Terrifying sleeve, terrifying music from the rather intense pen of Jon Mueller. Now we all remember Mueller from last years Death Ensemble record. That ensembles William Ryan Fritch is here too for a two song ride of propulsive rhythms, Gregorian style chanting and random noise bursts. It's quite the journey that will appeal to those who think Swans are maybe a bit lightweight these days.
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The scary man is back and under his arm is a scary record with a scary front cover. After hearing Jon Mueller’s drone rock completism on the unbelievably epic ‘Ensemble’ -- the kinda record that makes big experimental albums like ‘Deathconsciousness’ look like puny first year university essays -- I would’ve been excited to get anything from him. I would’ve taken a record of him rerecording Alan Bennett monologues. That hasn’t come to pass, which is unfortunate but obvious, but you could still consider ‘Tongues’ to be Mueller’s audiobook: it focuses on the voice, stretched or staccato, melodic or droning, narrative or abstract.
The two tracks that comprise ‘Tongues’ see Mueller layering his voice alongside the wordless breaths of Cory Allen and musical additions from William Ryan Fritch. At first, you might consider these pieces meditations on the voice as an instrument, looking at its roles as an ambient texture, a narrative device and an object of community. You hear it fill all of those roles, as it joins harmonically -- vocals respond to other vocal layers while additionally marching to Mueller's bass drum and hand claps. Long, stretched vocals comprise a backdrop and occasional melodies permeate the surface, as on the end of “How You Look When You’re Not Looking”.
As much as these are vocal exercises, though, they’re ultimately pulled through by Mueller’s commitment to making massive and hooking music. “What I Thought You Said” takes its hushed growl of a vocal and places it next to chiming bells and percussion, using ricocheting drums and a hypnotic backdrop to build towards a terrestrial climax of noise. At times like this his music becomes less of a study and more of a freewheeling good time, suggesting Animal Collective’s earliest songs if they were a lil’ more cantankerous. I like it when Mueller's music is led by something other than his mind, so the tongue does me fine.
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