Review: American Cig – At Reptile Care (Commuter Disk, Sep 12)

At Reptile Care sees the duo of Nathan Ivanco and Steve Smith taking their industrial-tinged improvisations to more—dare I say—whimsical territory than February’s Nausea. Right off the bat, part one of the nearly half-hour CD bounds into existence with a great deal more bounce and pep than that last release, shakily structuring itself upon bright, ecstatic, sparring melody cells with a hint of gloom (“Eight Cut Scars” anyone?) at first and an ensuing series of woozy, surreal tape loops, warbles, slow-downs, and other manipulations. Unlike with Nausea, neither the online entry nor the physical packaging of At Reptile Care lists the materials used by the musicians, so I can’t be sure if this was tape-only, but it certainly sounds like it could be; echoing the best of reel-to-reel ravagers and cassette-clump crackerjacks like Joseph Hammer or Dilloway with their bizarre extract curation and expert sense of dynamics. There’s a great deal more use of speech as well, something that makes this release simultaneously more and less harrowing. The end of part one is sort of terrifying, even, the heavy pants and moans of what sounds like an angsty adolescent monster-being dueling with string music relayed at mercilessly variable speeds. The second half leaps into the deep end of bad vibes territory, everything moving at a sickeningly slow stumble, pseudo-aquatic burbles and subhuman seethes and apocalyptic emissions whirling lethargically in a vat of smelly, rotten honey. By this point I’m convinced there is at least a radio being used in addition to the tape-related sources; the dial is worked by an abstract ear, usually providing empty drones and mostly unintelligible grabs. I’ve loved what I’ve heard from American Cig in the past, but this feels like they’ve hit on something really special. Memorable, for sure; these will be the score to tonight’s nightmares.

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