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Decomposing Force Noel Gardner , May 25th, 2020 09:34

An irrationally gnarly release from well-connected New Yorkers, Grid

The three members of New York’s Grid can claim a pedigree that draws deeply from both jazz – the skronkier, freer end of the form – and noise, albeit noise broadly traceable to rock music. Decomposing Force, their second album, upholds both those poles with power-surge ferocity. Its opening five seconds, saxophonist Matt Nelson playing unaccompanied to launch ‘Brutal Kings’, is more recognisably ‘jazz’ (as someone who nodded out in a 1970s Bowery loft and has just woken up might perceive it) than the entirety of Grid’s churning self-titled debut from 2017, released like this one via the NNA Tapes label. The sixth second is where things start to get beastly, though.

Tim Dahl deals in densely knotted, chisel-blunt basslines, within which you might detect the metallic prog tones of, say, King Crimson, but with any breathing room excised by design. Drummer Nick Podgurski has a captivating anti-swing style that seems almost inhuman at times – not in the sense of breathtaking BPMs or flawless virtuosity, but in how much of ‘Nythynge’ judders along with a glitch techno-like approach to rhythm. A whirlpool of long, mournful sax notes and omming low end is abetted, for much of this track’s 12 and a half minutes, by a snarling traffic jam of feedback you might imagine came from a guitar, maybe a student of the Keiji Haino or Dead C methods. In fact it’s all three members, their chops fed into some pedals of Nelson’s and reemerging as so much sausagey savagery.

Though a little shorter, at close on nine minutes, ‘The Weight Of Literacy’ feels like Decomposing Force’s most sprawling piece, with Dahl adopting a sparse style to counterbalance his two bandmates’ rangy sparring. This one feels rooted in rock foremost, perhaps the outré moments of a band like Sonic Youth or Melvins. ‘Cold Seep’, the LP’s final number, is a stark, isolationist rumble which I think leans more heavily on FX/processing for Nelson’s instrument than its three sibling tracks, but is a highly effective party-finisher if you dig latter-day Wolf Eyes or Burning Star Core. Big 2006, handmade CDR, No Fun Fest kinda vibe to this one in particular, as it goes.

That pedigree I mentioned at the beginning helps, somewhat, to rationalise this irrationally gnarly music. Nelson is an occasional member of Tune-Yards and Dahl plays in Lydia Lunch’s current backing group Retrovirus (Lydia supplied vocals for a one-off digital single, ‘Stranglehold’, which Grid released last year), and those are probably their highest profile turns, but just slivers of a thick CV crisscrossing jazz, improv, prog and metal. The jazz/noise intersection mapped by Grid is by no means unprecedented, and perhaps new pretenders are hamstrung by its base tenets being so brutal from the off: Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun, if you chose to start there, or the first Borbetomagus releases in the early 80s; Painkiller and more recently Dead Neanderthals have set down markers too. Decomposing Force doesn’t sound like it’s cribbing from any of those, though, and attains moments of exciting individuality within a stylistic niche.