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- Lesson No.1 by Glenn Branca
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Well this is a welcome development. Superior Viaduct have reissued the 1980 debut solo album by everyone's favourite no-wave curmudgeon Glenn Branca, and as a special bonus they've included a second one-sided 12" of 'Bad Smells', originally commissioned as a dance piece in 1982 and featuring the talents of a certain Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo.
At this point Branca was already known and respected for his work with the likes of Theoretical Girls, but 'Lesson No 1' was a massive leap forward for him stylistically, embracing the repetition-based minimalism of the likes of Terry Riley and Philip Glass, and then adding a whole lot of volume. The two pieces on the main LP are very different, the first chiming along concordantly in galloping polyrhythms with a fairly standard rock ensemble, and then the second, 'Dissonance', doing exactly what you'd expect from the title, with a line-up of guitar, bass, drums, keys and sledgehammer, working its way through stop-start weirdness through to relentless repetitive noise-rock through to a final squalling clatter. Side A is accessible and uplifting and side B is hard work, essentially.
'Bad Smells' finally takes us a step closer to the Branca we're used to from his definitive LP 'The Ascension', with a clanging, galloping rhythm section beating out a repetitive groove accompanied by five guitars chiming and shimmering and clashing in a mess of harmonics, violently wrung chords and unison strumming. It's a lengthy and ambitious piece, moving from discordant clashing harmonic scree to fist-pumping triumphalism to sinister chugging, weird stumbling amelodic choogle and sleepy drones slashed through with noise bursts.
A welcome inclusion on what is already a stone cold classic.
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