BILLY BAO "SACRILEGE" Afterburn CD (Melbourne)

Liner Notes:

The Decline of Billy Bao

Perhaps the entire project was corrupt from the very beginning.  There is the matter of Billy’s sensational back story, of course, which threatens constantly to subsume the band’s music, almost as if by design.  Or, what’s more troubling, the deliberate scarcity of the band’s records.  Odd, isn’t it, that while Mattin and Xabier throw thousands of euros into making lavishly packaged, do-it-yourself releases from their various projects, Billy Bao records are always (just barely) bankrolled by various hip labels, mostly in America, and released in miniscule, vinyl-only pressings calculated to stoke the fetishism and paranoia of the collector’s market.  And now, this, a cynical repackaging of the band’s three 2007 recordings, which in a move copped from the Steve Albini playbook, all but dares the consumer to purchase the CD you now hold in your hands:  “Hey, asshole, seeing as you were too lame to buy the vinyl when you had the chance, why not finish yourself off with this ephemeral, bastardized version of the real thing.”  Who buys CD’s nowadays, anyway?

Each of the records collected here was conceived with a specific format in mind.  The twenty cross-faded minutes of Fuck Separation could only have been a two-sided 10” EP; “Accumulation” is obviously tailor-made for the 7” format; and the Dialectics of Shit LP is of course crammed w=++ith jokes and references to the peculiar instability of vinyl which only make sense if you play the record on a turntable.  To listen to these recordings in digital form is a gesture as corny and pointless as listening, conversely, to the Mille Plateaux catalog on vinyl.  Or as Billy puts it, in typically histrionic fashion, it is sacrilege.  Together those recordings add up to precisely 60 minutes of music and not a second more, a gesture calculated, no doubt, to remind the listener of the hourly wage he has squandered in listening to the CD instead of working.  It represents a strictly regimented hour of leisure, if you can call listening to Billy Bao a form of leisure.  In this respect, too, the digital format proved unforgiving, as the mastering program the band used to assemble the compilation stubbornly added two seconds to the disc.  The only solution was to amputate those two seconds from one of the cuts on Dialectics of Shit.

Perhaps the moment one seizes the permanence of exile and embraces it, represents the decisive au revoir to authenticity.  Here I sit, after all, jabbing at an inadequate Olivetti “personal computer” (a rental, no less), dried palm fronds shielding my eyes from the obscene pineapple sunlight of this West Indian backwater, all the while picking distractedly at my plate of enchinalgas and mamatxiles al nogal, caring not a whit that this sad simulacrum of Home, erected by some misguided gusano as a tax writeoff (or more likely, a front for who-knows-what), is barely even a restaurant; that this slop I’m eating, which exists nowhere but here and anywhere else that impoverished expats haunt, is an undifferentiated loaf of deep fried plantains and mandioca in boar’s fat, seasoned with paprika and parrot shit. 

Well, a profound sense of calm takes over the moment one realizes, once and for all, that exile is permanent, that one shall nevermore kiss the fertile shores of the fatherland, that the hearth is but a figment of febrile imagination shielding one from the Real.

Billy Bao, himself an exile, is no stranger to inauthenticity.  In fact, his band reminds me quite a bit of the meals I take at O Parador, this wretched little outpost where, frankly, neither English nor Spanish is spoken.  There is one crucial difference, however, between these counterfeit pork chops and Billy Bao, the band, and that is that I can take comfort in knowing that my doleful supper will soon dissolve into the sewers of this tropical wasteland, such as they are, whereas the Frankenstein monster that is Billy Bao will persist as long as there is recorded sound and zeros and ones.

You see, recordings are ultimately all that there is to Billy Bao.  The band is a purely generative project, an entity that exists only in its recordings.  They never “rehearse”:  Everything that happens between these four musicians “happens” on tape – or, rather, in the virtual reality of Mattin’s hard drive – and is released sooner or later.  Occasionally there is an audience, but mostly recordings are all there is.  In 2007, the year which, according to the mercenary rock & roll press, marked the thirtieth anniversary of punk rock’s anarchic explosion into the popular consciousness, Billy Bao existed for precisely one hour – 60 minutes, and not a second more nor less, a meticulously crafted and controlled hour, as precise as a digital clock.  All that fuss, the improbable back story, et cetera.  All for one lousy hour of music.Billy and his band may be evasive, willfully ambiguous, even exploitative, but they are ultimately not dishonest.  Just as the slippage in the band’s press bio (For instance, how is it that the two-year-old boy holding Vulpes’s 1983 single on the cover of Dialectics, appears to be a man in his mid-thirties on the cover of this CD?) invites the listener to question the construction of public image and its role in her perception of the band’s music – to confront, in other words, the fallacy of unmediated expression; so the self-referential quality of their records, Mattin and Xabier’s blatant digital manipulation and post-production of ostensibly “live” recordings, and the perverse decision to create purely digital music only to present it as a vinyl-only release (and then, of course reissue it on CD with the title Sacrilege), are testaments to the translucency of Billy’s discourse.  They serve as reminders that there are no more bananas here, no coca leaf, and no Billy – just simulacra, spectacle and dream.

