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Panicsville - Perverse

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Artist: Panicsville

Album: Perverse

Label: Liquid Death/Hello Pussy

Review date: Feb. 7, 2005

The photos of decomposing animals that adorn Perverse shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s familiar with Andy Ortmann. His on- and off-stage antics are akin to some of black metal’s more heinous stories, though with a decidedly goofier bent. Ortmann’s been known to microwave shark meat on stage and throw dead insects into the crowd; the use of dead animals has always been part of his performance and visual art. What’s interesting, however, is that the music of Ortmann’s main musical squeeze, Panicsville, doesn’t always share such a gruesome air. Ortmann, despite his penchant for harsh electronics and punishing vibes, is as conceptual as they come. The group’s first release was a limited run of record shards, reassembled Marclay-style like a pizza and melded into one bizarre disc. 2003’s Sterile, it’s been posited, is a musical representation of death, and the following biological processes. Another recent release found Ortmann and Cock ESP’s Emil Hagstrom lending their own touches to beloved classics by the Monkees. Perverse may not have so obvious a thesis, but Ortmann continues to surprise those who’d short change him as simple a purveyor of power electronics.

The disc begins twistedly enough with “Convulsion Expulsion,” a video by Chicago filmmaker Usama Alshaibi. The controversial piece, which delayed the manufacture of Perverse, features a starkly pale, half-dressed woman, a Panicsville soundtrack,and just enough blood to make a viewer queasy. Such an explanation may not do Alshaibi’s film justice, but suffice it to say that it’s just as disturbing as any of Ortmann’s “bad” behavior throughout Panicsville’s duration.

Pervese is almost a solo record, and though it features collaborators galore (including Kevin Drumm, Weasel Walter, MV Carbon and Thymme Jones), Ortmann is the album’s driving presence, and the only performer on half of the disc’s tracks. Jeremy Fisher’s inclusion on the album may or may not be his Panicsville swansong, but, either way, Ortmann’s the man, and Perverse is his creation. The album’s a thoughtful mix of noisy interjections and more staid, even contemplative material. Ortmann leans heavily on his normal array of electronics throughout the disc, but acoustic instruments also come into play, more frequently than one might expect. The noisy electronic mash of “Coprophiliaktionist” and creepy howling and scavenging of “Werewolf Section” are offset nicely by “Concentration Campaign,” a track that’s the direct descendent of the 1990s Chicago no-wave revival, and stuttered oompa of “Nihlist Youth Movement.” And while Perverse is more than intense enough to satisfy some primeval bloodlust, some of its better moments come at more tranquil times. “The Thing in the Cave” layers the sounds of watery movement under a sparse selection of sounds, everything from a computer printer to ragged glitches and the sounds of an amplified camera. The distant, echoed activity of “Lent an Ear” is accented with Ortmann’s capable work on the violin and clarinet, “chamber noise” for the unrepentently damaged, perhaps.

It’s not that Ortmann has failed to prove himself a diverse musician in the past, but that Perverse does so in a way that renders some of the more typically noisy music on the album almost redundant. The turmoil of “The Valley of Eternal Chaos” is pleasantly punishing stuff, but it’s hard not to wish that Ortmann had strayed even more often from the audio destruction, because, as usual, that’s when Panicsville’s music is at its fascinating best.

By Adam Strohm

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