Wzt Hearts

Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones

(Carpark; 2007)

By Dom Sinacola | 28 November 2007

Wzt Hearts seem to make ambient free jazz, or maybe it's drone with a new wave circulatory system, or maybe unnecessary minimalism. Something fizzy and warm, at least, creased with stubborn bouts of dead-serious, kitchen-sink-pop-art-ish, decade-conflating, obligatory and aimless carpet mush, the kind that sounds tactile but looks grey down to the core of its conflicted soul. The Baltimore foursome -- comprised of Mike Haleta on laptop, pedals, and guitar, Shaun Flynn on drums and vocals, Jason Urick on another laptop, and Jeff Donaldson behind the mixing boards and, yes, the Commodore 64 -- chalk up their cadence and breadth to a stern improvisational mantra, to the myth that they've only practiced as a group a handful of times. So it goes, their second disc, Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones, begs to define and justify that line between coyness and boring pretension, spending so many resources and so much time building to an apex with corrugated chaos and then tempering the fever with multi-layered synthesizer suites that the pay-off itself is missed. Perhaps this is the inevitable endgame of any mostly improvisational band: they make noise, they make unrehearsed thrush; noise scared of atonality and gristle threatened by tradition, a big soup of immersive tension that can both cheat and indulge the audience because it's not meant to do either.

The treachery of post-coital synth: where the moment of climax and culmination doesn't matter so much as the initial friction and the aftermath, two places in which Wzt Hearts (pronounced "wet"; vowels can only be trusted once) reside, lording Neanderthal brow over electronic pastiche and thinking, even as the minimalist wishbone inside them begins to buzz, as if cliché noise (the stuff of burrowing mole snorts, cosmic squeals, fringe lobes of chimes, a sherbet cocoon of fuzz) can be rejuvenated with careful, seamless plotting, asking just how much catharsis is credible? The Wzt Hearts debut Heat Chief (2006), a loud monster of stuttered jazz drums and creaking wash parsed by pretty little sustained tones/endless electro-suites (the kind Steve Reich made idyllic), has been obviously pared for the sophomore effort, and while Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones is the group's debut for Carpark, it should be noted that at one time already we had four artists that agreed to give in, show no restraint, to put out for the primal shuffle (the kind Boredoms multiplied by seventy-seven, which I think is in the Bible somewhere).

Maybe it's a common misconception that minimalist music must be quiet, that glut is only achieved through a playfulness in individual parts, the ends substituted by the energy, even aimlessness, of the basest means. "Lava Nile," which gears into abrasive static immediately, doesn't balk at the indelible effects of its volume even as watery wah pedal loops threaten to emasculate all that forearm'd noise. The band has a repertoire and they stick to it, never straying much from the sparkling drone of feedback interspersed with gentle synth, keeping the same dynamics from their first record but allowing the detritus of their instruments and production to govern more the momentum of each track. Three minutes and fourteen seconds into a song from Heat Chief, the appropriately titled "3," what emerges initially as some sort of smeared bodhran goose-step clears the cobwebs of precious acoustic guitar and lurches the whole deal forward, allowing the pastoral to shatter into apoplexy, which continues for twelve more minutes. Threads cuts "Spells" and "Hearth Carver" follow suit, where diminutive tracks like stuttered clicks and blips eventually surpass an aggressive kit freestyle or anarchic chocolate rubble to structure the piece. Far from democratic, the effect's bliss, mingling becoming a straight co-opting of power. Then, because each track's important, the record declares itself wholly vital.

Not exactly groundbreaking, Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones is instantly engaging, easily the best experimental anything coming out of Baltimore at the moment. The clincher is the closer "Viszla," maybe post-rock homage or maybe just paroxysm of hi-hat and REM hallucination; influences hardly matter, are only lambent stakes in the confluence of genres Wzt Hearts attempt to wrangle. Of course their sounds contradict. It's a crutch they bear heavy-handedly, allowing the dichotomy between "beauty" and "pain" to explain too much of their operational conceit. Still, in fault they're never unpleasant, and, even though I promised myself otherwise: this totally makes up for that Dan Deacon record.