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Burmese - White

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Artist: Burmese

Album: White

Label: Planaria

Review date: Nov. 25, 2004

Whitehouse – William Bennett’s brutal power electronics project – is a weird musical entity. On the one hand, their stance is ridiculous, seizing with zero subtlety for the jugular by spewing hilariously blatant diatribes of hatred, misogyny (every third word screamed is “cunt”), and murder. But then there’s the music, which, strangely, is somehow the more offensive element in Whitehouse’s arsenal. An unlikely, pale creation of trebly, piercing pedals, ear-bleeding keyboard atonalities, and monotonous, dehumanizing percussion, the best Whitehouse records are akin to eavesdropping on a deranged episode of domestic violence. Bizarrely, Bennett has turned this audio misanthropy into a veritable art form, with a 20-year discography of ever more brazen musical immoralities. His cruelty, it would seem, knows no bounds.

Not so odd then that Bay Area bludgeoners Burmese – who use two bassists, two drummers, and title songs “Broken Legs, Broken Face, Blood Everywhere” and “Ladykiller” – should attempt to tackle Whitehouse’s evil vitriol. According to the nearly non-existent liner notes, White is eight “interpretations of whitehouse” (as opposed to straight cover songs, one assumes), but these tracks don’t require the listener to be familiar with the originals. Even an uneducated layman could grasp that this music is meant to inflict pain, and little else.

The CD opens with a storm of characteristically hysterical shrieks and power electronic pulses, with everything recorded deep in the red and incoherent. Thin, mechanized percussion rattles endlessly while a high, watery treble warbles dissonantly, like some rusted birdcall. Throughout all, however, center stage is occupied by the hyperventilating vocals, which rant on and on in an unintelligible fit, only occasionally coalescing into some repeated, decipherable chant (such as, for instance, “I’m coming up your ass!”). These are songs about fucking.

What’s particularly interesting are the ways in which Burmese had to drain their distinctively bass-heavy amplifier swamp – which convulses so convincingly on their Tumult Records classic, A Mere Shadow and Reminiscence of Humanity – in order to achieve Whitehouse’s wan, thin hatred. Both basses are gone, the low-end rumble bled dry, so only the metallic hiss and electric generator throbs remain. The drums are dissected and starved, reducing Burmese’s typically punishing sludge beats to their bilious, emaciated skeletons.

Mercifully, Burmese stick to Whitehouse’s musical output, choosing not to “interpret” Bennett’s deeply disturbing spoken word compositions and found-sound collages (such as testimonials of rape victims, and murderers’ confessionals). But White is still an aptly torturous homage to Bennett’s blasting, lasting influence, and proves that Whitehouse’s legacy of brutality is alive and well.

By Britt Brown

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