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26 February 2017

Blake Hargreaves - 'The Waxathon' (Fluorescent Friends)

The Waxathon isn't a record that anyone remembers - I think barely anyone even remembers Dreamcatcher at this point, which is what I said at the beginning when I covered their LP four years ago - and you can currently snag a copy on Discogs for 3€. And that might be worth the investment, if you have an interest in extremely difficult outsider Canadian electro-acoustic noise circa 2001-2002. This was recorded live and sounds like it, with amp buzz a constant reminder of the arsenal of Hargreaves and so many like him. Which is not to say that this is derivative; what keeps this record on my shelf is my continual enjoyment of it; how it hails from an aesthetic time/era but sounds, almost paradoxically, unlike any of its peers. There's barely identifiable sounds from guitars or keyboards, warped vocals, and a sense of compositional construction that is curiously bereft of drama, impact or resolution. The opening cut, 'Who The Fuck Said That?', is completely the wrong way to start an album - the most minimal piece here, it stumbles along with occasional blurts of activity that sound more accidental than anything else. And it's not even mood minimalism, but just the sound of decayed, forgotten loneliness. By the end of the first side things have gained momentum - '2001: It's Saudi Duty Time' has a title which suggests a political intent, and given that this record was recorded starting in September 2001, you have to wonder if this was made in some form of response. But rather than contain any lucid narrative, the bottom keeps falling out, ending up like a bag of old cutlery being shaken out into a giant anthill. 'I Beat Cops Up the Rope Ladder' ends the side, coalescing into a violent, thick shakedown that's the closest The Waxathon ever gets to the dense wall-of-noise aesthetic, though it also keeps things spacious and ends with a tape splice just when you think it's gonna get anthemic. When I saw Dreamcatcher live a few years later I thought Wolf Eyes was the obvious influence, and you can hear that a bit on their LP, but The Waxathon feels devoid of any particular ancestor - that pulsing malevolence that Wolf Eyes inherited from their Factrix (or even Skinny Puppy) influence is nowhere to be found here. Nor is their the more dadistic, absurd side of the noise underground - even the title 'Jesus Ducks Jury Duty' and its low-mixed, buried vocal samples all serve an aesthetic that is far more alien than anything else. 'AK-420 War Journal' features sampled voice calls over a sustained harsh drone, I think maybe with his mom, pushing the question of 'what is music' and also setting an image of what Mr. Hargreaves day-to-day life was like at the turn of the millennium in Montreal. When it's over, I'm right back where I started - not really sure what any of it meant, but somehow altered by the experience.

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