OLD – The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak

OLD (originally an acronym for "Old Lady Drivers", also the title of their first release) is probably one of the most unique bands you will ever hear.  After a couple of straight up grindcore albums (the aforementioned Old Lady Drivers full length as well as a split EP with Assück) Jimmy Plotkin (Khanate, Phantomsmasher, Scorn, etc) and Co. decided to incorporate a shit load of avant-garde and industrial elements, starting with their album Lo Flux Tube and then continuing on The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak

I chose to review this album because it contains the songs that I first heard from the band which were featured in the movie Brainscan (one of which shows up on the soundtrack).  I bought the Brainscan soundtrack and really liked Freak Now but for a number of years I had no luck in tracking down anything else by the band.  The albums were of course out of print at this point and file sharing was not what it is today, searching for “Old” online got you a lot of shit that isn’t this band, and some shit that would be impossible to erase from your memory once you look at it….  Fast forward a few years and I finally track down all of OLD’s albums online and I’m surprised to discover that not only does Brainscan feature Freak Now from Musical Dimensions of Sleastak, but segments from several other tracks are used throughout the soundtrack as elements of what I had mistakenly assumed was the score.

The album opens with an instrumental piece that slowly builds from a quiet creepy loop to a caterwaul of industrial synth noise and violin samples.  I remember this piece quite well because it is used as the music for the entire first murder sequence in Brainscan, and let me tell you, this is the perfect soundtrack to a stalk and kill session.  It’s probably also the reason that movie made me want to shit my pants when I went to it as a kid.

The second track Two of Me (parts one and two) kicks in next and like the sequence of the album, this one appears in the movie right at the point when Edward Furlong goes from stalk to kill and starts plunging a butcher knife into his first victim.  With lyrics like “where the shadow goes it’s hard to follow, when this happens, it’s time to bleed and bleed again…at night when my shadow goes away so I stab” it certainly works well.  The music is dominated by the bass guitar with a weird keyboard (or possibly heavily manipulated guitar) playing over top of it while vocalist Alan Dubin (Khanate) shrieks in a distorted black metal style.  It sounds totally fucking deranged and intense (which will appeal to fans of the extreme metal genres) yet never relies on a traditional heavy metal guitar sound (which will appeal to the electronic or experimental music fans).

Next up is Freak Now which continues with this style, but the guitar work is more clearly a guitar, so instead the vocals get extra distortion giving them a watery sound that reminds me of some of the vocal effects used by Ministry, though perhaps more inhuman sounding.  It’s kind of funny actually that this was the song that ended up on the Brainscan soundtrack since while the other two essentially get to play out in their entirety in the movie, only a small snippet of this gets played in a couple scenes where Edward Furlong finds some grisly shit in his fridge freezer.  Oh well.

The fourth track Peri Cynthion slows things down with a weird electronic pulsing sound in the background (once again used in Brainscan as the session end screen of the game) to a bass guitar dominated doom track.  Vocals take on an even more liquid sounding distortion to the point of being essentially inaudible.  There are so many layers at play in this song that the slower pace is a good thing as it allows you a better chance at absorbing all of the clashing, yet oddly cohesive, elements.  About half way through the track becomes quite noisy, and then everything slows to a crawl until it sounds like a toy with the batteries dying and then closes out with the very base level loop with a distorted, forlorn guitar lead played over top.  This continues for some time until the track finishes out in a quiet, extremely distorted (like a tape being eaten in the player) drum beat with a repeating guitar riff over top.  This is the type of song you blast a full volume and your neighbors assume you are conjuring inter-dimensional beings, either that or you have a shitty blown stereo and/or you’re an asshole.

The next track Happy Tantrum kicks things back up again with a similar style to Freak Now and Two of Me.  The vocals sound like a satanically possessed Al Jourgenson and the lyrics are about uplifting topics such as drowning or perhaps drowning as a metaphor, I’m not going to pretend I completely comprehend exactly what the fairly outlandish poetry on this album in general is specifically about, but the fucked up vibe meshes well with the fucked up sounds.  I really dig the guitar riff in this track too; it has this sort of spacey, epic vibe to it that sounds cool and sci-fi.

