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Lightning Bolt

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Album Review

Recorded after the departure of Bharoocha, Lightning Bolt's first album shows that the duo's frenetic broken-machine-played-by-live-instruments approach was not merely in place from the start but firing on all fours. It's not easy to describe the tracks — it's one thing to say it's just bass; drums; and gargled, barely audible but still shouted vocals; quite another to describe the effect of the performances. At the band's fastest, like "Into the Valley" and the latter half of "Fleeing the Valley of Whirling Knives," everything sounds like the most tightly wound wire or rubber band getting even more and more tightly wound as it goes, to the point where all the activity almost becomes the most unlikely form of ambient music ever heard. The two don't simply repeat the same thing over and over again — there's variety, especially in Gibson's bass work, keeping the same propulsion but subtly shifting notes as it goes, a sine wave of sound. Chippendale, meanwhile, is just amazing, just going all over the place on the drums but very clearly playing them instead of bashing as quickly as human musculature will allow. When the slower moments surface, such as the martial "Murk Hike" and the lowrider funk in hell that starts "Fleeing the Valley of Whirling Knives," the sheer volume level remains, which makes the inevitable explosions elsewhere all the more amazing. The various prog comparisons have a certain sense here, but there's no showoff wank, more an active and conscious harnessing of energy for very specific purposes. Classic moment — whoever in the world is speaking at the live snippet starting "Caught Deep in the Zone" saying, in a most unusual accent, that the "alternative charts" are "just like the other side, only a bit stranger." Later CD versions included two bonus track curios: the tempo-shifting half-hour mayhem of "Zone," which, among other things, practices a variety of tape abuse on said spoken word snippet, and "And Beyond," a ten-minute, high-velocity piece, complete with apparent hip-hop audio-vérité skit.


Formed: 1995 in Providence, RI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '10s

Lightning Bolt emerged from Providence, Rhode Island in 1995 as a three-piece art school project. Initially there was Brian Chippendale's explosive, nonstop drumming, Brian Gibson's Contortions-like basslines, and Hisham Baroocha's vocals propelling them in a fury of volatile noise and orgiastic tribalism. The group helped found Fort Thunder, a music and art collective, and recorded a self-titled album that was issued through Load in 1999. By 2001's Ride the Skies, Baroocha had departed (he eventually...
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Lightning Bolt, Lightning Bolt
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