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The Notekillers’ career trajectory is a strange one. They started in the mid 1970s. David First the guitarist was coming out of the free jazz tradition. He was joined by Stephen Bilenky on bass & Barry Halkin on drums. The Notekillers took the freedom they had found in free jazz and were applying it to the strictures of rock. They broke up in 1981 only having put out one single. 30 years later Thurston Moore made an off hand comment about the Notekillers single in a British glossy music rag. The band members got back in touch and decided to give the band another go. Instead of being an oldies no wave band, they ventured forth in exploration of sonic lunar landscapes.
The Notekillers were playing what they termed free rock decades before post-rock. But this instrumental free rock is not all hard edges like no wave; there is a strict form. It is calculated but heartfelt -- something that was sadly lacking in math rock. It is far more human than the coldness of post-rock.
The album opens with Crazy Horse wails of feedback before switching into kraut rock/math rock. “Eyelash” refers to the act, not the biological component -- as in lashing one’s eyes. It feels as if Neil Young & Crazy Horse decided to do a jam session with Neu! and they were pissed off at each other.
“Narrator” has a punky flair. “Modern Jazz” thankfully has little to do with the light, trite jazz that tries to pass as “Modern Jazz” -- I am looking you, Wynton Fucking Marsalis. “Waiting” is something I would not mind doing if this song was playing. It has the feel of walking out into the sun on a bright summer afternoon emerging from an air conditioned house. The Notekillers were playing songs like this 30 years ago. They beat Pavement to the punch a decade and a half before. “Goo Lab Brain” is one throbbing piece of flesh. It is unrelenting in its pulse. The clatter of drums and screams of feedback do not end. They only build, and build, and build -- like some secret tantra ceremony.
Considering the 30 year gap between recordings, the Notekillers have not lost any of their original spark. To think that David First not only fronts a pretty killer free-rock band, but for the last 3 decades he has been composing music and making minimal drone recordings. My mind is melted when I think of what their musical canon would look like if they stayed together. It might be a good thing, the break. They still are butting heads, still not settling down. The Notekillers cannot rest on their laurels. They are too busy killing it ever single night they play.