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Music Review: Melvins/Various Artists – Chicken Switch

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When one ponders the possibility of a Melvins remix album, one’s head properly, succinctly and quickly explodes at the sheer potential of the thing. But when one learns that said remix album features the talents of Japanese noise monster Merzbow, Eye Yamatsuka of Boredoms, The Panacea, David Scott Stone and others, it’s an earth-shattering experience worthy of full body heaves of orgasmic excitement.

Of course, the Melvins didn’t just give each remixer a single track to work with and retool – that would’ve been too easy. Instead, each artist was given an entire Melvins album to remix and to use as source material. Track names reveal nothing, as the artists were also counted on to completely rename and revamp the entire experience.

It’s safe to say that Chicken Switch takes all of the strangeness and eccentricity of a “standard” Melvins record and breaks it down to little shards before rebuilding it again as something else entirely. As weird as Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover’s outfit can be, some of the stuff on this remix record is just beyond the strange.

Chicken Switch is noisy, dense, aggravating, loud, and warped. Most of the songs don’t resemble much of anything beyond carefully cut and mangled noise. Even the most diehard of Melvins fans will be hard-pressed to determine what the original source material was on some of the cuts.

The most brutal of all the manglers is, probably as expected, Merzbow. His “SNOW REM REM IBVZ” is coated with an absurd amount of static and high-end noise, leaving any actual structure somewhere in the devastated dirt.

Most of the songs resemble little else than deafening noise, tone and feedback. There are some broken-down moments of crunchy guitar and a few odd tosses of vocal persuasions, but for the most part Chicken Switch feels like a horde of cloaked psychopaths abducted the Melvins catalogue and hid it away behind walls of sound and chains of violent racket.

Chicken Switch is desperately exciting, frenetic, frightening stuff. Like being trapped in the trunk of a car, tracks like Void Manes’ “Overgoat” and Kawabata Makoto’s “4th Floor Helicopter” feel desperate, intimidating and alarming.

Leave it to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo to put together the one song that almost resembles a real song. His “EggNog Trilogy” is fuelled with screams and wails of distorted, weird guitar.

Chicken Switch is a strange experience of a record. There’s nothing cohesive or general about the thing; it is a confusing, scary, perplexing, disturbing, horrifying mess. But it is also deeply fascinating and intriguing, soaked in the blood and madness of some of today’s most bizarre and talented noise and experimental artists.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • Sounds interesting, Jordan!

  • Jacko

    Awesome review. Can’t wait to get it.