Musicians probing folk traditions for underlying treats of the psychedelic and bizarre have somewhat paradoxically documented their output in a manner that befits the traditions of pre-recorded musics, that of transience and observation. Their reliance on improvised performance render most concerts lost after the final note decays, while the commodity fetishists choose between recordings that are already extremely limited in nature, resulting in a near-apparition of a discography and arduous searches for obscure gems among the hundreds of small press treats. Warmer Milks have used the CD-R and tape outlets to rightfully amass a murky and impenetrable reputation, not to mention their turnover of guest performers and unofficial members. All I’ve really gathered since following the group is that it consists of Kentucky resident Michael Turner and a loose acclamation of friends and followers who erupt either in concert or in studio with a gorgeously bleak and frightening explosion of ancient acoustics and destroyed 21st century technology.
With 2006's sleeper classic Radish On Light gloriously bloodying up the pastoral daydream etched out on their early CD-R, Penetration Initials, the Milks conveyed through their music a thesis of otherworldly ideas and sounds that, though impossible to describe on paper without doing disservice to the actual product, evoke images of distinct dread and discomfort, reaching restrained yet cacophonous moments of screaming catharsis. A group of lost hikers giving into alien occultist impulses over a sacrificial bonfire? A hyperbolic metaphor for sure, but Radish was what lived up to the dubious moniker “New Weird America”: it was unequivocally bizarre, freakish, and more than a bit terrifying. Consisting of two pieces around 15 minutes each, Let Your Friends In pushes the latest culmination of the Milks further into this flirtation with the abrasive and imposing, and with a wide curve many of us wouldn’t soon expect.
The first track, “The Ripple Children/The Jaunting,” is where Warmer Milks transmit their hardcore/metal upbringing into something more daring and successful than either the purist “punk-as-fuck” factions or disillusioned straight-edgers could hope to dream of. With the sudden resurgence of Discharge nostalgia among the noise underground (see Wolf Eyes’ No Fucker cover on Human Animal or the Anti-Freedom supergroup that played No Fun Fest), it's unsurprising to see Turner and company evoking similar heavy punk concerns. Yet this pleasingly reeks not of cheap remembrance, but of sketching their own strengths into something both fond and transgressive. After some field-recorded tape destruction, sliced into a high-end squeal of who-knows-what, this four-piece edition of the Milks (featuring oft-member Greg Backus and Bonny "Prince" Billy-sibling Paul Oldham) launches into a near-metallic froth of delayed sludge, a My War-era Black Flag letting their inner German prog out and spewing venom all over the place. Turner’s yell sounds more squeamish and hoarse than his primal yowl among the more intense peaks of Radish, yet this unrelenting throat-grating fits a band that’s defiantly stamping out stereotypes and chin-stroking into an honest-to-god pummeling jam of fever-dreamed slam-dance. The smug punker would find this too druggy and even-paced, but finding music this blatantly throat-grabbing anywhere is tough.
“The Wanderer” by comparison is much more typical of the Milks' trajectory into Jandek-ian levels of dissonance and aural social withdrawal. Whereas the tunes on Radish usually reached for a euphoric slap of release, “The Wanderer” acts almost as a pun, doing just what its title suggests, but never becoming lost in the all-too-common tangles of self-indulgence in which many outsider-folk improvisers tend to trap themselves. It’s a sparse and foggy opposite to the opener, which in any other case would have represented a water-treading cop-out, but here the guitars and potentially home-made electronics and tapes spit out the corpse-like sonics into a quietly menacing sprawl. The blues-y licks meld with a subtly dismantling bass throb, until echoed whispers and sleight bells march a staccatoed melody out into infinitely looped space. The piece ends up reaching a destination of sorts, but not before falling apart spectacularly as if from fatigue or disappointment.
Warmer Milks have remained frustratingly enigmatic on the wide-release front, and this late-December 2007 treat forecasts a positive outlook for the future. At a pressing of a thousand, odds are great that you’ll be able to acquire Let Your Friends In, and it’s about time the Milks make that step into the esteem their peers in Hair Police, Burning Star Core, and Wolf Eyes receive. Enjoy the layers of delicious fuzz and fungi emitting your latest vague nightmare.
1. The Ripple Children/The Jaunting
2. The Wanderer