Wow. Just a fuckin’ monosyllabic wow is all I can contribute to proceedings today. I was writing a column about drumless music, and had been hipped onto Julian Cope fronted L.A.M.F. for their prestigious connection to Stephen “hotdog” O’Malley’s contemptibly superb dronerific duo Sunn O))); their first and only record titled Ambient Metal in the same way Lou Reed casually dropped Metal Machine Music, the cold clinical moniker giving no indication of the sort of sonic bliss that lay within; certainly not for the layman and capable of, at certain volumes, making you melt like the German officer from Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I finally got this thing in the post and set the thing to spinning, laying back in an ee-zee lounger with an ice-free ice-cold mixed drink and a Cuban cigar rolled on the thighs of a virgin and a head full of half a tab of sunshine acid, a stomach full o' Wild Turkey and veins pulsating an inch above my epidermis all over with the finest quality hee-hee and hooboy did L.A.M.F. make Sunn O))) sound like the most dreary monosludge duo you ever did laugh at, and take all interpretations of recording quality and snap them deftly over one knee; and make the lethal cocktail of chemicals in my system seem like sherbet. Wow.
I’m used to drone. Guitar slabs crafted with a cement shovel in the hours between midnight and four am by Orange-backed suicidal monks on a distortion quest out of 200% proof sonic yawp processed through a roomful of wah pedals all chained together but this still blew my mind. That new electric car, I forget the name and can’t be arsed looking it up, has 6,000 electric batteries to run it; now imagine it has a full-blown coal-run V-12 and all those batteries are replaced with distortion and wah pedals plugged into a veritable Parthenon of Orange and Sunn bass amps, all on and all set to yarp! And Hendrix with a head full of speed and acid at the helm and Blue Cheer shovelling coal into the boiler and the whole of civilisation on the carriages behind, all aboard the distortion train! deafness and all points west. That is, essentially, the sound of Ambient Metal in as much as this kind of hard-wired genius can be explained away. It’s a hyper-electrified love letter to 30 years of rock and roll and heavy metal. The album art has a lot to say, the grinning twin-necked guitar; cartoonish and yet you just know in some dusty practice room just within earshot of some seriously fucked-up listening material is such a guitar... waiting to be used again by somebody on a second hedonistic slideshow through 30 years of heavy metal, the projector permanently stuck on the Van Halen slide as the overheating bulb melts the lens. This is a raucous trip to be sure, fast and loose in some moments and slow and dirty in all others. As screaming nightmares go, it’s up there with all my best (read: worst) absinthe trips spent wheeling disjointedly from one twisted experience-purveyor to the next in search of an honest drink and coming up short. Finding those magical hidden hours through which all decent and upstanding members of society sleep and tripping through them with waves of music echoing down the drains and across the roofs. Joining whatever damned soul I happened to be with at seizing the bars of society and wailing and screaming like a soul lost in hell; awaiting the sun-up like it’ll prove us correct. Stumbling blind and hopelessly drunk out of our minds, still totally alone but outside in neon lights. I spoke about Dead Man a coupla weeks ago, that’s a record for nights in. Emphasising space and naturality; vast gulfs of time between chords, between notes, between vibrations. For lonesome times and empty cups and darkened rooms; L.A.M.F. much like ideas-man Cope himself is more akin to waiting around a pagan site for sunrise, hoping that the new dawn will bring some new insight for the failed seekers.
I don’t feel entirely comfortable with this as my recommendation so I better add a few warnings. If you do get a’holda this album and start spinning it, be aware that just like Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone LP, once you get into one of these groups, there’s only a coupla ways you can get out; one is death, and the other is mental institutions. Very quickly, repeated listens to this album at the cost of sleep and human contact became not only a spiritual but also a cardiovascular necessity, and I’ve been asked to burn it across by anyone who’s caught a single whiff of the electric incense. It’s like a spiritual workout in the purest sense... the first time it’ll fuck you right up, but soon you become addicted, masochistically returning as many times as you can manage. Forsaking a social life and friends and traditional sleep patterns just to get another shot at the goal, another chance at redemption. The refusenik workout will also ruin most other music for you. Unless we’re talking visionary A* material you’re going to find yourself bored rigid and wishing you were back in the nightmare; it certainly puts paid to any notion of ‘post-rock’ with its tedious empty soundscapes and half-arsed musings on the divine. Ambient Metal is so full to bursting with noise and ideas you’ll wonder what you ever thought was so great about Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Cope and co. don’t muse on the divine! From what I can decipher from this beauty, they are the fucking divine!
The job of a critic is to explain to his audience firstly what something sounds like, and secondly why they ought to drop their pretence of normality and throw it on in with the freaks; and I feel like I’ve totally failed with this one. For the same reason I’ve never explored Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath’s early Christopher Columbus-esque pioneering into the void of electric sound, I don’t reckon I’m yet worthy; the great magnet in all his infinite wisdom has not yet seen fit to grant me the clairvoyance to nail the beauty on those counts and I feel a bit like someone paralysed on drink thrown into an impossibly deep swimming pool by Cope and his cronies and expected to swim. This piece can’t function as a recommendation because it is a failure, a busted shot at grace; think of it as a recounting of my drowning... every time I thought I was close to breaking the critical surface I got dragged down again by the electric undertow. But I don’t mind at all.
Failed under duress by Steven.