Controlled Bleeding Odes to Bubbler

[Soleilmoon/Winged Disk; 2011]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: lo-fi, noise rock, avant-garde
Others: Ruins, Weasel Walter, Sun City Girls, Men’s Recovery Project

It’s difficult to get a handle on Controlled Bleeding, whether you’re confused by the fluid lineup or the fearsome range of stylistic changes the New York-based combo have attempted since their first incarnation in 1978. Releases on Wax Trax! and Roadrunner have been supplemented with varied experiments on European labels such as Sub Rosa and Dossier. Odes to Bubbler, while released on the Winged Disk label, sees Controlled Bleeding renewing their acquaintance with the venerable experimentalists at Soleilmoon and exploring some furious noise-rock territory.

The first six tracks on Odes to Bubbler, the group’s first album in five years, do not do much in the way of ‘bubbling.’ Opener “Trawler’s Song” sets the template — raucous drumkit clatter; stiff, almost metronomic bass lines; squalling noise; and frantic guitar. It’s with a sense of relief that we hit the ambient noodling of “A Love Song (In Two Parts)” about 25 minutes later, until the realization that the title of that track really isn’t kidding.

In a way, Ode to Bubbler serves as a sampler of the band’s output of the last few years, collecting live material as well as limited-edition rarities such as “Bees” (parts 1 - 3, and “An Outro”), and thereby including contributions from the late Joe Papa and Chris Moriarty. But the current lineup of founder Paul Lemos, drummer Tony Meola, and “sound sculptor” Michael Bazini are the driving forces of the new material on this release (which features production by Martin Bisi of Swans/Young Gods). This perhaps explains the unhinged quality at work here; although the 19 tracks generally cluster around the noise-rock spectrum, there’s an uncertainty to the album — less due to inconsistency (although the unstable lineup does lend an air of that) and more due to a shaky sense of commitment. Tracks such as the previously mentioned “A Love Song” and the droning “Grinder’s Song” hold on too long, while the cluster of “Bees” tracks in the middle of the album would benefit from being spaced out in the playlist.

The lovely “Rothko,” an evocative ambience, is a sudden calm moment in the fury that surrounds it, providing the relief that (by this point, track 17) is sorely needed. Here, the thudding metronomic noise of the earlier portion is supplanted by freakish skronking — hamfisted piano, jazz-noodle guitars, even the squawk of free-jazz saxophone. All this is fine in its place, but it leaves the listener both bemused and bewildered in its fury. The studio tracks seem to suffer most from this, as the live material collected here is passionate and direct in its execution, and the snippets of applause and appreciation indicate a receptive audience.

There’s humor here, a punk rock prankishness similar in intent to Sun City Girls or Men’s Recovery Project, but it’s rather let down by being too intense in execution, the weird kid on the bus who just won’t let you leave. But as a snapshot of a volatile and restless creative process, Odes to Bubbler is an interesting document and worthy of a follow-up.

Links: Controlled Bleeding - Soleilmoon/Winged Disk

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