Blood Money
Axis of Blood

Cover Image
Blood Money - Axis of Blood

August 8, 2006

US CD Killer Pimp PIMPK003

  1. Russolo - [MP3]
  2. Delillo
  3. April
  4. Following Thunder - [MP3]
  5. Jet - [MP3]

Ken Ueno - vocalist
Jon Whitney - rhythm composer
Tom Worster - modulator

Blood Money puts experimental music back into a rock music context where the onslaught of noise can be expressionist rather than intellectual, where music can be enjoyed simply as entertainment, and where musicians are allowed to be rock stars. An award winning composer and vocalist combines extraordinary extended expression with macho beats and extreme oscillator abuse. Simultaneously channelling the sprit of Throbbing Gristle, the mayhem of Pan Sonic, the terror of Diamanda Galas, and the other-worldly artificiality of Xenakis, Blood Money delivers at the intersection of metal, noise, electro and experimental. Axis of Blood, a virtuosic feat of derring-do, will satisfy the most rabid of thirsts.

It takes a special kind of noise band to impress me. Now of course there exist two kinds of "special." I appreciate the noise that's so retarded it rocks. I also enjoy the noise that sticks to your mind like a mosquito trapped in sap. Blood Money drones with a scary creep. Synthesized farts float in between indiscernible vocals and clanking metal. Three men create this white wall of static, and impress with the uncomfortable mood they cultivate. The music seems to breath in slow rasps, and the slimy slug slithers slowly over your body and soaks your skin in alone-in-the-dark atmosphere. Some sounds emanating from the speakers were virtually impossible to differentiate from the sounds you hear in your basement at night as your house settles. The adult mind tries and tries to deny the supernatural explanations for these groans and moans, but deep in the recess of the brain, tricks are played and fear drips down the spinal column in shivers. Blood Money evokes these feelings of tentative dread. I don't know what instruments Blood Money use, probably a king's ransom of Franken-pedals, echo delays, and computer blippy programs. It's not important. Trying to pick what instrument vomited what sound is an exercise in futility and frustration. Axis of Blood best consumes in the earphones as noises skitter and leap in slo-mo from up to down and to and fro. Does it surprise you to learn that some very accomplished, uber-trained musicians form this trio? Rarely can someone so trained in the "right" way to do things take music down to its basic elements. If the deepest reaches of the Amazon were constructed of haunted houses spewed by the grinding gears of a futuristic steel mill, it may sound something like Blood Money. - Mark Karges, Delusions of Adequacy.

El disco realizado por uno de los creadores de la brainwashed no es menos que monstruoso. Un par de samplers, una voz tétrica y a la cancha. Sube el puntaje mientras es de noche, ya que crea un ambiente mucho más denso y penetrante en el momento de encontrarse sólo y en la oscuridad. Por momentos parece desprolijo, pero no es más que una sensación al no estar acostumbrados a propuestas un tanto escalofriantes. Merece especial atención el tema que finalzia el disco "Jet" por su constante empuje hacia un vacío inevitable y una percusión lenta y monótona que destroza cristales. - DeVelvet

Blood Money are music academic and vocalist Ken Ueno, musician and founder of Jon Whitney and experimental music artist Tom Worster. Together, they produce experimental electronic music using oscillator tones, low bassy drones, occasional rhythms and the varied vocal techniques of Ueno. The result is a fascinating combination of odd vocal groans set against an ever-changing backdrop of tonal drones and electronic experimentation. Similarities are inevitably going to be drawn with the works of Coil et al but, while Blood Money follow a similar path, they add their own peculiar twist of new experimentation to proceedings which Ueno's brand of impressive vocal outpourings only exemplifies. Often wailing like a tortured soul, Ueno doesn't "sing" as such, he generally wails and screams into the microphone to add expression to the droning tonal backing generated by Whitney and Worster. Describing Ueno's contribution in that way however, doesn't do it justice as his contribution is far less abrasive and far more expressive than you might expect. Like Coil before them, Blood Money are not afraid to make their own brand of experimental music on their own terms. As an added bonus, there is also a live video included on the CD recorded in Cambridge, MA on May 11th 2006. - Paul Lloyd, Side-Line

Most bands that fuck around in the American underground electronics/noise/drone scenes try to capture 4-real grit of bloated corpse fidelity, instead of laying the skeleton bleached and bare. Herds of bands purposefully record on busted walkmans and go all out for the sound as opposed to mastering (in all the senses of the word) the content. So it's good to hear something once in a while that hasn't been steeped in piss. Blood Money utilize a comparable palette of sounds to most any other avant group, it's just possible in their case to actually hear every nuance of vocal and every slip of the dial. This trio (Tom Worster on modulator, Ken Ueno on vocals and Jon Whitney on rhythms) might claim, via the press release, to be putting the rock back into the experimental, but this is no dumb blow out. In fact, Axis of Blood is categorically un-rock--and all the better for sounding crafted, simple, and intuitive. The electrostatic pulsing that fills in opener "Russolo"'s ribs is like the wet crackle of rain on tarpaulin, avoiding the fury of digital fireworks. Like much of Axis of Blood, it has the feel of stripped down Japanese noise: the layers peel back to reveal the essence of the rhythmic patterns (instead of the violent overload) and shallower shadows of frequency abuse (instead of ear melting). The death-breath groan of Ueno's circular breathing only adds fuel to the idea. The mix of sounds swarms the vocals on "Delillo," the rhythms and debris intermittently flagellating the vocal line and threatening to swallow it whole. These warm digitals provide a perfect balance against the organism-in-distress human sounds. Ueno's vocals (and range of styles) are the immediate focal point of Axis of Blood, but repeated listens reveal the delicacy and freedom of both Whitney and Worster's equally important contributions. The beats are wonderfully low-key, refusing to serve as a framework--like the pulsing of blood they manage to be utterly essential but removed from the spotlight. "April" further showcases this intense symbiotic relationship between voice, rhythm, and pitch manipulation. Its fleshy squelch and cartilage creak build a metrical fog surge that pulls pneumatically. As the oscillator levels spin, the sounds are flitted into the far corners of the headset. But it's the closer, "Jet," that'll keep you coming back for more. Here a metal scrape drone progresses at a snail's pace, becoming more aggressive / oppressive by tiny nail-pulling increments over twenty minutes. The squints of just audible liquid manipulation somewhere in the back right of the mix only adds to the sunken creepiness. Throughout "Jet," a single bass drum note lumbers along (for almost nine minutes) before picking up a different drum sound and finally transforming into an off-kilter heartbeat. It's done seamlessly, building the notes carefully until it slides into place as though it had emerged from nowhere. Time to rewind. - Scott McKeating, Stylus.

