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Agoraphobic Nosebleed - PCP Torpedo / ANBrx

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Artist: Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Album: PCP Torpedo / ANBrx

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Jun. 11, 2006

For our purposes here, digress from the get-go we must: Since its emergence in the mid-1980s as an outgrowth of the explorations of then-fastest bands like D.R.I., Deep Wound and Siege (and on the metal side, Michigan's Repulsion) "grindcore" has been an oft misidentified, misunderstood, and mischaracterized runt of the "extreme" music litter. Without getting into a detailed primer, know that there is one uniformly present attribute in all examples of "grindcore,” that being the so-called "blast-beat.” Musician-types, try to follow: First appearing on D.R.I.'s 1983 tune "No Sense" from their self-titled EP, the blast-beat generally comprises a repeated, sixteenth-note figure played at a very fast tempo, and divided uniformly among the kick drum, snare and ride, crash, or hi-hat cymbal. A properly executed blast-beat sounds like a jackhammer, ideally, although Napalm Death's seminal Scum album is brimming with looser, passable examples. Blast-beats differ from "thrash" or "skank" beats in that (a) there's a lot more regimented action per subdivided beat, and (b) they sound a good deal more amusical and (in this reviewer's opinion) impractical in the best possible way. And although the heavier Hot Topic set has been doing its best to co-opt them lately, they remain a surefire way to keep a tune off mainstream/alternative radio in favor of the latest Stone Sour jam. But – and again, in general – without the blast-beat, one does not have a grindcore song on one's hands.

So why all the self-righteous background genre info when we're supposed to be reviewing a record here? Well, in part because the reissue PCP Torpedo portion of this release, originally issued in 1999 on 6-inch vinyl, totals about six minutes in duration. And it starts off with what sounds like a dialogue sample of Richard Pryor from The Toy. Repeat: A DIALOGUE SAMPLE OF RICHARD PRYOR FROM THE TOY! But, following the disorienting Pryor snippet that leads off the punishing thrash stutter of "Thanksgiving Day,” it's an intense six minutes. And it's fitting that given their own developing proclivity toward deranged, darkly humored political/socioeconomic commentary in their own music, ANB's Scott Hull and Jay Randall found such an analogy in Pryor's strangely out-of-character rant ("Fuck Uncle Sam, man…the workin' man's gotta pay every goddamn thing…").

For sanity's sake, it doesn't really matter whether ANB or any reviewer considers them to be "grindcore" or "grindcore-influenced." Yes, they've got that blast-beat in spades, but no sooner had "grindcore idioms" gained acceptance than ANB threw them out the window, exchanging a human drummer for a high-velocity drum machine. With unhindered access to high-cyclic rate automatic-weapon tempos and impossibly layered rhythms, all delivered with tireless, mathematical precision, the duo squeezes off 10 tracks that whip past and through listeners like a hail-laden gale. (Note that seven of those tracks are less than a minute long.) Otherwise, all of the usual suspects are present, just kicked up a few notches from their contemporaries. Downtuned, super gain-saturated guitar? Check. Smorgasbord of blown-out guttural, belting hardcore, and high-end, shrieking vocals? Check.

The companion remix disc, ANBrx, wherein 13 artists have at ANB's source tapes is where things really get interesting. Jesu's Justin Broadrick stretches and extrudes ANB's material into pocket-sized golem that we could name Godflesh, Jr. Dev/Null and Xanopticon take ANB's mechanized grind to the next logical plateau of breakcore. The duo mangles the source tracks into a maelstrom of 8-bit, undersampled bleeps and bloops and stammering micro-edits. DJ Speedranch's treatment (subtly titled "Thanksgiving Day [Creed are twats and Nickelback look Mike Bolton mix]”) hints at a new psychosis. The track ricochets wildly between what sounds like Eastern European radio crosstalk and beyond-the-red sinewave noise, before Mr. DJ splices Randall's isolated vocal into what sounds like the audio from an English-language Japanese kids' show, creating a phony, brief interview and much hilarity. Merzbow's Masami Akita demonstrates that he is still no slouch at making whatever material he works with sound like his own. And Drokz &Tails submit an intriguing gabber-beat driven mix, interpolating the vocal from ANB's "Strong Stench of Balance" in such a way as to suggest a vague and very weird similarity to "Jumpin' Jack Flash.”

PCP Torpedo stands as a fun time capsule of how nuts shit was allowed to get in the late 1990s, though it's safe to say that Hull and Randall's more recent work has upped the ante even further. And with ANBrx, Hull and Randall hand off that white-hot phosphorus torch that's been burning them to the bone to a new crop of harder, faster, louder, messier acts. Metal fans anxious for what's next can look to this release as a brief document of the past, and an offering of some ugly prospects for the future.

By Adam MacGregor

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