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Primordial Undermind - Last Worldly Bond

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Artist: Primordial Undermind

Album: Last Worldly Bond

Label: Strange Attractors Audio House

Review date: Mar. 10, 2011

Give ‘em this: Primordial Undermind seem to be quite immune to the seductions and influences of geography. Singer, guitarist and leader Eric Arn has been based in Vienna, Austria, since 2004, and this record was recorded at electro-acoustic improv’s ground zero, Studio Amann. But aside from the German name on one of the tunes, there’s nothing about Last Worldly Bond to suggest that he’s left the United States. Which isn’t to say that this record sounds like previous efforts, because it doesn’t; let’s just say that the landscape Arn and Co. are charting is located behind his third eye and between his ears, not on any map. Or as he puts it on this album’s one vocal turn, “my head’s the one place left to hide.”

Things take a while in the Undermind’s universe. When their last release, Loss Of Affect, came out four years ago, Arn had already been in Austria for two years, but it documented a Texan version of the band. Loss Of Affect showed the Undermind at its most outward-bound, doling out the rock rhythms rather stingily and heaping on the acoustic ethnographic forgeries, post-ESP horn work-outs and belly-of-the-machine electronic atmospheres. It might seem like a strange thing about a record comprised mostly of wooly, open-ended jams, but Last Worldly Bond — the first album by Primordial Undermind’s European edition — is a back-to-basics effort.

Rock forms are never too far away. “I Am Afraid Of You” might open the LP with arrhythmic string scrapes and a bowel-loosening electronic groan, but that takes less than a minute to resolve into a leisurely and earthbound groove. Biographical details about the rhythm section of Daniel Schmelz and David Shweichart are scarce, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys have spent some quality time with the more punk-informed end of American indie-rock; their playing on “Time Being”’s straight-aways reminds me of vintage Eleventh Dream Day, and the way they pull themselves out of the tune’s pile-ups takes a few moves from the Mission Of Burma playbook. Electronicist Lukas Schooler works in the background, thickening the textures with oscillating hums.

Arn’s guitar is front and center throughout, thrashing out speed-blurred rhythms as often as reverberant, spacy leads. Cellist Meaghan Burke, who has since relocated to New York, is his main sparring partner. She bows voluptuous, almost-bluesy figures around his singing on “Never At A Loss” and lofts echo-laden filigree over Arn’s trills on “Minute Wasps.” But their exchanges feel more collegial than competitive, growing out of recognition that the music needs some real-time exchange if it is going to take off.

The best comes last and takes longest. Stoked by frantic drumming and hurtling bass, guitar and cello sustain the ebb and flow in old-fashioned heroic jamming fashion for nearly 15 minutes on “Not An Atom That I Can’t Feel.” You’ll want raise a lighter when the song finally comes to an end.

By Bill Meyer

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