AIDS Wolf vs. Athletic Automaton – Clash of the Life-Force Warriors

3 out of 5

Label: Skin Graft Records

Producer: Patrick Crump (tracks: 1 and 6), Radwan Moumneh (tracks: 2 to 5, 7 to 10)

Separate: awesome.  Together: meandering…?  It sorta seems like you’re in for the shit when this album kicks off – AA’s ‘Pantstahlon’ is everything the band typifies, wonderfully captured in haunting, cacophonous echoes by Patrick Crump as his drums ricochet off a building wall of sound and Stephen Mattos’ guitar work half falls apart and then rebuilds and then dies again and again, the track stuttering toward something inevitable which either happens as soon as that marching beat finally kicks in or never.  Either way, it’s a perfect example of the noise / rock the group brings to things.  Similarly, AIDS W’s followup track, ‘Letter to Al Johnson’, is a skittery blast or Arab On Radar-ish freakout for a couple minutes, with Chloë Lum swearing at us (or Al) over and over.  Beautiful juxtaposition.  Now we’re amped to hear them come together!… but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s too much of a mash.  Part of this is Moumneh’s recording of the vs. tracks: while his style is perfectly competent for AIDS’ forefront blast, the sharp ear of Walter Weasel is missing to balance the nuances – because yes, they exist – of noise when the bands team up.  Crump’s drums dominate as guitarists from each group diddle in their respective styles, the sound all mushed into an unimpressive middle range which reduce Lum’s caterwaul to mumbling.  It works in some spots – specifically track 3, ‘Collecting Past Debts’, and the final track, ‘Ending of an Old Regime,’ but perhaps because in both cases we’re refreshed by solo band tracks; in the instance of the latter, AA’s ‘Olympic Pawns’ AW’s ‘Oh, the Lessening’ have fully reignited the spark of the opening.  These two collabo tracks also differ from the remainder in that they let the mash-up evolve a bit, stretching on for 4 or 5 minutes, letting that wash of sound become a dirge.  All of the other vs. moments are 2 minutes or less, just giving us a sketch of something before its on to the next flash.

But I do love the versus concept in general.  It’s always… respectable? when two bands have, seemingly, enough of a camaraderie to open things up and toss their collective skills into one songwriting hat.  True, on ‘Clash,’ the best moments are when the bands are playing their own tracks on their own, but the confused combination definitely captures the spirit of the no-wave scene (and the ‘anything goes’ mentality of these bands) either way.

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