February 6, 2008

CD Review: Genghis Tron - Board Up the House

Where to begin with Genghis Tron? I guess I could begin by mentioning they originate from my neck of the woods (Poughkeepsie, NY), but have since moved to Philadelphia, the city they now call home. Funny thing is that I had never heard of them until recently, meaning I never had the opportunity to experience their music when they were in town. Frankly, I am not sure how I would have reacted to them in their early days. You see, the music they play was not a style that I was terribly interested in as recently as a few years ago. It is amazing how wide your tastes can grow in a relatively short period of time. Now that they have been around awhile and have refined their sound and I have expanded my musical tastes the time to become acquainted has come. It just so happens that the convergence has coincided with the impending release of their debut for Relapse Records and their second full-length release, Board Up the House (following 2006's Dead Mountain Mouth).

Upon my listening to the first few tracks, I am reminded of two acts that really have very little to do with Genghis Tron. You know how every so often your mind makes connections between unrelated things for no reason? Well, that is the case here. The two acts that spring to mind are Horse the Band and Cephalic Carnage. The former has a more distinctive sonic relation to the band at hand, while the later really doesn't. I have to guess that my mind is making the connection based on the chaotic energy that both generate in their music despite the obvious differences in sound and approach.

The more you listen to the album, the more appropriate the band name becomes. At first glance I thought they were just trying to be clever with the references, but it is more than that. Break it down into parts; the first is derived from Genghis Kahn, the Mongolian warlord who is perceived as a brutal conqueror while others perceive him as a hero. Either way, he was involved in many wars and succeeded through brutality (I may be wrong, and this may be glossing over the facts, but that is my quick perception). It relates to the band in that their music is brutal and crushing, it unrelenting through much of the runtime. Now for the second part of their name, Tron; well, Tron was a Disney film in the 1980's that pioneered the use of special computer effects in cinema. The band has a strong electronic component, experimenting with their use throughout. Put them together and you have a band that features the blending of the analog and the digital, an experiment in combining the brutality of grindcore and metal with electronics and programming. The end result is a sound that stands apart from the crowd. It may not be for everybody, but it is certainly different.

The band is made of three members: Mookie Singerman - vocals & keyboards, Michael Sochynsky - keyboards & drum programming, Hamilton Jordan - guitar & drum programming. You may have noticed a something or somethings missing from the lineup, and you would be correct for noticing them. They lack both a bass player and a drummer. Although, I have to say that some of the drum sounds on the album sound real. I suspect that they may have brought in a drummer for a couple of tracks. Other than that, you are not likely to notice their absence, as despite not having them, there is a lot going on in the music that will hold your attention.

The album opens with a metronome-like sound as keyboards and guitar add in repeating layers that lull you in before an explosion of aggression blasts out of your speakers. The song is the title track, "Board Up the House," and does a good job of preparing you for what is to come. Each song brings together a variety of sounds from grindcore to electronica, metal to ambient, all coming together in an intriguing mash of styles. I read somewhere that their style was called "cybergrind." This is a term I am unfamiliar with, but seems rather appropriate for what these three guys have created.

Board Up the House is an excellent album, although it is the instrumentation that drew me in and held my attention. The vocals really did not do much for me as they consisted of your generic screaming mixed with a little melodic singing. His voice did not stand out to me, but fortunately it did not detract too much from the musical journey that they took me on. These three were able to create an amazingly expansive, dare I say even epic, sound. The variety of sounds they brought together in any number of layers was quite striking. This is definitely an album that stands out from the pack early on in 2008.

I was intrigued all the way through the last track, "Relief," which drones on past the ten minute mark. It was a relief to have this groove to get into following the chaotic and melodic dissonance that had come before. What I was even more intrigued by is the fact that this last track had a very Type O Negative-esque vibe to it. Or perhaps that was just my mind playing tricks again.

Bottomline. If you like your music with a side of genuine creativity, Board Up the House is going to be one for you. The music is truly inventive and broad in scope. This is a band that I will definitely be looking into their back catalog. I feel bad now that I missed them as their recent tour came to my town, but I could not make it. Hopefully next time.

Highy Recommended.

Let me leave you with this live video from SXSW 2007 of the album's title track:


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