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Lithops - Ye Viols!

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Artist: Lithops

Album: Ye Viols!

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Feb. 20, 2009

Mouse on Mars has been quite cantankerous of late. After the hyper-alert extravagance of 2004’s Radical Connector, the duo switched on the jackhammer for the head-throttling Varcharz. Perhaps they fell under the assaultive influence of Ipecac Records, or maybe Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma were just shaving moss in preparation for Von Sudenfed, their slightly less barbed and bruising collaboration with visionary crankoteur Mark E. Smith.

From its declarative title on, Ye Viols!, the latest solo missive from St. Werner, maintains the nervous energy coursing through those recent releases, but tempers them with skirmishes into semi-numinous zones of frequency play. The album, limited to a thousand CDs but also available on vinyl and the ubiquitous digital download, is a suite of tracks St. Werner composed to accompany installations, films and dances for contemporary artists, including frequent MoM collaborator Rosa Barba. From the faltering strut of opener “Graf” through the carousel spin of hacked Marioland notes on “Handed,” Ye Viols! has plenty of jitters and jags. Tones blurt and beats spurt so insistently, it’s hard to imagine these sounds as secondary or complimentary to anything. “In Nitro” has the most white space, but it’s riddled with clattering bursts of metals worthy of a tiptoeing, Yamantaka Eye-led armada of hypnotized drummers. Almost everything here is drop-everything ear work.

But there’s something about the chorus of idling engines on “21.jhrdt,” with a spluttering spark-plug shimmer in the middle, that make it nearly eldritch. There are even gauze-filtered flashbacks where these now scattered parts once chugged and clanged in industrious unison. When the plug’s finally pulled with a slight, concussive beep, there’s a genuine sense of deletion.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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