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Burning Star Core - Papercuts Theater

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Artist: Burning Star Core

Album: Papercuts Theater

Label: No Quarter

Review date: Feb. 22, 2010

Operating from his base in Cincinnati, violinist and noisy dronester C. Spencer Yeh has released music under the name Burning Star Core for over 15 years. He’s worked with a long list of collaborators and toured extensively, the fruits of which resulted in Papercuts Theater. Broken into four equal parts (constituting four sides of the double-LP edition), the material collaged from shows recorded over the past seven years. If the release info is to be believed, Yeh used recordings from 66 different shows. The album is 66 minutes long. Coincidence?

Papercuts Theater is a relatively low-fi affair, as is to be expected from live recordings, and for the most part it emphasizes the noisy drone side of Burning Star Core. While it gets pretty psychedelic at times (imagine Tony Conrad jamming with C.C.C.C.), the album isn’t afraid to venture into the surreal. With collaborators including Trevor Tremaine, Mike Shiflet, Robert Beatty and others, the extended pieces are internally consistent, but each have a distinct personality. The first part is perhaps the most hypnotic; drums, buried in the mix, lend propulsion to the otherwise textural sound.

Elsewhere, peaks of frenetic freeform sound and crashing drums collapse into a calm buzzing, sparse atmospheres broken by intermittent squeaks and squawks. The third part is reminiscent of Smegma or Nurse With Wound, a nonsensical sonic environment with distant bubblings, apparent vocal gibbering, gurgling electronics and what might be trumpet. With these sorts of sounds, it’s really anyone’s guess what’s really going on. As abstractions go, it’s an entertaining one.

Yeh takes full advantage of the editing opportunities, layering sounds to ensure an ongoing unfolding of events. At times, he pulls the rug out from under the listener with a sudden chop, revealing previously hidden sounds. The live murk sometimes left me wishing for more clarity, and it would be interesting to hear what Yeh might come up with given high-quality studio recordings instead of remote feeds. Nonetheless, he’s done a nice job of creating what is in a sense a virtual live performance.

By Mason Jones

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