What does the term "white-wash" mean to you? For me, white-washing something is to cover up all its blemishes and imperfections. Whatever the object is that is getting the treatment, it is bound to come out the other side looking clean and new. In my head, this idea is a given. The real question is whether or not this is a good thing? Now, in order to make an accurate judgment on that, one must know what it is that is being treated. In general, I prefer things to look and feel worn-in and battered down. Age never hurt anyone that embraced the oncoming years, and while some things become more fragile over time, it's just the natural order of things. Denying this, or attempting to hide it, won't do any good for anyone in the long run.
In the music industry, engineers often act as the white-washers. They clean up recordings to the point that they sound machinistic and have no life in them at all. ?Raw? is a word that carries no meaning in the bowels of music corporations, unless it's highly processed to sound that way. So what does this have to do with the latest CD-R release by the New Zealand duo of Ben Spiers and Antony Milton? Well, the operative word when describing these two improvised noise fests is raw; raw like a freshly shucked oyster.
There are only two tracks on the aptly named "2," but the entire release clocks in at just under 40 minutes. The first track is just under eight minutes and features slight melodies as it reaches toward the moon. I love how this piece seems to slowly build upon itself. Spiers and Milton use different approaches here to achieve the same end. One guitar track is more disjointed and choppy; there's a hint of blues on it that's so subtle, many listeners might not even pick up on it. Underneath that, though, is the wall of shimmering sound. It sounds like an ocean of distorted feedback that is so deep, there's no prayer of seeing the bottom. But when combined with the first, clearer track, the effect is excellent. It's like simultaneously hearing the inner workings of a jet-propulsion engine and the external wind sheer at the same time. I don't know if this collaboration was done live or not, but Milton and Spiers play off each other perfectly.
On the second track, though, Milton and Spiers find their groove. This is a sprawling track. It's 32 minutes exactly. It moves through many different movements like it's constantly chasing something it cannot find. Or perhaps it's like a journey down a long-winding river; at times the current is slow and the ride is peaceful, but at other points, your raft hits level five rapids and it's total fucking chaos. Most impressive is that the transitions from one landscape to the next are seamless. You'll be sailing through Venetian canals on a steady and calm gondola, and the next thing you know, you're going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Eventually, it descends into a molasses-soaked feedback duel. The peaks and valleys of this track are immense, and the meditative quality of the tones Milton and Spiers conspire to create are easy to get lost in. I swear, this CD-R should come with a map.
Seen Through is another notch in the belt of Pseudo Arcana chief, Antony Milton. Obviously, he and Spiers (whose solo recordings are fantastic as well) understanding how to handle each other?s music. Their approach is straight on. There's no reason to clean up these recordings; keep your white-wash in the garage. Don't cook the damn oyster, just suck it down raw. In the end, you'll be better off for it. 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)