[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
They explode right from the first track on here and never let up, not even when they include vocals for the first time in their long history.
Side one is comprised of five very tightly executed tunes all of which make use of what is described by the band as “colorful overdubbing”. If you’d been wanting something to perhaps wash the taste of rock music out of your mouth then look no further; the amount of bass on this record is nuts, every single number on this release is mixed so that you can discern those four strings first and foremost. Then you have the rest of the equation which is in itself daunting: guitars which run up and down the walls while the drums pummel your ears relentlessly.
Shelley Hirsch gets thrown into all of their chaotic machinations, somehow she manages to hold her own. It almost sounds like she’s yodeling for some of “Missilebones” before wailing and moaning her way through righteously conjured harmonies; this woman’s backing chorus has to be heard to be believed! Notekillers have not had a voice previously but I’m crossing my fingers that this was no one-off.
This is a group who understand the concepts of tempo, dynamics and contrast as few others do in the somewhat odious world of rock and roll. Their label’s press release describes what they do as psychedelic punk but there’s way WAY more going on here; simple slogans and tedious middle eights are not what this lot produce, I can’t think of anyone else now or in decades past who they sound like. I do know that if there’s any sort of justice in this world that they’ll continue to collaborate on their records with others, Paul Lemos would be at the top of my list. He and David First have a fearless approach to how they play guitar and it’d be wild to hear them riffing off of one another.
So that’s the first side, but it is what comes next that shows why they call themselves Notekillers. The two final pieces on ‘Songs and Jams Vol 1’ do not have any kind of identifiable musical structure to them, they are notes being dragged out behind the shed and murdered. “Ring Mod 2” careens like a magnetic storm ripping apart whatever is stupid enough to stand in it’s way. Clocking in at over nine minutes, this beauty has no eye to it and is comprised of layer upon layer of distortion complimented by effects which are absolutely out of control. Barry Halkin’s drums are implosive detonations designed to bring the house down and over in the other arenas of assault, Stephen Bilenky goes for maximum volume bordering on feedback as First demonstrates a style of guitar work I can only call corrosive.
Play this loud enough and your head will start to crack. Their unrelenting barrage wears down any defense you might have.
“Trem 7” is almost melodic by comparison, it takes what Michael Gira has been driving into the ground with Swans over the last few years and perfects it in just a touch over seven minutes. How easy it would have been to get into a groove and stay there but Notekillers opt to avoid this pitfall and repeatedly change time signatures and keys to deny their audience any chance to regain their balance. This is a full-force tour through the power of amplification. All the photogenic twats with ukuleles and soft synths in the world couldn’t bring you the raw, unfiltered beauty our trio have meticulously trapped. There is truth in what Notekillers do, which is something the music industry at large will never understand no matter how many famous names they cram into the production credits.