Another luxurious 180-gram vinyl from the label Thin Wrist, The Birth of Cruel is Open City's follow-up to the 2002 LP L.A. We Revise Your Neglect. The trio still consists of two electric guitarists (Peter Kolovos and Doug Russell) and a drummer (Andrew Maxwell). This album presents two main differences. First, the pieces are longer. Second, silence plays a more prominent role in the music. That is, the improvisations leave a lot of room for breathing and show minutiae in the spatial-temporal placement of sound gestures. If it sounds arid stated that way, in fact it makes for very dynamic, although fragmented music. Each of the three pieces bears at least four different titles in sequence, hinting at a "suite" form, but identifying a clear transitional points between these "sections" is virtually impossible. Side one begins with the "Assembly Language" suite, the piece coming closest in terms of density to the material found on L.A. We Revise Your Neglect. Maxwell is particularly busy laying down a rough percussive terrain (Paul Lytton comes to mind, but a Lytton who would have spent a couple of summers with Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo). The shortest piece at seven minutes, the "Fetch and Squabble" suite presents two handfuls of ideas and climates flashing by in front of the listener's ears, like the stings from a swarm of bees, each prick more precise than the previous ones. Side B is all devoted to the 20-minute "epic" (the word goes well with "suite"; it feels like a progressive rock album) "A Valley Forge," one of Open City's finest moments. The trio manages to sustain the momentum despite several angle shifts. The last five minutes or so see the two guitarists conversing in a noisy but very articulate way, before joining forces for a quiet drone (never)ending on a locked groove.
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