Torus is a three-piece group from Rochester, NY, that plays what could be called ‘doom dub.’ Far from the peremptory party-club-danceteria style dub, this type is full-on nihilist. Don’t bother dancing, ’cause the world is about to end and you might as well just relax and wait for it.
Basement Tapes is a deceptively concise three-track EP; one of the tracks is seventeen minutes long, however, making the total runtime of this album just shy of the traditional vinyl LP length of thirty minutes and change. Having a song like this that goes on so long is really the only way that a genre like this can function.
The entire point of dub is to lay down a groove and throw everything but the kitchen sink at it, often in the form of repetitive, hypnotically spiraling barbs of minimalistic riffage. And that’s exactly what you get in the epic “Undefined Wolf Lust.” The band most definitely takes their time settling in; the first four minutes consist of the trio playing their instruments in the most bare-boned manner possible, a way that can barely be referred to as ‘performing.’ A chord is stabbed here, a cymbal is struck there, over and over as the intensity is ratcheted up at such a snail’s pace that it is nearly imperceptible. Finally, the song fades out and in again with more frenetic rhythms from the bass and drums, but still naught but an echo, a muddy remnant of a chord that begins building once more. The groove changes and settles several minutes later into something that would sound completely at home on PiL’s second album, Metal Box. The drums, played by Ariel Cruz, start emphasizing a syncopated hi-hat and snare combo and the guitar, played by R. Scott Oliver, slips in and out of the familiar reggae chicka-chick rhythm; this is new-wave obeah, the sound of all the dead punks being pulled from the grave by electric witchcraft. All the while, the relentless bass of John Horner pounds on a discordant riff. Someone’s gonna get hurt tonight…
And indeed someone does on the next track, the appropriately titled “Doom Snippet.” I do not write this purely for the sake of creative liberties; while listening to this track through headphones, I had to pause it several times because I was positive that things were falling down and/or apart in other rooms of the house. It was, in fact, only an unflinching punishment of sludge metal, trekking in like Hell on horseback slowly making its way up from the pits. The beasts reach level ground and howl with waves of feedback thunder, and the double-bass drums propel them higher.
After a slice of evil like that, the final track, “Jesus Igloo,” sounds oddly upbeat (at least initially). A gentle major key arpeggio is overlaid with a sweet melody that sounds as though it is being played on a children’s instrument. The rhythm section bashes away unaware and unencumbered by anything resembling form and structure until the guitar, too, gives in and the entire band carries on in scorched-earth chaos. For a while they stir the primordial stew until finally the fluids coagulate and the shapeless takes shape; another slow, heavy batch of riffing, as the rebirth of the world comes to so closely resemble how it looked immediately before the demise.
This is most definitely some heavy, doomy stuff. One of the interesting things about this group is the tightness of the rhythm section. The songs largely sound like there is more than a bit of improvisation. But at the same time, there are certain hits and drops, especially on the first track, that is seems unlikely that these are the result of improvisation. And being able to make a rehearsed speech sound like it is coming off the top of your head is an enviable talent. A head-banging collection of minimalist doom. Listen for yourself.
Review by Liam McManus