Monday, August 30, 2010

Black Elk - Always A Six, Never A Nine

Since Racer and I have been doing this whole Ripple Effect blog thing and reviewing all of this great music that we’ve been discovering, there’s been this weird phenomenon going on where we’ll both receive a piece of music that we listen to once . . . twice . . . three hundred times and we know somehow, in some whacky way, said piece of music is one of the most important pieces of music that we’ve stumbled on. The problem is . . . we just don’t know what to say about it.

Sure, we could throw together a bunch of clever words that highlight our faux intelligence and have the reader reaching for a dictionary (faux means not real,) but that doesn’t necessarily tell you what the music is all about. We want you, oh dear reader, to go out and pick up these albums that we write about coz’ we want to share the excitement that we still find in music. So . . . enter Black Elk.

Black Elk’s album Always A Six, Never A Nine has been in and out of my player for something like two years. I feel a little bad because I’ve wanted to write this thing up all this time, but I knew that whatever I wrote wouldn’t be quite correct, wouldn’t be adequate enough. Always A Six, Never A Nine is an album that takes time to understand, even though I’m still not totally sure I do. But, I do finally feel that I’m in a place where I can at least throw together the right combination of words that best describes the music contained within to give you the best possible understanding of what you’re gonna get into when you buy this beasty-beast.

This album is defies categorization, however, it has elements of post-hardcore, noise, drone, doom, and several avant elements to boot. If you can imagine, Always A Six, Never A Nine would fall somewhere in the no man’s land between the primordial droning sludge riffery of Neurosis and the wildly eclectic avant garde sounds of We Insist! Black Elk has this way of lulling the listener into a state of complacency, carving out our existence and leaving a hollowed out husk, devoid of emotion and then . . . suddenly shoving all of the human elements and emotions into that mesmerized form, shocking our systems into a overly heightened sensitivity, and bringing us back to the immediate futility of our reality. The music has these great metallic moments, but is far from any metal I’ve ever heard. The music also has this great anti-everything attitude to it, but it’s not like any punk music I’ve ever heard. The music has a free form ambience and emotion to it, but it’s unlike any jazz that I’ve laid ears upon. Black Elk simply defy any standard musical categorization.

There are a few songs that I gravitate towards more than others, but the album as a whole is still a stunning experience. “Hospital” is downright killer! The songs opens with a bizarre guitar intro that is quickly accompanied by vocals that sound like they belong to someone strapped to a table with a leather strap shoved in their mouth. Maniacal and laced with paranoia, the vocals have an edge of all sorts of creepy . . . and the way they burst from dude’s mouth in time with the power and aggression of the music is a thing of cryptic beauty. The song has a deranged quality to it, but it’s not out of control. As the songs roils through a chaotic frenzy of heaviness, note the subtle bass lines juke and the warden of inmates. There’s an underlying melody that stands in striking contrast to the darkened lunatic outbursts. By the time the song fades into unconsciousness, odds are you’ll be a little winded and wondering what the hell just happened.

“Pig Crazy” follows along the same lines as “Hospital,” driven by throbbing and pulsating rhythms and highlighted by layers of feedback that creates an eerie texture to the overall sound. The vocals are tortured and frightening, almost like having a conversation with a schizophrenic . . . never knowing if this person is going to turn on us and use violence as some means to an end. The music on this one shifts between heavily distorted guitar riffing to quasi-psychedelic soundscapes, lending an even eerier element to the paranoid visions of the vocalist. This is one of those songs that acts like a sharpened instrument to carve out our being and quickly replaces everything for maximum emotional shock. I love the breakdown towards the end of the track when the guitars completely drop out of the mix and we’re left rumbling along with the bass and drums. That bass tone is thunderous and imposing, giving the listener the impression that something terrifying was lurking around the corner of the next time change. And, for certain, you want to walk down that darkened hallway with both eyes wide open!

“She Pulled Machete” is a drunken narrative about a chick with a machete. Plain and simple. But only Black Elk could pull off a song like this. I love the imagery in this one . . . it doesn’t take much to imagine a guy at some desert truck stop in New Mexico or Arizona, sitting in a Dodge Dart with a fifth of whiskey, sober enough to question what’s going on, but just drunk enough to sit in the dark trying to piece together the puzzle . . . and this all may not be how it plays out, but in my mind, dude’s gonna get chopped up into itsy-bitsy bits and left as coyote chum. Gotta’ love music that let’s your imagination run crazy like that! And damn . . . she sure is sexy!

Always A Six, Never A Nine is the hairy chest on a super model. It’s bizarre and beautiful, it’s unreal and fascinating . . . it’s art! Black Elk have created a monstrous epic of an album that’s haunting and horrifying, a mind fuck in so many ways . . . kind of like David Lynch at his freaky best. It defies logic, it defies reality, yet . . . at the same time, it captures reality in all of its imperfection. It’s an album of serene madness and chaotic elegance, a contrast in every conventional thought. It’s a nightmare choreographed to sound and custom made for each individual listener. I can’t listen to it at night in fear that it will awaken some ancient evil buried deep within my psyche. I must have more!  -  Pope  

buy here:  Always a Six, Never a Nine
Always A Six, Never A Nine (mp3)

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