Mental Experience 2020
Expanding the borders of District of Columbia, melodious noisicians construct a world both familiar and far removed from our reality.
When NURSE WITH WOUND’s debut album arrived in 1979, the 291 artists and collectives listed on its cover became, and continue to be, the subject of meticulous scrutiny, with some of the entries, such as HENRY COW, quite known and others, like BOMIS PRENDIN, looking as though they were invented to empuzzle fans. Yet the latter band did, and do, exist, hailing from Washington and having released by then a single record, “Test” – with this one laid down and issued on 50 cassettes: a sad turn of events, really, because the American quartet knew no limits in eliciting the sounds they wanted from unusual objects and substandard instruments and never dreamed on parochial level.
A travelogue of sorts, “Clear Memory” justified the implementation of various sonic techniques by binding them into a single, loose concept that’s fascinating enough to keep the listener’s focus fresh at any given time – and there’s no time wasted in this aural cauldron. The perspective seems sharp and crisp from the very beginning: with all their avant-garde slant and proclivity for noise-making, the ensemble’s slate could be rather clean to let their sensuality shine through, which is why “First Light” has tender folk tune smeared all over its punchy groove before the birds’ chirps are almost drowned in a pseudo-orchestral drone whose reverential, low tones will get blown to pieces when Miles Anderson’s blues guitar and Bomis Prendin’s cheap ivories of “French Passport” briefly enter the picture.
But while many may see “Respect The Road” as a tribute to a certain collective of autobahn-surfers – the motorik rhythm, the deadpan spoken word, the stonewall wobble – and “The Big Horizon” may be channeling monsieur Jarre through electronica-tinctured organ waves, the DC band’s funky imprint feels highly individual, if not perfectly distinct, so the bass-heavy “Street Without Lunch” and cosmic “Keep The Letters” meander from psychedelic playground towards multi-layered intellectual prog pastures. There’s a few humorous interludes – and the otherworldly pastiche of “Robop” – peppering its flow, yet the squealing horror in “Hell’s Little Ransom” is morbidly cinematic, albeit abstract, and “I Don’t Want” demonstrates a rocking intent that’s undermined with soft vocals and hilarious call-and-response set against the primitive boogie, whereas “Forced Delight / Debris Factory” breaks from raga to proto-metal.
The digital bonus track “Endocircumventual” even points to majestic fusion as the group’s alternative direction, but they didn’t care to pursue a trek which would bring it all closer to orthodox genres, and here’s the reason the foursome remain obscure after operating in plain view for years. Clearing memory helps open one’s mind for new things and, taken in with no prejudice, this record can become a map to the comfortable unknown.