Gang Wizard

Meet Me at Merkato

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Merkato is an Ethiopian restaurant in L.A. that the three members of Gang Wizard are fond of, but the source of their sounds on this compilation of various recordings over three years is elsewhere. There's a definite New Zealand fetish throughout Gang Wizard's work, specifically of the noisy-as-hell Xpressway side of things and the Dead C in particular, but those who appreciate the rampage of such groups as early Unwound, Sonic Youth's noise-upon-noise '80s heyday, and the acid stomp of Ghost will find much to love. "Intro" may be little more than a couple of beats, but the messy sprawl of "A-Frame" is something else again. Vocals are unintelligibly screamed, the drumming loud and propulsively simple, and the feedback just piled on over and over again. Some songs, like "Hispanic (You Don't Realise I'm)" and "I Got Your Letter," have some fun riffs to keep up the headbanging fun -- sort of. When the trio does decide to tone things down, the spare beauty works just as well as the everything-up-to-11 approach. "Rabbit in Red," apparently a nod to one of Mike Landucci's Black Bean and Placenta Tape Club bands, uses gentle space rock guitars and quiet singing to make its initial point, only getting more ragged as it goes. Other songs, like the two untitled tracks (one on each side, the second using some sudden trumpet blasts at the end) and the quite excellent "Tribute to the Arc D'Triomphe," aim at a balance between volume and restrained playing and pace, a good way for a listener to get temporary breathers in while waiting on the next huge explosion. Fun bits: "A Demo for R.E.M.," another one of the calmer numbers and something which would have done a lot better with people than most of what was on Monster, and the self-descriptive "Theremin Is the Star."