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John Wiese and C. Spencer Yeh - Cincinnati

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Artist: John Wiese and C. Spencer Yeh

Album: Cincinnati

Label: Dronedisco

Review date: Jun. 4, 2009


John Wiese and C. Spencer Yeh - "Swedish Couch" (Cincinnati)


Given John Wiese’s choices in bedfellows, I hope he has a safe word. Mixing it up with the likes of Wolf Eyes, Merzbow, Smegma and Pain Jerk has led to some truly horrific sounding joint efforts that are among the cream of the crop in the power electronics end of the noise pool. Given this dubious distinction for brutal collaborations, his partnership with C. Spencer Yeh, brainchild of Burning Star Core, is something of a departure in aesthetic, but no less sadomasochistic.

As Burning Star Core, Yeh veers towards epically outsized drone. As himself, he’s much more puckish, undermining Wiese throughout Cincinnati. The normal menace of large scale mechanical unpredictability typical of Wiese comes off as just flippant, mercurial at best, thanks to Yeh’s much more intimate and organic-sounding disruptions. Instead of a monster, Wiese is reduced to being just a ghost in the machine.

Wiese uses the first three tracks to set up for a long-term grind, with the blaster fighters of “Swedish Couch” set to kill. And then out of nowhere comes “Pink Pyramid”; its extended treatise on tongue clucking, spitting and cheek popping alternates between gross and flat out mesmerizing. Childish and somewhat charming, all the rattling metal just seems to disappear.

Lacing Cincinnati with practical jokes, Yeh frustrates Wiese in every sense of the word. The furious shrieking that dominates the maelstrom of “Jungle Jim” sounds more impish than demonic. The sinister rise of the machines just feels comical after all that mush-mouthing, like steam blowing out a robot’s ears. You start to hear a squealing balloon instead of a post-industrial banshee, and at that point, it just sounds like they’re trying too hard.

The rest of the record plays this same cat-and-mouse game, with every malicious move matched by an equally ridiculous counter, from the motorboatin’ “Empress” to the Furious Pig-inspired temper tantrum of “Weekend Pass II.” Wiese’s attempt at monolithic noise tyranny never takes off, not while entangled in Yeh’s silly little webs. By the end, you get the sense that Cincinnati is one big practical joke.

By Evan Hanlon

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