AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Dave Kerman/5uu’s – The Quiet In Your Bones (2022; Cuneiform Records)

It has arisen…like the great city called Nineveh rising from the ashes amidst the hot desert sands…like an Assyrian robed spectre returning to wreak wholesale destruction on our weak, soft, milk-fed modern world…like the supreme god-king Ashurbanipal awakening from his ancient slumber to bring about the final days…the new 5uu’s album, The Quiet in Your Bones has arrived!

Twenty years doth passed since Abandonship (Well, to be technical…eighteen years since the wonderfully Acousmatic sound slice of Tel Aviv Construction Events which, at least for me acts as a good and proper signpost to where we are now with The Quiet in Your Bones.) and now, the creative music world has been given an embarrassment of riches that would make Marcus Licinius Crassus soil his toga. Its scope is vast, its creativity is unbounded and it fucking howls like the baying of a Dire Wolf in heat…yes, it howls!  Indeed…Kerman has delivered!  Mr. Cow and the Swiss Family Bears would be proud of their favorite son.

The Quiet in Your Bones deserves a track-by-track examination (which I will not do justice to but will comment briefly on each piece) but first, some general observations.  This album shares many qualities of a home recording.  I beseech you to not let that fact put you off or taint your views before listening to it.  It’s this very “home-made” feel that allows it to build-out its unique sound environ.  The sound of everyday found objects interacting with carbon-based lifeforms are plentiful and act like building blocks for the greater whole.

Additionally, imagine a gossamer veil of dust, a Planck-length layer that even the slightest intake/outtake of breath would cause irreparable damage to its very structure.  The entire recording is inundated with it.  I think it’s this quality (some may call it an imperfection…they would be misguided) that gives The Quiet in Your Bones its very essence.

Finally, the album has an endless parade of mysterious and, for the most part unidentifiable “found sounds”.  Whether some of these concrète events are further tweaked and/or processed is beside the point.  The mystery of these sounds is the key, the ear candy that unlocks the gates to his sound world.  How sporting of Dave to throw these in.

The songs… let’s run them down:

  1. “Sign Maker”-Like all the works on this album, this low-key little number demands close, attentive listening.  Here we are greeted by the outstanding vocals of Michele Fuchs.  Dagmar Krause + Carla Bozulich = Michele Fuchs.  Doesn’t that seem like a tantalizing alchemy?  Wonderful (and wonderfully complex) melody that goes on seemingly forever before resolving.  A simply lovely miniature…like the Royal Doulton on my mother’s dresser.
  2. “Quills and All”-Epic grandeur.  An Avant-Prog/Greek mythological tragedy with playing that echoes the 5uu’s from two decades ago.  The fire is their folks! This has Fuchs playing the role of a Diamanda Galás-like sky/storm goddess screaming down her wrath on all creation.  Pummeling, pulverizing, and incredibly powerful.  At 13 minutes, if you aren’t left tongue-tied and crucified after this then you are already dead.
  3. “King In A Coma”-A song about a royal Nepalese familicide incident. This short piece is propelled along by a frenetic, punkish energy overlayed with the Nepalese national anthem. Eventually dissolving into a hazy morass of crunchy things, the veil is punctuated with the disturbing sounds of automatic rifle fire.  The ending forces the listener into a first-person view of a rather disturbing scenario.  No spoilers.
  4. “Sociopath Song”-If you are feeling lost in a twisted funhouse whilst being stalked by an evil clown with rictus grin and dislocated limb, don’t feel bad…I feel that way too.  A deep dive will reveal more Acousmatic treats for the discerning ear.
  5. “Routine”-The second (of three) extended-length sound novellas.  This one, like “Quills and All” will most certainly please the Avant-Prog fans and will provide much succor for their Henry Cow fetish.  While Kerman handles most of the sounds and instruments on this album (the Zeuhl-ed out bass line and galvanic drums on this cut are quite special), take note of the Organ solo by Dave Willey (one of several notable guests on this album) because it fairly wails. A centerpiece, and rightly so.
  6. “Immured Again (Naturally)”-This instrumental number doesn’t as much plod but drags itself around like a wounded snail leaving its essence behind on the hot dirty pavement.  The well-endowed bottomed bass is the prime mover and on top of that, I can hear certain math-rock moments within the spikey melodies.  Yeah, I can see this as the soundtrack to being cemented alive within a wall and I’m quite sure Gilbert O’Sullivan would not approve…not approve at all.  Tsk Tsk Tsk!
  7. “That Saved A Wretch Like Me”-Another instrumental, this one being a sonic mural of death by drowning of Witches in Switzerland circa (I assume) 15th Century.  All the 5uu’s puzzle pieces are on display, from complex, rehearsal-intensive arrangements to the quirky, off-kilter general vibe of unexpectedness…all gently covered in antique, dusty haze (as the whole album is).
  8. “War Elephants In The Room”-Here we have a short, 3-minute indictment of Hannibal’s mistreated Elephants as metaphor for our modern society’s disillusionment with our so-called leaders.  I see this piece as more of an interlude to what comes next but, in and of itself is another excellent RIO-infused corker.
  9. “Occams Razor”-This third large-scale colossus clocks in at 12 minutes and is the penultimate exclamation mark on a wonderful record.  Keith Macksoud, Daves’s bandmate from Present contributes his bass stylings to this contemporary music opus of grand proportions. What was originally intended as a “simple” piece turned into a goblin of complexity in its execution.  Polyrhythms abound and the intensity quotient is very noticeably jacked up.  Kerman assembled disjointed jig-saw pieces into a monolith of madness that can only be described as 5uu’s on the purest of adrenalin. 
  10.  “Mouthfuls Of Gravel”-Going from an Avant-Prog scream to a slow build wall of sound with a percussion patina, the album ends in a rather fitting fashion…  an extinction event.  Kerman likens it to the apocalyptic catastrophe of 250 million years ago but somehow is strangely apropos for our current times.  Go figure.

That’s my rundown, The Quiet In Your Bones is one helluva fine return to form after a twenty-year absence and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other excellent musicians who added their talents here.  Liesbeth Lambrecht contributed lovely violas on track two, Bill Gilonis added Guitar and Bass Clarinet on track four and Joel Trieger played the guitar intro on track nine.  All did their part in yeoman fashion to help create what I would consider…dare I say, a masterpiece.

Finally, massive credit to the final mastering job by Bob Drake.  The album itself was, for the most part, recorded in a low-fi fashion which is not necessarily a bad thing…in fact, on many recordings (including this one) I would say quite the contrary.  Drakes’s final touch should be noted as an essential contributor to the overall sound world and great commendations are in order.

Top contender for best of the year…with a bullet!!!

Mike Eisenberg
Twitter: @bigaudio999