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Lionel Marchetti, "Knud un Nom de Serpent (Le Cercle des Entrailles)"

cover imageA reissue of one of the earlier releases on the Intransitive label, this masterwork has loss none of its dark luster in the past decade.  It is a dark trip up river into a heart of darkness, with Marchetti as the local shaman and guide, alongside a broken radio that picks up random frequencies across the world and sacred magnetic tapes, presenting music across the world as a form of cultural transcendence.



Lionel Marchetti

Marchetti has discussed previously that he has always been fascinated with the concept of the medicine man, and here that is carrying over from not just concept but into execution.  The six tracks that make up this album are separated by brief segments of silence, keeping each piece as a separate journey, though linked thematically and structurally by a similar approach to the recordings.  The opening piece "Un" begins with slapping percussion, acoustic guitar, and loops of African vocals, which are musical yet have a disconnected, vaguely sinister color to them.  The vocals dominate the piece, continuing throughout its duration, sometimes augmented by other spoken voices from a megaphone off in the distance, and eventually the voice is processed and layered upon itself, cut up beyond recognition like the transition from ceremony into spiritual intervention.  All the while, subtle feedback and swells of noise slither in like sounds from beyond, never drawing attention to themselves, but never going away.

On "Trois" the journey continues with more cut up vocals, but noisy field recordings, powerline hums, overamplified radio transmissions and fragments of music from across the world appear. Enshrouding all of this is a constant sense of movement and action, heavy breathing from an unseen entity.  The fragments of pop music fade at the end, leaving only isolated voices that transition from spoken words into screams and animalistic growls, an exorcism that finally ends with just the sounds of nature: birds and crickets.

"Cinq" and "Sept" are further documentations of Marchetti’s sonic healing and ritual, the former has more "traditional" high frequency waves of tape music to go with the birds and other natural sounds, as voice enters both that and the electronic sounds become darker and more sinister.  Spoken word elements appear, though through various filters and cut up elements, ending with crackling percussion and voices.  "Sept" emphasizes the cut and paste elements of voice, cut apart into hysterical shrieks and barks, the sound of demon being exorcized from tribesmen. 

"Neuf" is one of the few somewhat lighter pieces, though it is an extreme stretch of the adjective.  The mix here is somewhat more arid, at least until the second segment where slow musical elements are violently cut with vocal blasts and screams.  The last full piece, "Onze," is the expected climactic closing.  Opening with disembodied voices and babies crying, jaw harp notes sharply contrast the tribal shrieks and cut up voices that are much more terrifying.  Throughout it stays tense and dark, the tribal screams overshadowing the surrounding music before ending with just the sound of a radio in the distance, playing a pop music from multiple continents simultaneously.

I’m very glad that Intransitive saw fit to reissue this disc, because not only is it an extremely powerful, narrative work, but it also nicely compliments the collaboration with Seijiro Murayama that the label released recently.  Although the material dates back between 1993 and 1995, it retains a dark majesty that transcends time and the physical realm into a dark mysticism that can only appear by the conjuring of Shaman Marchetti.



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Nightmares On Wax, "Mind Elevation"
The poppy first single from this album "Know My Name" (reviewed in Brain Volume 5, Issue 29) served as fair warning to Nightmares On Wax fans about the direction that George Evelyn was taking his long-running project. Although 'Mind Elevation' serves up a good deal of dubby smoker's delights, it appears N.O.W. has moved into the arena currently occupied by Moby and his big fat vegan ego. Fortunately, this soulful album is far stronger than Baldy's multi-platinum samplefest. While some extreme N.O.W. purists might cringe over their glass-blown pipes at some of the more vocal radio-ready cuts, most of their old fans and music lovers everywhere can appreciate this more accessible sound mixed in with the instrumental groove-ology. Motorola, Volkswagen and other "hip, young-minded" companies are probably eager (checkbooks firmly in hand) to license such tracks as the lush, summery "Date With Destiny" and the aforementioned "Know My Name". True to form, "Environment" wastes little time praising the ganja with blunt (no pun intended) lyrics like "I don't know if I can carry on / Without my roots and bong," so even those bitching about all those damned divas can have a good chortle while skinning up over the latest issue of High Times. N.O.W. have always been one of Warp's finest gems, as well as one of their most reliable staples, and 'Mind Elevation' may very well be the best album released on the label so far this year (Yes, I have heard 'Geogaddi' and no, I did not find it "hauntingly evocative" so shut your trap). Trip hop may be long dead, and "chillout" compilations may fill the Virgin MegaSuperChain cutout bins and Wal-Mart Superstores, but Nightmares On Wax has successfully managed to dodge these tricky genre bullets.



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