“The Blue Humans” was essentially a name for improvised performances surrounding guitarist Rudolph Grey. Grey seems to favor the trio format on many of the Blue Humans recordings, with the Thurston Moore-produced Clear to Higher Time being no exception. Here, joined by guitarist Alan Licht and drummer Tom Surgal, the Blue Humans present 35 minutes of improvised “hey, you got your free-jazz in my no-wave; you got your no-wave in my free-jazz” madness!
Clear to Higher Time’s production is Ramones-ified (Licht panned to the right channel, Grey to the left), which makes for a rich (if assaulting) headphone listening experience. Licht’s work in the right channel is especially noteworthy on this outing; just slightly more restrained than Grey’s fast-running guitar scrapes, Licht more or less strangles his guitar into feedback-drenched submission, wasting little time not assaulting the instrument in some fashion.
“Movement” briefly recalls the orchestral guitar dissonance of early Glenn Branca before morphing into what could be considered a no-wave act suspended within a moment. Stretching out a pair of tension-swarmed chords, Licht and Grey gradually trade between violent towers of Branca-esque guitar movements while Surgal keeps everything trapped in a disorienting, time-slowing molasses. Then, on “Finally,” the trio lets loose, inverting the tension of “Movement” by playing everything loud and unrestrained.
Thankfully, Licht and Grey seem far more interested in building chunks of textured sound than “soloing” — not to suggest, however, that they spend time meandering with feedback echoes or pedals. With considerable aggression, the first half of the record shows the trio immediately bursting at the seams, like the Psychic Paramount bereft of recognizable patterns or a theoretical version of the Dead C performing Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun. Clear to Higher Time’s 20-minute title track, however, builds itself more deliberately; i.e., not “slowly” but in a more measured sense, boiling over with several sections of feedback, no-wave squall, and free-jazz exploration. Licht once described Clear to Higher Time as “a great no-wave meets free-jazz record,” and perhaps that’s all that needs to be said — captured in studio austerity (no applause or live noise between improvisations here), these performances are staggering and are worth hearing if you’re a fan of at least two of the names mentioned in this article.