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Fabulous Diamonds - 7 Songs

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Artist: Fabulous Diamonds

Album: 7 Songs

Label: Nervous Jerk

Review date: Aug. 21, 2008

Seven echo-chamber grooves stretch endlessly, repetitively, on minimal, ritualistic rhythms, ghostly reverbed vocals and, for bonus points, blurts of detuned sax and organ. Drummer Nisa Venerosa sings primarily, her voice a bleached out, post-punk siren wail, unruffled by the fact that she is simultaneously whacking toms and woodblocks and cowbells. Jarrod Zlatic, the hairy one on the cover, builds the dark textures around her, in harsh sustained washes of keyboard and machine-like recorded rhythms. He also sometimes sings, with her, in unison and in primitive counterpoints (“Untitled 3”). As is often true in duos, there is a palpably charged space between the two of them, as if they are not so much listening and communicating with each other as fighting for common air.

No Wave seems like the obvious reference point here, a bit of James Chance’s well-studied primitivism, a little of Suicide’s keyboard-droning howl. Yet the more you try to nail these things down, the less they fit. Chance was a conservatory-trained jazz musician attracted to musical extremity. Jarrod Zlatic can hardly play his axe. Suicide bristled with confrontation and violence. Fabulous Diamonds is as close to serene as its abrasive sounds will allow; there is a calm in the dirge-ish wail of “Untitled 4," for instance, that envelopes and soothes.

The EP is obviously meant to be a cohesive, one-end-to-the-other experience. Why else would you name all seven cuts “Untitled”? Why would you constrain all seven of them them to the same ritual tempo? And still, though there is certainly enough repetition to lull here, the cuts vary significantly and pick up intensity towards the end. The fifth cut is a deafening Gnostic chant, wordless vocals layered endless on each other and on an echoing beat. In the sixth (and best), a rough saxophone cavorts in No Wave almost-funkiness over boxy minimalist drums, and the closing seventh, runs in clickety-clack madness over fractured dance synths, like ESG on a really bad day.

The band’s critics are all correct. Yes, the cuts are repetitive. Yes, the level of technical skill is fairly low. But limitation is part of the band’s palette. Within these strictures – that no drum part be too hard to sing to, that no saxophone riff exceed Zlatic’s capabilities, that every cut circle relentlessly around a single groove – this duo creates dark, mesmerizing textures. A rough diamond can still be fabulous.

By Jennifer Kelly

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