Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mixed Melvins - Chicken Switch

When Marty R first introduced me to The Melvins a few months ago, he promised me that they do some whacky stuff. And they do – but possibly nothing quite as whacky as their latest album, Chicken Switch.

The basic concept behind Chicken Switch is that fifteen different remix artists were given a full album (or a few full albums) of The Melvins’ music to do whatever remixers do, and to each produce their own contribution of a track to the album.

There are some pretty awesome names here – like Eye Yamatsuka, who leads The Boredoms, and sets things going on Chicken Switch with the first track, ‘Washmachine Sk8tronics’, giving us a pretty impressive indication of what’s to come – heavy pounding primordal beats and thick clouds of electronic sound with bolts of lightning scratching their way through. I have no idea what this music was before Eye got to it, but it has certainly become something of epic size now, sweeping you up like a tornado, and then throwing you mercilessly back down to the ground.

But then the second track, Christoph Heeman’s ‘Emperor Twaddle Remix’ gives you, at first, a few moments to catch your breath, and to admire the dark beauty of soft, swirling sounds. But only at first, and just as you begin to sit up and think you're in a harmless if still pretty dark place, it knocks you down again with a sudden onslaught of monolithic noise. It’s great stuff.

But even that is pretty tame next to the third track, V/VM’s ‘She Chokes Her Dying Breath and Does It In My Face’ – massively intense noise, progressing from powerful to overpowering and then eventually making way for some darkly, haunting organ sounds, like something from the apocalypse.

Other tracks are the work of artists such as John Duncan (hard, dark rock, with fast, driving beats and deep, droning riffs), Matmos (who produces something close to a dance track, with ‘Linkshänder’, but a pretty creepy dance nonetheless), Lee Renaldo (from Sonic Youth), Merzbow (producing what even I can now recognise as classic Merzbow, with fierce and hypnotic metal drone noise that seems to whip you along, marching with terrified hordes, through an endless night), David Scott Stone (sounding like demon possessed monk chanting in ‘Prick Concrète/Revolution M’), Panacea (who produce something even closer to a dance track, with ‘Queen (Electroclash Remix)’ – but, even there, it’s a dance track that you play to distract the heavy metal gatecrashers, not for dirty dancing with your newest love interest), Sunroof! (a spacey computer mix called ‘The Silly Butter Apple of Youth’), Kawabata Makoto (more awesome, droning Japanoise, with a bass powerful enough to register on the Richter scale), farmersmanual (really weird noises that sound, well, just weird, a bit like the sounds your computer might make if it was really loud and really sick), Void Manes (drumbeats, and haunted bass lines, drowned in hellish, cavernous sirens and vocals in ‘Overgoat’) RLW (more drone, but now with ear-piercing trebles, and occasional stabs of bass lines twisting and descending) and $peedranch (more noise, sounding like you’re trying to tune into earth from a spaceship – random but disturbingly haunting, too, as if this is what our planet might really sound like to someone listening from afar, aggressive, frightened and chaotic, with harsh bass lines driving home the unease).

The whole thing is pretty weird, but it is incredibly effective and an amazing example of what you end up with when you get great artists to play around with great art. You really should go out and buy Chicken Switch because, even if you ultimately don’t like it or even listen to it, I reckon it’s something which, like Joyce’s Ulysses and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, should be in everyone’s collection. And, anyway, something tells me you’re not going to be hearing much of it on the radio.

Thanks Marty - I'm not sure this is The Melvins you had in mind, but it certainly is whacky.


  1. ooooh looking very much forward listening to that one!!!!

  2. Yes Seemore .... I'll be keen to see your reaction to it! Just don't expect it to sound like The Melvins!