Hangedup: Clatter for Control

String players of a boldly experimental stripe are so few and far between, they almost can be counted on one hand: Tony Conrad, Dirty Three's Warren Ellis, John Cale, Mark Feldman (a frequent contributor to John Zorn and Dave Douglas's groups), Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Sophie Trudeau, and Hangedup's fearless Geneviève Heistek all spring to mind. Listeners familiar with the Montreal-based outfit will know violist Heistek and drummer Eric Craven have no trouble sustaining interest despite their group's bare-bones make-up, any doubts having been soundly allayed during the group's five year existence and three Constellation full-lengths (including Clatter For Control). Recorded by Godspeed's Efrim at his Hotel2Tango studio, the latest outing finds the pair stoking a colossal, symbiotic fire of thrashing drums and dive-bombing strings, a sound sometimes so huge it resembles an army. That's partially attributable to the ferocity of their attack but also to Heistek's amplified, looped viola which allows her to generate hypnotic string masses; her nightmarish droning in “Alarm,” for example, is multiply overlaid by sawing violas that screechingly ascend in a tumultuous caterwaul.

By exploiting contrasts, the group strategically maintains the listener's interest. More conventionally structured pieces (the aptly titled “Klang Klang” and bright funk-rocker “Go Let's Go”) provide ballast for the noisier improvs (the dissonant “Kick-Back-Hub” and wailing “Eksplozije”). Similarly, quieter soundscapes like “How We Keep Time,” with its mournful string tones and inventive percussive shadings, differ radically from rave-ups like “Fuck This Place.” Writhing underneath Heistek's searing tones, Craven's slamming rhythms and Harris Newman's growling electric bass sound capable of demolishing a building or two. Assembled, the players conjure a seething tribal drone topped off by agonized sounds (Gen screaming through her viola pick-up) emanating from the song's cyclonic center—a harrowing moment not easily forgotten on an album so combustible it's impossible to ignore.

April 2005