Yet another piece of free improvised brilliance on VHF. Once again, Richard Youngs and Alex Neilson unite for what may be their fifth album since 2003 if I?ve kept track. Back then, it was the meeting of a polished underground innovator and a young, virtuoso percussionist who was often held in the same regard as Chris Corsano. But after four years of nonstop performance and recording with dozens of international heavyweights, too many to list really, both players have stepped up their abilities ten-fold. 2007 has been a banner year for Richard Youngs. He has proven, over a variety of releases, his uncanny ability to switch his style and instrumentation without losing any of the power and originality cemented by his past catalogue. Neilson may not be well known as a solo artist in the same respect as Youngs, but his talents behind the kit and beyond definitely leave a strong impression on whatever group he?s playing with at any given time. (2007 even includes an appearance on a Bonnie ?Prince? Billy 7?. Talk about moving on up.) On this, their third duo outing on VHF, the two leave aside the studio sound alchemy for an LP/CD combo highlighting two divergent approaches to the free jazz/improv/rock format.
The LP titled ?Electric Lotus? features Youngs on electric and bass guitar and Neilson on drums for what they have called their ?rock? record. Sounds like what was said of the Taurpis Tula LP on Ikuisuus on which Neilson also played drums. And both records prove he?s got some taste for that ?rock? style. No fucking kidding is this thing heavy. Neilson puts his sticks on whirlwind mode, slamming cymbals and drums with little measure of restraint, just a billion deft wallops of methamphetamine babble. On top of this percussion storm, Youngs electric guitar sends wave after wave of uncontrollable feedback wails and doom riffs trying to harvest the frantic energy into something just as Tony Iomi as it is Sonny Sharrock. Youngs also plays bass on the LP with a much similar function as it did during the two Jandek performances last year. Circular bass leads add both rhythm and air to the unending cacophony stretched over two sides of wax. Their playing is definitely on par and even exceeds those old Blue Human CDs in the early nineties, perhaps the closest reference to the style. Youngs plays with a bit of restraint at points, but most of this record runs well in the red without losing the clarity of his technique with overpowering distortion or bad mixing. Fans of free rock of any type will definitely like this record.
The CD portion of the album titled ?Lotus Edition? brings the free rock fury to a simmer. By Youngs removing all electricity i.e. guitars and replacing those with a shakuhachi, a wooden Japanese flute, both players settle into a more spacious/patient dialogue that replaces the frenetic for the meditative. But this is not an ?extras? disc meant as disposable supplement to the LP but a complimentary album in a completely different style. Over the course of five tracks, Neilson and Youngs calmly converse without drifting into aimlessness or tedium. And despite the hushed atmosphere surrounding the music, this is actually an incredible live disc that brings balance to the double album in format, form, and function. The tonal range of the flute is limited, so Youngs chooses to focus as much on his own breath as the high-pitched squeals produced. Neilson?s drumming becomes less forceful, though certainly not lazy as his intricate phrases are separated by pauses bringing Youngs performance to the fore. There are even moments when Neilson lays down the sticks to bow across the cymbals and draw out their icy, metallic moans that merge well with the timbre of the flute notes.
For both the LP and CD, it felt needless to do a track break down or point out highlights as the styles don?t change from track to track, and the quality of the performances hardly waivers. Though neither disc can be called ?groundbreaking,? they really don?t have to be considering how enjoyable the results are. For the duo, this release isn?t doesn?t feel like a one time experiment, but rather expands the possibilities of their own collaborative partnership in the future. This record is another in a long line of high quality performances documented by the nearly infallible VHF. The care put into this release is self-evident. The record itself is a nice thick 180g slab with fantastic sound quality. The release comes wrapped with front and back of the vinyl and CD case covered with some ultra-cool, robots-and-monsters drawings by the kids at the VHF headquarters back in Virginia. A great addition to any free thinker?s collection. 8/10 -- Kenneth Zubiate (19 December, 2007)