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Premature Burial
The Conjuring Dustin Krcatovich , October 5th, 2015 14:25

About a decade and a half ago, I was reading one of those "Top 50 All-Time Punk Records" pieces in some cheesy whiz mainstream rock rag when I came across something that has stuck with me ever since. In the inevitable capsule bit on Blank Generation, the reviewer noted that — and I'm paraphrasing — while being raw and borderline-shitty is a cool punk move that has yielded many sublime moments, it's also an inevitable dead end: you'll always either get better and/or boring. As such, being raw and deft is what really makes the magic happen.

Point well taken, though I would argue that the equation should go more like "raw+deft+taste=(x)", with the 'x' variable as a stand-in for anything that truly rules. You don't have to go to a conservatory to be deft, of course, nor even understand music in the conventional sense, but you're going to make your most shit-hot sounds if you're a master of your chosen vernacular; that said, technique isn't worth a dime if you don't have the horse sense to not use it to make something gaudy and stupid. Coltrane never had this kind of problem, but plenty of 1982 hardcore bands did if and when they made it past their second record (or sometimes their first).

I bring all this up because of how well The Conjuring fares against the raw+deft+taste standard, though it may not be immediately apparent to a layperson or square. Premature Burial are a horn and electronics trio (Matt Nelson — whose burner work solo and with Battle Trance I've reviewed here before — on saxophone and electronics, along with Peter Evans on piccolo trumpet and Dan Peck on tuba and effects) who produce gut wrenching, dome bending squall apropos of the Poe story from whence they gripped their moniker. It's the kind of stuff that would make your poor, suffering mother worry about your mental state if she were to catch you listening to it. Nothing at all wrong with that, of course, but it isn't an an inherently hard thing to do.

What makes The Conjuring a cut above, then, is that its combo of harsh noise gunk, metallic heft and aut-jazz skronk is carefully considered, at times even lyrical. It's heavy and propulsive without a single drum in sight, brutal and imposing without having to spell it out for you (though giving your tracks titles like 'Cataleptic Fantasy' and 'Bodiless Screams' is, admittedly, less than subtle). It's also dynamic and varied in a way that much of this stuff is not, which doesn't surprise me having surveyed some of Nelson's priors, but it satisfies nonetheless. They even, as this promo video attests, have a sense of humour about the whole thing. That kind of combo doesn't come around with the Friday Coupon Clipper these days (or they do, and I'm just living in a gentrified hellhole whose glory days are well passed. I can't say I'm sure anymore).

I'm going to lay it on the line here and say that every town could use a band like Premature Burial: completely fucked but unpretentious, skilled but never showy, and unafraid of the outer limits. Is it too much to ask? Probably. I'd dance to it, though.