Review: Total Sweetheart – Early to Bed (Dada Drumming, Jun 17)

The first recordings by freshly minted Dallas duo Total Sweetheart come at a perfect time. A host of releases by the either defunct or long-hibernating band Ascites have been hitting the spot recently, so all it took for me to pick this one up was reading that founding member Nathan Golub was involved (and listening to about five seconds of the promotional excerpt). Regardless of expectations, Early to Bed is almost certain to surpass them; this is not only the best, but also some of the most unique and memorably idiosyncratic harsh I’ve heard in a long time. I haven’t been able to get my hands or ears on anything by Struggle Session, the former project of fellow sweetheart Ryan Jones, so it’s hard for me to tell exactly where one member’s contributions end and the other’s begin—but that kind of feels like the point. The initial rupture of the title track, the first of two half-hour side-spanning cuts, is thick and brutish, confined mostly to mono as it throbs and pummels the exact center of the skull, but the bit of the bone drill gradually widens as the session progresses, blooming into layered assaults full of pedal-gouged churn and phase, wracking and warbling modular surgery, and the amplified, mortally distorted sounds of what are allegedly medical instruments. Even beyond that last ingredient, the Ascites twinges are never out of reach, but at the same time Early to Bed is so much more active and higher-octane than the sickly crackle and crunch of Fluid Excess or Resection, and who could ever complain about that? Plus, somehow, even as it surges forth in a single punishing torrent, the improvisational duo approach ensures that every moment is densely packed with new bits and pieces to discover. That is to say, I could write a hell of a lot more about this tape. But I’m not going to, because I’m about to go listen to it again.

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