As we carry ever onward into the era of squeaky, digital clean, the question of what endears us to the fraying hiss of lo-fi doctrine has become more pertinent than ever. Beyond lo-fi’s “cheaper” methodologies (capable of instilling in us both a damaged sense of relatability and a fascinating concept of otherness), the sound of decaying tape has become a purposeful artistic choice, the avenues of forging together warbling cassettes as much of an antique as the devices that we use to listen to them. But there is still meaning within the frame; part of the magic of Harmony Korine’s filthy VHS sermon Trash Humpers is the disconnect between the film’s “outsider” documentary quality and its intentional, constructed nature. Trash Humper’s presentation as some obscuro artifact is a patent farce, its peek into uninhibited private madness a short-change for something much different — a very public, very directed channeling of spirits we might otherwise relegate to the fringes of our rational minds. Although its smeared footage might not truly be found, what Korine unearths through his staging of disgusting bacchanalia is how present in all of us this twisted outlook actually is, the possibility of unleashing these demons inherent in any of us. It says something that the insane behavior of the film’s ensemble is more easily understood through the lens of voyeurism, as something dug up in a yard sale, even if it is a charade.
Dog Chakra functions similarly as a fantasia of crusty humanity, a detour through the subconscious presented as wild. John DeNizio has traced a distorted holy ground under the guise of Pierrot Lunaire, torn documents of fading ambience and maniacal saxophone bleats that function as a kind of chamber music for trailer park San Pedro ceremonies, urbanized and ancient all at once. Dog Chakra makes a strange home for itself on the normally techno-minded Opal Tapes, but it sits nicely next to the label’s other detours into mundane oblivion with artists like Wanda Group, its haunted cognition sharing a surprising common ground with Opal’s overarching basement headspace. Supposedly DeNizio’s final transmission under this project, Dog Chakra is a claustrophobic yet boundless work that seemingly collects the various strands of his oeuvre into one succinct edifice, six tracks that each reflect a different shape of his sanity, both transcendentally squalid and unremarkably grand.
DeNizio entrenches his music in a deep history of forms that cascade effortlessly into one another, the borders between free-jazz and ragas and musique concréte becoming frilly things in the face of his necromancy. “Fuck Em” slips into a spout of warped ballroom recordings before erupting into makeshift percussive delirium, and “Pathetic Oasis” would fit seamlessly into any scene from The Holy Mountain with its crashing waves and untamable horn solos. But even as DeNizio’s interests seem to lean Eastward, the six pieces on Dog Chakra refuse to conform to any classical structure, not building or arcing in motion as much as gradually drowning themselves in texture, slowly dripping into their respective rabbit holes before abruptly shaking themselves awake and into another one. “A Conversation with the Flowers in my Kitchen” follows a slithering thread of looped sax that begins to swell into a deranged, violent specter until suddenly becoming swept away by a slight tabla pattern, transforming from there into a ghostly and defiant smorgasbord of arrhythmic, atonal nothingness that still somehow holds a surprising weight. Dog Chakra consistently finds ways to challenge itself against settling into the comfortable, scraggly blanket of lo-fi, its blown-out meditations carving a harrowing middle ground between terrifying intensity and mysterious calm.
Listening to Dog Chakra reminds me of something I found once while lurking through 4chan’s music board — a YouTube channel, supposedly run by the OP’s retired-band-director dad, consisting entirely of saxophone covers of famous songs. It sounds normal on paper, until you realize that in every single video, the man plays the same three notes over and over and over and over again, his face just barely out of frame, with zero musical trace whatsoever of whatever song he’s supposed to be covering. There are over 150 of these videos on this channel, each one as mindnumbing as the last, and watching them can’t help but beg the question whether the whole thing is some next-level joke or an unsettling glimpse into someone losing their mind. DeNizio summons similar feelings of confusion in his recordings as Pierrot Lunaire, if not for his cyclical brass work than for the manner in which he shrouds his music in a berserk, exorcistic coating of the unknowable. Although Dog Chakra works as a whole, its sections play like discarded items strung about DeNizio’s apartment, each having little to do with one another on their own, but collectively sharing a common, undeniable ownership. It almost feels like we’re seeing something that wasn’t meant to be seen; and yet then again, there’s that winking stare.