Kevin Drumm / Prurient - "Comes Another Brood" (All Are Guests in the House of the Lord)
With so damn many records pouring out, there are precious few artists who strain against sagging shelves and actually merit the “must hear” designation. One of them for me is Kevin Drumm. Widely known “guitarist” and relentless disassembler of technique, expression, and expectation, Drumm has recorded seminal solo records (first on Perdition Plastics, then the epochal Sheer Hellish Miasma), tussled in some notable duos (with, for example, RLW with Ralf Wehowsky), and even shown up to upend some “jazz”-based sessions, with Weasel Walter and Ken Vandermark.
All Are Guests in the House of the Lord is a somewhat new trajectory for Drumm – a libretto. Paired up with Prurient (Dom Fernow), this six-part suite (once in circulation on a cassette) is moody, somber, and filled with detail. Throughout this recording, the music flirts with cheese via Hammer horror effects (Fernow’s screeching recitation of the disc’s title, or cornball synths), resulting in a sound that’s challenging in ways both successful and unsuccessful. There are passages where Drumm’s flinty musical personality – guttural feedback, metallic scrapings, and sine waves – doesn’t fit neatly with Prurient’s more cinematic, even narrative approach. But there are times when, as in “On This Slab,” it works very well indeed, drawing you into its distinct space.
I found myself rarely paying attention to the recitation (there is apparently an actual libretto, which has prompted innumerable – and to my ears somewhat sloppy – comparisons with Robert Ashley), and concentrating more on the sound of the vocals. The pieces work quite well on this level. The cavernous loops on “There Died Venus” sound like someone ripping a hole in the music. There’s very effective use of “field recordings” (kids shouting in play) on “Though the Apple is Rotten.” The rumbling setting of “In Long Rows” – with Fernow’s muffled, pitch-shifted voice – reminds of the Giant in Twin Peaks. The closing “Comes Another Brood” – what story is being told here? what slaughterhouse narrative are we being led through? – sounds like the innards of a charnel house, a voice resounding bleakly within the infernal machine. I like listening to this record without feeling compelled to answer questions about narrative, which would surely reduce its pleasures for me, though your mileage may vary.