petak, 6. rujna 2013.

Xiu Xiu & Eugene S. Robinson Present - Sal Mineo (2013)

Verbalna jeza u ulici prozirnih noževa.

SAL MINEO is a Jamie Stewart/XIU XIU + Eugene S. Robinson/OXBOW production. Now sleep tight.
Sitting at the crossroads between OXBOW's EUGENE S. ROBINSON [lyrics/voice] and XIU XIU's JAMIE STEWART [music], SAL MINEO is a pure/impure distillate of experimentalism based on 30 second to 3 minute long focused bursts of sonic crime, that plumbs the cooling depths of a pleasure cruised death trip. These two undisputed heavyweights of musical and emotional non-compromise, whose music leaves tender bruises by whatever sweet blow it is rendered, are ready to crack rooms in two with their high precision silencer of a duo show, combining the best and most free-roaming of both their artistic domains.

"One minute it seemed I had more...offers than I could handle, the next, no one wanted me." In the midnight midst of a decline that found it's near inevitable conclusion in a Los Angeles alley at the wrong end of an edged weapon, the band Sal Mineo, as influenced by the man, is much more about the accretion of failure, cinematic and otherwise, than it is about the now almost forgotten rise. -

“Sal Mineo” is the product of a collaborative effort between Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart and Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson. The album is ostensibly named after the American actor best known as John “Plato” Crawford in the film “Rebel Without a Cause.”  
Every now and then a release comes my way, which I have a bastard of a time articulating what the album sounds like. “Sal Mineo” sounds exactly like how I would imagine Jamie Stewart and Eugene Robinson to sound if you threw them together in a recording studio. Of course, that assumes that everyone is already familiar with Xiu Xiu and Oxbow. But for those living under a rock, I guess you’ll have to make this reviewer earn his keep. Stewart and Robinson craft short sonic vignettes, with each track hovering between the 30 second and 3 minute mark.
 In the 24 tracks that make up Sal Mineo, Mr. Robinson takes on the majority of the vocal duties, which go from spoken word to angry singing. Mr. Stewart handles the instrumentation, which run the gamut, including: chimes, eerie organs, gongs, synth, wind instruments, tambourine and just about anything else left to his disposal. The album feels very improvisational overall. As if the 2 collaborators met up at one of the others’ homes and said, “let’s bang out a record”. Of course, for those with a experimental pallette, this can often elicit the best results. At times “Sal Mineo” reminds me of Tom Waites’ “Rain Dogs”....if “Rain Dogs” was composed of songs played with power violence concision and Tom had a penchant for weird synthy compositions. I can imagine “Sal Mineo” being performed at a coffee house in some David Lynchian parallel universe.
Overall, “Sal Mineo” is a surreal ride, but an enjoyable one. An interesting mix of lyrical poetry and minimal instrumentation. -

At first glance, character actor Sal Mineo may seem like a peculiar namesake for a collaboration between two artists as uncompromising and confrontational as Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Eugene Robinson (Oxbow). Best known for playing teenage street toughs in films like Rebel Without a Cause, Mineo was one of Hollywood’s go-to guys for filling roles meant for people of color (a practice that has continued well into the present if this shit’s any indication). Scroll a little further down his Wikipedia page, though, and the picture comes into sharper focus. Coming out as bisexual in the 1960s, he was one of the first actors in Hollywood to leave the closet behind. Despite multiple Academy Award nominations and roles in lucrative films, Mineo’s career had begun to stagnate by the mid-60s, and in 1976, he was stabbed to death in a fatal robbery in the alley behind his Los Angeles apartment.
Sal Mineo: A member of one marginalized community who built a career portraying members of others before eventually meeting a violent and untimely end. That sounds about right, but it still doesn’t offer much insight into the sonic artifact itself. Even by the formidable standards of Stewart’s and Robinson’s respective bodies of work, Sal Mineo is a challenging record. Its 24 tracks are not so much “songs” as sonic outbursts displaying varying degrees of musicality. Robinson’s penchant for violent personalities and hardboiled narrators is ever on display, yet the narrative ligaments that bind these seething vignettes together are too faint to perceive.
The record has the hideous, dreamlike quality of a descent into the underworld, one that is a nightmare reflection of the modern metropolis, and Robinson gives voice to all the damned, keening, gibbering, shouting boasts or threats. Images of violence are glimpsed as though from the corner of the eye: a figure tied to a chair in a room where the radio is nattering, a woman reminiscing in French about her mother who murdered children and “Either had them to eat/ Or did not have them to eat.” We are dragged forward down blind alleys, attempting to navigate by echoes and recursions of figures like the (stygian) pit boss or the grim refrain of “Between you and your money/ We know which he likes best.” Money is the key word here, the prize at the center of the labyrinth. In Robinson’s world, there are those who want it and those who have it but want more of it. With enough cash in hand, whatever you desire is yours for the taking — sex, status, murder, or shelter somewhere high enough above the city to feel free of its sickly gravitational pull.
Stewart matches Robinson’s confused and fragmentary delivery with his equally clipped and shattered soundtracks. He’s all over the place on this, convulsing between glacial drones, chintzy synth pulses, Philip Glass-like exercises in minimalist composition, and formless eruptions of noise. Robinson’s voice often seems like it’s thrusting itself between the gaps of Stewart’s erratic compositions, but when they do manage to lock into a groove, as on “The Primary Bell” or “Promise Every Night,” it creates a jarring effect that almost approaches beauty. While the merciless brevity of the tracks can be frustrating, the tossed-off feeling masks its own hidden symmetries and confluences, like how the rattling hubcap sound that introduces “Menagerie in Munich” forms the backbone of the concréte-descent-into-madness “What’s Your Problem?” and then mutates into a monstrous cacophony on “Bit of Habits.”
Sal Mineo is tantalizing in its incompleteness, like an unpaginated manuscript rescued from a fire. Listening to it in multiple configurations, you get hints of a totality impossible to reconstruct. The record, like its relation to its titular figure, remains a mystery, and its brief susurrations of greed, failure, wrath, and desire are an enigma all the more seductive for its impregnability.-

