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Burning Star Core - The Very Heart of the World

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Artist: Burning Star Core

Album: The Very Heart of the World

Label: Thin Wrist

Review date: Apr. 28, 2005

Cincinnati’s C. Spencer Yeh, the man behind Burning Star Core, operates in a rather nebulous corner of the galaxy of experimental music. Musical monogamy isn’t Yeh’s strong suit, but BXC is all the stronger for it. Yeh can shift easily between contexts, both in terms of what music he’s making and with whom he’s making it. Lately, Yeh seems most often situated alongside the burgeoning noise community, with whom his aesthetic for self-released CD-Rs and open-ended performances jibes well. Yeh’s violin is an anomaly among the usual noisemakers employed by his contemporaries, but he’s always been far too talented and respected by his peers to be misconstrued as novelty. The Very Heart of the World, only his second “proper” release, will hopefully bring Yeh more of the renown he deserves.

The first side of The Very Heart of the World begins with the sound of a car crash and the fittingly somber dirge of “Benjamin.” The solo performance on violin, guitar, and electronics sends a scuttling series of buzzes and rattles over a weighty drone, with a short but superbly ominous vocal performance, a dark epilogue to the already solemn proceedings. The piece is representative of the minimalism that Yeh often employs, with drones teeming with life and movement. “Nyarlahotep” features more prominently Yeh’s vocal improvisatory skills, and, though edited and effected, the twisted gobbledygook of Yeh’s possessed linguistics is an impressive display of twisted tongue and contorted visage. “Catapults” again finds Yeh without his violin, this time collaborating with Lexington’s Sarah O’Keefe, Trevor Tremaine, and Jim McIntyre on a piece that rises slowly like a cloud, with Yeh’s organ drone surrounded by the squall of electronics, clarinet, guitar and trumpet. The plodding rhythm of a simple drumbeat helps keep the massive sound aloft before it disappears into a shimmering organ decrescendo. The highlight of Yeh’s debut LP was its title track, “A Brighter Summer Day,” and, as with its predecessor, The Very Heart of the World finds its climax in a side-long piece, the brooding “Come Back Through Me.” Propelled by a simple piano chord and the rhythmic clatter of drumsticks on rim and cymbal, the piece moves with a rather unconventional grace. Yeh’s violin arcs over the percussion, exploding into flurries of frantic bowing, which, under the effects of a slight delay, are stretched into ribbons not unlike the sounds Henry Flynt coaxed out of his fiddle in his more psychedelic modes. Electronics from Robert Beatty stay surprisingly low in the mix, both he and fellow Hair Policeman, drummer Tremaine, are the perfect support players, and it’s not until the song’s final quarter that their contributions begin to fully unfold. As the structure of the piece disintegrates, Tremaine slowly builds to a riotous conclusion in which Yeh and Beatty become dueling wraiths in the middle of a volcanic roar.

Though The Very Heart of the World is only Yeh’s second full-length LP, Burning Star Core has emblazoned a mark on the worlds of free improv and noise that boldly stakes claim to that shady area in which the two so deliciously intertwine. BXC 4 life, indeed.

By Adam Strohm

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