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[pe131]Many Arms & Toshimaru Nakamura
[pe130]Ben Bennett / Jack Wright
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2
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EXO
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Survival Tricks
[pe116]Ron Anderson / Robert L. Pepper / David Tamura / Philippe Petit
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Normal Love - Survival Tricks
LP (NYC)



-lend some treats
-electrolytes in brine
-a throbbing sphere
-breathe through your skin
-grimy super soaker
-cultural uppercut
-i heard you could see baltimore from there
-cosmetic rager




Normal Love: Amnon Freidlin, Merissa Martigoni, Jessica Pavone, Evan Lipson, Eli Litwin, Carlos Santiago, Alex Nagle
Artwork by Diana Joy
co-released by ugEXPLODE

Reviews:
(Killed In Cars) I'm not ordinarily the kind of listener to participate in "best record of year X" rhetoric, but Normal Love has left me no choice in 2012. Avant rock fans: this is your album of the year. A co-release between Public Eyesore and Weasel Walter's ugEXPLODE label, Survival Tricks is available on CD and LP. Normally, PE promos show up on my doorstep in CD format, but I love this record so much that I'm going to order the vinyl, too. I first heard Normal Love back around 2008, shortly after their self-titled debut dropped on High Two records. At the time, I was obsessed with the "brutal prog" attack of the last few Flying Luttenbachers albums (especially "Systems Emerge from Complete Disorder" and "Cataclysm") and Zs "Arms" LP of 2007, and I was actively looking for other bands working toward similar integrations of the compositional rigor of contemporary classical music, the swagger of free jazz, and the boundless energy of hardcore and metal. The closest thing I found was the Normal Love debut, which I found incredibly interesting musically, though it lacked a little of the bravado of Zs and the Luttenbachers. 2009 brought the "Peel" EP, whose two songs hinted at new facets in the group's development with the addition of vocals by Merissa Martigoni and a new emphasis on jagged rhythmic work. As good as those releases are--and they're very much worth hearing--nothing can prepare you for the shock of "Survival Tricks." Listening to this album for the first time was one of those all-too-rare experiences (and the reason I get excited about listening to records) where I found myself shouting out loud in response to the music: "holy shit," "fuck yes," omigod, ARRRRRRR. Normal Love is a whole new band, every bit as technically gifted but alive with a magical, feral intensity. The raw power of this album can't be ignored. This recording couldn't turn into background music if you played it in a war zone. Have a taste for yourself: there is a new video for the opening track, "Lend Some Treats." While I could regale you with tales of the brilliance one can make of insane rhythms that multiply in Fibonacci-esque explosions, the contrary whole-step pulling between voice and violin on the word "try," the various regroupings on unison notes that pedal off in wild directions, and the impossible hocketing of sounds around the whole ensemble, experiencing it yourself is simply too primal and pre-language to adequately put into words. As you might imagine from that track, describing the stylistic tendencies of "Survival Tricks" is a challenge maybe better left to listening than description. The music focuses intensely on rhythm, both elemental macrorhythms and quickly-articulated nanorhythms: brainwaves soaring over the heart and the lungs. Though the songs mostly gravitate toward tonal centers, and melodic invention has its place (especially in the affecting melodies of "I Heard You Could See Baltimore from There"), rhythm and timbre demand the most attention. The closest RIYL notion that I can come up is somewhat abstract, but maybe it'll give you a good starting impression: I always felt like the Zs album "Arms" opened up a set of new sonic possibilities that nobody explored any further, including Zs. "Survival Tricks" goes many fathoms deeper into that territory than anyone has before, unearthing musical discoveries that will startle both your head and your heart. Most of these pieces are incredibly complex, fully satisfying for deep cerebral listening, but there is a raw power behind the whole record that demands more fundamental emotional reactions. You've got to feel this one. Now that most of Normal Love's tracks feature vocals, and they've taken such a turn toward the visceral from the cerebral, I found it interesting to note that the lyrical content of these pieces tends to focus on undomesticated fundamentals, too: moss, clay, earth, brine, water, solitude, young sex, "Life: quality or quantity?" I was also moved by the transcendent vibes of this record in terms of gender identity--so many albums that get this "brutal," for lack of a better word, feel overwhelmingly masculine, but this music is equal parts masculine and feminine. I'm sure the participation of women in the recording (Merissa Martigoni on vocals and keys, and Jessica Pavone on amplified violin on many tracks) has an obvious contribution toward that balance, but some of the best lyrical moments toward female empowerment were penned by men in the group, such as the lyrics to the "Baltimore" track mentioned above that came from bassist Evan Lipson. Hearing this record has changed the way I feel about music in a way that few records have done. This one is going on a very short personal list of heavy albums I return to frequently, including Kayo Dot's "Choirs of the Eye," Time Of Orchids' "Sarcast While," Extra Life's "Secular Works," and the Flying Luttenbachers and Zs records mentioned above. If you're into those bands, you simply have to give this a try. And Normal Love is planning a tour for later this year, which will feature new member Rachael Bell on voice/sampler, around late August/September--check for tour dates at their website. - Scott Scholz

