Minimal Man

The Shroud Of

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Minimal Man's first album -- murky, moody, aggressive -- more than lived up to the mysterious cover art Patrick Miller created, featuring a blank-faced mask against a dark void. Audiences used to the focused precision of industrial music as it evolved in later years might find what's created here a bit unfocused -- not to mention lo-fi, with Miller's voice often sounding like it was recorded one room over. Yet in the context of such fellow Bay Area travelers as Chrome and N.Y.C. contemporaries Suicide, Miller's art made perfect sense, alien and unsettled, balancing drones, cut-ups, and keyboard noises ("The Shroud" is an almost perfect example of all three) with often extreme vocals. The punk inspirations that Miller felt translated themselves more into the lyrics than anything else, but musically things are far less straitjacketed. While Miller is clearly the dominant spirit on the album, he often sounds like a participant in something larger than himself, guesting in often increasingly manic songs. In turn, said songs are often quite short, packing in all kinds of musical psychosis in short spaces, like the two-minute-long "High Why," the near equally short clangor and stentorian crawl of "Hospital," and the pulsing moans and heavy distortion on "You Are." The swooping drones over Andrew Baumer's ominous bassline on "Two People" are suddenly halted by a sax squeal and Miller's burst of screaming, but in contrast much of "Now I Want It All" is almost power pop of a sort, unexpectedly anthemic while still very much in keeping with the album's uneasy feeling. Boutique's reissue, once again in keeping with the label's general philosophy, adds not only fine artwork and notes but bonus tracks, mostly from the "Two Little Skeletons" and "He Who Falls" singles, as well as the formerly compilation-only "Shower Sequence." The latter -- at eight-plus minutes something of an epic for Miller -- has him insisting through masses of reverb that he "couldn't even hurt a fly," though the music and concluding screams increasingly belie that claim.

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