The Squid’s Ear | Nicola L. Hein – The Oxymothastic Objectar

By Brian Olewnick

You say you like your guitar served harsh? This, then, is the record for you. Seven extreme, and fascinating, live-recorded abusals of the instrument (a severely battered one, judging from the cover image) by Hein using Wittgenstein quotes from ‘On Certainty’ as titles. With an odd exception here and there, it’s a pretty unrelenting journey, not due to excessive loudness (though there’s some of that) but in Hein’s insistence on “unmusical” attacks.

One has the impression that, in large part, Hein is assaulting his guitar, mauling it broadly enough that gurgling static acquires an equal share of the resultant sound-environment as anything overtly emanating from strings. Some picking and thrumming emerges — it’s often heard below the surface, slightly reminiscent of certain early Frith ventures — but we’ve gone past any Bailey-esque notion of abstraction, lyrical or otherwise, into in-your-face sonics: rapid-fire, little room for breath, jagged-edged.

The second track (I won’t enumerate the very lengthy track titles), with bowing and feedback, actually abates matters somewhat, though only in a lessening of the wall of sound, not a reduction of harshness; it’s very effective. The third features recognizable guitar playing plunged into abysses of burbling fuzz and loose circuitry. The fourth cut is the outlier here, a relatively delicate sequence of arpeggios (again recalling Frith), lovingly layered, wistful though still carrying an acidic tinge; very fine. Then it’s back into the maelstrom, easing off briefly now and again but essentially diving into that metallic, cracking world peered into earlier. It’s a bracing trip, not for the faint-hearted, but decidedly rewarding for listeners attuned to Kevin Drumm, Keiji Haino and other denizens of that terrain.


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