ST 37 - "Insect Hospital"
(Black Widow 2004, BWRCD 068-2)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: January 2004
Appropriately dedicated to Roky Erickson, ST37's newest release, Insect Hospital, is a solid collection of alternately punky and psychedelic freak outs. "Solaris" (inspired by Tarkovsky's somber cinematic adaptation of the Stanislaw Lem novel begins eerily with muted though resonant electronics that evoke just the right touch of brooding menace before the whole piece explodes into a volcanic eruption of molten guitars, not unlike Red-era King Crimson.
On the other hand, both "Land of Treason" and the Ericksonian "Cold Night for Alligators" are frenetic sonic assaults on the central nervous system, with the buzz-saw guitars of Joel Crutcher and Mark Stone eating up the airwaves. These two will surely test the stamina of your earlobes. Ditto for the cover of Eno's "Seven Deadly Finns", though here the crew retains the quirky surrealistic charm of the original. The backing vocals couldn't be more "Eno-esque".
The disc's real cornerstone, however, is the unconventional score to Fritz Lang's sci-fi masterpiece, Metropolis. Neither orchestral nor mechanical, but rather organic and improvisational, the nearly 45 minute opus is repetitively hypnotic, occasionally chaotic, and thoroughly alien in conception. Imagine if Amon Düül II (circa Yeti and Tanz der Lemminge) had been commissioned by Lang to score Metropolis. This is what it would've sounded like: acid-streaked guitar solos, twittering and buzzing electronics, all brought down to earth by the crashing rhythm section. Carlton Crutcher's synth explorations sound like mutated sound bytes from any number of '50s sci-fi B movies, while S.L. Telles' fuzzed-out bass angrily plumbs the depths of the subterranean clockwork hell that seethes below the glittering noirscape of SF cinema's most famous city.
Ultimately, Insect Hospital is a triumph of guts and inspiration over gloss and technique, and fans of both krautrock and neo-psychedelia will appreciate its willingness to both experiment and rock out, and usually at the same time. And then there's also Stefano Scagni's beautifully evocative cover art, as unearthly as the music itself.
For more information you can visit the ST 37 web site at: http://www.st37.com.
Insect Hospital is distributed by Black Widow. You can visit their web site at: http://www.blackwidow.it.
Reviewed by Charles Van de Kree