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Dredd Foole and the Din - The Whys Of Fire

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Artist: Dredd Foole and the Din

Album: The Whys Of Fire

Label: Ecstatic Yod

Review date: Jul. 31, 2003

Featuring Thurston Moore, Pelt, Chris Corsano


The Whys Of Fire is a live recording featuring Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, all three members of Pelt, and percussionist Chris Corsano. If you're aware of those musicians' histories, that first sentence will tell you most of what you need to know about The Whys Of Fire. The album combines intense scribbles of guitar noise (Moore), disorienting, quasi-Eastern drones (Pelt), and heroic free-jazz drumming (Corsano, who's far lower in the mix here than on most of his other records), into a final product that's loud, expansive, jammy and psychedelic (it's a live recording, after all) and a little bit half-assed (it's a side project).

Recordings of improvised music don't need to be accompanied by a concept or any forethought to be good, but in lieu of that, the performers should probably have some common ground. The only common ground Moore, Corsano and Pelt have is noise noise noise, and as a result, The Whys Of Fire's loudness manages to sound like a weakness: the layers of feedback feel like an excuse for the players to not really interact with each other.

Corsano is an amazing drummer, but his bread and butter is improvisation that's loud but sensitive. At his best, he anticipates the paths his collaborators follow, slashing the weeds in front of them. He's not able to do that here, because there's nothing behind him but trails of drones and feedback. Likewise, the strengths of Pelt's last real album, Ayahuasca, are wasted here, where the subtleties of their recent Appalachian- and Eastern-flavored meditations are lost underneath the many other voices in the mix.

And then there's Dredd Foole, the vocalist to whom this album is credited. He's not particularly easy to hear either, partly because the other musicians are so loud and partly because his voice wasn't recorded well. His repetitive, droning caterwauls might sound good if he recorded this album with Pelt alone, but his vocals here often only blend into the background.

Part of me wants to go easy on The Whys Of Fire, because it may have sounded great live (where earsplitting noise hits twice as hard) and because I suspect it's just one of those Thurston Moore side projects that I'm not supposed to take too seriously just another one-off live gig with an interesting lineup. So: if you're the sort of person with the time and tunnel vision to hear all of the zillions of Thurston Moore-related CDs that are actually good, and all of the many Pelt CDs and CD-Rs that are actually good, and all of Corsano's fantastic records with Paul Flaherty, and you still can't get enough, then by all means, check this out.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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