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Posted on November 26th, 2014 (3:00 pm) by Casey Bauer

Let’s face it; experimental music is a hard genre to listen to. There are people who appreciate its intricacies, improvisation, mood, and performance aspects, while others see it as simple noise with no structure or musical merit. Whatever side of the spectrum you’re on, the key to listening to experimental music is patience. Cutting a song off after the first three minutes of ethereal white noise may not be giving a 45-minute album justice. On the other hand, there are albums where most of what you hear is exactly that. To explore the world of experimental music is to take a chance, but then again, isn’t that the purpose of the genre? Sadly, this romantic notion, while still holding water and producing some great experimental records, doesn’t always work for everyone.

Words to the Blind is the collaborative, ferocious offspring of female post punk band, Savage, and experimental acid band, Bo Ningen. Deemed as a “sonic poetry project,” Words to the Blind is a live recording of a single performance in London. The set-up included a U-shaped stage, with both bands on either side, and one lone guitar suspended in mid-air that was struck like a gong because, well, why not, right? The audience packed themselves into the U’s opening, smack dab in between both bands. This was to ensure that the audience got a vivid, intimate experience from the physical, and musical, soundscape.

Hardly an album, Words to the Blind is a single, dense, mostly indiscernible, 37-minute track. There’s one brief gap in the whole thing, but the rest is seamless noise that rips, shrieks, sizzles, and seeps through headphones with a dark obscurity that’s near impossible to shake.

The first several minutes include frantic whispers in Japanese and French, a hit-and-miss dialogue between Jehnny Beth and Taigen Kawabe, the lead vocalists of the two bands. The voices aren’t really conversing as much as spitting out words that collide, and often overlap. From there, guitars sound as if they’re tuning, rather than playing anything cohesive, and scratchy whirrs and whizzes fuzz out the background, spinning the listener into a dark abyss of sound. After a while, a simple drum set arises from the chaos, providing a brief moment of clarity, pulling all the noises back together into what are almost-readable bars of music. Shrieks and yowls flood the background, and we begin to lose what’s human and what’s an instrument, both an exciting, and completely terrifying tactic. The rest of the album plays out as such; a whirr of ethereal surrealism, encompassing the bizarre and uncomfortable, while occasionally revealing moments of beauty.

Granted, the collaboration did admit to some improvisation, but the album features a few unforgiveable hiccups. Roughly 24 minutes in, an unsteady guitar riffs atop a bass that’s struggling to hold consistent downbeats. After several, long, uncomfortable seconds, a drumset kicks in, slowing the entire tempo and making the discontinuity between players even more obvious. This moment marks the beginning of a more formulated song structure, but it’s clunky and awkward, making one of the few musical moments in the whole album a flop.

The good things? We totally respect what they’re trying to pull off, and applaud them for succeeding in creeping us out as we explore an open-ended musical experience. Also, the lady vocals and jam session near the end are pretty enjoyable and witch-esque. However, as a whole, the album isn’t particularly entertaining or cohesive. It’s exceedingly hard to grasp, and takes way more effort, from a listener's standpoint, than the satisfaction we get from it. We can’t be sure, but Words to the Blind appears to have been a successful onstage performance (people cheer in the background, believe it or not), but we’re not sure it was the best idea to make into an album.

Savages and Bo Ningen - Words to the Blind Review
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Our Rating

49 / 100
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