Avantgarde is a term that can denominate basically everything as it nearly has no real definition when it comes to music – anything from Erika Stucky to the Kronos Quartet but also Aphex Twin or Merzbow can be called Avantgarde. Thus one must be careful with not over-using the term too much or one should clearly define it.
When thinking in historical terms, the avantgarde was a term the Russian socialists around Lenin and Trotzki used to point out that they were the ones fighting one the front lines in order to create a new system for all of mankind. Musically speaking, the only thing that somehow seems relevant here might be the idea of creating something new to advance the whole musical landscape as we know it. Some artists that can come to mind here would be very different from each other but let’s drop the first few of the tip of the author’s head: Aphex Twin, the Cardiacs, Erika Stucky, the Kronos Quartet, the Jesus Lizard, Merzbow. Those artists each in their own way really re-defined and re-shaped of music over the course of the last 30 or 40 years, even though most of mankind might never have taken notice of them.
In order to prevent Hemlock Smith & les Poissons Autistes from suffering the same fate, Merchants Of Air is proud to present the latest album from these artists that have once again collaborated to expand the realms of what music can be. Now mind you, we are not talking about a revolution like Gil-Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Be Televised” back in the 70s or the ascent of Kraftwerk, but we are talking about a collaboration that can help us redefine what music is to us. This record is clear and beautiful in certain moments while in others it can be twisted and dark. When listening to it, you will recognize the drone and ambient elements developed by guys like Merzbow or you will recognize some wonderful vocal melodies that Erika Stucky could have thrown at us. One might have the feeling of discovering soothing string arrangements like the Kronos Quartet might have in store for their audience; or noisy side-notes like the gritty Lizard had back in the day. But the one avantgarde band that these guys might best be compared to would probably be The Cardiacs, who also didn’t care about conventions and only wanted to capture the best mood for their highly intense storytelling that concentrated on the vocals. The two acts also share a love for post-punk elements which “The Necrophone Sessions” offer in songs like “Nowhere” where the grinding and distorted click-beats are pumping like an industrial heart.
The most interesting thing about this record is its eclecticism that makes it quite hard to follow the concept of the record. However, after four spins by now (in a span of 24 hours) “The Necrophone Sessions” make sense to me: the seven songs and 42 minutes are devoted to showing which genres can be combined and how, and on the same page they also explain how these combinations can be utterly senseless and that music should be felt, not analyzed or understood. An interesting idea for a record by a project that takes its time in order to create something totally new that shall transport meaning without meaning to.