review date: Sep. 19, 2004


In a biographical article in the April 2003 issue of The Wire, Jace Clayton (aka DJ /rupture) recounted the nurturing effect noise artists like Ruins and Yamatsuka Eye have had on the teething generation of new-millennium artists. The scene out of which the progenitors of noise arose was marked by its intimate makeup of obscure and often nameless artists, promulgated by a passionate few armed with the power of high-speed dubbing. Plainly put, the music "polarizing." As Clayton claims, "this anarchic, excrement- fixated music spawned a strangely demotic threshold for its enjoyment: you either like this shit or you don't there isn't much room for debate." What makes noise so appealing to many listeners (present company included) is this frankness of the sound. Such honesty prompts an instinctual response that can be as emotionally and spiritually satisfying as genres more traditionally thought to evoke emotional reactions. Current noise artists, these torchbearers of the blissfully unlistenable, have sprouted up in scenes similar in style and obscurity in burgeoning underground American scenes such as Providence, Rhode Island and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mindflayer is one of underground's best at destroying the rock, and its existence is symptomatic of the close ties that artists in these two (epi)centers enjoy. Drummer Brian Chippendale of the noise-metal group Lightning Bolt and electronics wizard Matt Brinkman of the Forcefield collective began collaborating in 1996, using Mindflayer as a side project to explore the limits and extremes of their respective instruments in ways that their main groups could not. Their early days are a whirlwind of sporadic live shows with recordings released on cassette and CD-R. After officially debuting on Bulb Records in 2003 with the searing Take Your Skin Off, Load Records has reissued one of these CD-Rs for a larger audience. This album, It's Always 1999, professes a nostalgia in its title for that personal quality of the noise experience: you'll never forget the moment a blaring wall of feedback changed your perception of music forever.

Not surprisingly, the individual tracks on a Mindflayer tracks can be divided into two distinct categories: those constructed from existing "rock" sounds and anchored by Chippendale's warped speed- metal skills, and those constructed by Brinkman's digital stuttering and rambling, the noise freakouts. Though both types of tracks are as much parody and playtime as they are music, the more accessible tracks employing regular beats or conventional-sounding drum/bass instrumentation are actually more challenging than the atonal randomness when drums follow feedback. Right at the album's midpoint are two consecutive tracks that illustrate this point. "Legiomnomein and Jumbinube Oboplex Company Marches" is excruciatingly slow in relation to its surroundings, a dirge built with evenly spaced climaxes mimicking a show-ending full-band chord, complete with drum rolls. After nine minutes of repetition, this exercise peters out. The following track, "Cyclone Ride to Animal Town," uses similar full- band chords but intersperses them in an unpredictable freakout, a sonic "cyclone" that displays a greater sense of adaptability and imagination than the previous track. These two approaches are the pitch and yaw of the Mindflayer cockpit controls, and Brinkman and Chippendale pull off some unbelievable improv maneuvers with them.

It's Always 1999 sums up the direction Mindflayer has taken in subsequent albums, and how their early experiments have influenced both members' main groups. Nothing comes close to the glory of Take Yr Skin Off's protest song, "Drop Bass Not Bombs," but this collection is just like the rest of the best of underground noise: it exists, and it demands your attention.

By Joel Calahan

Other Reviews of Mind Flayer

Take Your Skin Off

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Find out more about Load

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