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Locrian and Christoph Heemann - Locrian and Christoph Heemann

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Artist: Locrian and Christoph Heemann

Album: Locrian and Christoph Heemann

Label: Handmade Birds

Review date: Oct. 3, 2012

When I first heard that Chicago-based post-metal trio Locrian and German sound-collage artist Christoph Heemann had teemed up for a record, all I could think of were Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison having it out in a recording studio. But the recorded evidence indicates that this wasn’t such an odd couple after all. While Heemann has never dabbled in rock of any stripe, he’s certainly messed with pop music; on his recent LP, The Rings Of Saturn, he electronically manipulates snatches of song as well as his own instruments and recordings of the great outdoors. And Locrian’s roots are sunk as deeply in the clay of drone as they are in the loam of metal.

But this record is as much about the process of its creation as it is about any shared aesthetic. All four tracks start with Locrian’s sounds. On “Loathe The Light” and “Edgeless City,” Heemann began with elements extracted from Locrian’s “Extinction, while guitarist Andrew Foisy and singer/keyboardist Terrence Hannum recorded fresh tracks to kick off “Hecatomb” and “The Drowned Forest.” The nascent pieces were volleyed back and forth between the three men, and when they were done Steven Hess (of Haptic and On as well as Locrian) added percussion and tapes. It bears noting that Heemann stuck to synthesizer and electronics; any outdoor and appropriated sounds come from Hess, and were added later. Last word gets first impact on the opener “Hecatomb,” which begins with snatches of traffic and orchestral sounds sliding in and out of some spaghetti Western guitar strumming. Give that guitar a close listen; what first sounds like a single instrument reveals itself to be a fractal expansion, layered and juxtaposed so that one guitar transforms into a honeycomb mass. Then a kick drum comes in, as if escaping from the sound hole of one of those guitars, and we’re led into a new section in which sounds come and go around a heartbeat rhythm and a single, elongated tone that sounds like the output of a Leslie speaker.

The process yields a particularly three-dimensional kind of music, one which moves purposefully forward with a narrative thrust at the same time that it seems to be branching at right angles to the left, right, up, and down from the sonic through line. Not every foray is successful; a little bit of the back-of-the-throat snarling that surfaces in “Loathe The Night” goes a long way. But it’s just one stop on a trip that also takes you though solemn chants, glacial drones, and cymbal washes electronically warped until they give off a low radioactive glow. Each sound grows outward as it moves forward, making Locrian & Christoph Heemann a singularly head-expanding trip.

By Bill Meyer

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