January 21, 2004

The Flying Luttenbachers "Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder"

For the past ten years or so, Weasel Walter and his ever-revolving musical motley crew have been playing a frenetic brand of dense, eclectic, meticulously organized avant-garde jazz-rock that can only be characterized as mind-bending. Even after pairing down the Luttenbachers to a one-man operation, Walter continues to create some of the most compelling, inspired music the underground scene has seen (Luttenbachers live shows are legendary) or heard. For those unfamiliar with the maniacal stylings of the Luttenbachers, the adventurous nature of their music could be likened to John Zorn’s explorations with Naked City but, at the same time, has a surprising amount in common with composers like Harry Partch and John Cage. Such comparisons are more than a bit insular as the Luttenbachers manage to seamlessly incorporate such dissimilar genres as free jazz, hardcore, death metal, contemporary classical, and electronica into the mix.

On Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder, their latest opus for Jersey schizophrenics Troubleman Unlimited (home to Black Dice, Orthrelm, and Erase Errata, among others), the Luttenbachers capriciously shift between and merge off-kilter melodies circa No New York, violent, dissonant bursts of guitar fury, piano work reminiscent of the aforementioned composers, and the spastic, cacophonous drumming of Mr. Walter himself. This time around, Walter has, for the most, rid himself of the saxophones and such that have been such integral parts of past releases, and focused more on creating- quite successfully, I might add- a much more layered, much more concentrated, though no less brutal, sound.

Systems Emerge… begins, appropriately enough, with a torrent of teeming white noise. For the first half or so, “Entropic Field/Total Disorder/Cellular Chaos” escalates further and further into the realms of sonic calamity, but as the track draws to a close, the frantic sounds slowly begin to dissipate into a darker, singular static hum suggestive of Japanese noise terrorist Merzbow or, more pragmatically, television snow. Things really start to get going on the curiously titled second track, “Kkringg Beyond NGGGGG” as layer upon layer of guitars grind, whine, and create an opaque, melodious ruckus all the while Walters hammers out a mechanical beat on his kit. As the track progresses, a drum machine emerges, firing rapid jack hammer beats as electronic gadgets go off in an assortment of directions.

“Kkringg Beyond NGGGGG” quickly segues into the next two tracks, “Kkringg Number One” and “Kkringg Number Two”. “Kkringg Number One” vaguely resembles a deranged nursery rhyme at times and a dizzying ride through a sadistic carnival at others, while “Kkringg Number Two,” with its Contortions-on-speed skronk and percussive guitar jabs, bursts with a nervous tension that’s rather overwhelming. The next track, “Thrumm’d Hte (For M)” appears to mine more electronic territory, prominently featuring swirling synth lines and an angular, ever shifting programmed beat juxtaposed against what sounds, quite literally, like a battle between a man and his guitar. The result is something that recalls cartoon composer Carl Stalling being attacked by a pack of unhinged cannibals.

The closing track, the twenty-minute-plus “Rise of the Iridescent Behemoth”, is the apex of Systems Emerge... Beginning unassumingly enough-for a Flying Luttenbachers record, that is: a piano playing an off-kilter melody, cascading waves of bass fuzz, primordial drum rolls. The mix briefly becomes clouded with a profound sense of doom and, soon afterwards, the track detonates: lightning-fast drum rolls, out-of-tune fusion guitar lines, wave after wave of bass static, piano keys hammered relentlessly- a veritable explosion of cataclysmic proportions. Just as you regain control of your senses, Walter slows it down: wailing guitars, a twinkling piano melody, the ever-present bass static, and…Latin percussion?!?! The track builds up again, continues to build, the tension escalating- overpowering amounts of anxiety hang over the proceedings as things continue to intensify, and just when you think the entire mass is either going to collapse or rupture, it stops. The listener is subsequently left dazed, confused, and violated. Strangely enough, it feels good…really good.

With each new release, the Luttenbachers have evolved, delving ever deeper into their own genre-defying blend of exponentially psychotic sonic mayhem. With Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder, Weasel Walter has managed to single-handedly create a behemoth of an album that succeeds in encompassing everything this writer loves about music: innovation, insanity, and the inability to rest on one’s laurels. I suppose if one were to equate the experience of listening to a Flying Luttenbachers record with something, imagine being bludgeoned unconscious, and waking up to a rather sizable gentleman standing over you, his steel-heeled boot pressed as hard as possible against your chest, laughing defiantly as you attempt to squirm helplessly from underneath. Simply put: a positively exhilarating listening experience.

- Jonathan Pfeffer

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