Here is another story of a musician who has worked in noise, grindcore, black metal, and punk, but who has taken what he has learned from those genres, and has reconstructed them into avant-garde compositions that are mind and genre-bending. This isn’t surprising in today’s world. Ulver worked in black metal, but then turned to more experimental and avant-garde tendencies such as ambient, glitch, electronica, and progressive rock. Mick Harris played the famous machine gun-like drums that defined the sound of grindcore in Napalm Death before eventually giving up drumming completely to work with his experimental, dark ambient projects Lull and Scorn. Lustmord was a part of the industrial scene back in the 1980s, having worked with Chris and Cosey, SPK, and also having contact with Throbbing Gristle, which nevertheless contributed later on to his menacing soundscapes in “Heresy” and “The Place Where The Black Stars Hang”. These are all musicians who were involved with extreme and heavy music, but later turned to more experimental and minimal genres while still keeping the basic sense of dread, doom, and fear with them. Marc Broude is someone to be added to this expanding list. He played with punk, grindcore, black metal, and noise bands including the Chicago-based outfit Panicsville, while also making a name for himself as a solo artist. However, his music has always played hard to get. Each release is different sonically, some on the verge of noise and heavy metal, and others on the verge of long-form dark ambient releases in the vein of Lustmord and Lull. Broude’s album, “Medicine”, however, contains an even more experimental approach, incorporating dark ambience, noise, as well as avant-garde jazz and free improvisation to the mix. It breaks many boundaries, and at times, it breaks so many rules that it can leave listeners in confusion, confronting them straight in the face and making them decide what the true definition of music is. The definition, however, may not be satisfying for many listeners, but for others, “Medicine” will embody just what that definition is perfectly.
The album begins with “Mineral Water”, in which reversed noises with touches of delay are present throughout the entire piece. Low bass frequencies, strange guitar strums, and other alien drones are present throughout, which then escalates into a clean acoustic guitar riff on top of the dark and bizarre ambience. “Face Covered In S**t” contains dark industrial noises with a lot of harmonics and bell-like tones, as well as other rumbling atmospherics at the onset, before a jazz-influenced drum beat enters the mix. The track sounds very similar to the artists I mentioned earlier, in that Broude successfully combines the experimental jazz-influenced beats of Scorn and the disturbing and hellish soundscapes of Lustmord, and does it in such a way that though the influences are there, he still makes the sound his own. “Fire On The Water” contains more of the dark atmospherics of the previous tracks, but here, the sound is more alive, with lots of strange drones and feedback that sounds as though the piece could be used in a horror or suspense film. “Happy Like Jazz” begins with pounding bass frequencies and haunting synth tones similar to the Theremins used by sound designers and composers in the 50s, along with the sounds of singing bowls and other strange effects that makes the piece shine and glow, but yet still completely shatters any sense of hope or happiness. In the middle of the track, more of the jazz drums enter, along with a smooth guitar solo that acts as a perfect opposite to the disturbing atmospherics of the track, though the guitar itself reveals some darkness of its own, sounding similar to the strangely beautiful guitar work that Angelo Badalamenti worked into the soundtrack for the show “Twin Peaks”. “For The Flies” contains more of the strange singing bowls and dark sound design of the last track, as well as more reversed sound effects, which distinctly remind me of the soundtrack to Von Trier’s extremely controversial and disturbing horror film, “Antichrist”, where unnatural bass drones and creepy growls overtake the music. A slow trip-hop beat creeps its way into the mix, but before it seems that it will go into a nice climax, they cut out to a creepy atmosphere of distant drums, guitar strums, and other strange and otherworldly sound effects, along with some high-pitched tones and what sounds to be a radio that remind me even more of the “Antichrist” soundtrack. The drums slowly make their way into the mix again in the last few seconds of the song, but yet again fade out. “War Of The Worlds” is rather a musical re-interpretation of the infamous radio adaptation that Orson Welles performed back in 1938, with Orson’s words weaving in and out of a creepy atmosphere of atonal guitar riffs, singing bowls, hellish sound effects, and off-kilter drums. A jazz bass riff makes its way into the mix, along with some smooth jazz drumming underneath the radio broadcast, along with more strange and droning sound effects that sound as though an alien invasion is happening right now. “Muerte” begins with thumping bass notes and subtle guitar melodies engulfed in a strange, dusty reverb. Later on, strange harmonica or accordion samples can be heard, moving in and out of the mix like some of the dub experiments in the 1970s, which then eventually fades out, into which the album then ends.
Overall, it is very hard for me to describe just how I feel about Marc Broude’s “Medicine”. Though I do listen to a lot of experimental music, this album has taken me to a new dimension that I just can’t fully comprehend. The dark and disturbing atmospheres are magnificent, and every element on this album works to create a very gloomy and depressing mood, whether it be the jazz guitars, the haunting singing bowls, or even the harmonicas or accordions in the end track. The album is also very well produced, and at times, the songs do have a great arrangement to them. However, on other occasions, the songs break linear fashion, in that where there is usually a climax or a build-up, it is very hard to distinguish here. Drums can enter, but they never build to anywhere except to cut off abruptly, as well as atmospheres can continue on for very long periods of time, with very slow and rarely evolving textures occurring throughout. Does it sound like a mixture of Lustmord and Scorn? Yes. Is it a very minimal and industrial album? Indeed, yes. Has Marc Broude successfully created an eccentric mix of avant-garde jazz and dark ambient soundscapes? That will be up to you to decide, but in my opinion, he’s come pretty darn close. In fact, much closer than any other musician has. If you are a fan of Lustmord, Lull, Scorn, dark ambient, avant-garde jazz, or just flat-out strange music in general, this will most likely appeal to you. However, please note that this album is not for everyone, nor is it necessarily for the faint of heart at times as well. Would I recommend it? Most definitely.
Artist: Marc Broude
Genre: Experimental/dark ambient/avant-garde jazz
Released in 2010 by No Zen Records
Available now at all major retailers!