With both bands already sharing an abrasive eclecticism and an obsession with Gothic melodrama, taking the stark prose of Oxbow‘s confrontational vocalist and positioning it within the dissonant art-rock of experimentalist Xiu Xiu seems only natural. Yet the question here remains whether two artists intent on producing conceptual, provocative, and uniformly bleak output gain anything significant by working alongside similar musicians with similar practices? Is one provocative and experimental artist working with another who shares very closely those terms of experimentation, actually a predictable move, at odds with the stakes of each artist’s supposed provocation? Even more than this, Robinson has forged a career from deliberately straining his already technically powerful voice in much the same idiosyncratic mode as Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu’s creative drive, who does not contribute any vocals to Sal Mineo.
To avoid merely replacing Stewart with Robinson and politely marrying their respective intensities, the group’s work on Sal Mineo remakes the collaboration as an unnatural combination. Here it is not so much Xiu Xiu backing Robinson’s rants, but a carefully judged interaction of matching timbres, rhythm and tone in fleeting fragments; sketches that seem likely derived from extensive improvisation rather than any united writing process. The strange fragments that emerge from this process rarely last longer than a minute and involve an array of instrumentation deployed in strange and contradictory ways. Moving away from the style of their other projects, it is frequently the structures and sound of harsh noise and musique concrète that dominate, with gnawing repetition and gradual progressions replaced by impulsiveness and  abrupt tonal shifts.
The brief, intangible musical outbursts interact, or perhaps more accurately compete, with Robinson’s gruff and isolated images. Like Stewart, Robinson relishes irony and self-aware theatrics; raconteur storytelling and inauthentic reminiscence is blended with genuine emotional resonance and eccentric posing. Rejecting clear sentiment as Stewart rejects formal structures, Robinson regularly and most effectively speaks in aphorisms and brief parallelisms where ambiguous, mock-profundity combines the absurd and tender, cliché infuriatingly blended with insight. This conceptual drive of alienation and ironic, pathetic self-knowledge (and subsequent ironic understanding of the falseness of such a position) is residue of Xiu Xiu’s high concept audience manipulation stripped of melody and structure.
Exaggerating this further, the rapid cuts and shifts created by the sequencing of the tracks is consistently disorientating; often it appears it is not just the musicians at odds with each other, but the songs themselves. On “Who Do We Love” Robinson chants, “Around and around and around she goes / where she stops…we all have a pretty good fucking idea,” over time-stretched cat samples and irregular bass rumbles. Then, on the twenty-five second “Glum Chum” he intones, “In the city no-one even knows how to spell pity, which is really a pity,” over distorted modular synth clatter. Robinson — adeptly as ever — expels a truly unhinged stream of consciousness that is equaled at each stage by fantastic, messy chunks of sound that refuse to cohere into any type that may resonate with the listener for any length of time.
Although Sal Mineo‘s singular pleasures are to a great extent dependent on its indulgence in exploration and pastiche, shifting across many often briefly-inhabited styles with an erratic start-stop momentum, Stewart and Robinson have produced an enthralling and unlikely work; confident in how their sounds can meet and not be disentangled, albeit still antagonistically.

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