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25 August 2010

Burning Star Core - 'Papercuts Theater' (No Quarter)

We've at long last reached the end of our Burning Star Core gauntlet, though if we were reviewing unspined CDrs we'd be here far longer. Look for Withholding Antiseptic Utilitarian Dental Inducers, our CDr blog, starting in 2013 after we get through everything else. But in the meantime we have this beautiful gatefold double LP of live material, where Yeh has taken the approach of collaging 11 years of various recordings together into four even sides. It's a 66-minute long behemoth that reminds me a bit of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Live in Mandel Hall record from '71, at least in size, construction and density. Or maybe Metal Machine Music because that's also four evenly-split 16.5 minute sides that resist description. The bulk of the credits are the core Burning Star Core players since 1997 - Yeh, Trevor Tremaine, Mike Shiflet, Robert Beatty, Jeremy Lesniak and John Rich. There's some other notable guests whose contributions are indicated, but for the main players, they're anywhere and everywhere. Because everything blends together it's hard to tell what comes from when, but Yeh's assembled this with a sure hand, without any obvious drops in sound quality or levels. You can jump in at any place and swim as long as you want, and the mastering and vinyl really bring to life the dense arrays of movement carried in these grooves. Which if you think about it, is a real feat since I'm sure a lot of this stuff was sourced from minidisc and/or cassette. There are certainly bits I witnessed live or have heard before on other CDr releases, but it's impossible to say as everything has been transformed into a monolithic juggernaut. That's not to say this is an impenetrable, solid edifice -- there are moments of extreme delicacy, with swirling violins, spacious echoes and cavernous soundpits anchored by thundering rhythms. I'm not sure if this is a case of the sum being more than its parts or vice-versa, since I didn't hear all of the little bits that made this patchwork. If you think of Burning Star Core live as a certain thing, which this record clearly presents it as, then it makes sense to do it this way - it's an everexpanding sea of sound organisation, with various collaborators all anchoring around Yeh's own vision. There's glimpses of the rhythms we've heard on Operator Dead or the textural scrapings of Very Heart of the World, and though the vocal component is downplayed (or just buried), it's hard to mistake this music for anything else.

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