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Abhayamudra (Live)

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Album Review

In 2002 and 2003, the avant-rock band Cul de Sac and ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki toured together in the U.S. and Europe. This two-CD, two-and-a-quarter-hour set is taken from performances along the way. It was a good match: Cul de Sac don't sound exactly like Can by any means, but they provide similarity sympathetic backdrops for Suzuki's oddball off-the-top-of-the-head-seeming vocals, which come across as a kind of cross between English and some unknown dead language. And like Can, Cul de Sac often lay down an elemental droning groove that dispenses with conventional chordal progressions, though it supplies the foundation for all sorts of fluttering, buzzing post-psychedelic embellishments (particularly on guitar). It goes without saying that this is not terribly accessible music, even for many alternative rock fans. The tracks (all but one of them between eight and twenty minutes in length) are not so much songs as abstract improvised statements, or canvases upon which the singer and the band splatter colors to create moods, mixing serenity and terror in varying doses. It's not hummable, that's for sure, but it's not monotonous: some passages hover on hellish abyss, but others insert tribal pulses, funk grooves, and almost folky prettiness, sometimes with shades of Middle Eastern and Asiatic music. Suzuki sometimes goes into vocal convulsions that are both impressive in their range and apt to grate when he reaches particularly gulping high pitches or guttural growls. It's also very well recorded, so much so that much of it could easily be mistaken for a studio product rather than a live concert.


Formed: 1990 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Shunning the burgeoning alternative rock movement, Cul de Sac intertwined elements of surf rock, Krautrock, Middle Eastern trance and folk music, post-rock psychedelia, and avant-garde to create a unique blend that garnered immediate critical attention. Formed in the early '90s by guitarist Glenn Jones, multi-instrumentalist Robin Amos, formerly of the Girls, and Bullet La Volta drummer Chris Guttmacher, Cul de Sac released their first LP, Ecim, on the independent Northeastern label. Bassist and...
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Abhayamudra (Live), Cul de Sac
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