Mad EP: The Madlands
Ad Noiseam

Mothboy: Deviance
Ad Noiseam

Though both Mothboy's Deviance and Mad EP's The Madlands exemplify Ad Noiseam's ever-increasing stylistic breadth, Matthew Peters' ambitious triple-disc collection of twenty-five tracks is understandably the more encompassing of the two. It's not as overwhelming a release as it first might appear, however, as each of the trilogy's parts is EP-length, making for a total running time that's comfortably under two hours. The three discs boast separate titles—“Player Piano,” “One Chelydridaen Night,” and “Damaged Goods”—, suggesting dramatic differences between them; on the contrary, when heard in its entirety, the release comes across as a diverse whole assembled from admittedly non-linear parts—a nomadic travelogue much like the NY-based classical-electronic composer who created it (Peters produced the work over seven years during stays in ten apartments in five cities); what unifies it beyond Peters' sensibility is the recurring appearance of his cello playing (especially affecting on the placid ballad “Lilies & Libations”). Adding to the set's appeal is the guest list: Mathhead, Chaonaut, and Bryce Beverlin II perform remix duty, plus there are appearances by DJ 1000000, singers Lisa Iwanyki and Eronica, trumpeter David Young, and Peters' own improv-jazz unit, The Manhattan Gimp Project.

Open-minded experimentalism is the order of the day as Peters wends his way through dense thickets of electronic hip-hop, exotic soundscaping, edit-heavy funk breaks, insectoid abstractions, and avant-jazz. A passable Rod Serling imitation inaugurates The Manhattan Gimp Project's set-opening “Gumbo on the Run” (Peters' cello later quotes The Twilight Zone theme) but it's Scott Lamberty's saxophone honk and Mad EP's blustery backdrop that one remembers more (the same applies to disc two's “After Hours”). Guided by Young's muted trumpet, “Accounting For Wasted Breath” enters a Badalamenti-styled noir-jazz zone (disc three's “Old Habits (Farmer Tan edit)” literally incorporates Twin Peaks' backwards-talking dwarf); Young also struts his Milesian horn on “Cider EP” and has his vocals shredded on “Lotus Eater Repose.” The “7 pounds” remix reveals little evidence of Mathhead's handiwork until the halfway mark when the track explodes into gloriously heavy throb. Elsewhere, Iwanyki emotes over a curdling hip-hop backing in “Salamander Blue” while Eronica adds sensual exhalations to the soul-house “Drug (Random Mood mix).” The Madlands includes some remarkable moments, like the soundscape “I Thought I Saw You Dying,” which resembles a peyote-influenced tour through a Moroccan gravesite. How apropos that, in the laptop software playing The Madlands' discs, the ‘Genre' info appears as ‘General unclassifiable,' a designation one presumes would please Peters.

Deviance, Mothboy's (Simon Smerdon) excellent sophomore full-length, likewise attests to Ad Noiseam's range. Smerdon's bass-heavy attack gets stretched into copious directions in eleven diverse cuts that include pulverizing dubstep (“I Hit It I Caught It I'm Out”), rattlesnake broil (“Selfish Plan”), hallucinatory shoegaze (the outro “Down” featuring a memorable vocal duet by Son Of King Rebel and Soraya Mir), and an occasional gentle interlude (the church-like “Bienambo”). Ultra-detailed scenery keeps the trip interesting throughout but the album's peak hits with a front-loaded trio of superb cuts: more akin to Kid 606 than Enduser, the booty-bass flavoured “Given Away” mesmerizes with its insistent soul-funk rhythms, musing vocal title hook, marauding bass, and drum oomph; sounding like it escaped from a John Barry soundtrack session, “Triptych” nicely merges bass-heavy hip-hop rhythms with dramatic horn lines; and the snappy acid-jazz funk of “Outside” receives a wonderful boost from Suzi C's buttery vocal. Elsewhere, Mothboy liberally chops the title track into fragments, resulting into a stop-start booty-shaker of hip-hop craziness that's less cohesive than the opening cuts, while UK provocateur Akira The Don slathers the brooding “I Can See Cities” with a lascivious voiceover. Even if such tracks are comparatively less satisfying, they still argue in favour of Smerdon's inventive attack.

January 2007