(Still Single) Ingredient-rich RIO acolytes, residing in both NYC and Philly, explode forth in a clatter of neoclassically-trained, compositionally agitated, yet detailed and well-versed rock/anti-rock/nein-wavo pummel and scrape. Loads of ideas in here, all executed with tact and vigor; this is the line where the aggression of the beautifully untrained musician intersects with discipline, punk/anti-establishment ideals plugged into a mainframe and shot through a Silly Straw. Every time I thought some intractable cabaret-borne notion was about to foist itself on me (via tracks with names like “Grimy Super Soaker” and “Cultural Uppercut”), Normal Love surprised again and again with a hint of wisdom and an intensity that will wrap around both your mind and your throat. Not too many challenges have been awaiting me in the review pile, but even if it were, this one would get a very high recommendation. - Doug Mosurock

(Olive Music) What constitutes chaos? Is it the disconnect of instruments, disharmony, or the disembowelment of pattern? This question would cease to exist if no wave in 1970s New York hadn't risen. Glenn Branca, Arto Lindsay, and Lydia Lunch evaded conventions, thus awakening an earshot that raised more hairs than English heavy metal did that same decade. And like metal, no wave's following prevails, although its audience may have waned with age. Have today's proponents of no wave (or noise for that matter) adopted the dissonance as a vernacular? One person this query could be directed to is Bay Area no(w) wave savant Weasel Walter, who's been active in the circle for over 20 years now. In 1991 he founded and assigned himself drumming duties for the transient cast of the Flying Luttenbachers. Since then, he's performed in xbxrx and Lake of Dracula with the ex-U.S. Maple frontman and deity that is Al Johnson among many other outfits. Walter also has a great ear for production, separating dual-guitar bands across the left and right channels on their records. Above all else, he knows the style of music in which he plays better than anyone else and is known for giving lectures on it. What may read like Chinese to others Walter knows full-well and distributes to a less-fluent audience with his label ugEXPLODE and its catalog. Amidst the label's array of experimentalists is Philadelphia quintet Normal Love, whose 2007 debut was an abstrusely systematic chamber skronk venture. In the years that followed the self-titled album, the band had undergone significant alterations to its membership. Bassist Evan Lipson and guitarist Alex Nagle performed on Satanized's sophomore album Technical Virginity, the latter leaving Normal Love alongside vocalist Melissa Martignoni and violinist Carlos Santiago. The band's long-awaited followup has been underway for a good while, after lineup changes, intensive rehearsing, and a Kickstarter fund, but Normal Love's ugEXPLODE enrollment has brought the label one of its most diverse releases. Survival Tricks is a smattering of Normal Love's cited influences from no wave to industrial to musique concrète to extreme metal to contemporary composition. All of these styles form a fine alloy, a tapestry so tightly woven together that it can't be torn. The most immediate and bearing the closest semblance to verse-chorus-verse is "Lend Some Treats", which pounces onto an abusive meter with a panorama of choked violin strings and frenetic guitar harmonics. Newly enlisted vocalist and sampler Rachael Bell shouts at three-syllable intervals, and during the quasi-chorus wavers between two notes with the instruments suspended in a fog of open hi-hats. Normal Love's confounding expeditions transcend definition. The arrangements sustain their puzzling evocation throughout Survival Tricks when apace with instances of beauty. Ben Greenberg-esque guitar delay clots together, introducing how "Cultural Uppercut" juts outward with buoyant violin chords and damaged electronics as Bell's prolonged cries are reduced to a climbing oscillation. Its ecstatic sense of harmony is spiritual, though the erratic orchestration suggests a tension that never quite unhinges itself until the brooding "I Heard You Could See Baltimore From There". Bell's inflection turns operatic, offering a resplendent strain that she abruptly guts for jarring chirps. Growling bass encircles the band's bleak dirge, diffusing as dissonant plucks and jagged notes enter the foreground. Be it a negative-space metric onslaught ("Grimy Super Soaker"), guitar-scrape industrial ("Breathe Through Your Skin"), or myriad avant-garble ("A Throbbing Sphere"), Normal Love execute each with abiding tact and forethought. Survival Tricks's meticulous clamor is a trial to endure, but parsing through its many layers pertains to the joy of revisiting it. Chaos is its dialect, and though difficult to learn, it's worth comprehending just a few phrases. - Carter Mullin

