Mentallo & The Fixer
Music From The Eather
When my copy of Music From The Eather arrived in the mail just before our holiday break here at ID:UD HQ, I was pleased with the timing. I’d be able to give its 147 minute run time (that’s before the bonus third disc which comes with the limited edition, mind you) plenty of serious listens as I poked through my X-mas gifts and get a better feel for its nuances, and return to action refreshed, recharged, and able to give you folks the fully skinny on this, Gary Dassing’s first album as Mentallo And The Fixer since 2007’s Enlightenment Through A Chemical Catalyst. Boy howdy, was I wrong. I’ve listened to the record several times, and don’t feel any better capable of writing about it than I did after my first listen, nor than I imagine I would if I gave it another hundred spins. That’s partly due to the immediacy of its vast, psychotropic landscape, which is so present, so insistent that it’s difficult to engage in any backwards reflection while listening to it, but also due to its totalizing aesthetic of dense bricolage and experimentation which will likely instantly intrigue or repulse most listeners.
Chemical Catalyst divided Dassing’s audience upon its release, with some begrudging the complete abandonment of the classic electro-industrial ethos he rocked so well in the early 90s with his brother Dwayne for more experimental fare. Others viewed the break with the past as a logical and welcome step forward for Dassing, with the structural elements of his music now matching the thick and uncompromising sound he’d always pursued even while delivering recognizable choruses. Aether is clearly following directly from Enlightenment, with lead full track “Metaphysical Agents” essentially containing reworkings of multiple passages from the album and a brief reprise of “Amigdula” appearing latter. The same heavily overlaid sequences which emerge from clouds of dense drums only to disappear nearly instantly which marked Chemical Catalyst are if anything buttressed by heavier percussion, not to mention mutilated vocal samples being wound backwards and forwards, stripped of context and making it impossible to determine if they’re expressions of pain, ecstasy, or recitations of train schedules. Traces of Dassing’s earliest work can still be heard in Eather, as on “Riding The Razors Edge” which opens the second disc with a classic electro-industrial pad arrangement and nodding beat, but these moments are like fragments whirling in a maelstrom, all the stranger for their brevity.
The first half of “Wandering Off In The Dark” is centered around a simple, descending stabby lead and a nicely textured flute flourish which bring to mind slinkier, more atmospheric bands, but all of the interstitial space around those elements is jam-packed with claustrophobic drum fills and samples. Later, the track actually slows down and spreads itself out to a more relaxed pace…though now made up of entirely different components. Even when a core structure is maintained through the duration of a track, as on “Prelude To A Plateshift” or “Shadow Of My Former Self”, the instrumentation laid overtop is so thick and omnipresent that it draws the ear away from the foundation and to the chaotic surface. Reworkings of and elements from Aether‘s earlier pieces resurface on later tracks not distinctly identified as remixes, prompting further confusion.
With Music From The Eather Dassing has, in a way, progressed into crafting the industrial equivalent of fusion jazz: while not completely avant garde or experimental in construction from the ground up, the more traditional conventions of composition and production which this strange new form incorporates (yet manipulates to its own ends) have become so estranged and alienated from their roots that those in the know are likely to find the resultant work more confounding and unsettling than more “pure” forms of experimentation: there’s a reason why, say, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew or Eather are going to be more controversial amongst their respective audiences than, say, supposedly more “difficult” music by Cornelius Cardew or Merzbow.
People often say that they want record reviews to boil down to a simple numeric metric or a binary buy/don’t buy imperative. We try to avoid that here at ID:UD, but in this instance I can offer a simple litmus test for anyone reading this: did you like Enlightenment Through A Chemical Catalyst? If not, run screaming from Music From The Eather because there’s nothing for you here. If (like myself), you thought that record’s relentless experimentation offered just the sort of headclearing mindfuck you like to subject yourself to from time to time, then dig out yr wallet and fork the cash over to Gary because he’s just unleashed the same type of trip he did last time out…only more. Lots more. Bigger more. Weirder more. Sweet baby Jesus, so much more.