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Lugosi - Dawn

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Artist: Lugosi

Album: Dawn

Label: CMR

Review date: Aug. 16, 2005

Most ‘free rock,’ borne of free jazz’s ecstasy and rock’s hulking volume, bristles with over-amped intensity. However, New Zealand’s free rock and free noise contingent do things differently. The Dead C birthed a genre with their laissez-faire take on the ‘rock song,’ their songs brimming with an oxymoronic ‘tense lethargy,’ the sluggishness of the vocals and guitar textures paradoxically bristling with anxious energy. The great development of the first wave of free noise artists was the jettisoning of this tension. From Surface of the Earth’s treacly hum to Lovely Midget’s submerged fidelity and RST’s careful, ponderous walls of guitar texture, New Zealand free noise is largely devoid of exertion.

Lugosi is one of the earliest groups formed by Campbell Kneale, who works solo as Birchville Cat Motel. The group’s music is liquid, atomized, and it moves in geological time. The trio (joining Kneale is Andrew Savage of Sunship and Leon Schutz) were great believers in drone-as-bedrock, and there is always an earthing hum rolling from the speakers. The group plots heavy-lidded textures and the simplest phrases and melodies that skim the surface like a stone skipping through water – except it’s been filmed and played back at 1/48th the original speed. Like the best free noise of its era, Dawn is an oddly luminescent experience, the simple blocks of sound pieced together in such a way as to infer some great, glimmering structure assembling itself in slow motion. The result is almost pathologically gorgeous, a noise record with all the sharp edges sanded to a soft, blurry down. And slow as fuck.

After this, Kneale’s work became more compositionally exact, his Beautiful Speck Triumph double CD a particular highlight. He then re-discovered his metal roots with Chi Vampires and the Black Boned Angel project. That Kneale would move (back) into metal is no surprise – no less an authority than Brian Eno once proclaimed metal one of the first ambient musics. Dawn is a protean glimmer from Kneale’s well-trained eye.

By Jon Dale

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