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Chop Shop, "Primer"

cover imageActive for over 30 years but with a relatively small discography, Scott Konzelmann's Chop Shop has made a career of releasing only the utmost quality works, although they have largely been in unconventional formats and extremely limited editions. Primer collects two of his earliest works, 1987's Power Pieces Positive Force and 1989's Scraps, albeit in slightly modified forms, and gives them the deluxe treatment, not only resulting in a higher profile for the releases (since vinyl is the most important format these days it would seem), but also giving wider exposure to these important, extremely difficult to find early works.

Crippled Intellect Productions

Each of the two records in this set are allocated to the individual releases, with the first LP being Power Pieces Positive Force, and the second Scraps.For various reasons, however, there were some changes required.Power Pieces… (1987) was initially a 90 minute cassette, but with almost a half hour of heavily sample-based pieces and a 20 minute recent reissue of "A Different Kind of Connie" already available, Konzelmann chose to not only pare it back, but also to rework the material that was included.

The first half of the record, "Primitive Power," is immediately rhythmic metal pounding atop droning electronic tones.With the layered, heavy-duty rhythms that do not relent, it resembles the early, hypnotic Esplendor Geometrico work performed by Einsturzende Neubauten.It builds to an insistent bass throb, with Konzelmann adding in grinding noises and what may very well be loops of music, either created or sampled.It then transitions into a low frequency rumble, which drowns everything into a bassy grind before erupting into a standard, but excellent traditional noise crunch.

Towards the end he pushes things into more shrill spaces, eventually revealing an almost rhythmic quality derived from the loops of distortion, but in a very subtle manner.The second side, "Positive Force" is a more consistent in its dynamics, though continually evolving sound.The first sections resemble swirling arctic winds that are sustained as Konzelmann carefully treats and tweaks the sound, adding a bit more throughout.Eventually he brings back the pounding metal and what sounds like guitar (real or sampled) to again give a more literal industrial sound.Considering how much of this record was constructed using just neglected, thrift store tape machines, its complexity is made all the more brilliant.

Scraps (1989) is the first release of Konzelmann's work utilizing mounted speakers, metallic objects, and the use of physical space, which became a hallmark of his work as a composer as well as a sculptor.The opening is an excellent mid-frequency noise grind, with a tremendous sense of depth and texture and a few sputtering stops tossed in to keep the dynamic unpredictable.Throughout the first side of this record, Konzelmann brings in all of the sounds I associate with a good noise record:shrill, nasal stabs, midrange feedback expanding outward, and eventually a distorted grind and what could be a dying vacuum cleaner.He bounces between these different styles, making smooth transitions from one segment to the next while keeping the overall composition dynamic.

On the other side he layers interlocking passages of hollow warehouse loops, grinding drills, and aggressive bass rumbles.The overall performance is one of dense, metallic force, but not as chaotic as it initially seems.Low bass throbs, scraping and grinding passages and what sounds like a synth loop underscoring everything makes the overarching structure clear, but varied.Eventually Konzelmann allows things to fall apart, devolving into a dull roar and chaotic, hollow outbursts before culminating in a shrill, feedback-laden conclusion.

As the final release on Blake Edwards's Crippled Intellect Productions, which is being shuttered in the shadow of his newer Ballast label (which focuses on more conceptual, limited handmade releases) Primer is a luxurious presentation of Scott Konzelmann’s seminal experimental work.While it may lack the tactile feel of his more limited works, which were often packaged in abrasive materials, it is still a lovely gatefold record with unique liner note inserts from Edwards and Gen Ken Montgomery.Designed with the records sliding in at the center, rather than the edges of the gatefold, it still retains a bit of the confounding packaging associated with his other output.It makes for a lovely, unique package that befits the early work of Chop Shop, and makes for an excellent reminder of the mark Konzelmann has made on experimental music since 1987.