Collaborations between two artists I like a lot are always welcomed with open arms. From the mystical forests of Tampere comes Uton. Over the past few years, this Finn has made quite a name for himself all around the world. Clay Figure is a slightly newer addition to the world of weirdo drones, but with each new release, his project is also becoming commonplace. After a split live CD-R release (also on the Haamumaa label), the two decided that that wasn't good enough; they decided that getting together for some good, old fashioned, noise-filled freak-outs was in order. The result? "Escape From the Ugly Spirit."
This two song, 43-minute release is a celebration of the cathartic aspect of improvised noise. Perhaps I am waxing too philosophical here, but from my personal experience, there are few ways better at releasing tension than just picking up an instrument (or instruments, as is the case here) and beating sounds out of it. Each tortured note is like another nail into the source of one's stress. I believe that tension plays a very important role in all art, and in music in particular, so it should be of no surprise that I am a big fan of albums like this.
Track one begins with a wall of feedback. Using guitars and synthesizers (I think), Uton and Clay Figure take no prisoners from the beginning. This is a full-on noise assault. It's like screaming at the top of your lungs just to relieve some tension in a very tight situation. It usually does the trick, and as the feedback crawls along all by itself for a couple minutes, it sets up what is in store on the rest of this disc. Percussion starts off slow and quiet in the form of a maraca, but soon it pushes the intensity level up another notch. Drums that sound like they're being played in an underwater cave overtake the feedback. If you have ever been so mad that you just wanted to punch a hole in the wall, you will be able to feel the pressure building here. It's harsh, and I love it. This racket can only last for so long, though. Trust me when I say it'd blow out your hearing if it went on for more than the few minutes it does. As it degenerates further, we are greeted by a pulsing feedback drone. It's like when you have a throbbing headache and it gets so bad, you can feel the thump-thump of your heartbeat in your skull. This is the point where this track starts penetrating your brain. But it also starts teasing you and fucking with you as well. As the pulsing continues, the overall volume level seems to quiet down a bit, while a flute is introduced into the mix. But it's all a set-up. Just when it seems okay to breathe, metallic percussion returns and starts wailing on your insides. We're talking no-holds-barred, pound-you-into-a-bloody-mess type of wailing.
But as soon as you feel like you can't take enough and want to rip off your headphones, it grinds to an almost complete stop. Finally, the feedback is gone; you've been able to get that monkey off your back and now it's time to focus on the things that are really bothering you. A combination of electric guitar, cymbals, and violin start in on an Alastair Galbraith-style drone. This part of the track is most reminiscent of the Uton stuff I really love as well. As noisy and abrasive as it is, there is a very slight melody underneath. It's like a monster trying to escape its cage, though it never quite makes it. Just when it seems like it will be free, they shoot it between the eyes and turn off the tape. This first track is worth the few bucks this CD-R will set you back, and luckily there's another 20 minutes to go through before all is said and done. 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)