Monday, June 13, 2011

Antischism: Still Life

Review # 13
Artist: Antischism
Title: Still Life
Format: LP
Label: Prank Records
Year: 1991
Songs: 13

Hello, readers.  Sorry about the absence of posts in the last couple of days. I've just returned from a fantastic weekend in Portland, where I picked up a half dozen new jazz records. A couple of these will find their way into this blog in the next few days, but in the meantime, I'm going to review a couple more punk records.  For those of you less inclined toward this type of music, please bear with me. I'll be into some different stuff in just a couple more reviews.

With that said, let's talk about Antischism's Still Life. Had I not gotten out of place in terms of alphabetization and not reviewed some Sinatra on Friday, this record would have come immediately after Anti-Product's The Deafening Silence of Grinding Gears (review # 10), and the pairing of the two would have been appropriate.  There are number of similarities between these records (aside from similar band names). Both records are by crust bands from the 1990s, featuring alternating male and female vocals and similar topical content -- environmental destruction, racism, war, the plight of native peoples, the need for radical change. Both show a clear Nausea influence in both vocal delivery and musical stylings.

These are, however, in other ways, very distinctive records.  Still Life is sonically a heavier record that relies more on distortiona and standard crust and d-beat rhythms than does The Deafening Silence. That doesn't mean it sounds the same all the way through--tempo changes and precise starts and stops during the songs keep them from all running together. The songs here are not what I would call ground-breaking, though they might have sounded fresher in 1991 than they do today. In any case, though, the songs on this record  are generally well-written and competently performed late 80s/early 90s style crust. Not genre-transcending, but more than adequate if you like this kind of music.  Lyrically, Antischism tends more towards the abstract than Anti-product, though personal narratives also surface here and there, and the band avoids the excessive sloganeering of some political bands.

An aspect of this record that I find distinctive is the heavy use of non-musical samples.  There are numerous tracks on this record that feature samples of dialogue from films or news broadcasts that either stand alone or are paired with eerie backwards recordings of what I presume to be the band's own material. I can't identify all of them, but there are at least two samples from Michael Moore's Roger and Me, some that appear to be from television news segments, and another ("Ladies and Gentlemen") from a film I can't identify that features someone who sounds a lot like Jeff Goldblum (but might or might not be him) arguing with two women and in doing so making a number of extremely sexist remarks.  The anti-sexism message of this sample is clear. The sample I find a little more thought provoking is "Pets or Meat," which features a conversation between Michael Moore and a woman who butchers and sells rabbits for a living. Whenever I listen to this record, I find myself wondering whether Antischism is intending here to  to reposition this segment as a purely animal-rights message. The descriptions of the rabbits' living conditions and ultimate fate are disturbing, and are presented here out of the context of economic desperation depicted in Moore's film. In Roger and Me, the unfortunate fate of these rabbits is used to show what some people are driven to in face of an economic system which has left them behind. In the film, one sympathizes with both the rabbits and the woman who sells them.  Here, in the absence of context, the segment seems to take on a different message: "look how people mistreat animals."  I'm not saying the band is right or wrong to reposition in the sample in this way. In fact, I find the appropriation  and re-purposing of this sample to be an interesting move, made more interesting still by the potentially different meanings that one might bring to this track based on whether or not they've seen the film. I bring it up here not so much as a criticism as something I find intriguing.

As a side note, I bought this record used several years back, and there's a flyer in the sleeve for two punk shows at a place called the Mr. Roboto Project in Wilkinsburg, PA. I've never heard of any of the bands, but I looked at the website on the flyer, and the venue has apparently been active since 1998 and continues to be an all-ages music venue today. It makes me wonder how far and how long this record travelled before ending up in my possession.

In a nutshell: very competent crust with interesting samples. Recommended for fans of the genre.

Total songs listened: 164

Here's the opening track, "Failsafe."

No comments: