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Greg Kelley / Alex Neilson - Graveside Doles

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Artist: Greg Kelley / Alex Neilson

Album: Graveside Doles

Label: Ultra Eczema

Review date: Aug. 20, 2006

Anyone familiar with the work of Greg Kelley and Alex Neilson, either in Nmperign or Directing Hand respectively, are well aware that Graveside Doles isn’t going to be a traditional trumpet / drum record. While both artists have had dalliances with the heavier end of improvisation, this is their harshest work to date. Relatively little of this record sounds like it comes from either of their signature instruments, making this senses-battering collaboration weigh even more intensely on the mind. It becomes delightfully difficult to grasp what or who is coming at you, the music coming like a rush of plasma.

Kelley and Neilson used the post office to exchange material for Doles, which certainly accounts for the not-so-subtle layering of these five songs. But even with the to-and-fro construction, the energy emitted by this record would make it just as easy to believe that this was a four-man team going at the music hammer and tongs, literally.

The openers on both sides are short in comparison to the other pieces, feeling like succinct and fierce statements of intent. The a-side howls with the high-end horn of “Blessing the Throat," barely avoiding a white-out thanks to some light percussive tapping. Its counterpart is “Marble Day," whose high notes squirrel away between deluges of feedback and some vocals marched through plastic tubes.

Two songs manage to sneak peaks of sunlight and snow through the mist. “Ringing the Devil’s Knell” has welcome Christmas-like chimes that flitter amongst the scrape and ripping of metal. This delicacy slowly swells until the bells match the ringing feedback. The title track easily captures the cold fog of morning grave vigils, the knell of a swooping gong resonating throughout. Imagine pennywhistle feedback emanating from the mouths of coma victims.

Closer “Ceremony of the Keys” kicks off with looping descending drones that burn into sludge. A serrated grind of mechanics makes this the least organic-sounding piece, even with its gibbering horn. As tones painfully collide, they begin to blend into a single power-electronics stream of thick focused energy.

This is an LP best understood after repeated listens, the layers molding into one sound while simultaneously offering up myriad formations. Graveside Doles is a heavy, involved listen, but improvisation like this is worth the work.

By Scott McKeating

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