'Killerpimp', 'Blood Money', 'Axis Of Blood'? The next wave of noise makers? The new wave of Current 93 clones? Blood Money is a new trio of Ken Ueno on vocals, Jon Witney on rhythm composer and Tom Worster on modulator, and their aim is to put 'experimental music back into a rock music context' and it's about entertainment, non-intellectual and the 'musician are allowed to be rock stars'. All well, but looking at what these guys have done, it's all highly intellectual stuff. Perhaps they want to break away from all that? The combination of rhythm, noise, vocals brings back the good ol' days of Throbbing Gristle area '20 Jazz Funk Greats', Pan Sonic but only with Alan Vega, or latter day Etant Donnes. The rhythms are slow and less urgent and less demanding than Pan Sonic, the vocals are throughout solemnly and chant like a bunch of monks and it's not Vega and it's not William Bennett. All of these examples have tried to put experimental music back into the rock context, and each have succeeded, one more than the other. But somehow Blood Money doesn't work, at least not for me. It lack the necessary aggression, the urgency of the music and it's a bit dull, here and there. How it looks like in a live situation, can be viewed on the CDrom part of the disc. Noise music by 'old' men, and compared to Whitehouse which I saw two months, the road for Blood Money is long. - Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

The debut album from this Boston trio is something else. It takes influence from dozens of different sources and combines them seamlessly without being an academic chore or a self indulgent amalgamation of record collections. It is just a fucking great album. Ken Ueno's vocals are incredible. He goes from deep, booming growls to high pitched squeals, the kind that I would normally associate with a boiling kettle or Blixa Bargeld. Using circular breathing techniques Ueno keeps his vocals going continuously for large stretches of time (growling on the exhalation, squealing on the inhalation). As well as being physically impressive, it goes well with Whitney and Worster's rhythms and noise. Ueno is ever present but sometimes gets overwhelmed by the other two. It's not like he's just lost in the mix, he still colors the sound at these moments. On "Delillo" he is particularly remarkable, his rumbling snarls sound like something from Lovecraft calling from the abyss. The opening drone to "Following Thunder" is one of those drones that just capture your attention. It swells and pulses throughout the piece; it sounds primal and infinite like a good drone should. Ueno again is on top form here with some amazing throat and overtone singing. It is unbelievable how huge his range of vocals is, especially the buzzing sound he emits. The piece is the most hypnotic of the five on Axis of Blood, I had it on repeat for about an hour and it was easy to get lost in it. The last piece, "Jet," finishes off the album beautifully. The drum machine is set to a deep bass drum sound with a low BPM; it is reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle's "Hamburger Lady" and much like the TG track it is full of dread. It completely dissipates the warm feelings that "Following Thunder" previously generated. This is cold, hard and unsettling. It feels about twice as long as it is (and it's over twenty minutes long to begin with); it's not that it's tedious and I was waiting for it to end but that it's monotonous and crushing. The noise surrounding the beats change slowly; there is a constant feeling that something is nearby and it's not pleasant. As the song reaches its climax, the drum machine changes to a heartbeat rhythm and it is terrifying to listen to. If The Terminator was ever remade as an extreme Japanese horror movie then "Jet" would be the appropriate soundtrack. Also included on the CD are two videos of Blood Money performing live. One is a complete concert that although it sounds good I found it hard to look at as when it's blown up to full screen it is too blurry and it's too small to watch comfortably when the picture is clear. The other video is a shorter extract from a live performance in much higher quality that was much more enjoyable. The material played live isn't a carbon copy of the studio recordings. There is a lot of improvisation and variation; the Blood Money live experience looks to be as good as they are on disc but the quality of the videos is quite low as they needed to be squashed onto the disc. As a bonus feature, it is a nice gesture. However I must admit that I rarely watch videos on CD Extra discs as I hate sitting at my computer watching a tiny screen with tinny sound. I'll be most likely sticking with the audio on Axis of Blood. I found no fault with this album (barring my aversion to videos on CDs). A cynical reader would think "Of course he wouldn't find a fault" considering Brainwashed's Jon Whitney is on it. I must point out that even though he sends me some lovely CDs to review, he also sends me some absolutely horrid ones so there's no chance of critical nepotism here. Axis of Blood is an excellent release, anyone with half an interest in challenging music performed deftly should be making a beeline for the samples below. - John Kealy, Brainwashed