No Barbecue – Outdoor Living (CD-R)

This record is barren. If the popular depiction of apocalypse is a grand vision of cities ablaze, the one offered by No Barbecue (usually known as xNoBBQx) is marked by absence and silence. This is the aftermath: languages forgotten, foliage turned to dust, the sound of bricks dislodging from their mortar and highways cracking at their foundations.

The apocalypse is a pretty convenient visual analog to this music, with its total dismantling of structure and logic. Yet when you see xNoBBQx perform live it sounds and feels totally different – it’s a comedy of brazenly deliberate errors. With the clarity of their live presence, Nick Dan’s snare hits sound like snare hits, and Matt Earle’s out-of-service electric guitar sounds like exactly what it is. On record though, that crispness is sanded away and their playing sounds inhuman. Outdoor Living gives no impression of sentience, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone actually playing it. It’s harder still to imagine any listener interpreting this record as something other than the sound of an unceremoniously purged Earth.

I don’t claim to have heard every xNOBBQx release, but here at least, they’re not a noise rock group, or an improv group. This is a kind of dreaded, lifeless ambience, brought about by minimally fiddled electric guitar and a kit so broken it emanates nothing but erratic pulses, buried in broken-jack hiss. Across six tracks the duo rarely show signs of life, though what might pass as a crescendo does occur occasionally, like some undignified structure finally caving in.

Maybe total annihilation is the only true progress left. It’s the ultimate catastrophe to bear witness to, the final undocumentable Event, and the only total change. No Barbecue offer a brief glimpse at ground zero, via the brutal – yet sonically delicate – leveling of their chosen form. This isn’t “music”, nor entertainment. This is barely noise. It’s an impersonal and discomfortingly unromantic vision of a post-life vacuum. Ruins, with no one left to fetishise them.

Label: Breakdance the Dawn
Release date: October 2012


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