The Virgins

The Virgins

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The surveillance tapes were running in order to address an unrelated security concern, but revealed interesting details concerning the reception of a large pack of Brax-Tone CD review copies. As to whether this material has any relation to avant-garde maestro Anthony Braxton and other aesthetic questions, a set of assistants best described as "evil minions" seem to have many of the answers. "When a record company makes all its releases look exactly the same it means they all are exactly the same," says Igor, whose responsibilities include commenting on the appearance of strange items in the listening laboratory.

"This is from Sweden," says Colin, recently hired from some State Department job. He is supposed to keep track of where things come from, since much foreign stuff shows up in the lab.

Perched from a high-above shelf, The Raven is already ready to start an argument with

Igor. This huge black bird likes his job of music critic in the lab: for one thing, he gets to say a whole lot more than "Nevermore."

"Out of two Brax-Tone releases sampled, there are absolutely no similarities other than the cover design, as black as my feathers, the liner notes as skimpy as that vole I chewed on yesterday afternoon."

"And they are both from Sweden," Colin add. Igor, who has already had some trouble with the law, insists he will not be the one to do the necessary web search on a group called the Virgins, whose self-titled CD is apparently the 15th release on this label. "I don't want all the kiddie porno connections," the evil minion explains.

He needn't bother worrying, since the use of the term "virgin" in rock & roll alone is enough to keep entire teams of sex police busy. There are easily a dozen different combos with some kind of virgin in their name, be it golden, vinyl, flying, metal, false or original, be it prunes or wool. Some 50 songs have been published in which a virgin is present in the title, or at least someone claiming to be a virgin.

"Groups with Virginia in their name are also part of that category," Colin suggests to complete dissension. The Raven announces that so far he has found no trace of Anthony Braxton influence on Brax-Tone products other than the fact that "putting out lots of records" seems to be an essential philosophy of either party.

Extensive documentation of the Swedish avant-garde scene during the Brax-Tone era of operation will be a natural result. The Virgins seem to be a incredibly well-rehearsed outfit whose collection of 11 tracks makes for quite a contrast with some of the loose free improvisation and noise music the label has released. The quartet -- one or two guitars plus bass and drums -- does get into the latter sort of sonic bombardment, to be sure.

Proof of that can be found in a set of agitated scribblings from yet another lab assistant known as a reactor: "Track five has machines fighting in an old video arcade, maybe 1976, a Pac-Man machine." From an earlier section of this text: "Chattering guitars. Like being pelted with marzipan."

There is a disturbing part of this reactor's notes, the sort of comment that does not bode well in the final analysis of a project. "Frog at the end of the fourth track is the best part of the entire CD."

"Did you check the frog?" The Raven was asked.

"Yes! Absolutely brilliant. It of course proves that nature is the best music," the bird answered, deeming it unnecessary to provide a few beautiful caws to seal the argument.

All this means is that the Virgins failed to actually come up with anything to make the seasoned avant-garde listener forget about nature, obviously an essential goal, and a shame considering the trouble the group went to in rendering tremendous performances of not only death metal but swinging jazz during this program. The performances in these genres are really fabulous, although their side by side existence on one CD point at irony, not always something a fan of either genre is interested in. Other tracks such as the final so-called "80 (Extended Dance Mix)" have such lame grooves, sounding like a cover band doing the Police, that an ironic interpretation is the only way the boat floats at all.