“What’s that sound?” I inquired upon return to the apartment, “Is Lightning Bolt practicing in your backyard today?” Before, there had been something like chanting; now there was this—tightly coiled riffs of electric noise razoring out and down the street like an enraged pack of strays. The friends whose apartment I was visiting were perplexed. Shimmying up a tree and onto the roof the abandoned warehouse in the lot behind them, we sought the source, eventually locating a trio poised on a patio across the street working their instruments into a lather of feedback, discordant lurches, and pummelled rhythm. I was hooked. “Whatever that is, let’s go there.”
Almost a year later, after the police shut down the patio show following noise complaints, after singer/keyboardist Luke Calzonetti has had time to perfect his crazed metal-scream vocals, after fine-tuning, touring, and a split release with Miracle of Birth, Child Abuse has completed its self-titled full-length debut, out on Genghis Tron frontman Mookie Singerman’s Love Pump United. For better or worse, it still seems to be the distillation of everything that caught my attention that first day.
Child Abuse, as confrontational in sound as in naming decision, creates vicious no-wave, infusing that movement’s jazz flirtations and in-your-face discord with further abrasion derived from metal and hardcore, even as they work in the occasional riff of something like a pop hook. Any given track is likely to rocket off the starting blocks with a frenzy of near-atonal guitar and bass, globbed into a semblence of melody only through the efforts of a spastic zap of overdriven keyboard and tensely hammering drums. Overlay Calzonetti’s death-metal-band-of-asylum-inmates vocals, which bristle and shriek unpredictably and with perhaps equal parts fury and humor, and you’ve got one of the more tolerance-testing noise-punk projects since the Ex Models. Perhaps fortunately, the molten mess is tempered by a surprising level of attention and care. As with their no-wave forebears, the feedback stabs and garbled keys here are more often than not precisely looped and arranged, revealing that even the most random riffs have in fact been memorized and practiced, and often investing the chaos with palpable structure and progress. And besides the acoustic free-jazz secret appendix, for an album so intrigued by the power of noise, the proceedings are remarkably condensed and wank-free. Not an overlong feedback solo or ambient noise-wash intro in earshot.
“Wrong Hole” opens the disc like a freeway accident flashback that just won’t stop, with no less than 40 rapid repetitions of car crash bass and drums. Once you’re convinced there’s no escape, the song begins careening through alternating grindcore blasts and dissonant keyboard solos, all linked by an unintelligible gabber of presumed lyrics. Calzonetti’s vocal stylings can require more than a little getting used to, and I still catch myself wondering what various stretches would sound like without their clutter, but they do have a unique charm, mostly via the sheer insanity with which he infuses them. On the next track, “Poor Snoo”, his keyboard is allowed greater access to traditional melody, at key points sounding like nothing so much as a ‘50s lounge gameshow theme going down in flames. “Age of Reason” successfully applies tightly-gated noise riffs to define a rhythm even as collapsing-factory percussion attempts to buck it, and the climax of “Violent Utopia Part 1” enlists a steady pulse of keyboard chords, then twists them into a warbling mess.
It’s relatively easy to start a noise band and create an ear-rending racket, especially if you hail from Brooklyn and own at least one guitar amp. You can even get bookings this way, and find an audience that will probably enjoy your sets on some visceral level. It’s a bit harder to distinguish yourself, though, to set yourself apart from the shearing guitar noises of the rest of the crowd. Child Abuse, however, by merit of lunatic energy and tight coordination, is already making solid strides towards doing just that. Its current mélange of punk, jazz, and metal references is likely to drive off many proponents of each, but those who stay—and those who were here for the noise all along—will find a promising, succinctly destructive experience.
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// Notes from the Road
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