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Artist: AFCGT

Album: AFCGT

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jan. 25, 2010

AFCGT’s noise-rock is as affable as it is ugly. As a band, it’s the standard issue instrumentation of drums, bass, guitar. Three guitars, actually. The threat of so much riffing ends up pushing them into the opposite direction; half these un-tunes are sparse and don’t seem to emanate from anything as pedestrian as a Fender. Vocals show up once, during the nonsense narrative of "Nacht," where a barrel-toned speaker recites words that could be German-Portuguese creole. The musical aesthetic follows suit. In isolation, you might confuse a measure here or there for rock ‘n’ roll. As a whole, it’s weirder and less inviting.

Yet there’s a ludicrousness at work that keeps this from coming off as high-minded provocation. It’s more the territory of Mothers of Invention at their most experimental (like the last third of Freak Out) or the Butthole Surfers when they had a good balance of intoxicants and studio-time pressure. It’s hard to tell which passages are structured perversity, and which were of-the-moment discovery. There’s certainly forethought to "New Punk 27," which fits something like eight disconnected parts together in three minutes. Depending on how you parse crud-blasts, you might hear six or nine changes. In between blasts comes a few bars of dixieland upstrokes, snippets of tight Beefheart blues. They’re keeping track of what’s going on more than first impressions suggest.

Turns out that AFCGT is two groups in collaboration, A Frames and Climax Golden Twins, each of whom produced recordings which were highlights of the previous decade. The A Frames started spewing paranoid and deadpan post-punk as the century turned, and it captured freedom-fried America perfectly as we were dropped in the oil. Climax Golden Twins smear styles they find crate digging. Some of their finest excavations were collected on Victrola Favorites, a compilation made by holding a mic up to a 78 RPM turntable, capturing a delightfully jarring mix of Mediterranean folk, Chinese vaudeville, jugbands and Yiddish novelties. The lack of continuity and context made the old time music breath with a life that gets buried in more scholarly curatorial efforts.

Sure enough, this album falls between the two band’s approaches. It’s informed by a certain genre tourism, and shaken up by the haphazard guitar of A Frames’ Erin Sullivan. Knowing the past work of these guys when listening to AFCGTdoesn’t necessarily matter, though. This crew is a lot more capable than the srkonk and intimidating moods on display here. But for now, it’s plenty.

By Ben Donnelly

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