Is this a joke? It certainly sounds like a joke (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Jan Jelinek, Hanno Leichtmann, and Andrew Pekler—all names with individual pedigrees in experimenting with electronics—get together and record that most wanky conceit of rock ‘n’ roll: a jam session. The Martyrdom of Groupshow consistently betrays its jam origins; tracks live or die by the quality of the loose riff that emerges from the opening timbral salad. Do this for two to three minutes, rinse and repeat 12 times, and there’s the record. It’s not an ethos for recording that has to end badly, but for Groupshow, more often than not the result teeters on the precipice of gelling into a compelling idea.
Maybe the length is the issue here. Some of the greatest psychedelic jam bands found riff nirvana through tireless repetition—see Can’s “Halleluwah”. Groupshow sounds too impatient to fully see these through. When it does work, as on the decayed surf twang of “The Future Looks Bright… Super Bright” or the lo-fi grit of “Physical Therapist”, it becomes clear why this collaboration was such an interesting idea to begin with. It’s possible that Groupshow is a sight to behold when the band goes at it live, and that the abrupt sequencing nonsequiturs of Martyrdom would be rectified in such a setting. As a recorded document, however, the album is frustratingly good at being almost there.
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// Notes from the Road
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