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Anti-Social Music / Gena Rowlands Band - Present The Nitrate Hymnal

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Artist: Anti-Social Music / Gena Rowlands Band

Album: Present The Nitrate Hymnal

Label: Lujo

Review date: Apr. 13, 2006

It’s gratifying when a group of musicians is able to morph successfully, to honestly shed one skin for another. This newest Anti-Social Music disc isn’t really a progression; rather it’s a parallel molting. The Nitrate Hymnal was originally produced some three years ago, composed by Bob Massey of the Gena Rowlands Band. It’s only been reorganized and reorchestrated, the continuous score segmented into song-chunks. They’re often not songs as such, as they glower or glow sporting the vignette’s mask.

Ever heard Anti-Social Music? The “punk classicalists” of the “Great American Songbook”? This is far heavier fare than the group’s other work. ASM can bring on the transcendental grit, no question, but this is an opera about obsessive filming, centerpieced by the chilling “Dear Posterity,” in which the act of filming becomes brutally destructive rather than preservative.

The playing – string heavy, alternately buttery and starkly thin but razor sharp – fits the vocalizations and the words perfectly. “Blood Song” swoops and swerves, post-Ligeti fashion as plot and cliché merge to create disillusionment …

I’m not going to say anymore about the narrative itself. ASM’s playing is as fresh as it was on their first disc, better even, and if the topoi are not juxtaposed as radically here, the blends are smoother to fit the overall mood. Think of Godspeed gone more classical and less glacial, add some better vocals and dose liberally with purified theatricality. I hear an air of detachment here that’s missing from the symphonic post-rock of your choice. This is in no way damnation; in fact, it typifies the life/film dynamic the opera – or rather this song-cycle from the opera – seeks to convey. Not an easy listen, but most certainly a memorable one.

By Marc Medwin

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