Review: American Cig – Nausea (Commuter Disk, Feb 2)

Apart from just having one of the year’s best album covers so far, American Cig’s new CD Nausea is a superb and fascinating release. I know little about the duo—just that they’ve put out a handful of releases on excellent DIY labels like Barton Street and Male Activity, and I’d previously encountered Nathan Ivanco’s solo noise project Marion through Taping Vol. 1 on A R C H I V E—but their “music” speaks for itself. American Cig practices a form of free improvisation situated somewhere between the erudite reticence of AMM and the industrial clatter of Morphogenesis, using tapes, voice, electronics, and strings to conjure mysterious, metallic soundscapes. Despite its seemingly synthetic origins, opening track “Domestic Incident” seems to consist of just what its title implies as Ivanco and Smith improvise to what sounds like steady rainfall outside of the recording space. As the track moves into its latter part, “The Witch’s Bottle,” the duo ramp up their interactions to produce a restless cacophony of tape loops, stuttering strings, and growling rumble, yet it’s one that still feels tense and restrained. What with the threatening atmosphere and shrieking strings, I can’t help but be reminded of Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell’s harrowing score for the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre—a compliment which, coming from me, is of the highest order. American Cig continues with both the apt track titles and the compelling amalgam of organic and mechanical sounds as “Boiler Room Persuasion” begins with the unmistakable sounds of splashing water. “Noxious Tide” brings Nausea to a jittery and fitting end as the sonic equivalent of a metal noose tightens around our necks—the machines have invaded our private spaces, and things will never be the same again.

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