The Unsemble 


Released 4th March 2014 via

Ipecac Recordings

This year Ipecac turns 15 years. 15! That's the exact same number of boobs Homer Simpson saw at Spring Break that one time, and a number I'm quite sure Greg Werckman and the right honourable Mike Patton are furiously proud of. March marked arguably one of the most interesting and noteworthy releases of the label's entire catalogue; The Unsemble. The name might not ring a bell but perhaps the sum of its parts might: Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard / Tomahawk), Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubaten) and Brian Kotzur (Silver Jews). If you know your eggs from your bacon then, like me, you'll already have your mouth moist and ready for a damn good egg…. read on, read on:

Recorded in 2012, this self-titled album sees Denison sitting mainly in the limelight as the three-piece hammers and unfolds across fifteen instrumental explorations of repetition and repetition and repetition and (just kidding). An odd notion of The Unsemble is how it seems more of a natural progression to Tomahawk's 2007 album Anonymous than it's actual followup: Oddfellows. The record holds a constant tribal brood, conjuring images of the three-piece dancing around a fire caked in warpaint, rather than the fine suits they present themselves in for their press pic.

The record opens with 'Krishna', a ceremonial beginning only short of an opening "om" from Patton (who sadly isn't present at all during the record). 'Circles' follows promptly, with a menacing legato guitar and sturdy rhythm section (the album's clear signature), allowing the first taste of what's to come before falling into the first of five improvised pieces. These improvs are vital for the record to survive as an atmospheric entity, rather than a selection of grooving head-spinning works; they help bed in the core pieces with a context and a setting, allowing all the more impact to hit harder when present.

One of the more miraculous feats across The Unsemble is how each voice stands clearly as it's own while working to form a stronger, more defined body of sound. Often in "supergroups" (for lack of a better term) there's a battle for limelight, and although Duane Denison is often the clear melodic voice, this is mainly down to him being the only melodic voice. It really makes you wonder how much this group could benefit from a fourth member to extend these short-form ideas and compositions into something much bigger?

The record in many ways holds similarity to Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV, which ultimately led to Trent Reznor's soundtrack work, and there's definitely a large visual element in this that would be perfect behind picture or some sort of performance. Some of the music even holds similarity to Ghosts I-IV's scenic experimentations, such as 'Improv 2': many of the ideas are more sketches that serve their purpose as a large collection of work but struggle to gain a larger momentum and whole focus when alone.

This isn't to say that any of the tracks are bad, in fact there's a whole bunch of clear highlights: 'Neon' is a clean cut, straight driven smooth operator full of neat drums and chorus-drenched Cure-style guitar. 'Waves' is another big highlight on the record: spooky and persistent, like something out of a haunted-house in a theme park… not evil, but indulgent and enjoyable. 'Circles Revisited' takes the original concept and distorts it into some brilliant Einsturzende-infused nightmare, and 'Voices' closes the record with a deep, hazy Grails vibe.

There's no word on what's happening with The Unsemble since the release of this first album. We can only assume that the group spent their time together and until we hear more that's all we're getting, which is a shame in many ways. The Unsemble is a strong record by three vital musicians that could produce something more fruitful in the long-term.

Live performances, the addition of a fourth member, and further time developing together could see the band rise the ranks of Ipecac and through to a very large fanbase… they're the sort of band that would have ATP and its army of bearded hipster fans wetting their trousers and scrambling for tickets. The sort of band that could tour with Swans and take over the world of freaky musical tension. But, as it stands, we have one good solid record that does its job (and then some) from three incredible musicians working towards a combined piece of art, for the satisfaction of themselves in a medium in which they all profess to near virtuosity. It's seriously fucking cool.

Pin It on Pinterest