Sometimes aliases are useful. I came to this Spykes LP, the first offering from French vinyl-only label Sergent Massacre, without immediately associating it with John Olson as an individual or Wolf Eyes or Graveyards as groups. Without foreknowledge, I hung onto the fresh, exploratory aspects of the album (the wide stereo field and quick, intuitive reactions) rather than those tropes and moves (squalls of static and occasionally heavy delay) that seem quite familiar. Honestly, Olson's sonic creations here often sound more like a close-listening noise improv ensemble than the work of one person.
Side A contains mostly shorter pieces and a long run-out groove. After a beautifully scratchy fade-in, a wide stereo field emerges before a scrape cuts through the left side of my head. Something like the roar of passing cars and windshield wipers at ultra low-fidelity follows up the initial roar. Higher-pitched scrapes, electronic chirps, and cyclical, grainy tones emerge before loops, clattering, sine tones, and a distorted bass clarinet jostle each other amidst volume swells and delay.
Pixelated noise blasts and high pitch squeals, continually rise in volume, but leave a hollow room echo behind them. The sound drops down to static and hum with cyclical scrapes before dissonant wailing tones hover close together. The dual tones approach amother close harmony, a grittier reprise of the first with wider swoops and bends.
In the final track of the A-side, Olson works more single-mindedly than in the preceding miniatures. Cycles upon cycles pile-up before groaning tones lurk under high synth squawks. Toward the middle of the track I found myself picking the elements apart, wonderign whether some what I was hearing was processed trumpet or synth squeals before realizing that was beside the point.
Side B begins with heavier reverb and clarinet sounds to start, which seem to come up from deep in a carvern. Feedback and scraping become defeaning as the reverb dies off, dropping the listener in the midst of cacaphony before it dies down to muted shrieks. Pop radio, dirty ground tones, a scrape, static, and warbling tape become immersive because of an underlying, barely perceptible sense of direction. Elements are introduced and subside into the murk. Olson turns up the echoes loud enough to foreground their rigidity.
The jacket features artwork by Jonas Delaborde. The sticker on the A-side shares the black and white psychadelic drawing style with the front cover, seeming like a bubbling, melting cityscape overlaid with stray pieces of cartography. The B-side features a picture of the gaps in a stonewall that seems like a close-up of the grainy black and white shots of a pyramid, tunnels, and construction equipment of the back cover. While the artwork does not strictly correspond to the material within, the split between low fidelity, magnified realism and chaotic, rounded reimaginings does help to frame these baffling and engaging sonic examinations. 8/10 -- Howard Martin (5 August, 2009)