With the exception of Mike Pride’s name being printed on the front covers, there is little to no overlap between the simultaneously released Birthing Days and Drummer’s Corpse. You can’t get away with saying he isn’t prolific and you certainly can’t claim that he’s just repeating himself. Birthing Days is the second album for Pride’s jazz quartet From Bacteria to Boys while Drummer’s Corpse appears to be the first album made by an avant-noise drumming conglomerate that boasts performance videos on youtube dating back to 2008. Birthing Days is jazz inspired by new life. Drummer’s Corpse is racket inspired by an apartment fire and an untimely death. You don’t need me to tell you that the results may vary.
The arrival of Pride’s firthborn give fuel to the appropriately titled Birthing Days. With song titles like “Lullaby for Charlie”, “Fuller Place” and “Occupied Man”, this is music for the new father to take a load off on a nearby flatrock, place his fist under his chin and ponder like he’s never pondered before. Jon Irabagon, who seems to be everywhere these days, makes his Bacteria debut here with his sweet, swinging alto and tenor lines. Alexis Marcelo splits his time between the piano and a synthesizer, the latter of which makes him sound like a young lion version of Rick Wakeman (that’s a compliment, Marcelo). With Peter Bitenc on bass and reedists Jonathan Moritz and Jason Stein stopping in for a handful of guest appearances, it appears that From Bacteria to Boys have all their ducks in a row. Press material would have you believe that these songs sprout angel wings and take flight, basking in the pure light of newborn life. So why is disconnect its major payoff? To Bacteria’s credit, musicianship is present and accounted for. Irabagon can get downright soulful, but sometimes it feels like he’s just playing notes. In its more static moments, this appears to be a microcosm of Birthing Days.
Now, take everything I told you about Birthing Days and throw it out the window, because Drummer’s Corpse is a totally different animal. The mix is dominated by percussionists, with seven of them appearing on the 33-minute title track alone. Guitarist Chris Welcome blares through just a handful of navel-gazing chords while vocalists Marissa Perel and Fritz Welch do their best impression of a Moonchild-era Mike Patton. For the 26-minute “Some Will Die Animals”, Welcome attempts to sound like a toddler version of Arto Lindsay. Written in dedication to Pride’s drummer friend Gen Makino, this is a piece truly for the inner circle only. The talents of Eivind Opsvik are reduced to some feeble bowing more reminiscent of the private rehearsal rooms in high school music wings than anything from Overseas IV. At the seven-minute mark, the voices enter. Perel, Welch and Yuko Tonohira overlap with one another in a dadaist recitation of random words and phrases, vexatiously vying for your attention. Things get edgy when they repeatedly use the words “vagina”, “phalluses”, “you suck”, “prick”, and “fuck”, not to mention a a high-pitched laser shot noise in the form of a falsetto “pyee-oo!”
Catharsis can be fun, as is intellectually going off a deep end. Noise for the sake of noise may even one day have its place alongside noise for a purpose. But all it takes is one go-round in the passenger’s seat to see the downsides of failing to put listener solidarity on your list of priorities. Since the two tracks on Drummer’s Corpse were spawned by an apartment fire and the suicide of a friend, it makes one reluctant to label them as soulless gimmicks. Perhaps these extended pieces do come from dark places, places we can’t mock because no one goes there willingly. But as artistic vehicles of human emotions, they are gibberish.
As bipolar as the premises for Birthing Days and Drummer’s Corpse sound, Pride’s extreme emotions lose their grip in the translation. Like dynamics being run through a compressor, joy and sorrow become squashed, equalized, forsaken soldiers in a ground war to sort out one’s life. And whatever conclusions Pride comes to amidst all of this, we can only hope they are more assuaging.