Jon Mueller – Death Blues (2013)
Well, this was a random new album that popped into a feed of mine, so I thought I’d give it a shot and I am so glad that I did.
Jon Mueller is an experimental composer and percussionist from Wisconsin, USA, who has worked with numerous people as well as producing solo experimental works, having a fairly prodigious output in the last 12 years.
This album is simply amazing, one of the best I have ever heard.
A hammered guitar opens the album with Find Yourself, with the string faintly dampened after striking to allow resonances to proliferate, as a pained wail rings out and the feedback increases. It is an incessant drone that is over far too quickly for my liking, but it builds and builds in intensity before suddenly cutting off into the second track, Impatience, which begins with a simple loose sounding strummed guitar and a simple but effective pulsing drum beat. Vocal chanting overlay the guitars and it builds and builds before the drums and guitar cut out leaving the mesmerising vocals, before bam, the drums and guitar crack back in, pulsing away. Intense, inspired, spinetingling!
The simple but effective (and somewhat affecting) drum beat continues in the next and title track, Death Blues, the repetitive nature of the guitar lends itself again to a more droney mode, as it causes you to lose all track off time and space. Have you been listening 2 minutes? An hour? A lifetime? And that’s what Death Blues is about, as we contemplate the journey through life, the inevitable end to an unstoppable march, the destiny that none can avoid.
The next two tracks, Acceptance and Impermanence, could be straight of a doom metal album, bold and heavy, with a bit more emphasis on the exploration of rhythm on the latter.
Iron Sting closes out the album and after the crescendo of Impermanence, the simple bass–snare combo for the first minute is a time for breath drawing you into a ritual that again builds and builds to a final frenzied last gasp.
And it’s over; and like life itself, far too quickly.
At times, I am reminded of Sonic Youth, and at other times, the Residents. A mixture that is surely fantastic, and this album truly is just that: fantastic! With such simple components (I think the guitar plays the same notes for pretty much the entire album; the focus being on the repetitive rhythmic quality), an incredibly complex and deep album is created. The pulsing repetitive nature adds a certain tribal or cultish quality, which is primal, gets inside and really brings you along for the ride.