One 40-minute track, LIVWE!! comprises this ninth entry in the band’s Super Roots series, and the first since 1999. It was recorded live at a Japanese gig on Christmas Eve, 2004 (and originally released in limited quantities last year). It marks the most recent phase of the band, having cycled through the pure noise of its mid-80s recordings, through the spazzy psych of the 90s — when the band reached the pinnacle of its cultural currency, buoyed by tours alongside Sonic Youth and Nirvana, capped off by a headlining spot at Lollapalooza ‘94 — and the subdued kraut of their millennial work. These days the band is subsumed with its love for rhythm.
In that sense, this release is a fine follow-up (though chronologically it would be a precursor) to the 77 Boadrum spectacle Boredoms orchestrated at the Brooklyn Bridge on 7/7/07 last summer with the help of 77 drummers. Still, this music doesn’t work in usual band chronology. Whatever developments the band’s sound undergoes, it always feels as though the “new” sound is just another articulation of fundamental elements.
As the curtain comes up, sleigh bells yield to an angelic choir, sampled, pitch-shifted and multiplied to produce stirring harmonies. Then, subtly, cymbals enter the fray, and, finally, triumphal drumbeats. Flange effects and shimmering recapitulations of those choral passages follow, but just when it feels like this all might slip into terminal mellowness, the crowd cheers and scattershot drums start bubbling up, soon overtaking the mix in pure shifting rhythm against the constant echo of that chorus.
Over the remaining half hour the drumming swings between speedy breakbeats, the lofty chorus becoming a trancey, Afro-Cuban dancefloor accoutrement, all slowed and soulful. The band’s backbone, Eye, playing CDJ and turntable, manipulates the choral tones throughout, creating drama and summoning the divine, taunting the audience with near-silence then rousing them with call-and-response (the live experience, one imagines, was churchy in more ways than one). As Eye conducts, bandmates Yoshimi (yes, that Yoshimi), Yojiro and ATR show a staggering depth of talent and range on their respective drum and percussion apparatus.
Can’t wait until 8/8/08 when they add another 11 drummers.