Thursday, July 24, 2014

9353-Ravens of Glenmore Drive; Brainwashington Records, 2012

Washington D.C. area based 9353 always struck Disaster Amnesiac as a "band apart", even within the small confines of that city's underground scene of the 1980's. Their vibe was more abstract, artier, and way more, ah, drugged, than so many of the other (fucking awesome) bands of that town at that time. Their signature song, 10 Witches, always resonated a lot more with my addled teenage brain during that time frame ("we used to be such NICE children") than those of many other bands, regardless of them being underground or mainstream. 9353 often came across as fucked up and beat down as Disaster Amnesiac felt, trudging through a miscast existence in Prince William County, VA; their outsider vibe spoke to me, that's for sure. Apparently their first drummer hailed from Woodbridge, too, and as such, the band seemed more like home town heroes to mopes such as yours truly.
It turns out that 9353 has diligently soldiered on in some form or another for most of the post 1980's time period, a fact that Disaster Amnesiac had been unaware of. Looking through the catalog of  their label, Brainwashington Records, it's clear that I've missed quite a bit of activity from Bruce and his band. Thankfully, I was able to acquire a copy of 2012's Ravens of Glenmore Drive, and although Disaster Amnesiac's party ("party", yeah right.....) daze are long gone, I'm still glad to get skull fucked by 9353's Art Punk surrealism.
Said fuckery comes in large part from the vocals of 9353 mainstay Bruce Hellington. His lyrical tableaux have always evoked strange, often nightmare scenarios. On Glenmore Drive, he reaches new heights of skill. From Sci-Fi imagery on Dinosaur's Spaceship Ark to brilliant social parody in Crime Stars vs. "Credible" Victims to heartbreaking lamentation in Luxury is Choosing How the Story Ends, among others, writing is effective and evocative. Read along with the printed lyrics and be blown away! Disaster Amnesiac has repeatedly seen bizarre, Bosch-like scenes within their worlds. Additionally, Bruce utilizes his long time method of multi-tracked vocals, their effect being a kind of schizo-voiced cacophony within the listener's perceptions.
Musically, the band's approach seems to be one of paired-down simplicity, in that changes are for the most part eschewed for repetitive, groove based tunes. These move along nicely, often on account of the heavy rhythm section of Kathleen Hellington on strongly pounded drums and Vance Bockis (RIP) on melodic bass lines. Disaster Amnesiac finds their playing on the tranced, Hawkwind worthy Another Dandelion Planet Goes Kaboom to be particularly amazing. Susan Hwang and Nan Helm add keyboard and synthesizer colors atop these concrete grooves, giving psychedelic, Post Punk abstraction to them. Beautifully heavy, even when they skew Doo Wop (Skew Wop?) on Luxury.
Sound and engineering wise, Ravens of Glenmore Drive plays deep and luxurious. One can tell that a ton of attention was paid to its production. The LP seems to be somewhat of a memorial to a paragraph long list of fallen comrades; it's fitting that 9353 would want this partly epitaph of an album to sound GOOD. And that, it does, along with having a sumptuous cover art job. Nice.
In parting, Disaster Amnesiac would like to pay respects to Edd Jacobs, who played Tibetan prayer bells on Ravens of Glenmore Drive. I did not know him per se, but he always seemed like a friendly guy at shows in D.C. May his spirit's transition be one of ease. 

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