Greg Kelley is the lead trumpeter for Nmperign, Heathen Shame, & Cold Bleak Heat. He was born in New England in the early ‘70s during Autumn. In the late 1980s, Mr. Kelley studied classical music in the South, fleeing North to Boston after his studies ran their course. There followed a short period of intense solitude after which Kelley insinuated himself into local avant-garde circles. The late 90s saw the birth of Nmperign and the beginnings of a period of touring and travel whereupon Mr. Kelley began to meet a vast array of colleagues and collaborators. He currently works in the insurance field and has significantly scaled back his touring and performing regimen hoping to find some kind of focus and to stop the world from spinning around his head so fast. The future sees a plethora of recordings on various media. If you see him in the street or at an international musical event, bring up Werner Herzog, artisan beer or the Shadow Ring and you're sure to get a rise out of this notoriously dull personage. Here he walks us through the new Kevin Drumm/2673 split LP on Kitty Play.
Kevin Drumm is one of my favourites. From the sparse, odd brokenness of the earlier guitar work to the digital pummel of the more recent material, I’ve simply come to expect great music. And is this too much to ask? After Mego’s Sheer Hellish Miasma people went nuts, screaming Kevin’s name in the streets, nudging next to him at bars for photo ops, impressing both composerly electronic music nerds and knuckle dragging noise fans (not that all of either group are either of those things - of course fucking not!). People got together kind of, except that they didn't get together at all - they just shared an enthusiasm. It’s not like anyone got along better, but why would they? People hate people. At any rate, Mr. Drumm stepped back, put out a great CD on Hanson that people really liked but some got confused because they thought he was headed for a niche market as opposed to the Universalism of a highly respected European electronic music label. Then came a couple of limited edition cassettes that were also great (I’ve come to expect this, did I mention that?), but were a bit rawer (for Maniacs only!) and confirmed people’s suspicions about anti-Universalism. The composerly nerds became sad perhaps. Or they’d given up. Now the throngs have settled back and are excited about some other new sensation. Kevin can go to a bar and no opportunistic photo ops. Maybe a couple kids who wanna talk about Whitehouse or The New Blockaders. Or they've heard Kevin’s into metal, so they might mention Manowar. But it’s cool. Things are laid back. So, why not do a split LP w/ a noise kid from New Jersey? (Actually, I don't know if he’s a kid or not.) And why not make it great? [There’s no pressure not to, except from like 300 dudes, 50 of whom got the Maniacs-only tapes (FUCKING-A MOTHERFUKKERS!!), the rest of whom got it on Soulseek.] I mean, that was the point from the get-go, right - to make it great? So, what do we get here, besides perhaps Drumm’s best work to date? (I wouldn't call it ‘better’ than the first CD on Perdition Plastics or ‘better’ than Sheer Hellish Miasma, BUT I still think it’s his best work to date. That doesn't add up for you? Well, I've been drinking.) Track 1: “Totemic Saturation (Live Dungheap For Strobe And Fog)” This piece is the more digital of the two and features a series of looped figures which grind themselves down into pure saturation by the end. A digitally sharpened guitar loop kicks things off with that loping mechanized odd-meter that only a machine can produce. You can kind of rock out to it, but if you catch yourself in the mirror, you realize that your dance is strange and maybe a little bit retarded, but does that stop you? No, it does not. This minimal riff (remember Comedy?) is left alone for a few minutes before the more textural layers of feedback creep into the proceedings. A realization is made: yes, now we are getting somewhere. Slowly you realize that the loping rhythm is phasing a bit and things are getting weird (i.e. awesome). By the time the high pitched feedback squeals come in, you realize you are listening to trance music. Not trance like E and strobe lights (Shit... but there are strobe lights!), but more like ritual. Now you’re getting into it. Don’t look in the mirror now, you’ll only look foolish. The phasing and textures build to the point of saturation and hover there for a bit before finally fading away. Track 2: “Blurry stupor (Section 1)” Track 2 is the real masterpiece for my money and points towards possible future avenues of exploration about which I am quite excited to hear (section 2...3?). For track 1’s 4 or 5 layers (once things hit the saturation point the differentiation becomes, uh, saturated, which is perhaps why it’s called “Totemic Saturation”?), track 2 seems to have about a thousand layers, though things are a bit less clear and the perspective jumps back a few feet. “Totemic Saturation”, like much of Sheer Hellish Miasma, has a very strong surface layer with a strong anterior presence. Though multiple layers (esp. in sections of SHM) provide multiple depths and perspectives to focus on, there is an overriding sense of the front of the sound, with accenting material beyond that point. Blurry stupor is all beyond. A layer of tweaked Nitsch organ/harmonium (which is probably guitar), a layer of New Blockaders crunch, analog synth squiggle, slurred and mumblurred vocals, and scathing guitar overload mix and blur. All these layers are in constant flux and instead of reaching a saturation point we are submerged in a bath of labyrinths. The ear shifts from a hovering background texture to a bubbling or sudden electronic or guitar punctuation (a series of glissandi throughout the piece seem to act at momentary signposts). Focus can shift easily between the forest and the trees. I thought of Xenakis’s La Legende d’Eer but only after the fact and only in the way in which masses of sound move about with density but clarity and not in terms of the sounds themselves – though I’ve often found that sounds themselves are somewhat arbitrary and the way in which they are organized is the important factor. So, here we have both. And I only ask that “Blurry Stupor (sections 2-5) be even better, but I may be getting greedy. I've noticed that most of these contributor columns cover at least 2 albums and here I've gone on at length about 1/2 of a split LP. So, I should at least mention Side 2, if only to get a C-. But I’m tired, so can I just say that Side 2 (by 2673) is a sweet slab of analog synth noise that I thought might involve a computer or a guitar, but only because it has that hands-off, noodleless stasis that seems more to me like sharply cut/constructed feedback than the knob-twiddling bleep-bloop that I would have expected from analog synth noise? Or that the tracks seem almost divided into EQ ranges, with the first being mid-to-high, the second being mid-to-low, and the 3rd being high? Should I mention Kevin Winter (2673)’s other split recordings with The Cherry Point, Jessica Rylan (Can’t), and others that show discriminating taste in company? Well, yes, I should. Anyway.... I’ve heard the Kevin D side more and the Kevin W side less and am much more familiar with Kevin D’s work, so let me just leave it at this: buy this record.