Experimental audio is devilishly hard to analyze. By what yardstick does one measure the scrapes, drones and wheezes common to music's outer limits? Avant-garde astronauts Nest Material certainly haven't made the task any easier. The sprawling Burlington musical collective recently released not one but two discs of headfuckery, Radio Kinetics and the wonderfully titled Metaphysical Graffiti.
The former features three epic cuts. Opener "Je Deteste" is built around a revolving drum pattern from percussionist J.B. Ledoux. At more than 14 minutes long, the tune takes its sweet time to unfold. Indiscriminate drones and heavily effected horn squawks flicker in and out of focus, providing plenty of texture, but little in the way of melody. In a deranged approximation of Miles Davis' 1970s work, the tune eventually develops an oddly funky strut.
"Trampled Under Feet" is a thrumming collision of found sound and conventional instrumentation. Gentle and enveloping, the tune's hazy resonances could almost be called beautiful.
Kinetics wraps up with the rumbling distortion-fest "Rice Krispies." What the tune lacks in nuance it makes up for in unbridled sonic devastation.
Metaphysical Graffiti represents some of the band's earliest recording adventures. In a bold declaration of copyright infringement, the group named each of the "songs" after Zeppelin numbers. Like Kinetics, Graffiti employs organic instruments such as guitar, drums and horns as well as turntables and sundry electronics to create mutable soundscapes. The guitars play a more prominent role here, with passages that could even be called melodic.
My favorite moments occur near the 10-minute mark. At this point, the ever-present drones are broken up by a series of keyboard blips and a repetitive saxophone figure.
"WH3n The l3v3E BR3@K5" (or "When the Levee Breaks") is an exceedingly brief passage featuring random clattering and what sounds like the digital version of ocean waves.
Graffiti wraps up with a jazzy drum figure and fractured, psychedelic guitar lines. By the end of the disc, I found myself wondering if someone had slipped something into my coffee.
Nest Material are certainly not for everyone, but that's probably just how they want it. Still, those willing to dial into the band's strange frequency will be rewarded with some of the most interesting and unusual sounds around.