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The Flying Luttenbachers - Infection and Decline

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Artist: The Flying Luttenbachers

Album: Infection and Decline

Label: Troubleman Unlimited

Review date: Apr. 13, 2003

Revamped and Renewed

It's hard to believe that Weasel Walter’s Flying Luttenbachers are now into their twelfth year of existence. Walter, a drummer, is the only constant in their discography. Folks like Ken Vandermark and Hal Russell have drifted through various incarnations of the group as the band has veered from free jazz to punk and no wave. Infection and Decline, the Luttenbachers' first LP for Troubleman (and the first to feature the lineup of Walter along with bassists Alex Perkolup and Jonathan Hischke) is a departure from previous efforts. Whereas their earlier albums emphasized Walter's love of both free jazz and punk rock, Infection feels more similar to recent work by Lightning Bolt or Orthrelm. The manic free sections of previous releases still exist in small doses here, but the group generally focuses more on composition.

“Infektion” begins the album and establishes most of the elements of the group's sound that will be explored throughout the album - ominous guitar lines set against frenetic bass and drum bleats. This time out, the results sound less like jazz and more like straight-ahead rock with a bit of a twist, as the group repeatedly rises in violent crescendoes. Then the guitar and bass join in a call and response with the drums, only to have the central theme return and explode in a death metal technicolor. “Elfmeros” works in a similar way, as the riffs here collide with Walter’s non-stop manic drumming. The beats here are like jackhammers, relentless in their velocity and approach. The group basks in sudden time changes and relentlessly circular bass and guitar lines. “Into the Vastness of Stupidity” begins with, surprise, more two-hundred plus beats per minute bursts from Walter as Perkolup and Hischke conjure a sweeping roar that gradually manages to include more fluid textures while the rhythm section thuds away behind it. Surprisingly, all of this makes way for a more droning and spacious passage, only to have the brutal prog monsters return for an encore.

The second half of the disc builds on the ideas of the first. “The Elimination of Incompetence”, another Walter original, sports nifty grindcore drum beats over a wall of distorted bass as the guitar lines try and figure out where to go next. The guitars work their way towards lurid squalls while the drums and bass stomp away. More intriguing glimpses of different textures occasionally emerge - there's white noise and more tribal drumming patterns. “Destruktion Ritual” feels different, beginning with Walter’s 1-2-3-4 beat that allows for a more open-ended interpretation here and there by Perkolup and Hischke. The breakneck death metal tempos rear their heads again, but the first couple minutes of this track allow for a less claustrophobic vision of the sound that’s entirely welcome. The disc closes out with a tear through “De Futura”, a track originally recorded by French prog-rockers Magma. The Luttenbachers' version is darker and somewhat less funky than the original, and it fleshes out its ideas nicely while adding a couple of its own elements. Conceptually, it fits in well with what’s already been covered on the album, and breaks with the theme for a bit to allow for a new interpretation of older material.

Fans of the Flying Luttenbachers will certainly enjoy the newer direction that Walter has taken his project. My only problem comes from the fact that without the usual stabs at freely improvised music, a lot of the time it feels as though the trio here is working through just slight variations of the same central theme over and over again - a bed of non-stop drumming that serves as a basis for four and six string runs through prog and hardcore-inspired riffs and lines. It’s a pretty great central theme, and one that will slam your head into submission with each subsequent listen. Sometimes, though, it gets a bit tedious and indistinguishable from one moment to the next. It’s an interesting new direction for Weasel Walter and his cohorts, though, and one that indicates some pretty amazing things to come. Strangely enough, with the level of composition bringing this about as close to proper rock music as the Luttenbachers are likely to get, this is probably even their most accessible album to date. If you’re looking for more of the same messy improv that colored earlier releases, then approach this one with caution. Other than that, this Infection is worth catching.

By Michael Crumsho

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