Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Rhys Chatham
Factor X


Released 1983 on Moers Music
Reviewed by Lugia, 06/08/2004ce


Rhys Chatham: "Factor X"
Moers Music 02008. Recorded 1982/83, released 1983.

Side 1:
1) For Brass (16:33)

Side 2:
1) Guitar Ring (11:15)
2) The Out-of-tune Guitar No. 2 (1:48)
3) Cadenza (6:07)

Rhys Chatham came out of the same downtown NYC scene that spawned so many other noisy troublemaker types with one foot squarely in classical roots and the other in rock 'n' roll. This of course also includes Glenn Branca, various members of Sonic Youth, LOLO, Laurie Anderson, Arto Lindsay, E. Sharpe, and on and on...

And as you'd expect, what we have here is noisy, rockin', and certainly more than tinged with Chatham's background which includes training with such notables as LaMonte Young and Morton Subotnick. But unlike some of the others in this general school, what we have here is pretty damn raucous...and, therefore, pretty damn fun!

Side one of the LP is a monster 16+ minute workout for brass octet and drums called, what else, "For Brass". Chatham evolved this out of an improvisatory work for guitar ensemble, ala Branca, called "The Out-of-tune Guitar", and it is a slam-bang rockfest...albeit minus the guitars with which Chatham first concocted this. Instead, you have a BIG brass sound...way over the top...that would make an accompaniment to the wildest, craziest car-chase scene ever! It's crazed...it jumps from this loping, jazz-madness section in the first part, to an ominous and building drone over the incessant rock drumming, and then into...yeaaaaaaahhh...one kickin' drum solo by Anton Fier. Coolness! Then it's back into the crazy cinema jazz tension, pounding chords and hammer-slasher dissonance. Not a single electric instrument in sight, but you CANNOT say this doesn't rock tha fzrk out, nope. All you need is Steve McQueen and a couple of '70 Plymouth 'Cudas going balls-out through city traffic causing total havoc and you've got box office with this thing!

Side two takes us more into the familiar downtown guitar turf. "Guitar Ring" starts slow, but with that same ominous dissonance that characterized "For Brass". Yeah...the phone call is coming...FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!! sort of ominous. Then the loping, rocking drumming kicks in, and it all starts to roll in one gradual build of polyrhythms to...SURF PARTY! Well...kinda...more like Klaus Dinger's Surf Party, as we get stuck in this 'lets work out this one chord like 'Für Immer'' sort of mode. Same kind of NEU!-esque drumming, too. Ahhhh...why, it even pulls this slow-down-to-a-crawl NEU! stunt...and y'know, I'd say that quite a bit of this piece suggests that Mr. Chatham had been listening to some o' that Düsseldorf sound, unless my ears deceive. Fine stuff. And it all ends up with this totally cartoony rock rave-up over which you could likely hear someone yelling "WOOO!!! Thank you Cleeeeeveland!!!" How can you lose?

"The Out-of-tune Guitar No. 2" give us a sub-2-minute taste of the sort of twangy trouble that led to "For Brass". It's short, to the point, and as the title says, quite out of tune. But then, if you've had your head stuck into the speakers from which any of Sonic Youth's pre-"Goo" noise has been coming, you won't find this all that out of tune, and will find it equally as much fun. Sort of a herky-jerky slopfest, nothing but fun to it, especially toward the latter half where they drop in At Least One Dozen Clicheed Rock Licks, but all disjointed and out of whack with each other, like some evil garage band on ether.

Then the closer kicks in, with the same drone-ominous feel of that center section of "For Brass" on side one. "Cadenza" is just frickin' cool...you can easily hear the sounds of the guitar harmonics dancing against that one twang-twanga-twanngg-twatwatwatwatwannng that makes up the rhythmic core, and it's just neat. Just one long build-up, one gradually-growing chord, nothing else to it. How simple does it have to get? Simple enough to be this happening, I'd say.

Who's this one for? Well...if you like your Sonic Youth/Branca, then sure. I'd be surprised if you didn't have some Rhys Chatham, in fact. But even moreso, this is a great one for the Krautrock set, with the NEU!-like way in which Chatham pulls all those guitar workouts on the second side. And even the jazzbos out there will go nuts over "For Brass", with that Maynard-meets-Branca sort of craziness that it's so full of. Don't let the classical background fool ya...this thing rocks, and so does the man who concocted it!


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