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Shattering Song Conceptions

Storm And Stress
Under Thunder And Flourescent Light
(Touch N Go)

Unless you're a veteran indie rock listener or a fan of very strange music in general, you may get a strange feeling upon first listening to this release. Sometimes, the music on the disc just doesn't seem to go together. The guitar playing is way out of sync with the bass, you say. The drummer is playing like he's on some sort of different time signature all together, you say.

Of course, all of this is really true, and because of these reasons, Storm And Stress' abstract rock might really get on your nerves. Sure, they're not the first group to do this sort of strange polyrhythm combination in their songs, but they're one of only current bands on the scene to sort of revel in this disjointed sound. It's like something the Shaggs did back in the 70's, and like Storm And Stress now, they're considered either complete musical mess-ups, or geniuses, depending on who you talk to.

As has been said many times before, it's not really about the songs, it's about the sound. These guys aren't trying to write the next top 40 sing-along by any means, and instead they're experimenting with the further combinations (or complications) of the standard bass/guitar/drums lineup. Of course, they also include a little bit of singing and other strange atmospherics on the album (no doubt considerably influenced by producer Jim O'Rourke), but it's the tracks where they let their music do the talking that work the best. With song titles like "It Takes A Million Years To Become A Diamond So Let's Just Burn Like Coal Until The Sky's Black," these guys are either taking themselves way too seriously, or they simply realize that trying to put a short label on such strangely crafted songs just doesn't work.

The first track takes off nearly as explained above, with a repetitive guitar and some rather subdued, but frenetic drumming. All the while, the bass just moves along contently in the background until eventually Ian Williams' wounded vocals make their way into the mix and sort of keeps time with it. On the third track, the drums definitely take the reigns, and even though they start out as an element by themselves, they still mangage to sound somewhat disjointed. Eventually, the weird pluckings of the guitar come in again, and this round the bass is relegated to moans that don't sound all that unlike the call of a distant whale underwater. Still, the group knows how to pull some lovely atmospherics, and they do just that on tracks eight and nine, with washed-out sounds and eventual pickings of the guitar before the drums come in and give a frenzied backdrop to everything.

Like good sports, the group even includes a muted sample of a phone conversation (which sounds like the subject of which is their music) on the last track. When the person talking describes their sound as a blacked-out movie, or a porno film in which nobody ever takes off their clothes, it's funny and very nearly true. It's one of those albums where the listener keeps expecting the sound to change and just take the course of a normal album, but it never does. As I've said before, it's a very trying album, but it's just as often rewarding.

Rating: 7