Review: Sissy Spacek – L/L (Helicopter, May 7)

Listening to a new Sissy Spacek album is always a toss-up. The music put out by John Wiese and crew ranges from blistering noisegrind to bizarre musique concrète miniatures to full-blown harsh noise assaults, with the only common denominator being top-notch quality. L/L, one of two new CDs from the project released on Helicopter yesterday, is constructed from recordings from their ensemble tour back in January of this year. Its spastic group improvisations recall some of my favorite material from Sissy Spacek, the performances of Wiese’s visual scores for ensemble in Los Angeles and Oakland; but here even the minute restrictions are lifted. The first and longest track, “Distance,” highlights legendary percussionist Tim Barnes’ textural, free-form drumming; Wiese’s chunky electronics and tape manipulations; and what sounds like trumpet and guitar from two musicians with whom I am unfamiliar. Unbounded by any sort of formal direction or control, it is somehow both aimless and purposeful, reveling in the interactions between the instruments but never sticking around in the same place too long. There are even moments of beauty here too. The muffled sample breaking through the fragile cacophony midway through “Distance” and the unearthly ambiance of “City Limits” are surprisingly sublime; and even the ugliest bits, like the freakish climax of “Horse People,” are exhilarating in a way only Sissy Spacek can pull off.

Pick up the CD here.