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To Live and Shave in LA - Noon and Eternity

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Artist: To Live and Shave in LA

Album: Noon and Eternity

Label: Menlo Park

Review date: Jan. 9, 2007

There are some records that, in hindsight through the high-conceptual lens, are like Mount Everest. Why were they made? Because they could be. End of discussion. The holy grail of the Shaggs' first LP; Nandor Nevai's karaoke excretion from a few years back; Having Fun with Elvis on Stage; any five Reynols records; and To Live and Shave in L.A.'s debut long player, 30-minute mannercreme (1994), stand out as testaments. Floridian Tom Smith's first outing under that moniker tipped the what-the-fuck scale with 40 tracks of stuttering cutups purloined from goodwill-bin LPs. Here, too, were skeins of feedback and clipping and all that pre-No Fun goodness, with Smith all snot and slobber over the whole mess as if being forcibly mummified with his own tape-loop collection.

Many of TLASILA's records in between prove either criminally difficult to track down, unrealized, or unavailable altogether, owing perhaps to Smith's spotty label luck (a quick browse at his discography seems to confirm this). It can be reported, however, that Noon and Eternity is a far different beast than Smith's slash-and-burn dub frenzy of old. There's a free-improv session feel that's been maintained throughout, despite whatever degree of digital doctoring, editing and processing it may have taken to ultimately create this weird sort of pop-aware suite. And if no such post-production took place, then hats off to the ensemble, which includes Don Fleming, Thurston Moore, Rat Bastard and TV's Andrew W.K. amongst the noisemakers.

Anchored by a seasick synth patch from the darker end of the new wave, "This Home and Fear" sets up the unsettling mood for the next 66:25. Indeed, these four lengthy tracks seethe and simmer with vicious tension and nearly zero release. Where new themes develop, they seem merely to morph into stepping stones of a slightly different texture, as when straight-up AMM-styled ambience gives way suddenly to a melodic instrumental hook. Or when said lead-off track bobs up from its Scatology-era Coil abyss into a scrabbling, crunching free-guitar duet, before an arena rock + oscillator near-climax and subsequent guitar-approximated plane crash, complete with the tick and crackle of cooling wreckage. Smith's lascivious stage whisper/atonal warble complements rather than undermines the creepiness of "Percent Obstruct Street." As does use of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry-esque lines like "I find myself in structured proximity / good rock show delivers a jolt of three-button herringbone," jawed over a low-bitrate sequence and a chorus of indistinct whines, while a junkpile motorik clangs away beneath. Smith's toothy 19-minute aria "Early 1880s" allows its guitars to shimmer and buzz lazily over broadcast snippets and a steady New Zealand (i.e.: "nonexistent") groove. And Smith as a death-rock high priest? Sure sounds plausible, actually, after a listen to "Mothers over Silverpoint,” with its commanding vocal and somber synth melody that carries on throughout over prickly background din.

Noon and Eternity suggests intriguing territory for TLASILA in its fusion of avant-noise and dark melody. Use this album as responsibly as possible: Namely, to terrify and finger as total poser the bored and boring goth kid in the family at your upcoming holiday get together.

Click here to read a feature on The Wigmaker in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg.

By Adam MacGregor

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