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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
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Old Time Relijun
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2012
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Arrington de Dionyso follows a fractured muse, churning out grooves that are both razor-sharp and random, howling, whispering and wearing his larynx raw with Tuvan throat-singing. His seventh full-length album, named for the year that the Mayan Long Count Calendar says will be the earth's last, is an apocalyptic romp through no wave and blues, sitar drone and free-jazz improvisation. It's anchored, as all OTR records have been, by the shuddering funk of Aaron Hartman's bass, bottom-feeding our basest desires to move while de Dionyso urges us toward psychotropic visions. Jamie Petersen is the fourth drummer, filling the big shoes of Phil Elvrum and Bryce Panic with a crazy locked-in intensity. This rhythm section percolates with the inevitability of great funk drum and bass, punctuating its steady, off-kilter progress with rifle-shot explosions and dead stops. It's a scaffolding that de Dionyso swings from wildly, ranting out his mind-shaking tales of monkey men in chemical factories, spectacular traffic jams, reptilian monsters and, quite literally, wolves at the door.

2012 starts with the funk-flavored, falsetto-embellished "Chemical Factory," sounding for all the world like Prince after, or perhaps during, electro-shock treatment. It's a love story, of sorts, all anxious, pent-up sexual energy erupting in lines like, "Hey princess/ Let down your hair/ Cos I want to take you/ To the chemical factory." Yet it's also about the alienation of the title's naked ape, 10,000 years later walking upright like a man, but enraged and confused by the technology that surrounds him. Displacement, aggression and panic erupt through the lyrics and via the jagged chimes, rough-sawed guitars and saxophone squeals, a detuned anarchy of pagan sounds. It is followed by the more real-world images of "Los Angeles," where a bare-bones dialog between bass and drums simmers under ratcheting guitars and blaring sax. The cut moves at a moderate pace, but with such intense, suppressed energy that it feels much faster than it is. You can hardly help but move to its beat, which jerks and stops and starts again with mad metronomic precision.

Up to this point, 2012 is very much like last year's Lost Light, combining abstract visions with propulsive, stuttering beats. Yet with "Wolves and Wolverines," de Dionyso begins to push the envelope still further, opening the cut with spitting, breathing, hissing mouth sounds that form a rhythmic counterpart, and dissolving the cut into free-jazz squall near its end. De Dionyso, who has studied throat singing with a Mongolian master, moves even further out the curve with "Magnetic Electric," a pulsing, vibrating two minutes of weird, backward voice sounds and ominous thudding drums. The track is wordless and shapeless, yet curiously compelling as it ebbs and flows with surges of electric overtones. "Tundra," later on the album, explores the throat-singing art again, in a shuddering, clicking, tone-shifting landscape of weird organicness.

De Dionyso is also fascinated with Indian sounds, an interest that shows up most clearly in the twanging sitar notes of "Her Fire Chills Me," juxtaposed here against surges of accordion and a ramshackle, repetitive beat. His passion for free jazz — and jazz/world music interstices like the work of Kadri Gopalnath — can be heard in the abstracted saxophone flourishes that accompany even his most accessible grooves. "The Blood and the Milk," which closes out 2012, is particularly effective in the way it merges meditative saxophone with gorgeous slow-moving organ tones, in a secular hymn to an ending world.

This is wonderful work, taking the schizoid, Pere Ubu-ish frenzy of Lost Light and layering on the sounds of multiple cultures and traditions. Robert Frost once pondered whether the world would end in fire or ice. De Dionyso posits a different finale, where euphoric, elbow-throwing dancers stomp out frenzied dances to the thump of bass and drums.


by Jennifer Kelly




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