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X.O.4 - Cataracts

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Artist: X.O.4

Album: Cataracts

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: May. 9, 2007

X.O.4 is Bill Nace, John Truscinski and Jake Meginsky, three chaps out in western Massachusetts who seem prepared to roll up curbside with pawnshop six-strings, a Fender Twin, and a few cymbals in the backseat ready to jam. Cataracts may not be their debut (who knows what sort of limited misshape preceded this), but as the first widely available side it’s a stunner presenting the trio as weathered auteurs of sound suspension. For those still bemoaning the passing of Paul Toohey’s Surface of Earth a decade back (or Thela for that matter), it’s finally time to move on.

X.O.4’s craft is rural strident drone; explicitly akin to a hand-crafted, workmanship aesthetic than an embossed style as elegantly plotted by Growing or Stars of the Lid. While both of the latter groups emit slow-churned organic swell, X.O.4 arrive at natural progression via a totally different path. Like Robert Rutman’s towering steel sheets he conducted his U.S. Steel Cello Ensemble to bow and forcibly bend, X.O.4 liberate cross stains of glissandi, microtonal splinters and pulsating electricity from an apparent unfussy, simplistic set up.

Guitarist Nace is probably best known as Chris Corsano’s foil in Vampire Belt, though his solo work and recent LP as Ceylon Mange (with the Chocolate Monks au pair Dylan Nyoukis and Karen Lollypop) are as deserving, if not more, for wider attention. Meginsky and Truscinski have been teaming up as Slaughterhouse Percussion for the past few years and their abstract discordant art is Cataracts’ foundation.

The side-long opener could easily be mistaken as rain forest field recording. Beginning subtlety with metallic tones that shift into whooping and oscillating call and response, various side streams of wire resonance continue lentissimo across the 20-or-so minutes. It is a literal topographic sound field with each pot mark and crest morphing into its own miniature theme. Not until the end does the volume and pace quicken to massive string hammering.

After X.O.4 demonstrates their ability to nail the long-form, the flip-side is divided between four short pieces. The first takes place in the benthic zone. Navigating though a murky atmosphere of submerged buzzing and chimes, a fractured melody surfaces at the end, as if played on a mutant thumb piano. From there, Harry Bertoia’s presence can be felt as if egging on the trio for the reaming tracks. Alternating between atmospheric exploration, harmonic scrapes and vibrating bowls, the album spins out into a deeply engaging and dream-like ambiance, which in a blind-taste test would most certainly be fingered as kiwi. While named after a blurring of vision, Cataracts is the most crystalline effort at metallic intonation and instant serial technique in recent memory.

By Eric Weddle

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