Monday, October 10, 2011

Deathprod - "Treetop Drive 1-3, Towboat" (LP Review)

Here's another one for Butch @ Squealer Music. I see Butch once or twice a year and we use the time to catch up on music. Our interests overlap in the areas of ambient, doom, drone, stoner -- basically all the sub-genres that Black Sabbath spawned (see my review of "Vol. 4"). One of the artists that Butch turned me on to is Deathprod (aka Helge Sten).

After hearing Deathprod from Butch, I bought the eponymous 4-CD boxset (released in 2004). I wasn't sure at what granularity that I wanted to review the music: 4 LPs in a single review? Instead, I review them separately starting with my favorite LP from the set, 1994's "Treetop Drive 1-3, Towboat" (yes, the LP title is simply the listing of the LP's four tracks).

Reviewing this LP is actually rather hard -- Sten is generally credited on LPs with "Audio Virus", and that's about as good an explanation as you'll find. There is almost no percussion, just swaths of looped, foreboding sounds. Here's a string of words I'd associate with the music in general: dark, powerful, repetitive, nightmarish, mesmerizing, plodding, haunting, homemade, menacing, stalking, Giger-esque. Similar in a sense to Plastikman's "Consumed" in results, but far more organic and, well, viral.

I'll attempt another comparison: on the "Time" episode of Radiolab, they describe "9 Beet Stretch", which is Beethoven's 9th Symphony stretched out to 24 hours in length. "Treetop Drive 1-3, Towboat" could easily be excerpts of MBV's "Loveless" with the same stretch treatment.

Treetop Drive 1 sounds like an interpretation of a series of looped, slow-motion car wrecks. Treetop Drive 2 sounds like warring, maniacal channel buoys. Treetop Drive 3 sounds like a plague of locusts, and features a narration of:
So there's a strange affinity with death. Many school districts today are teaching a death education, where they take first graders, second, and third graders and acquaint them with death: Not in the concept of life after death, but with death itself. And, kids are being taken to mortuaries and are allowed to see, and even touch, dead bodies. There is this fascination with death, to desensitize us to death.
This is the only thing that passes for vocals in the LP, and I have no idea where this is sampled from. But my favorite song is the LP closer "Towboat". It starts off pretty minimalist, then slowly builds an aural description of a conflict, closing with what sounds like (abstracted) machine gun fire in the last 4-5 minutes of the track. This could easily be the dream soundtrack of Willard / Kurtz going up the river.

Standout tracks: Treetop Drive 1, Treetop Drive 2, Treetop Drive 3, Towboat.

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final Score: 8/10. Not light background listening, but powerful and important.

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