A horrible hack


Chartreuse Bull

Year Released: 2011
Format: Tape
Label: Damage Rituals - Sleeping Giant Glossolalia
Reviewed by Emile Bojesen on Jul 28, 2011
If you’re into 90’s-ish noise rock, especially the Skin Graft or AmRep strains, then the likelihood is that you’ll at the very least have heard of Vaz (this is their fifth album after all). If not then it’s basically two thirds of Hammerhead, which means that it’s only two guys: guitar/vocals and drums. ‘Chartreuse Bull’ is only the second release on the Damage Rituals tape label (the first was an excellent comp), who are also set to release the tape version of the new Hammerhead record as well as the Xaddax (ex-Killmen/Sicbay/etc.) tape.

Equal parts noise-rock and lo-fi rock’n’roll, with that choppy-changey style that sometimes rather annoyingly gets called math-rock, Vaz tick a lot of boxes. However, as you’d expect, given the CVs of the constituent parts, Vaz don’t sound like they’re dipping into anything. This is one of the most fleshed out recordings of any of these kinds of music that I’ve heard, perhaps even since Unsane or Dazzling Killmen. In a kind of ‘arch’ way, their defined personality comes from a balance they strike between violence, subtlety and humour. Oh and hooks. Lots and lots of excellent, consistently invigorating hooks.

For the most part the vocals have a charismatically ‘overconfident’ vibe (think Big Business or Floor) to them as they soar over the inventive but restrained humming guitar and tight-as-fuck tin can drums. The production is absolutely pitch perfect for this kind of band and this kind of release. Like all decent ‘lo fi’ recordings, it emphasizes rather than disguises the music. In fact, I’m not even sure I’d call this lo-fi – yes, it’s warm, abrasive and close sounding but it’s also clear and careful rather than messy or badly mixed. A lot of bands of whatever genre trying for that style could do worse than listening to this.

The only other two-piece ‘rock’ band I can think of who sound as well-formed as Vaz are Orthrelm. However, unlike Orthrelm, they are pretty straight up and (to these ears) a much more frequently enjoyable listen. If you’ve heard Vaz’s previous records then ‘Chartreuse Bull’ isn’t a huge departure stylistically but there’s more cohesion here and their sound here is distilled and tightly wound, perhaps also a touch more aggressive. The slightly Brainiac-ish elements to previous releases are subtler and all the better for it. As usual the guitar flourishes amidst the general pummeling are also genuinely fun and exciting, while entirely suiting the charmingly fatalistic mood.

Vaz sometimes get tagged with sounding like the soundtrack to a horror movie but I don’t see it. Sounds more like the soundtrack to an imaginary Dardenne brothers film set in the Mid-West about a guy who’s thinking about robbing a bank but just punches his boss out instead. Vaz are from Brooklyn though, so what do I know.

One of the absolute best releases of 2011 so far. Highly recommended

Worth keeping your eyes on Damage Rituals too.

Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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