Savages join Bo Ningen and have a (Hugo) ball
Drawing energy from/reacting to the chaotic horrors of World War I, many of the performers at Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire, ground zero for the Dada movement, experimented with brutal, spontaneous, and uncompromising forms of clatter that they called “sound” or “simultaneous” poetry, sometimes resulting in patrons at the Swiss nightclub angrily storming the stage.
Words to the Blind, a collaboration between Japanese noise-rockers Bo Ningen and English art-punks Savages that attempts to bring those Dadaist concepts into the New Millennium, is not an easy listen, but it’s unlikely to result in anyone rioting. More likely Savages fans will be surprised that the group has abandoned the minimalist concision, laser focus, and camouflaged melody that made Silence Yourself the best album of 2013 in favor of… well, pretty much the exact opposite: a sprawling, unapologetically messy, occasionally tuneless, sometimes sleepy, sometimes explosive art-project detour/jolly good time, spread out over one 37-minute-long track.
Of course, as much as it boasts hallmarks of both bands’ strong and distinctive sonic calling cards (gawd, that Gemma Thompson guitar!), Words to the Blind shouldn’t be judged as “a new Savages album”— or as “a new Bo Ningen album,” for that matter. Rather, it’s a record of a moment-in-time collision, much like a lot of what Eno (another big fan of Hugo Ball) did with unlikely collaborators in the early ’70s, what Can and other Krautrockers tried to achieve via what they called “spontaneous composition” (and it’s worth noting that Bo Ningen also has collaborated with Damo Suzuki and Faust), and most of all what Wire preserved for us as Document and Eyewitness.
Essential listening? Certainly not. Pretentious but fun and artsy but appealing clangorous self-indulgence? You bet! And this unrepentant prog geek cheerfully accepts it as a holiday gift that will make the wait for that second full Savages album overdue for 2015 seem just a little bit shorter.
Savages & Bo Ningen, Words to the Blind (Stolen Recordings/Pop Noire)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 3 stars.