Rollerball - "Behind The Barber"
(Silber Records 2004, silber 33)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: July 2004
Last year's excellent "Real Hair" went for more pop-oriented song-structures (while still keeping all the innate strangeness intact, of course), but the gloomy Portland collective's latest mixes things up again more like "Trail of the Butter Yeti", with even more avant-jazz and electronic noise-fests, no really straight songs, only scattered vocals. "Surfactant Bleed" and "Muddmkr" are responsible for mixing the bulk of the tracks, not sure if they're regular members or associates. The packaging is typically ambiguous, a digi-pack with unconventional artwork... let it surprise you.
"Do the Slim Jim" is a noisy hypnotic groove with everything in the kitchen sink: besides the drums, bass and guitar, also synth, a number of horns and a hazy electronic effect, which reminds me somewhat of the whoozy abrasive assaultiveness of Helios Creed's "Tele-vision". "Slits Arandas" is the featured long piece, starting out as a swinging island-jazz tune, with a smooth vocal from one of the group's ladies. After a few minutes, though, we find the group in all-out '60s avant/free-jazz land in the form of a chaotic swarm of frenetic horns: Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman should be suitable references. From this the tune's final third is more for the percussionists and organ, the two rolling along together in alien time-signatures.
"Autotelic" is more abstract psychedelic meandering, with a doomy drum and pest-effects. "Quiela" is rather free stuff again where the bass really gets to rumble. The last album's "Starling" gets a dubbed-out reworking by Aleph here, the original bass-line pumped up with extra bulbousness, along with the usual minced-up echo-effects, though I don't hear much that really warrants the re-make. "The Guarantee" is some of the most purely spaced-out stuff I've heard on any of their albums, far-out blowy synth and tronics and distant diabolical underwater percussive strangeness. Quite a nice little bit of headness here. "Burning Light" strains the vocal part of "Slits" through the dub process courtesy of one Nudge, the bass booming in an almost danceable way. Another very strange effect, and it certainly doesn't hurt to hear that strange lyric again, which is as well put through some strange effects. "Chi Town Cub" begins with pure avant-spasmic tape-work with horns, whistles, loops and what-all before mellowing into a slow accordian dirge, a mood they evoked particularly well on the last album. "Chicalote" is great freaked-out sci-fi processing or effects among some more grounded acoustic instruments, again making for a novel effect. "Fake Tan" is more of the same, another nightmarish barrage of effects and rhythms, electronic and acoustic.
I haven't enjoyed this one as much so far, maybe because it is less accessible, or perhaps it sounds less "fresh". It's definitely one of those albums that takes for fucking ever to sink in, and it IS Rollerball, so I'm sticking with it. Besides, my own head's upside-down now, so what do I know about an experimental urban post-rock band from Oregon (it says on the disc "if you lived here you'd be high now"). Definitely another solid outting for the group, and leagues beyond the majority in terms of creativity.
For more information you can visit the Silber Records web site at: http://www.silbermedia.com.
Email at email@example.com.
Email Rollerball at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact via snail mail c/o Silber Records; PO Box 18062; Raleigh, NC 27619.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg