Axolotl's drugged not-quite-rave-quality milkshake


Noise music needs a Pause & Play: some means by which fans and critics and other noise musicians can train spot and anticipate whatever's coming down the pike. Given the uncompromising nature of the music and its underground, we're-cool-with-basement-shows-where-only-three-people-attend ethos, the likelihood that a site where one can check for, say, the forthcoming Aaron Dilloway reissue or Realicide live recording is pretty much nil. Part of being a noise addict is accepting the face that you're gonna have to do a lot of the legwork yourself; it's not like Skaters or Leslie Keffer cassette runs of 20 copies are gonna show up on the Insound "Upcoming Release" page or even necessarily in Fusetron's monthly email update dispatches.

This mindset is a big part of why I didn't know Axolotl had a new album out until maybe two months ago: an album that came out last April. No clue.

Think of Karl Bauer as noise-rock's other apocalyptic violinist. The Brooklyn-based atyist folds strings, voice, and gravel-gargling electronics into his recordings as Axolotl. A pair of mid-00s recordings -- 2006's Way Blank (Psych-O-Path) and 2007's Memory Theatre (Important) -- showcase his crude aesthetic nicely. The former saw the world through crusted, bloodshot, cataract-covered eyes, full of feral, fantastical drones that sound like autistically-filtered Disney cartoon scores; incredulously, wide-eyed synth tones soaring over sub-industrial grinds and whistles. The latter, meanwhile, pursued a more aggressive course: a phase-by-phase nightmare of crushed, buzzing horrors underfoot.

Axolotl's brand of graze-gaze dread -- it rarely escalates to full-blown, Freddy Kruger/Wolf Eyes/Snooki from Jersey Shore levels of psychosis -- is something one inhabits more than actively experiences. You move in, grab a carton of laced Ben'n'Jerrys from the freezer, flop down on a beanbag, then zone out, riding the lava-lamp sinewaves; eventually, the mottled vortex of splinters and spectral sonic stares winds down, and you're left with a void where your subconscious self -- and your metaphorical Phish Food -- used to be. No leashes on floors, as Feminist Baseball's Jeff Smith used to say: no semblance of a rhythm section for these mangled parade floats to glide by on.

So it's weird to report that this newish Axolotl album, Of Bonds in General (Loci), is bursting with beats. Grainy, pop-locking beats that aren't even remotely irregular, as one might expect from someone working in this particular genre. These beats fairly spit and fight for egress, like muted globs of oil on a hot pan, establishing a muscular bassline that Bauer works hard to bury in some of his most gorgeously lysergic, hazy, bows-vs.-bots face-melt yet; through these three untitled sound canvases, he layers iteration after iteration of wavy-gravy rippled-pond sounds on top of one another until all is deliriously inchoate, decidedly Metal Machine Music, as if every album that came before this was a purgatorial punishment, and Bauer is finally ready for us to ascend to Heaven. Except for those beats; theoretically, they serve to root Bonds' LSD noise psych firmly in dance territory, yet the effect is a sound that bouys the mood while vigorously massaging the soul.