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Primordial Pus
Format: CD / LP
Release Date: May 24, 2011
By John Book August 8, 2011

As one half of Providence, Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt, Brian Chippendale has managed to create some of the most maniacal noise rock of the past decade. That duo’s frenzied racket has proved to be highly appealing to listeners who enjoy making sense out of sounds that to many others come across as complete nonsense. Chippendale also does this in another two-man team, Mindflayer, and manages to make time to create artwork, some of which can be seen on the covers for the music he creates. On top of all this, he releases solo recordings under the moniker Black Pus. From afar it may sound like a bunch of monotonous noise, everything sounding the same, but people who truly listen and understand  the beauty within the chaos can hear the myriad textures within the murkiness, which is what makes Primordial Pus stand out.

Primordial Pus is Chippendale’s fifth solo album, and if his Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer work is on one level of distorted insanity, his solo work sounds like uncontrolled aural massacres. The opening track, “Ha Ha Havoc,” sounds like he enters a dark room with contents unknown, with a muffled chant similar to that of a pecking chicken. Now, imagine you’re in a dark alley surrounded by garbage bins and sheet metal, and you’re armed with mallets. Then, imagine yourself pounding upon them rhythmically. Suddenly, someone throws fireworks down upon you, and your only source of light is the careening sparks. That’s Black Pus, and this is only song number one.

Chippendale’s Black Pus set-up involves himself, a drum set, and what sounds like a microphone borrowed from a thrift store reel-to-reel machine donated by an elementary school. He not so much sings as he does scream, chant, and grunt as he plays. Within that mix are various sounds that he controls with effects pedals, so while you’re hearing heavily distorted guitars, sirens, and high pitched whistles, it’s all within close proxitimity to his feet and he’s triggering everything in real time. Chippendale does this in a live setting incredibly well (search for him on YouTube to see and hear proof).  “Favorite Blanket, Favorite Curse” is just odd drones with piercing bass drums that drill through the psyche. “Police Song” is a mid-tempo track that could actually take on dance floors, if the world was a better place. Meanwhile, “Cave of Butterfly” might be some kind of energetic White Stripes/Mudhoney hybrid, if arranged slightly differently.

What has always been most fascinating about Black Pus (and Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer, for that matter) is how Chippendale is able to play at such fast speeds, and that he is able to do this song after song after song, 60 to 90 minutes at a time in a live performance. With Primordial Pus, his pace is almost laid back compared to previous efforts, as if this were a jazz album on ECM or Kudu. However, don’t assume that means that this is him trying to create smooth jazz noise. For one thing, the sound quality is far from excellent – everything sounds like it was recorded on cassette, then transferred to a hard drive with little to no filtering. That is, it sounds like a raw bootleg. But the low-fidelity holds a certain appeal, considering that this is an artist for whom the live performance is paramount. For some the live recording style might sound flawed, but Black Pus is not about audile perfection. Rather, Chippendale simply seeks to execute music and energy, and he does so in songs that are carefully constructed and arranged, even though they very much sound improvised or “of the moment.”  Anyone familiar with the work of singer/comedian Reggie Watts knows how he enjoys doing routines with nothing but a microphone and effect pedals. Black Pus does exactly this, but in a much more amplified way.

The most surprising track on Primordial Pus is album closer “I’ll Come When I Can.”  If you’re a fan of Italian or German progressive rock, you’re aware that a peformer will do some incredibly wild sounds for the majority of the album and then when they’ve reached their conclusion, the last track will sound like it’s been made for mainstream appeal.  This is not to say that Black Pus will be opening up for Adele, Drake, or Rihanna anytime soon, nor is the song as it is will be heard on the radio with Maroon 5. However, the song is a stark departure, consisting of Chippendale singing in a genuine manner, mixed in with digital loops of a vocal chorus and improvisational drums. The lyrics actually expose Chippendale’s vulnerability a bit, and it is a song that could potentially be interpreted and covered in a number of ways, from jazz and pop to soul and country.  It would be hilarious if someone picked up on this and made “I’ll Come When I Can” a song for today’s generation, but when they search for the original version and listen to the other songs on the album, they’ll go, “Wow, what in the hell was this guy on?”

Despite how chaotic Black Pus’ music sounds, what stands out is Chippendale’s organization and dedication towards the simple task of creating.  Dare I say it reveals sensibility to his music, all while being as spontaneous sounding as free jazz and experimental/avant-garde music?  I just did.  Fans who discover Black Pus through the recent Lightning Bolt collaboration with Flaming Lips may be either pleasantly surprised or completely shocked by the sounds on Primorial Pus, but that’s fine.  For longtime supporters of Chippendale, these are simply new threads to an eclectic fabric that keeps on growing.

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