While a series of archival live releases have appeared recently, the self-titled BLOODYMINDED is the first new studio material from the legendary Chicago noise/power electronics project since 2013‚Äôs Within the Walls. It also marks the first time that all six permanent members of the international band: Xavier Laradji, Will Lindsay, James Moy, Isidro Reyes, Pieter Schoolwerth, and de facto band leader Mark Solotroff have recorded together at the same location. This was heralded by a live performance just before the few crew entered the studio (released as The Struggle of Togetherness, but live BLOODYMINDED is a very different beast.¬† On stage they are a writhing mass of black leather, cheap plastic synths, and far more microphones than necessary. The result is the deconstruction of rock show clich√©s complete with between song banter and dedications, some of which are longer in duration than the song itself, which may be just a five second blast of synth. In the studio, however, the thematic depth and obsessive attention to sonic detail is much more obvious, resulting in the band's best work to date.
The themes of urban spaces, isolation, and alienation abetted by digital technology on BLOODYMINDED link directly with Solotroff‚Äôs solo synth excursions of late, with the addition of The Myth of Community to the series coming just before this album.Listening together, those feel almost like the early fieldwork for this final project, with notable similarities and differences.While those recordings are sparse approximations of the inhuman concrete, glass and steel elements of the city via analog synthesizers, here the sense of isolation brings in the dense populace of an urban area. The first song "Precise Surfaces" is the opposite extreme of the synth work:multiple vocals all over the mix, yelling and screaming from left, right, and center above a traditional power electronics backing of extreme low and high frequencies makes for a very maximialist sound.However, there is the sense the vocals are disconnected from each other and also not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, resulting in a sense that I am just hearing the raging snippets of conversation from passing strangers above a standard urban din.
This is a structural approach that features prominently on "Degrees of Order" as well, and while this vocal style is not necessarily new for the band, it is so conceptually fitting for this album that it functions at an entirely new level.The same feeling is captured on "Rapid Breath," where the staccato synth undulations are blended with layered vocals and screams that make for a wonderfully chaotic pairing to the otherwise rhythmic feel."Flooded Interiors" is also constructed on a rhythmic pulsation of synth, which is also balanced by the harsher, distorted vocals.
As a band, BLOODYMINDED's work has always been anchored by Solotroff's vocals, and that is no different here.However, one of the most unique facets of the band is the fact that the vocals are usually rather clear and up-front, rather than buried under layers of distortion and effects.While often delivered at a manic pace and in multiple layers, they are largely understandable and when not, there is always a lyric sheet to clarify.Most of the lyrics here are couplets or short statements, pairings of buzz words or technical terms that emulate the fragmented information overload of today's social media and click-bait headlines.Shouted phrases like "dehumanizing undercurrents," "subsistence and surplus," "sowing division," and "the iconography of defiance" make the thematic elements of the record even clearer.
Vocals are prominent, but the same meticulous attention to detail goes into the synths as well."Tunneling" features heavy feedback that is nicely mixed with a widely varying sound to the electronics that stay consistent and structured, but clearly not just simplistic loops or noise that is allowed to run untouched."The Self and the Sublime" is slower and more textural, with the noise passages beautifully layered and evolving from beginning to end.There is an almost song-like structure to "The Future State of the Body" within the wet synths, overdriven bass line, and what almost seems to be an actual melody buried deep on "The Pace of Our Development," complete with French vocals by Xavier Laradji.The album closes on the title song which, besides putting the band in the elite club of artists that have both an album and song which are also the name of the band (i.e. Bad Company and Black Sabbath), ties everything together well, with its manic vocals within a hollow, empty mix that feels like rage that no one is around to hear.
Chicago is the perfect place for BLOODYMINDED to have been recorded.As the home of the eponymous Chicago School, significant sociological research has developed from the area that has no doubt informed the underling concepts of this record.Specifically, Robert Park and Ernest Burgess's 1925 theory of urban ecology, and its influence on Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay‚Äôs social disorganization theory (1942).A cornerstone of modern criminology, this theory posits how densely populated urban cities lead to an even greater sense of isolation; a seemingly contradictory effect, which in turn leads to anomie, disenfranchisement, and crime, which makes for an interesting sense of circular unity given the band's early work focusing on the true crime genre.A growing body of contemporary research has also demonstrated the magnifying impact digital and social media has had on this phenomena.I can think of no better audio examples of social disorganization than BLOODYMINDED, which makes it a fascinating work that bridges the gap between sound art and sociological theory.¬†Easily a masterpiece of noise and experimental music that not only is the band's greatest work to date, but also among the most fully realized albums of the genre.