This is Crowmeat Bob's first real album as a leader, but he's been making music in North Carolina for two decades in multitudes of bands and collaborations. Judge Schreber's Avian Choir is a project name he's used a handful of times in the past to front large ensemble pieces involving composition, improvisation, and conduction, usually for just one or two live performances of a given piece. For "Bleed", the performance was a recording session at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium, engineered by Nick Peterson and mastered by Todd Rittmann. It's a document of a conducted collaboration with 15 bowed string players, a heavy metal rhythm section (including Mike Isenberg of Savage Knights on drums), and Bob's own overdubs on reeds and guitar. It's an ambitious monument, with long string orchestra passages giving way and combining with heavy metal eruptions. Powerful riffs, halos of harmonics, deft improvisations, textured landscapes.
Our take: This record is a little outside what I usually cover in these roundups, but I wanted to give it some attention because 1. releases like LBB’s Popped Music on Iron Lung have clarified that some hardcore punks can get down with experimental and avant-garde music and 2. I fucking love it and can’t stop listening to it. Judge Schreber's Avian Choir is a very large ensemble: according to the label’s description, “15 bowed string players, a heavy metal rhythm section … and … overdubs on reeds and guitar.” There are no vocals and the four tracks here aren’t pop songs, rock songs, or event avant-metal songs, but a hybrid of experimental orchestral / chamber music and heavier, metal-informed drone music. The only things I’ve heard that it resembles are the 70s Belgian group Univers Zero and the Japanese composer / playwright J.A. Seazer, but I’d be surprised if too many Sorry State readers are jamming those. Anyway, the music on Bleed is expansive, encompassing spacious drones, skittering, insect-like organic rhythms, mournful and moody microtonal harmonies, heavy rock riffing, and wide open, Ornette Coleman-meets-Darkthrone sonic catharsis. While it’s wildly creative, it never feels difficult or arcane. I think that’s because this record doesn’t trample over the boundaries between genres, but offers us a window into an alternate universe where those boundaries don’t exist. If you’re an adventurous listener with an ear for this kind of wide-angle, symphonic grandiosity, I encourage you to pick this up.