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Tuesday January 23rd 2018

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PYGMY LUSH/TURBOSLUT – Split LP

pygmylush_turboslutPygmy Lush/Turboslut – “Split LP.” Exotic Fever, 2009.

It’s a question worth considering: must a great band have ambition? Can music made for no particular audience be important, even while it languishes in obscurity? This is a recording by two bands who had (Turboslut) and have (Pygmy Lush) resigned themselves to the fact that their music will never be well-known in any way. But why? Heavier, angrier, louder, and more abrasive bands than these have sold hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of units; made millions of dollars; and have gone on to have far-reaching influence, carving their names into the stones of rock history.

This record is clearly a product of friendship – of groups of people wanting to play music that is important to them, rest of the world be damned. Both sides contain some of the most honest, unpretentious music I have ever been exposed to, with the songs’ purity somehow untainted by the outside world.

What’s most remarkable about these two bands is how distinctive they sound from other bands and from each other. Pygmy Lush spend their side alternating between loud, grungy punk songs and quiet, somber folk; their louder moments, first showcased on their debut full-length album, “Bitter River”, have drawn comparisons to Born Against from critics and band members alike. However, both on that record and here, the members’ experience playing loud music (with the majority having played in the legendary Pg. 99 and the Nirvana-worshiping Mannequin, among many others) lends an extremely unique feeling to the material. Lead singer/screamer Chris Taylor can shred his throat with the best of them, and the record’s raucous opener “White Oblivian” sets a harsh precedent. Without warning, however, that track’s abrasion gives way to “Proud King of the Doomed,” the first of a series of gloomy, depressive, and absolutely wonderful acoustic songs of the sort which were scattered on “Bitter Rive” and which made up all of Pygmy Lush’s second full-length record, Mount Hope. Here, although the softer songs are more developed and jaw-dropping than ever before, the reverb is turned way up, Taylor’s voice becomes a hoarse-but-gentle croon and the band behind him morphs into a single soft, beautiful instrument. Then, all of a sudden, the band hauls out its electric instruments once again for the slow-but-intense “Affluence at the Altar” and the fast, short and chaotic “Rut Gluttony.” Both of these songs showcase the band’s formidable musicianship and add a hefty dose of anger to the quieter songs’ soft agony, which has never been more crushingly apparent than in the perfect “It’s a Good Day to Hide.” The song milks a plodding tempo for its entirety without ever coming close to wearing out its welcome – building to an emotive, soulful crescendo before fading out, creating a silence which is instantly shattered by the brief, noisy “Black Liver Blues.” The droning sound hinted at on the first two quiet tracks is then completely embraced on the side’s closer, the eight-minute “November Song,” which combines minimal acoustic chords and grand overtones to devastating effect.

If Pygmy Lush’s side alternates between fury and resigned sadness, Turboslut’s side is uniform in adding a third form of negativity to the mix: flat-out disgust. From the moment that the slow, dirty, out-of-tune riff fades in to the opening track “Speed”, Turboslut is utterly merciless; they slowly pound away at any good will while an utterly contemptuous female voice spews the worst thoughts that come to mind: “More a chore than a privilege/for these words to come out of my mouth.” The song is a highlight of the band’s side, which never lets up. “Exorcism” is a sneering ode to feminine self-identification, while “Roadkill” finds the band moaning resignedly, “I’m drugged, but I can see/Your mangled body” over a plodding tempo with disturbing (but great) results before picking up tempo and giving Beck Levy room to scream “Gut my arms like a fish/Armpit to wrist, armpit to wrist,” one of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a while. Even song four, “Eulogy,” a slight respite from the pure intensity, utilizes somewhat-aimless struggling and harnessed, tuneful vocals while barely masking the ill will lurking beneath the surface, which bubbles to a head one last time in “Invoking” – a barn-burner marrying the out-of-tune riffing and pounding drums present throughout with a more urgent tone and an even more intense vocal style. This is Turboslut’s final release, and it captures their sound perfectly: utterly uncaring about trends or even “good musicianship.” It is an eruption of feelings, identity and ideas meant for nobody in particular, but an essential and utterly engrossing listen.

Favorite tracks: Pygmy Lush: “Proud King of the Doomed,” “It’s a Good Day to Hide”; Turboslut: “Speed,” “Invoking”

-By Jack Schoonover

Watch: Pygmy Lush – “It’s a Good Day to Hide”

Watch : Turboslut Live at the SXSW Festival (2009)

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