5 out of 5
Label: Skin Graft
Produced by: Various
I suppose I’m heavily bias by this Dazzling Killmen compilation, as its bulk is taken up by most of the tracks from DK’s Lounge Ax cassette release, a physical copy of which has eluded me, and is one of the best live sets of all time. I mean, accepting that you’re in to Killmen’s heavy hand of intense drum fills, staccato, harsh riffs, and Nick Sakes’ throat-searing howls, this thing is recorded better than Killmen’s actual releases, and is sequenced in the most killer possible fashion to milk the most out of the group at their freaking thrashy-punkiest. Tracks absolutely pummel, but we switch off between math-ier stop/start entries and more straightforward punk, punctuating the experience with some longer form tracks, and then the epic ‘Code Blue.’ And maybe the crowd was just unenthusiastic, but there are no artifacts of this being a live show: besides an occasional “thanks,” this comes across as a studio entry, given very forefronted impact by engineer David Sims that makes the recording feel bolder and stronger than even the group’s work with Albini.
So Recuerda is honestly worth the price, just to get easier access to this material. But then we also tack on material from their equally excellent singles, and sequence them such that Lounge Ax is given context amongst the works, with a shift towards slightly less heavy tracks – more outre; and bit more post-rock and minused a couple degree of hardcore – in the disc’s latter section, as we step back a couple years and pull from some singles. Flip-flopped, I’m not sure this sequencing would be as effective, but done this way, getting to revisit some Ax songs in a lesser-formed incarnation, buffered by some of the group’s longer, more exploratory tracks, gives us all the intensity up front and then, with our attentions riveted, can shift to some slower material. (Having a humorous radio introduction done by a cub scout troop is also a pretty amusing segueway between these sections.)
For a long time, I didn’t realize Recuerda was, essentially, a rarities comp; I just viewed it as an album. And it was the album I favored, over the already-excellent Face of Collapse. I like to harp on best-of type discs for clearly being picked and chosen – for having off-kilter sequencing – so I love that the reality of Recuerda’s compilation-nature slipped right by me. Admittedly, there’s a run of tracks that were initially released together, but even here, the group decided to split some things up with alternate versions from a single, and it still wholly works.
Recuerda’s opening tracks are carved from the harshest of materials: they’re raw but crisply performed; “simple” but insanely layered upon with brilliant drumming and perfect, counter-playing basslines. And once our ears are nice and warmed up by the albums first half or so, Nick Sakes and crew can shift back a bit and show us some preceding steps, when DK was maybe a little weirder and less mean, and we get our minds (and “this was recorded in 1991??” expectations) blown up all over again.