Following this is a couple of more or less experimental drone tracks that, while interesting as part of the whole album, will likely be difficult for the average listener to really get into.  If you can dig Coil, some of the darker Aphex Twin or the really outlandish remixes of Nine Inch Nails’ material from the Broken/The Downward Spiral era you might dig this though.  At the very least I’d recommend it for anyone looking to trip on hallucinogens and never come back or for fans of noise recordings.

Ebb might just take the cake though for being the most utterly deranged sounding track on the album.  Alan  Dubin’s vocals start out sounding like they were recorded on a tape that was then half melted, flushed down a toilet , then plunged back out of the drainage pipe and played over a loud speaker while a weird, tinny dissonant guitar riff repeats accompanied by several layers of electronic distortion.  The music transforms to an almost epic sounding sludgy riff while distorted blackened shrieks chant lyrics about hating what he sees in the mirror and exclaiming “all must end” to a jilted drum beat.  This is the type of shit probably playing in the minds of the criminally insane, not heavy metal.

Then the album closes with the 11 minute mind rape Backwards Through the Greedo Compressor (solid contender for best song title ever).  By the sound of it, Jimmy took every sound used on the album and mashed it together, in forwards and reverse, into a massive wall of bizarre experimental noise.  The riffs from several of the songs are sampled and used to keep the track somewhat melodic, but then the vocals from some of the songs are played in reverse and the sound is either sped up or slowed down until it sounds like the track literally melts out of your speakers at the midway point leaving just silence.  So that is what it sounds like to go backwards through a greedo compressor…From there it becomes this very subdued, strange sounding guitar picking with intermittent vocals that sound like a Gremlin trying to sing the blues and some odd noodling guitar soloing and electronic sounds.  Ok I take that back about Ebb, this track is the most deranged thing I have ever heard.  This shit makes some of Butthole Surfers’ old school stuff seem like catchy radio pop.

The artwork is appropriately dense and strange looking.  The front cover creates this weird optical illusion when you look at it that makes the silver font of the band logo and album title along with the black outlines look like they’re floating on top of the rest of the image (sorry you can't really see it on the thumbnail above, you'll have to take my word on it), as if they were printed on a clear plastic sheet overlaid on top of the rest.  Either that or I need to lay off the drugs.   Also, in what I can only assume is another act of messing with your brain, they include a miniature 3 panel fold out of exactly the same thing that is on the inside of the regular two panel booklet.  It’s literally exactly the same thing except stretched slightly wider; same lyrics, same pictures.  I have no idea what purpose this serves.  The other thing that is a bit confusing is how at the bottom right of both booklets it says “There are but 2 synth./keyboard lines on this recording.  Try to find them…”.  So is this a joke?  Or am I to believe that almost everything on this album is actually guitars and drums and bass?  It bakes my noodle.

The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak is an album for people who like challenging music.  The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak is not for people who feel all music must fit into a neat little cookie cutter mold that the music industry tells you that you should like.  I think there is a lot here that extreme metal fans will be able to enjoy (the open minded ones anyway), and there is also a lot that electronic music fans will be able to enjoy (the ones who can take something a little darker or harsher than they’re probably used to).  In terms of the band’s own progression from pure grindcore roots to an essentially pure electronic act before disbanding this is pretty much the middle ground. 

I highly recommend seeking this album out if you are looking to hear a band that sounds like nobody else.  If this one seems a bit too experimental I’d recommend checking out Lo Flux Tube first as it is more skewed to the metal/grindcore side, but equally excellent (many will likely prefer it in fact).   Just remember though, if you take acid, mushrooms or peyote and suffer brain damage while listening to this I accept no responsibility if you are turned into a drooling vegetable only capable of looking vacantly at pretty colors nobody else can see while trying to saw through your leg bone with a sheared off empty Pepsi can.