Clarinets can be one of the evilest sounding instruments, emitting warped sounds, squeaks, and squawks of a tortured variety. Cruudeuces, the project of Ghetto Naturalist Series label owner Nathaniel Brennan, capitalizes on these coerced sounds from the clarinet on his newest release Various Skin Figurines. Brought to us by Albany-based label Skell Records LLC–run by Mike Griffin, who also makes his own rather tortured sounds under the Parashi moniker—Various Skin Figurines is unconventional music with an organic edge, making it highly introspective on the human condition in ways one does not always encounter with noise.
Starting with the B side, “Every Dot That Passes” is an exhibition of the gut wrenchingly visceral sounds that Brennan is able to call forth from his clarinet. The track has the feel of a methodically slow ritual sacrifice where something–or someone–is dismembered while you are forced to watch. Brennan creates an atmosphere that hangs ominously overhead like an oppressive crimson sky, with drums sounding in the distance only to impress upon you the passing of each grating moment but never helping to speed up the process.
Brennan’s clarinet wails for a hair-raising fifteen minutes with uncanny voicing that sits uncomfortably in the mind of the listener, coming too close to sounding like something living for it to be easily ignored. Those relentless piercing cries put the listener on edge for the entire duration of the track without ever letting up, even for a moment. By the end the listener is left to beg for some sort of climax to relieve the insurmountable tension that has built up over the course of the track, a vain plea that is left unfulfilled as a climax never arrives.
While the B side is a study on the inward depths of one’s self, one’s limits as a human being, the A side, “Philadelphia Thieves,” takes things in the opposite direction outward into space, allowing the listener more room to contemplate their existence. The clarinet is not featured so prominently in this track (if it is used at all it is treated beyond recognition) with Brennan looking to electronics instead. With them he creates a distinct sense of place that is worlds away from the other side of the cassette. Brennan uses electronics to build an alien static that drifts by as the listener floats through the vast expanses of empty space while an enormous churning low end spills out from massive cosmic objects filling the mind with a sense of dread.
Listening to the track is like coming face to face with the electromagnetic Galaxy Being from The Outer Limits. The electromagnetic radiation emitted by the extraterrestrial squiggling and hissing throughout the track fills you with a sense of fascination from meeting a creature from an unknown world. The bass serves as a ever present reminder that you are very small in a infinitely large universe filled with things that you will never understand or control; a troubling idea to many.
Complex and at many times through provoking, Various Skin Figurines is a fascinating listen for the ideas it conveys and the places it creates. It is a great release for Cruudeuces to start the year off with.
Review by Andrew White