Intuitive grease paint, Drooling to relate, All of life's mi
Jonathan Dedward | Nowheresville, Slothwestern North America | 08/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1987, the album 'Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate' arrived. As the follow up to 'Mind...' it took the creepy, brooding atmosphere of 'Bites' and 'Mind..." and ran. 'Cleanse' is probably the most consistently dark and morbid sounding album Ogre, Key and Goettel ever produced. A sense of decay and Lovecraftian Gothic/apocalyptic horror pervades nearly every track. This is also the first album to bring the band's overtly political views to the fore.
Unfortunately, this same thematic consistency proved to be a bit of a liability in the end. Most of the album, as cool as it is, isn't exactly the most memorable collection of songs. In fact when I'm not listening to the album, I have difficulty recalling what exactly happens between tracks 2 and 8. For me that middle section kinda fades away when I'm not physically immersed in the music. But I still really love this album and its horror movie sensibility. I'm not bothered by the fact that it's a mostly mid-tempo affair with less variety than most Puppy works, but I think some people might be.
"First Aid" starts the album off strongly as usual, with a solid beat and typically esoteric lyrics bemoaning abortion (or AIDS). I've heard this song described as a dance-club hit, but it doesn't strike me as particularly dancey, just pounding and dark. "Addiction" (a song about addiction!) is more catchy still, rather like a song from their 'Bites' LP. The drum pattern is immediately engaging, and Ogre's unusually raspy and down pitched vocals are countered by a very beautiful synth-violin that floats elegantly in the background mix.
"Shadow Cast" moves the album away from the dance floor with a messy collage of odd percussion, sampled screaming and synth noise that recalls aspects of some 1970's-style horror movie. "Draining Faces" is even less of an instrumental than a dramatic tension builder. It begins with a long loop of creepy samples that are stark and absolutely chilling, bringing to mind Poe's aesthetic of decaying Victorian architecture and its mad occupants. Slowly the collage of whispers and sounds builds and finally erupts into frantic electronic beats that do nothing to resolve the ongoing sense of gloom. "The Mourn" starts off with a loop of distant, hazy-sounding piano that again is evocative of some turn of the century tale of fright. A barely restrained electronic drone swells and recedes, threatening to drown out everything else. This is a very serious Halloween atmosphere.
"Second Tooth" starts off awkwardly, with a sputtering beat and strange timing on Ogre's lines. It does start to flow more easily after the first minute however, and becomes downright catchy in an angry, unconventional way right around the second minute. It's an angry song, not at all bad, but not as memorable as maybe it could've been. "Tear or Beat" is a slightly less interesting song, with an off-kilter feeling with some very interesting elements and some other elements that don't work so well. The song's reliance on a very dated synth-bass melody that thumps throughout its duration really annoys me. It's quite silly sounding and completely unnecessary, undermining the brutal sound that I love about the rest of this album.
"Deep Down Trauma Hounds" is as well known as it is brilliant. It's a brutal, intelligent sounding indictment of war-mongering that was as timely and political during the years of Reagan's presidency as it is today. It's also bloody catchy, dance floor worthy and a beautifully layered composition. I'd say this, even more than "Addiction," is an SP classic on par with "Dig It" from the 'Mind the Perpetual Intercourse' LP.
"Anger" is a deeply intriguing song because it's deep layers are so hard to penetrate. The beat is solid, but there is so much else going on that it takes several listens to really grasp everything. Ogre's lyrics are indecipherable, mixed way down, and there seems to be no official transcription of them available anywhere online. Based on what I've gathered from listening to various live versions, the lyrics are even more unusual than in most Puppy songs. Anyhow this grim song is pretty great (the version on the album 'Ain't It Dead Yet [Live]' is even more powerful). "Epilogue" is the final, brief nightmarish atmospheric that caps the album.
'Cleanse...' isn't perfect but it is a terrific addition to anyone's collection, especially fans of horror, fans of Skinny Puppy, and fans of unconventional music in general. The recording style of this album sort of anticipates the density of later albums like 'Too Dark Park' and 'Last Rights' but also retains just a tad of the minimalist feel of earlier works. I enjoy 'Mind...' slightly more than this, but I still give this 5 stars."