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Thermo - Touring Inferno!

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Artist: Thermo

Album: Touring Inferno!

Label: Inoxia

Review date: Aug. 29, 2002

Drum'n'Mixing Inferno

For the past couple of years, the Japan-based duo of Yui Kimijima (also of Tokyo's no wave combo Gaji) and Sudoh (formerly drummer for Melt-Banana) have been exploring the possibilities of a most unusual lineup: Sudoh plays drums while Kimijima processes the sounds through a mixer and an array of effects. On Touring Inferno, their latest release, they offer 38 minutes of tweaked and twisted percussive sounds, presented as five tracks centered around "hi.china," the epic opening piece. Its 18:47 length is followed by four shorter pieces.

Since I realize that not every reader might think that a nineteen-minute-long drum solo is a good thing, let me hasten to assure you that in this case it is. "hi.china" is the main body of this CD, beginning as weird rhythmic chunk with a martial beat to it. Sudoh's drums are processed through Kimijima's setup, adding weird filtered whooshes and metallic distorted fuzziness. Carefully-calibrated delays occasionally double the drum hits, while strange sound effects make things tense. At other times, this suite-like song moves through hip-hoppish beat parts, with buzzing, whirring effects added by Kimijima. Many of the sounds added are quite impressive, such as synth-like buzzing tones and filtered psychedelic noises.The constant mutation of Sudoh's rhythms prevents the track from getting at all bogged down, and Kimijima's mixing proves to be consistently interesting.

The following piece, "young master," almost seems to be a sort of cut-and-paste of drum pieces, mixed and processed with a variety of effects: deep reverbs, distortion, and filter sweeps. Whether it is in fact various pieces cut together or whether it was actually played that way is hard to say, of course. The piece gets really dense as it progresses, with thick clattering percussion and more and more layers heaped on top. The result becomes intriguingly noisy and hypnotic by the end. By way of contrast, "vartan's of swing" takes a jazzy swing drum beat and throws in a weird set of sounds almost like blurting horns, purposely off-rhythm. The drums stagger and restart, throwing the horn-ish sounds on and off the beat, until it all fades out in a mishmash.

"chaoloon sheep" opens with a high-energy drum beat that gets swallowed up in a flurry of static and noise, only to re-emerge and try again. Fast and crazy, this one's got a bit of everything: pitch-shifting, fuzz and hiss, and distortion along with intermittent periods of ominous atmospheric sounds during which you're kept waiting, wondering when the drums are going to kick back in. The feedback-derived noises about 3/4 of the way through will test your threshold for sonic abuse. If one were to look for the least approachable, most Merzbow-influenced track, this is certainly it; it's the only one where the drums are actually overwhelmed by the other sounds.

Of the final four songs, perhaps "fire wire with wire" is the strongest, which is reasonable as it finishes off the album. The cavernous drums at the beginning slowly morph into a truly trance-inducing regular drum beat tweaked into a burbling, bubbly collection of percussive whoomps. As it tick-tocks to the end, the sound slowly fades out, as if time is coming to an end...

By Mason Jones

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