Blue Sausage Infant: Negative Space

Washington, DC's Chester Hawkins would seem to be one of those rare artists who's been producing quality material for decades while still remaining somewhat under-the-radar, known and appreciated within an immediate circle but less recognized outside of it. Having refined their skills and working methods over many years, such figures typically possess such broad technical expertise they're able to crank out quality music on a regular basis without a whole lot of fuss or drama. Hawkins, who's been producing a highly personalized fusion of mutant spacerock, trippy ambient-drone, and electronics since 1986, does exactly that in this full-length outing under the Blue Sausage Infant name. Negative Space neatly spotlights the man's various talents and tendencies, with an opening side-long foray into kosmische soundscaping followed by two shorter pieces, one a small-group krautrock-tinged jam and the other a rather more viral take on kosmische dementia. To create the material, the ever-resourceful Hawkins supplemented synths, lapsteel guitar, bass, stylophone, tapes, bulbul tarang, oscillators, and ukulele with plastic teeth and electric toolbrush.

On the twenty-one-minute opus “Motion Parallax,” a distorted voice drifts dazedly over the track's swooshing surfaces, the voice and the slow-motion musical accompaniment suggesting a hallucinatory state of chemically enhanced entrancement. Rather than fading into oblivion, however, the music gathers steam with the emergence of an insistent, midtempo beat pattern whose forcefulness invigorates the surrounding elements. Even so, the material plants itself firmly within the kosmische tradition, with echoes of '70s electronics pioneers and synthesizer bands never too far out of earshot, and the somewhat psychotic character established at the opening reinstates itself when the voice re-appears at track's end. If “Motion Parallax” generally holds to a slow-burn level that never gets too far out of control, the flip's title track burns more intensely, in part because Hawkins is joined by guitarist Jeff Barsky, drummer Mike Shanahan, and Jason Mullinax, who contributes percussion and electronics. What results is a scalding jam where blazing six-strings and electronics trade fire for fifteen minutes, with all of it fueled by muscular and motorik rhythmning. An album-ending seizure of raw guitar and electronics, the aptly named “Subferal” violently writhes for six minutes as if trying to escape its electronic straitjacket. The cherry on top in this case is the coloured vinyl pressing (in a limited edition of 500), whose foggy grey swirls seem a perfect match for the mind-melting sounds rising from its grooves.

October 2011