Smegma Rumblings

[Hanson; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: noise, avant-garde, beatnik rock
Others: Wolf Eyes, LAFMS, Merzbow, Wildman Fisher

Experimental music has become a niche market, not for labels, but for musicians and bands. When artists decide to immerse themselves in the 'odd,' 'peculiar,' and 'weird,' it pigeonholes them as some johnny-come-lately to free jazz and experimental rock. Smegma, however, have been around since the '70s (helping to form the Los Angeles Free Music Society in 1973), growing only stronger and stranger. Their brand of noise is mixed with jazz, rock, and psychedelia, which has transformed and evolved over their 30+ years of existence. Rumblings, the collective's first album in almost a decade and the first with Blue Oyster Cult's lyricist Richard Meltzer, echoes the sounds and patter reminiscent of the latest and greatest noise artists today. Unlike the many bands and albums that have followed the beginnings of Smegma, Rumblings has a cohesiveness and warmth unrivaled. The album is packed full of chaotic whistles, static, horns, squelches, and squeals, but it isn't lost in the fight to get through the door. Each track is unique in and of itself, but the flow of the album is never interrupted. A song such as "Rails (Uncoupled)," which is just the sound of a train traveling on tracks, is simplistic and easy on the ears; but coupled with a surf rock romp through radio static ("Moonleggs"), it becomes the perfect foil. This is not to say that this album is for everybody. If noise and random speaking isn't your thing, then this is definitely the album to avoid. Although there are plenty of free jazz and improvisational elements that Rumblings builds itself upon, ultimately it's the obscure and obscene that wins out.

1. Ooops #1
2. Worms
3. Johnny No!
4. In an Ornamental Garden
5. Electron
6. Bunstuffer
7. Rails (Uncoupled)
8. Moonleggs
9. Smoke
10. Fool for You
11. Rumblings
12. Ooops #2
13. Supersimple
14. Ooops #3
15. Rails