Dusted Reviews

Gang Wizard - Byzantine Headache

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Gang Wizard

Album: Byzantine Headache

Label: Load

Review date: Feb. 1, 2007

On its previous recordings, the 14-strong Los Angeles catharto-core collective Gang Wizard sounded a lot spazzier than this. Byzantine Headache is, at least by noise scene standards, an ambitious record, packed with slow-cooking long-form numbers, short on tossed-off digressions, and played with both confidence and abandon. It showcases a Gang Wizard that’s paid its debt to pure noise, and is headed somewhat purposefully toward… not the formalist aggression of Lightning Bolt, exactly, but something a lot heartier, more complex and more intriguing than what most of its contemporaries are doing.

Byzantine Headache’s best songs start from simple structures, usually the sort of drones and rhythms that flow from construction sites across the nation. As this repetition builds to a simmering hypnosis, they bring on the feral hollerin’, the ear-searing lead guitar crunch and the clamor of whatever noisemakers might be lying around that day. A pervasive, unselfconscious sense of humor gives it a humanist spice that a lot of these records don’t have. The result sounds more like a brutal garage-rock hangover than any pseudo-doom sludge or new-no-wave antagonism. But it never consigns itself to any camp.

Yes, “The Pretty Ape” is a grating tangle of speed-freak cartoon-character bleating, guttural bellowing, and naught else. It’s hard to miss that one. But it only lasts about a minute and a half. The initial layouts for “Soft Crust From 00,” “Another Misplayed Endgame” and “When the Song Begins” are damned near bluesy in their moody, repentant simplicity. And those all last a damn sight longer (the latter two are in the 10-minute neighborhood), which gives them all the time they need to develop. On these songs, Gang Wizard sounds less like a noise band and more like a particularly adventurous rock band.

Anyone can stick a Q-Tip too far in, but getting a good sunburn takes some patience. And those needles can signal a wild variety of sensations, even when they’re pegged in the red.

If you’re the sort of person who enjoys an occasional “is it ‘harsh noise’ or is it ‘power electronics’?” argument, “Metal Coax Concrete Warm String Plastic Tithe, Remember Dials” is a potential argument-settler for either side. It immixes dizzy ranting, repetitive digital beeps and a dirty, organic swirl of drums and guitar, and does equally proud by Throbbing Gristle, the Dead C, and long-suffering, tilt-prone pinball machines everywhere.

Like any good, adventurous rock band, Gang Wizard flaunts a catholic musical vocabulary, defines pat classification at every turn, and never sounds a whit pretentious. When you’ve got a real monster of a record on your hands, debating its particulars is both amusing and pointless.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of Gang Wizard

North Cali Spring 2005

Read More

View all articles by Emerson Dameron

Find out more about Load

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.