Tome to the Weather Machine review ‘Which is Worse’

For: Ou Ou, Matt Miller, Boards of Canada

Byline: Already Dead’s 150th release is a commendable step forward in composition and balancing beauty and harshness.

“Problems that Fix Themselves is Already Dead Tapes 150th release. That is significant. In just under four years, Already Dead has put out 150 pieces of physical media. That is close to 40 releases a year. Lately, I have felt a bit disorganized. Having so many irons in the fire make it difficult to focus on one thing for any significant amount of time. Already Dead’s insistance to go all-in on their own terms inspires me to be a better steward of my time and commit myself more completely to where I feel my reach will be the most felt. In the world of artists co-creating on AD there is a dedication that is just a rung under Juggalo family unity. Whenever I come across some AD-affiliated artist, he/she usually ends the conversation with, “I’ll see you at the family reunion! (an annual festival put on by AD)”, I involuntarily brace myself for the “whoop! whoop!” that never comes.

Here we are. AD150. A 12″ vinyl pressing of Already Dead founder Joshua Tabbia’s industrial-noise project that is more beautiful and soothing than the fore-mentioned genre tag would represent. Now officially expanded to a duo with longtime musical partner Alex Borozan, Problems that Fix Themselves have leapt ahead light years in compositional competency since their 2010 release Seconds. On that record Tabbia crafted a listenable balance between harsh noise and tones that had more emotional heft than I had heard in most noise records. Which is Worse lets these moments play out without scuttling them without contact mic harshness or audio sampling. Rather, these are compositions worked out well in advance and perfected with ample attention paid to timing and structure as well as the typical noiseniks continual fussing with tonal quality.

The result are songs that surge with programmed post-industrial beats that drill and seethe or glide and sink into placid, blissful tones of organ/synth lines that melt into an unhurried liminal space between structured beat-driven songs and unformed, unchained tones fluctuating and oscillating wildly. “Black Elvis” is the corollary to this, a building, daisy-chained composition that adds elements from the ground up, starting with a single drum pattern and unfolding into a fully-fleshed song-song with poignant crescendos and moments of additive brilliance. “Slowburn” is the only song that doesn’t corrall harsh tones and beats into a tightly structured arrangement. Instead, it is an abrasive, everything-on excercise in skin-flaying tones and improvisation. At the end of the album it is a cleansing, powerful addendum.

It is no surprise that my favorite track on the album is “Sunday Song” which features Victoria Blade’s beautiful voice wrapped under blankets of tape hiss. That song follows a simple, hymn-like melody of life-affirmations. “We are in this for the long haul/we are willing to give it all”. Those words struck me like a wrecking ball. When you can frame living a life of integrity – which comes to its base level of releasing tapes and art – into grand terms of a war against a stultifying and suffocating existence, it makes what may seem like chicken-shit to disappointed parents or cultural commentators, something worth fighting for, worth protecting with your life because you and a dedicated group of weirdos made it yourselves. And life is precious. And the way you live your life is the most important thing. All of that from a noise record.”

-Ryan Hall, Tome to the Weather Machine

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