Pitchfork: Review of Slew
Attending a Thomas Dimuzio performance is like lying underneath a web of freeway bridges with your eyes closed; blocking out all visuals except the brief daggers of light that flicker with each passing car. There is a sense of probable dread—metal, wooden or cigarette debris from the vehicles could fly off and injure you- but also one of hypnotized calm, thanks to the amplified hum of Michelin and Goodyear against greased concrete. Dimuzio, a San Francisco electro-noise composer, seemingly replicates this experience with massive, body-vibrating drones punctuated by abrupt, skreeing hits of white noise. His improvised performances—usually performed with guitar feedback and short-wave radio files processed with a laptop and CDJ player-explore the gray area between tranquility and disarray, and they can draw your imagination into a wilderness it will refuse to leave, even when your nerves are shot by so many conflicting emotions.
Slew compiles the veteran's 14 years' worth of compilation tracks, which range between hallucinatory dronescapes and jolted short-wave experiments. The album is a sequel to Dimuzio's fine 2002 compilation, Mono::Poly, which features collaborations with notable noiseniks like Chris Cutler, Atau Tanaka, and Fred Frith—plus his document of DJ QBert taking musical brown acid. Like any Dimuzio record, Slew is filled with tracks that demand full attention—even during their quietest moments, instances which tend to gently shimmer to a scalding boil.
"Never Steven" opens Slew, and sets its mood. A remix of Dr. Nerve's "44 Nerve Events", the track is jumpstarted by a psycho-traumatic guitar rummaging through junk metal percussion and cricket-chirp microtones that kick in like a state of numb and blissful physical shock. "Radiotraces", Dimuzio's remix of avant-cellist Tom Cora, disrupts that peace with emotionally perplexed string melodies that seem to be stranded in the middle of the sea.
The rest of Slew never releases that tension. On "Usher Substart"—a suitable tune for a compilation titled Soundtrack for the End of the World—Dimuzio concocts a ringing and crescendo-rising drone from an electric guitar and a clarinet that resembles a field recording of an industrial neighborhood slowly melting in a thermonuclear firestorm. "Hinge Map Ridge" and "Zero Tolerance" also nod off to a bell-like drone, but in a more rhythmic and meditative light. "4 Poles" brilliantly unleashes fragmented, baby grand piano that skitters between stereo channels while the humidity soaks the walls with a soft, greenhouse din created from nothing more than feedback. "Untitled", which uncannily recreates a sweatshop atmosphere out of feedback and metallic noises that mimic a dozen sewing machines' ticktacking needles jammed with ripped hair and caked dust. And then there's "Turnkey (Onionhouse)", which dances in the acid-rainwashed streets with scrambled shortwave vocals and DSP'd beats that drag their bleeding feet.
Folks who consider drone music to be monotonous or pharmaceutically bastardized should obviously keep their distance from Slew. But Dimuzio's work doesn't require any postmodern conceptual disclaimer that must be read to understand any of his music—it is to be felt. Whatever your tastes may be, please consider his musique concrete zinger "Yard". Here, he gold-pans away the grime of an air conditioner drone and discovers a looped piece of gibberish from what the liner notes attribute to an Elvis impersonator in a parade. What sounds like Ben Ali go-carts then circle around and mutates into lawn sprinklers. So alien. (8.3) —Cameron Macdonald