Well, this is just fantastic.
[The sarcastic route]: One of my best friends, who also happens to be a fine MC, has been using the name X.O.4. since high school. Not kidding. What am I supposed to tell him now? Technically, I shouldn?t even like these biters. I?ve got to be loyal. But it makes me wonder of the significance of the two letters and a number. Or is it two numbers and a letter? Am I missing something or is this just a large coincidence? I?ve already went through this once with SND, I don?t know if I can deal with it twice.
[The actual route]: What an album. You may already know Bill Nace. He has been rounded up in a slew of high-profile improvising units in the past year or two. These include Vampire Belt (with Chris Corsano,) Vampire Can?t (with Corsano and Jessica Rylan,) Ceylon Mange (with a couple of other weirdoes,) and Northampton Wools (could Thurston Moore have been too far away from this list.) But with all these respectable projects, I have not heard screech one out of him. Perfect. X.O.4. finds Nace teaming up with a couple of guys lacking in the high-profile of his previous collaborators, but to these ears, John Truscinski and Jake Meginsky sound like his uncultivated home. They come off as the vaguest of units with barely legable personnel info, no list of equipment, and no clues to its construction. What we?re given is a set of images to puzzle over, whose disjointed sense of purpose offered only in abrasive stretches of clarity scattered throughout.
?Cataracts?, their vinyl debut, and perhaps their second overall release as I could only find a CD-R on Audiobot, blends lots of stringed and percussive contraptions and electronic effects into m?lange of pure improvised goodness that does a hell of a lot more to impress me than a list of underground all-stars. But hey, every job?s got a resume and you may as well get the best references possible, but the sound here comes off as singular to any reference point and well worth interest outside of allusion. The one contemporary group I would mention is My Cat Is An Alien, though this doesn?t get off on space-gazing as much as metallurgical improvisation with unknown ingredients.
No track titles given here, which seems fitting in this case as every piece meditates around a similar range of sounds in five different styles. The A-side is all I needed to hear before recommending this album. One track, about twenty minutes, simply phenomenal. Several routes are attempted and abandoned. But the piece does not feel like a sequence of non-sequiturs as it is a reconstruction of a process, including several moments where the pieces are reshuffled and new sounds are slowly mixed into the deck. It reaches its amplified conclusion three-quarters in, twice actually, and slowly disassembles again, as if dissatisfied with the results.
The B-side offers several short meditations on some of the paths not traveled on the A. Each player very carefully messes around with the components, shaking loose restrained revelations within their simplified tones. At times creep-out haunted ghost echoes dominate, at others the group sounds inspired by an Asiatic sense of purposeful wandering across the frets. Every time the forms are reconfigured, the image has degraded, until the blur in the fourth track leaves on a complete drunken swagger. And all that is left are these pieces rolling across the concrete and no will left to deal with them properly.
I guess the name X.O.4. inspires thoughts of instruction manuals, so if this review sounds more like a description of a guy putting together an Ikea desk while having a mystical peyote experience, I can only apologize. And if I?m feeling a bit humorous, it?s not because the record sucks. Ecstatic Peace continues its rock solid tradition even as it preps the big pop star moves with its Universal distribution. But this vinyl, unfortunately, is limited, as is too much of our favorite releases these days, so I?d jump on it now. And keep your eyes peeled because there?s no telling what route, or what label, X.O.4. plan to take next. 9/10 -- Kenneth Zubiate (9 May, 2007)