Acapulco Rodríguez O Parador, San Juan de Spinoza, January 1, 2009


Aquarious Records (California)

album cover BILLY BAO Sacrilege (Afterburn) cd 15.98
A killer cd compilation from Spain-via-New-York noise rocker and audio experimentalist Billy Bao, whose May 08 lp we made Record Of The Week, and whose Dialectics Of Shit we reviewed recently as well. This cd collects that Dialectics lp, as well as a handful of earlier releases. The whole thing is packaged in a jewel case, then wrapped in sandpaper and sealed shut with duct tape. Here's a review of the Dialectics lp, now cd, and after that we'll give a quick rundown of the other stuff compiled here.
So first up is the wonderfully titled Dialectics Of Shit, and we're happy to report, that while the horns that were all ovr May 08 seem to be M.I.A here, everything else is present and accounted for, BIG TIME. A gloriously filthy, in-the-red, sludge fueled noise drenched monster. Weirdly produced, super chaotic, rife with sharp angular skree, pounding Neanderthal drums and a growled phlegmy vocal that seethes maniacally. All that stuff is locked around single, KILLER riffs, each track, a looped hypnotic crush, that riff pounded out over and over and over and over, while the various other elements swirl and careen all around it.
Insane bursts of grinding crunch, thick sheets of Merzbowian hiss, long stretches of brittle jangle and thump that will suddenly get swallowed up by a blown out wave of sub sonic low end, or a cloud of white noise will well up obliterating everything in its path, all the while the bass and drums 'groove' churns away, often emerging from one of those disruptions a whole different beats, a sort of muted murky bit of surf guitar, some weird twang, everything off kilter and woozy and noisy and INTENSE. The guitars are sharp and jagged and rough edged, slippery and warped, the riffs seem to be melting, or crumbling to pieces before your ears, the whole record a stumbling, lurching, blackened dirge noise behemoth. All the while, little hooks, and insanely catchy flourishes surface here and there, keeping the record weirdly catchy, and almost poppy occasionally, the sound is schizophrenic, about faces all over the place, sudden edits, overlapping sounds that don't seem to fit (but somehow do), voices all tangled up in guitar melodies tripping over struggling drum pound, everything on the very edge of total collapse, somehow held together in one massive speaker destroying chunk of tweaked and twisted heaviness.
The weird thing when you finally see these tracks in your cd player, is that all the songs are of an exact length, almost all the songs on Dialectics are 3:00 long, the two songs from the ep are exactly 10:00 each, and all ten of the tracks from the 7" are exactly 1:00 long. Weird.
ANyway, the Fuck Separation ep from 2007 is two ten minute long jams, the whole thing, all twenty minutes made up of the same riff, a killer for sure, looped and locked and pounded out over and over and over, while the vocals howl, the sound shifts from sharp and jagged to murky and muddy, only near the end, does it begin to unravel and fall apart in a glorious pile of broken beats shrieking feedback, the riff never letting up until the very very end.
The Accumulation 7", also from 2007, follows a similar pattern, locking into a single sludgey garage-y Brainbombs style groove, while the vocals howl and mewl, and the sound gets more and more brittle and noise and fucked up until it devolves into a blonw out nearly white noise damaged psych free-for-all.
Incredible stuff. Heavy and heady, fucked up and freaked out and damaged and demented, and some of the best shit we've heard in forEVER.
MPEG Stream: "I Am Billy Bao, Right Here Right Now!"
MPEG Stream: "Tight Ass Bleeds"
MPEG Stream: "I Am A Mirror / Putrefied Egos"
MPEG Stream: "Borders Of Mass Deception"
MPEG Stream: "1"
MPEG Stream: "2"

Duck Battle Satan

Mattin is a name I’d heard of over the past few years which never made much of an impression and it was only after I read the interview with him The Wire that I thought ‘d seek some of his stuff out. Surprisingly, my local rip-off indie store had this little nugget sitting all but itself for supercheap money. I was expecting something a little stranger than the art/noise punk that Mattin’s band churn out here. I was kind of expecting something a little more Mouthus like, given the number of paragraphs written about his love of improv and AMM. This is sub-Stooges garage punk for the art set with some nice noise underground bits and it really works for me in ways I wasn’t expecting.  Sacrilege is actually a compilation of the vinyl releases that Billy Bao put out in 2007. It contains the Accumulation 7 inch, Fuck Separation 10 inch and the Dialectics of Shit LP. Hats off to Scotti from Missing Link whose Afterburn label has again rescued some never heard obscurities from oblivion. The packaging is great and the booklet is a cracker. Just don’t get sucked into the label description – they almost make this sound like something between Whitehouse and Cherry Point. It’s not – it’s better. Lord I enjoyed this and if you like the clip below go throw Scotti some of your cash over here.

w.m.o/record label
desetxea net label