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Burning Star Core - Blood Lightning 2007

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Artist: Burning Star Core

Album: Blood Lightning 2007

Label: No Fun

Review date: May. 8, 2007

Noise’s most powerful mythology, in circulation since the early Swans recordings, posits the idea that the music, in doing away with the transcendent, obliterates the body. To the extent that the term ‘noise’ holds any weight as a genre – something that seems increasingly untenable with the fractal trajectories of figurehead groups like Black Dice and Wolf Eyes – it’s an attractive idea. C. Spencer Yeh and his increasingly prolific Burning Star Core moniker are part of a noise lineage that’s equally at home with the deep-forest Dionysian jams of Comets on Fire (cf. their collab. on Yik Yak) as with the involved, modulating drones of Queens of the Circulating Library-era Coil.

Yeh’s not so much out to ecstatically eradicate the corporeal envelope with his latest release on the No Fun Productions label, Blood Lightning 2007, as he is attempting to scrape out heavy drones at once magickal and obliquely cathartic. Four of Blood Lightning’s five tracks were recorded, mixed, and edited by Yeh, lending the album a satisfyingly even keel. The album opens, appropriately, with Yeh’s voice, thin and near-inaudible, like the first oscillator built by a novice MAX/MSP student. The voice is looped and subtly amplified before it is overtaken by the grainy, panning synths that form the bed of much of the album. Their tone is both warm and incredibly distant, evoking the thin line between the stratosphere-scraping majesty of Tangerine Dream and the wheezing impotence of Whitehouse. At just over 11 minutes long, “The Universe is Designed to Break Your Heart” is over before the listener can really grasp its sonic sprawl; in this sense, it sets the pace for the remainder of the album, whose four remaining tracks exert the same kind of monochrome absorption as an Yves Klein painting.

“Deaf-Mute Spinning Resonator” sounds at the beginning not unlike a multi-layered field recording of a bottle factory – a kind of Dead C by-way-of musique concrete atmosphere piece – and abruptly changes about halfway through to a track overcrowded with cartoony sounds that, one imagines, those same empty bottles might make when spun like tops. While it’s not linear, the music is most definitely kinetic. The spirals that adorn the cover and, in the gatefold artwork, devour and spit out bodies in weird configurations, aren’t so much a symbol for the paths these tracks take as they are fairly literal maps. “The Universe Is Designed to Break Your Mind,” companion piece to the album opener and Blood Lightning 2007’s standout track, begins with a synth chord progression so ‘idiomatic’ (to borrow Derek Bailey’s phrase) and regular it strikes the listener off-guard. The looped pattern forms a deliberate, stark contrast with “Resonator”’s aleatoric intensity, yet as Yeh manipulates the sound, melting away its gnarly squall, it’s precisely those elements at the fringe of our perception that command our attention. To a large extent, Blood Lightning 2007 owes much more than its title – cribbed from the frequently reworked “Teenage Lightning” theme – to Coil. Like the first volume of Musick, to Play in the Dark, these tracks seem to function within formal limitations that are only dimly perceived by the listener as a keen attention to very subtle textural shifts, an engrossing convergence of technical specificity and bedsit occultism. One significant difference, however, lies in the fact that the ever-diminishing orbit of these tracks ends not in a kind of holy pagan silence but in a kind of ecstatic cosmic implosion. Yeh’s version of noise mythology is less about blunt force than dissolving and reconstituting, a fractal universe that’s satisfying to get down with.

By Brandon Bussolini

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