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Transmission - Transmission

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Artist: Transmission

Album: Transmission

Label: Radium

Review date: Nov. 19, 2006

Transmission is a suitable handle for the exotic, archival smudges left behind by monster drummer Jonathan Kane and Franco-Tunisian visual artist and sax player Daniel Galliduani. Resuscitated by Table of the Elements’ “rock imprint” Radium, the pair’s previously unreleased recordings suggest alien broadcasts as well as the rattling metal innards of a large, gas-guzzling automobile.

Transmission resided on the fringes of post-no wave Manhattan from 1981 until 1983, both before and after Michael Gira recruited its personnel for the original lineup of his nascent demolition squad Swans. But aside from sharing a loud, slightly macho vibe, the duo sounds markedly different than the better-known band into which it was absorbed. Roaming free on its own terms, Galliduani’s tenor dominates the proceedings like an enervated, mechanized pachyderm. It’s quite a shock compared to his parenthetical performance on Swans’ tentative debut 12”, where his contributions were edited and mixed away into a relatively anemic background whirl.

Rampaging in a manner that evokes North African trance orchestras, South Seas cannibal rituals and a chorus of pissed-off, 300-pound jazzbos, Transmission reveals Galliduani as an unheralded colossus of molten horn action. (The guy even went so far as to spray-paint his instrument black.) From the sustained, tugboat-meets-traffic jam groan of the opening “Fireball” to the staccato, guitar-simulating chug that carries “Battlecry,“ he camouflages and super-sizes his bleats using a stockpile of harmonizers, delay pedals and assorted sci-fi effects. Galliduani comes totally unhinged during the locomotive finale “Power Stations”: He grabs a microphone and bays the song’s title through his patented amplification system, channeling some lunatic, futuristic scat singer.

In sharp contrast to the sleek propulsion of his collaborations with Rhys Chatham or the slow, bluesy grooves of his recent solo efforts, Kane responds with ecstatic, tom tom-crazed percussion that references immense taiko-style thuds, military-industrial marches and sub-Saharan tribal celebrations. As always, his obvious virtuosity never overshadows his commitment to brute force.

Though it’s not nearly as monumental as Swans’ 1983 Filth LP or Kane’s 2005 album February, the Transmission EP is a choice little chunk of downtown history. This cross-cultural, urban-primitive relic – which could have only been spawned in early-’80s NYC – stands as an inventive and joyously pugilistic footnote that radically redefines the designation “worldbeat.” Which in this case means beating world music to a bloody pulp.

By Jordan N. Mamone

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