“[It’s] abstract, mostly instrumental, and very liquid.” These are the words Peter Prescott used to describe his new band Minibeast when talking to WBUR about Mission of Burma‘s decision to disband for the second time. “It’s based on riffage, repeating parts, but it’s also a rejection of rock music. It’s got rock identifiers – rhythm, melody somewhere, the points that comprise rock – but removing some of the underpinnings. I wanted rock instrumentation that worked in a completely different way. That’s the main pull of it for me.”
Minibeast started as an experimental side-project that Prescott was doing by himself. As Mission of Burma were winding down, Prescott began to assemble a full band to carry out his ideas. The difference in sound between 2011’s Look Don’t Look and 2022’s On Ice is tremendous. The bedroom tinkering of loops within loops has stepped aside for a full-on sonic assault. Minibeast’s music may be minimal in structure, but it sure isn’t minimal in execution. You can practically feel the blisters forming on the trio’s fingers as they bash out this sometimes borderline barbaric and sometimes eerily mystic blend of non-rock rock music.
With Niels LaWhite on bass and Keith Seidel on drums, Prescott takes over most of the guitar, keyboard, and vocal duties when they arise. Pete Weiss brings guitar and keyboard reinforcements to a little over half of the album, while Dana Colley of Morphine and Russ Gershon of Either/Orchestra bring their saxophones. Over an hour and five minutes, On Ice never settles for a generic moment. The dynamics of the music can swing about as wildly as they want; the genetic makeup of Minibeast is too sturdy to either spin out of control or cruise on autopilot.
The spoken word stanza that gets the whole thing rolling fixates on Prescott screaming that we all “cut to the chase” as “Stimulance” kicks down the door. “A Few Thoughts About Thought Crime in 1969” tells the story of a young Prescott settling in to watch an episode of Jonny Quest one day only to find the British sci-fi show The Prisoner on in its place. It’s like rolling down the street in a wheelbarrow while coming to some psychedelic realization. With Gershon on sax, “Late Summer Haze” nails the pre-Dark Side of the Moon nature of Pink Floyd’s sprawling jams of structured racket. Colley performs on the curiously titled “mmm”, a track that checks its doom-laden aggressions with just a hint of spacey noodling and guitar effects.
The bass of “Neon Root” is tuned so low that, had it just been struck once, it could have passed for a blaster beam circa 1979. Prescott’s voice is close to being swallowed up in the mix, perhaps intentionally, emphasizing the other elements floating about. The three-song sequence at the end, “Exclusive”, “Paper Machete”, and “On Ice”, are like three blows to the jaw in a row. Seidel never seems to let up as Prescott, LaWhite, and Weiss just pile on more and more, amassing a sonic weight that would cause a lesser band to buckle.
Peter Prescott has covered a lot of ground since Minibeast’s debut album in 2011. At the same time, it feels like he’s just getting started in this next chapter of noise non-rock. An extension of the murky depths explored on 2019’s ISM Volume Gold and ISM Volume Silver, On Ice revels in all of the noises, be they acoustic, amplified, or synthetic. Where he can take it from here is anyone’s guess, but On Ice would serve as the perfect soundtrack for slamming into a brick wall.