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Superbugger - AKU

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Artist: Superbugger

Album: AKU

Label: Heart & Crossbone

Review date: Jul. 3, 2012

New Zealanders Antony Milton (of the Pseudo Arcana label and a wide variety of projects) and James Kirk (of Sandoz Lab Technicians, among others) got together back in 2010 and recorded this in an overly-productive afternoon. Described as their "dirty psychedelic rock" duo, these tracks twist and wind their way through caverns of low-fidelity scratch and tunnels of in-the-red distorted guitars. The one-sheet references Les Rallizes Denudes, Skullflower, Mainliner and others, and there’s something to that list … but let’s not get our hopes up quite yet.

The fuzz-laden, chaotic noise-rock nature of things certainly shares an aesthetic with Skullflower, although trippy wah-leads and clattering drums take this farther afield than the determinedly swampy stomping grounds of the latter. The crunchy, dully-chugging guitars of "Concrete Steps" approach similar territory but the piece never quite achieves lift-off.

Noise rock needs to have an underlying core focus, or it runs the risk of lying flat, treading water in a not-necessarily bad way but missing the opportunity to go further. It needs power, purpose, and a goal to pull listeners along, and Superbugger here shows promise but isn’t able to make it happen. There are glimpses that the duo can get there: the fussy, meddlesome guitar in "Lips" and the raga-trance feel of "Bus Girl,” and particularly the warped, buzzing feedback in "Elemental,” the closing 13-minute epic.

But throughout, the duo lacks power, primarily because of the inadequate recording quality. Ironically, certain noisy rock music can skate by with the barest recordings, but this sort of noise rock simply can’t achieve the weight needed without better attention paid. The thin sounds here leach the music of its essential body, and what’s left is an inchoate wisp of clattering snare, formless static and occasional vocal moan. When "Elemental" finally arrives with its slow, darkly expansive waves of guitar, what could have been becomes clear. Here’s hoping that Milton and Kirk someday take the time to hit us over the head with the weight of Superbugger’s full power.

By Mason Jones

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