(The Gumshoe Grove) HooooooooooooooooooooooooooBOY, I’ve been jamming my nose into the sweet-yet-stinky ”summer sale” Mimaroglu Music Sales is cultivating and it’s been tough to emerge from the K-hole, even when it comes to performing rudimentary tasks like going to work, driving my daughter to wherever and making toilet. I have, however, managed to free myself from MMS’ clutches long enough to take stock of the latest record by Normal Love, Survival Tricks. And I tell you: If ST is a war, many of you will not be coming back (especially YOU, Peterson). It’s a war of audio attrition, and I barely escaped tone-death myself muddling through this scare-tactic mess of glitches, rhythm-section antler-locks, guitar trickery and vocal overlording. It’s going to take more than a few swipes to get a good read on this one, but I’ll take a crack at it by dint of the following exercise: If I were to, Frankenstein-style, create a composite of Normal Love (who, perhaps one day, will form a super-duper name-combination group with Talk Normal), its appendages and body parts would end up something like this: the mouth of Chloë Lum, of AIDS Wolf; the reverse-dexterity found in the many limbs of Fadensonnen; the muscular drummin’ arms of Upsilon Acrux; the fleet fingers of Portland, Oregon’s Dilute; the hyperactive imagination of Ruins (or, for that matter, Sax Ruins); the violence-spewing violin-elbow of C. Spencer Yeh; the sick, sadistic pathos of Spires That In the Sunset Rise; the mother-brain of fellow ugEXPLODEers Toy Killers; the ADD of Feeding Tube’s Sports; the anything-goes whimsy of The Black Neck Band Of The Common Loon; and, finally, the groupthink sensibility/awareness of Horsehair Everywhere … HOLY FUCK — where to go from here? I suppose now that I’ve laid out a foundational appreciation for Normal Love the next logical step would be to flesh out their stuttering, mind-flogging, screeching, droning, squiggling, sputtering, spiritually guttural attack for you; then again, my little Frankenstein’s monster routine above went a long way toward explaining the thrust of this sick animal for you. Anything I add right now could muddle the message of this post, which is: Support the musical endeavors of artists such as Normal Love and a special branch of heaven will be awaiting you in the afterlife, one replete with broken instruments, improptu jam sessions, back issues of Bixobal and the sort of non-fashion sense expected when folks too nihilistic to even wear soiled band T-shirts congregate. Don’t worry, if I get there first I’ll hold a spot for you … - Grant Purdum

