The Vienna-based trio's second LP following 2013's crushing debut Licht (BLACKEST 016LP), Crack finds Peter Rehberg (Editions Mego), Christina Nemec (comfortzone), and Christian Schachinger crafting a powerful alloy of extreme electroacoustic music, luminous ambience, and the mineral fundaments of rock and black metal. Opener "Spalt" immediately signals a departure from the monolithic doom of Licht, conveying instead a sense of adrenalized movement, of acceleration toward an ever-receding horizon. There is no percussion, yet Nemec's chasmic bass and Rehberg's protean electronics give rise to an unstoppable momentum. Schachinger's highly lyrical, spiraling guitar improvisations nod to Fripp and Göttsching, but Shampoo Boy's vision of the cosmos is more hard-boiled and unforgiving than that of their forefathers. On "Riss," slow, ceremonial down-strokes suggest a return to Licht, with the addition of Rehberg's unintelligible conversation-snippets, machine noise, and nameless natural currents mingling in pernicious hybrid forms that curl and ricochet about the stereo field. Subterranean bass tones, meanwhile, seem to reverberate from an ancient and appalling source. It's typical of Crack's unorthodox Weltanschauung, however, that just when we think the game is up, we are faced not with oblivion but with potential absolution: "Riss"'s closing section is a gravely serene tone-painting. Side B is given in its entirety to the three-part "Bruch," the most potent and pugilistic manifestation of Shampoo Boy's brute psychedelia to date. Part I is a near-gothic assemblage of tortured computer processing, abyssal drones, and stray industrial noise. This gives way to the calm but agonized concrète of part II, sparse, minimalist, dub-damaged. The broiling digital synthesis of part III complements annihilating slow-motion riffage; a thuggish monochord attack that feels almost Stooge-ian -- grungy, swaggering, sewer-savvy -- but doubles back into abstraction. It becomes impossible to distinguish individual instruments, processes, or contributions; the group mind takes over, the third eye is on fire, and the album climaxes in a black flash of negative ecstasy. Epic in scale, complex in mood, and dazzling in technique, Crack is a momentous achievement from three improvising musicians at the height of their powers. A lived-in and emotionally charged work, harrowing but energizing, it is also a sustained achievement of arrangement and post-production remarkable even in light of its makers' pedigree: the harshest and heaviest passages are rendered with a sense of space and richness of detail that is truly otherworldly. Russell Haswell's astute mastering amplifies this, resulting in one a supremely exhilarating and rewarding work.
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