Reviews

Major Crimes – Black Hill (Cassette)

Sometimes you need to create the right environment to “appreciate” the kind of music that Adelaide’s Major Crimes vendor, but this four-piece have some pretty cunning strategies to open up the receptive pores in your brain, in case you lose interest and listen to Slayer instead. Krautrock is usually the worst kind of ghetto for Men With Instruments In Non-European Countries, but Major Crimes pull together a bunch of contrasting elements from that broad canon, recalibrating the sound to better suit our relationship with The Machine. Black Hill is full of cliffhangers. Will it die, or will it not?

There’s a sense of latency about Black Hill: the music progresses slowly and incrementally, running in cycles, garnering speed, and then faltering. It’s never obvious whether it’s the synthetic (drum machine, keyboard) or the traditional (guitar) part of the ensemble controlling the arc, because each side is always in clipped harmony, smudging and blending into the other. Benjamin McLaren’s guitar steers most of Major Crimes’ core melodies, but it also constitutes most of the peripheral hiss and fuzz that serves to obscure precisely what is going on. He plays like he’s lacking several megabytes of the necessary memory needed to play these “pop songs” properly. It sounds like data lurching into action, poised between crucial frames, the pixels broken and smudged, the cooling fan in overdrive.

Major Crimes sound like they’re moving at an incredibly low and ineffectual framerate. The machine navigates, but it does so on its last bar of power, and the hiss between the notes, and the beats, and the noises, sounds like a burnt fuse or an overheated motherboard. Major Crimes always sounds like something dying, like the last burst of energy before landfill. A thousand Nokia bricks singing in harmony. It’s krautrock influences serve only as contrast: it conjures the machinations of a system, but it does so only to bleed it of its prowess.

It’s immediately gratifying, because at a time when data and information overload is a widely acknowledged Evil, Major Crimes sounds like all those systems running at a loss, like a weirdly melodious fax machine or bulletin board server waving its last goodbye. It’s just so syrupy and slimey, the green ooze that chips bleed in your mildest techno-nightmares.

Label: Heavy Lows
Release date: October 2012

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