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Boy Dirt Car - Winter+F/i split LP

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Artist: Boy Dirt Car

Album: Winter+F/i split LP

Label: Lexicon Devil

Review date: Feb. 1, 2004

Back in the mid-80s, outside the New Wave-riddled MTV landscape, there was an astonishingly healthy experimental underground operating. That time being very much pre-CDR, cassettes and, to some extent, cheap LPs (yes, there used to be such a thing and some of us remember it) were the means of production. A primarily postal network of experimental artists flourished around labels like RRRecords, Ladd-Frith, Sound of Pig, and others, nearly all gone at this point. Artists like Esplendor Geometrico, Merzbow, Mental Anguish, Master/Slave Relationship, and Boy Dirt Car provided the audio grit so necessary for some of us.

As a public service, to remind listeners what sort of dread an outfit could create in the post-Industrial era, the Lexicon Devil label has embarked on a mission to reissue Boy Dirt Car's mysterious discography. This CD goes back to 1986/7, compiling the Winter LP and the split LP that paired BDC with F/i. As an added bonus, the edit of "Impact Test" that appeared on the Sub Pop 100 compilation is tacked onto the end.

Boy Dirt Car were one of the more mysterious entities back then. I never had the opportunity to see them play live, but their records, particularly Gravel on Urine and Winter, were a unique blend of anti-music and atmospheric experimentation. "Smear," the first track here, is a good example. Five minutes of what might be manipulated feedback, it could have been unlistenably harsh. Instead, either by accident or through careful attention (hard to guess which), the feedback texture is broken, uneven, and dynamically variable enough to create an uneasy, edgy tension that is ironically listenable. "Western Nile" bears more similarities to the band's most obvious predecessors, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. The clanging, buzzing sounds and thumping rhythm are very much TG-like, while the morose, low-fi vocals resemble both groups.

Rumbling, distorted grinding sounds form the basis for "Invisible Man," but this still remains on an oddly accessible side of noisiness -- while confrontational, it's not as sonically assaultive as, say, Hijokaidan or Whitehouse. "10,000 Years" starts a bit more similar to noise folks like Merzbow and Incapacitants, along with metallic noises and feedback, while the title track is like an audio enactment of its name, a frozen, bleak landscape of austerity and chill. Following that up with "Prairie Fire" is amusingly appropriate, though in honesty there's not that much about the song that's truly fiery. Instead, it's similar to "Western Nile" in some ways, with mechanically declaimed vocals echoing amidst cracklings and rumblings. "23" finishes the original "Winter" album with relatively quiet, low humming sounds.

"Metal House" starts the split LP material here with dirty bassy rumbles and randomly clattering percussive sounds. "Friction Moves" is a very slow-moving stumble of groaning vocals, clanging, and rubbery guitar noises. The rest includes chasms of squeaks and moans, peaks and valleys of intensity and navel-gazing thumping.

While many modern groups have achieved an admirable noise quotient, what I've noticed is that the feeling of menace and actual threat of groups like Boy Dirt Car seems absent from most of today's noisemakers. It's almost as if the need to remain ironically detached from the sound makes it impossible to really imbue it with the intensity, emotion, and plain old care that's clearly audible in much of this album. Sure, you can listen to this and find it a bit naive, and certainly primitive, but there's still more feeling than I hear in so many others. I miss that, and I'll trade some naivete for emotion any time.

By Mason Jones

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