(Babysue)Folks into obtuse nervous jerky experimental music, listen up. Those who don't...should consider immediately covering their ears and running for the exit. Normal Love is a weird band. A very, very, very weird band. According to the press release, this band creates music by "...bypassing existing standards and inhabiting a strobing black-lit world where apocalyptic decadence meets the iron fist of Draconian law." Whoa. That may be a strange descriptive passage but it gives an adequate description of the tunes on Survival Tricks. This isn't atonal noise because there is order here. It's just a different sort of order with lots of oddball curves being thrown at the listener all at once. Imagine Yoko Ono fronting a group of Modern Classical musicians with a rock band playing in the foreground...and you might begin to have an idea of the overall sound. These folks are playing for a very small audience...and they obviously don't give a rat's ass about giving people what they want. In our odd little book of wisdom, that is a very good thing. Eight bizarre cuts here including "Lend Some Treats," "Breathe Through Your Skin," "Cultural Uppercut," and "Cosmetic Rager." This music is a wildly unorthodox trip... - Don Seven

(Perte Et Fracas) La brise du matin ne manquant jamais de me pousser vers le goulet du port, c'est avec un merveilleux esprit d'aventurier zélé que je monte à l'assaut de Normal Love. Et la montagne est belle comme disait le poète. Elle ferait même un tantinet peur répondit l'écho. A vrai dire, je ne sais par quelle face je vais l'escalader. Et surtout si je vais réussir à atteindre la moitié du sommet. Car l'accès à la musique de Normal Love est un long chemin tortueux couvert de boue et de crottes de boucs. Diaboliques, il va de soi. Les proctologues de la musique appellent ça de l'avant-rock. Je veux bien. Sauf qu'avant le rock, je ne veux même pas savoir la merde que nos ancêtres écoutaient. Nous devrions plutôt appeler ça de l'après-rock mais ça fait trop apéro avec des glaçons, voir post-rock et une seule minute de Normal Love réduirait instantanément en bouillie n'importe quelle cervelle de ce genre musical éculé pour anarchistes de droite. Certains proctologues plus érudits que la moyenne et aimant aller au fond des choses sortent de leur manche la terrible étiquette de Rock In Opposition. Soit un truc datant du début des années 70 par ce rigolard de Fred Frith et Henry Cow qui n'est pas son pote mais son groupe d'alors. Soit le désir d'éclater les règles du rock en vigueur, faire évoluer les mentalités des gouvernantes victoriennes qui servent de directeurs artistiques dans des maisons de disques frileuses et ne comprenant rien à rien. Mais tout ça fait horriblement rock progressif et depuis cette époque des rouflaquettes et des pattes d'eph, bien de l'eau a coulé et les pieds de Normal Love ont trempé dans infiniment de courants qui font avancer le moulin. Vous aurez remarqué que je fais tout pour reculer le redouté moment où il faudra un tant soi peu décrire ce disque. Nous allons donc parler de Weasel Walter. Ce toujours jeune freluquet, chantre de la batterie atomique et de la musique qui en découle, n'est pas du genre à s'amouracher d'un groupe tiédasse, d'un groupe qui y va qu'à moitié. Il aime, comme les proctologues, quand ça va profond, durablement et que ça fait mal. Nous touchons donc du doigt (c'est une image) le fondement de Normal Love. Un rock qui irrite, un rock qui dérange, un rock qui ne s'accorde à rien tout en s'accommodant d'une multitude de fragments de la musique au sens très large. Expérimental est un terme galvaudé tant il est utilisé pour n'importe quel boutonneux sortant de son école d'art pétant dans sa guitare et en modifie les sonorités avec pro-tools. Accoler à Normal Love, il retrouve déjà plus de sens. Le rythme est le noyau central. Qu'il provienne de la batterie de Eli Litwin, de la basse ou de la guitare de, respectivement, Evan Lipson et Alex Nagle (soit deux Satanized), de l'autre guitariste ou des manipulations électroniques du compositeur en chef Ammon Freidlin (ex-Zs) ou du violon amplifié joué tour à tour par Jessica Pavone et Carlos Santiago, l'impact rythmique est le souci premier. Des rythmes concassés, martelés, découpés au chalumeau, hachés continuellement. Tous les instruments participent et jouent sur les rythmes, en même temps, chacun de son coté, se répètent à l'infini, obstinément, l'impression douloureuse d'être au milieu d'auto-tamponneuses, la tête comme un punching-ball, un dialogue de fou dont les fils apparaissent puis disparaissent au gré d'humeur très changeante, des interactions de dingues entre chaque instrument se balançant des parpaings de haute voltige. Les cordes crissent, la basse tape, le rythme s'arrête, repart, s'arrête, explose pendant une micro seconde, s'arrête, passe la balle à son voisin, avec toujours ce souci de mettre de l'espace entre chaque instrument, ne jamais surcharger le tableau sonore. Ca fait froid dans le dos. La seule touche mélodique vient de la chanteuse Merissa Martigoni dont les cordes vocales n'étaient point présentes sur le premier album instrumental de Normal Love datant déjà de 2007. Enfin, mélodique quand elle veut. Sur le péplum I heard you could see Baltimore from there, elle est capable de nous faire une Charlie Lookker (Extra Life), diva d'opérette rock mais elle sait être aussi glaciale, hurleuse et primaire sur le ténébreux Breathe through your skin, détachée, douce ou narrative. Elle apporte en tout cas une touche d'humanité. Respire. Tout ça pourrait paraître très cérébral, ultra technique mais c'est exécuté avec férocité, avec intensité (sinon le Walter n'aurait pas apprécié), le canevas de structures se met lentement en place dans votre cerveau dérouté, capable de sauvagement vous agripper (Lend Some Treats), une symphonie animale, une chorégraphie millimétrée et burlesque. La rencontre de la musique de chambre et du hardcore, de la musique expérimentale avec des intentions belliqueuses, la complexité du prog-rock et le nihilisme de la no-wave. Autant dire que c'est n'importe quoi. Pas la musique de Normal Love mais ces honteuses tentatives d'associations stylistiques. Il vous faut donc écouter ce disque pas banal, par petites touches si nécessaire, remettre plusieurs fois l'ouvrage sur le réchaud pour dénicher la flamme incroyable qui agite ce Survival Triks. Je ne comprends toujours pas tout mais je n'arrête pas d'y retourner. - SKX

