The moment you allow the songs to play on Julien Baker’s new B-Sides EP (Matador), you understand there isn’t a moment that goes by where she allows her music to linger in obscurity. We all think a B-side may not be as well written as a lead single but that’s not always the case. In fact, for Baker, it’s the complete opposite here. Things begin with subtlety on “Guthrie,” as she picks notes from her guitar and sweetly caresses the microphone with her voice. Things are different with “Vanishing Point,” as keyboards wash over the track with Baker’s voice commanding it all as bass, guitar and drums make their way in. The unique cadence around her voice is hypnotizing and when the harmony drops in, it’s flawless.But everything comes to a head with “Mental Math” where guitars blend seamlessly with keyboards creating a picture-perfect landscape as the percussion surrounding it offers flickers of light and shading. The rasp surrounding Baker’s voice gives it a tender grittiness without losing any of the sweetness surrounding it. You can suggest Julien Baker can do no wrong and no one would disagree with you.
Traveling similar paths, Los Angeles-based musician Eric Woods’ Bastard Noise and Japanese Masami Akita’s Merzbow may have taken parallel routes but the confrontational sounds they both emit have found a happy meeting place within RETRIBUTION BY ALL OTHER CREATURES (Relapse Records). This is NOT your granddad’s music, or even your dad’s but what it should be is your own definitive experience through distorted cacophony and walls of dissonance. By definition, the album is “lashing out against man-made institutions that perpetuate animal cruelty,” and we see that in the cover art as the music is manipulated through electronic devices, rumbling and crashing throughout each lengthy track.
“ANIMALS RUNNING HUMAN FACTORY FARMS” crashes and collides throughout leaving much to the imagination within the ferocious darkness. Lulls within are brief, only to abruptly blast through monitors. At just over 19 minutes, this alone is frightening. Jaws are gnashing through blood-soaked bones on “THIS IS HOW HUMAN WASTE ROLLS” as we hear the growls in between, keeping away other predators. And yes, it’s scary AF!
Tracks are lengthy, all passing the 16-minute mark. This is freeform with a purpose, enlightening us to the frightening aspects of man’s abuse. It isn’t surprising but RETRIBUTION BY ALL OTHER CREATURES takes turns where one probably wouldn’t expect. Bastard Noise and Merzbow may be an acquired taste but the thunderous and deafening rage is captured throughout.