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End - The Sounds of Disaster

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Artist: End

Album: The Sounds of Disaster

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Jun. 7, 2004

If this record is the sound of disaster, then I've been missing out by playing it safe. Charles Peirce and friends throw down a bizarre and eminently enjoyable collection of frenzied beats, bizarre samples, Western atmospheres, cartoon themes, and noir filth. As the title's play on words indicates, "You Only Live Once" is a mutant Bond theme, with shredded beats and digital sounds stretched to their limits, with an admirable chugging bass line. "Countdown to the End" similarly plays on old-school spy music and drum'n'bass. It's exemplary of the album's imaginative and playful nature.

If there’s a similar sound out there, it would be Jim Thirlwell with his Steroid Maximus project, but End's decidedly more aligned with the “big beat” electronic school. On the other hand, the superb horns of "Ruin Anyone Anywhere Anything," thrown atop rapid-fire drums and rhythmic embellishments, does bring Thirlwell to mind. This song may just drive you to steer your car off the nearest cliff at high speed while grinning ear-to-ear. After all, there’s even an early Swans sample.

Another name that occasionally comes to mind is Steinski, especially when Peirce tosses in the occasional clever sample, like on "World Went Down." Its title is a case in point, mixed with super-fast rhythmic constructs and an overall jazzy feel. "Fit to Die" likewise lays down a very amusing sample over breakneck beats, and begging you to sing along.

The songs often morph suddenly from one personality to another. "Mr Guns (The Theme From 11th Street)" switches abruptly from quietly pretty to intensely noisy, then moves on to noir-ish jazz punctuated by gunfire and heavy digital glitches. The attention-getting "Brooklyn Home Invasion" opens with a funky guitar sound, then deteriorates into a glorious mess of percussion assault before picking up the pieces and carrying on.

End's kinship with folks like Speedranch and the Tigerbeat6 cadre is evident in both the playfulness and their willingness to pull the listener down into really heavy digital muck. But what makes this album succeed is his attention to constructing a compelling story in each song. The distinct samples and varying instrumentation give each piece a real personality, while common themes based on stylistic choices – noir, spy tunes, even rockabilly and big band – tie the album together. An impressive piece of work.

By Mason Jones

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