Psi's third full-length album is their hardest hitting and most consistent to date. The group, now also using the moniker pee-ess-eye, has been on a progressive course from a quiet electro-acoustic improv unit to noise terrorists, and Artificially Retarded Soul Care Operators (which deserves an award for its title alone) offers a stunning document of this transformation, with very good sound quality and superbly demented artwork. A collection of studio and live performances recorded in 2003 and 2004, this album features Jaime Fennelly, Chris Forsyth, and Fritz Welch at the top of their creative game. The two-part "Bhoiler" introduces listeners to the trio's tortured vision by the back door: things remain relatively quiet, with electronics, guitar, and percussion sticking to abstract realms, interacting in subdued fashion. There are a few outbursts, but nothing that matches the violence and intensity of the next pieces. "Golden Showers" is the group's only hit single -- that is, a studio take of this brutal structured improvisation was released in 2004 as a colorful 7". Here it is given a tongue-in-cheek treatment in front of a small but receptive audience. Then comes "We Broke the Sun," a 16-minute improv of rare intensity, best described as deafeningly quiet, culminating in devastating hits on the floor tom. "Avi for Abcess" and "Permanent War" are pure harsh noise, while "Whiplash" comes back to a more delicate form of improvising. Quiet or loud, Psi's strength resides in total abandon and an approach to free improv that puts some so-called "non-idiomatic" improvisers to shame. Artificially Retarded Soul Care Operators is fun, but it's not pretty. And it completely ignores the unspoken barrier between free improv and noise.
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