New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Fox Millions Duo, Big Business, Bibio

As albums go, The Beast You Are (Joyful Noise) has more tracks pieced together than on previous releases by Big Business. Given, three out of thirteen are more interludes than anything else. Not that it matters ‘cause the album is pretty much equal to or longer than previous albums out of the band’s discography. But that doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on here.

This is the group’s 6th album as  Jared Warren (bass/vocals) and Coady Willis (drums/vocals) revert back into the duo format they originated in. Does it matter? Should it matter? Well, not to us, and I’m sure a rat’s ass could be given as far as they’re concerned because while Big Business still avoids and dodges the trappings of being labeled a sludge band, the thunderous tracks they’ve pieced together may just leave you scratching your head. That’s not a bad thing though, and I’ll explain. Or at least try to.

The association with the Melvins may leave one grinning, “Yeah, they walk that same line,” but Big Business really doesn’t. While they may share band duties within the Melvins, on their own, they play something much more grandiose. The soaring vocals on “Heal The Weak” is testament to that. They bludgeon away with a heaviness, I’ll give Melvins fans that much, but they interlock their harmonizing vocals with a 70s-era passion unheard in decades. Instruments volley around one another as Willis’ drums bask in the glory of only having the rhythms up front, along with keyboards added in for good measure.

Imagining anyone other than Big Business handling songs and instruments this way is preposterous! “Bright Grey” fills any empty space within notes with more notes, imaginative percussive beats and howled vocals. The only space the L.A. duo allows seems to be on “The Moor You Know,” where bass and keys are slower than usual until the dynamic shift bludgeons away. But it’s “Last Family,” boy is it this song, that’s sonically drenched in sweat and blood, embracing both hate and love in one song alone. It’s followed by an unexpected “Under Everest,” where the band changes its own sound altogether, for something much friendlier, peachy & keen. It’s all good though because challenging itself is what we should all expect from art.

But is this “art”? I don’t often cite bands that way, but it’s easy to understand Big Business is far from being just a rock band. It’s heady, it’s passionate, it thwarts any concept of normalcy in music out the window. The Beast You Are does that and so much more.

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I’m never sure where to begin as far as Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever, Charnel Ground) is concerned. He is in fact what I like to think of as the hardest working man in improvisation. Back in the 90s I think that title went to Thurston Moore, who would always find himself on recordings and stages with an assortment of Lower East Side indie rockers or free jazz players. But Kid Millions joins forces here with Greg Fox (Liturgy, Ex Eye, Zs) as the Fox Millions Duo for their sophomore release. What the two of these drummer/multi-instrumentalists piece together far surpasses anything that might be considered improvisational, although it may have started out that way.

Biting Through (Thrill Jockey) does exactly what it claims to do as the recording’s title: it chomps at the bit, thwarting any misconceptions one my have coming into this. This isn’t improvisation for improvisation sake, there’s a lot more. Each song seems to be derivative unto itself, riding waves of cacophony, structured around patterns driving into barren deserts of sound. There’s are electronic elements throughout, overlaying rhythms and loads of percussion but the duo is far from being lost.

What is it that I can imagine here? Lyricism. Not just by anyone but by one or more persons that can hang and flow with the unstructured structures of Fox Millions. “Clasp,” with its loud, abrasive opening could easily fit odd-ball rapper Sensational. His words could clash perfectly alongside the shatter-shot drum patterns, finding solace along electronic waves. With “Nine Years Of Facing A Wall,” the perfect backdrop for the likes of Antipop Consortium’s clever wordplay.

In reality though I’d like to see that happen, these two creating music for others because the tracks on the instrumental tracks filling Biting Through are majestic in scope and scale. We’re living in wondrous times when the Fox Millions Duo can be the soundtrack to our lives! (music below, not the actual album)

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In case you didn’t know, Bibio is the pseudonym of Stephen Wilkinson. He’s an English musician that’s released a number of electronic and experimental releases throughout the years, and while the musical landscapes he’s created have been astounding – which obviously includes 2017’s Phantom Brickworks, his new Ribbons (Warp) comes as somewhat of a disappointment. Well, not completely anyway.

This time around, Wilkinson has opted to go a bit of a different route. He opens the new album with a couple of tracks like “Beret Girl” and “The Art Of Living” that move into folksy singer/songwriter territory, which almost immediately makes one want pull the disc out and stop on it with an unrelenting vigor. But redemption comes soon with “Before,” a groove-oriented track that could possibly make Adrian Younge proud. Drums, bass, an underlying wave, and keyboard notes allows you to embrace it. This is the point where interest begins to fade and Wilkinson reverts back to utilizing his guitar but my attention is captured again on the repetitive “Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers,” where a beat is looped and the electronic-based track utilizes filtered vocals well. Out of 16 tracks, my hunger was only sustained with 3 of them, “Old Graffiti” rounding things out which hit more of an R&B swagger. Wilkinson should have recorded most of these tracks as another entity because it doesn’t seem to fit the aesthetic for Bibio. The 3 tracks alone that are decent just wasn’t enough to keep my attention on this release.

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