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Religious Knives - Resin

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Artist: Religious Knives

Album: Resin

Label: No Fun

Review date: May. 19, 2008

At its best (see Consumer Electronics' Nobody's Ugly or Pita's A Bas la Culture Marchande), the No Fun label sheds the trappings of the DIY noise/tape scene and points out how limited in scope many of its releases are. There are only so many psych-walls of noise, and what doesn't immediately strike the listener as indulgent can soon grow tedious. Innovative sound science will always have its place, but no one needs to see another shirtless twenty-something white boy angrily tweak his effects pedals unless there's a real point to it.

With Resin, Double Leopards' Mike Bernstein and Maya Miller (also the folks behind the Heavy Tapes label), along with Todd Cavallo and Mouthus' Nate Nelson, avoid the dull haze of the scene by making it clear that Religious Knives are, first and foremost, a psych-rock band. Rather than use the tag as window-dressing to justify abstract noodling or as a means to convey a vague sense of purpose, the Knives, contrary to their label's moniker and the bulk of its roster, actually seem to enjoy applying force to atmosphere. Much of their output has trafficked in tribal murk, but the tracks on Resin lift the clouds, or at least provide a real rock music release.

The album collects three different vinyl, CD-R and cassette releases from the band, along with three new tracks that further the vibe created on the original releases. "Luck,” taken from a Heavy Tapes 12”, comes off like Clinic on cough syrup. Delicate(!) organ and melodica interaction give way to Bernstein plaintively singing(!) about a soured love affair, repeating, "I waited too long / But you never did come." I assume soured love affair instead of, say, meeting a friend for a movie because the Knives actually bother to connect themselves to the rock music continuum, and can therefore reap the emotional benefits. Similarly, "Everything Happens Twice" couches the post-Spacemen 3 twang of Psychic Ills in bratty punk idiom and is all the stronger for it. Attitude, or at least attitude as an end in itself, has been checked at the door.

The two new studio tracks on the album, featuring Dave Nuss of No Neck Blues Band on drums, are the most jam-heavy of the lot, with Nuss' pleasant swing pushing Manzarek organ under Bernstein's near-goth delivery. The third previously unreleased track is a recording from an August performance in D.C. that highlights how thoroughly the Knives bring the noise live. In comparison, the rest of Resin can't help but feel less immediate – real bands rock hardest in concert.

By Brad LaBonte

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