(Brainwashed) If the term spastic ever needed an audio equivalent, Survival Tricks would easily fit the bill. While it is rooted in an improvised rock context, bits of jazz, noise, and techno fly around like shards of broken glass in an album that is as equally abrasive as it is spectacular. Unlike, say, the work of Torture Garden-era Naked City, this is not a work of surgical jump cuts and stop/start genre hopping precision, but something more in league with Boredoms' earliest (and best) works. This is immediately apparent on the rapid percussion and repetitive guitar scrapes of "Lend Some Treats," which quickly drops out in and out of snare rolls and bass guitar hits, occasionally settling into some sort of vaguely funk groove. When the band settles into a more stable mood, such as the scatter-shot but propulsive "Grimy Super Soaker," it almost starts to resemble an '80s synth band and their gear being pushed down the stairs during a recording session. However, for all its chaos and noise, there is an underlying song-like structure that keeps it engaging, rather than just being a random blast of sound. The longer "I Heard You Could See Baltimore From There" does do a better job at staying in one place, at times settling into a more pop-like, though still highly unconventional structure. While it’s the closest thing to an understated track on here, that is not saying much. At times, this overly kinetic sound leans into grating, abrasive territories, such as the constant, repetitive scrape of "Electrolytes in the Brine" that simply goes on too long for such an abrasive approach. The following "A Throbbing Sphere" goes for similar repetition, but its shorter length and less trying sounds make it far more effective. Normal Love is one of those bands that make description extremely difficult. They’re anything but subtle, and at times, the rapid pounding and crashing can be exhausting. The album as a whole is a bit of an endurance test, but in bite sized chunks, Survival Tricks is a great freakout in the vein of early no wave noise rock that is best absorbed in small doses. - Creaig Dunton


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