Asteroid Schoolhouse - "Mind-Drill" (InstrumenTales Records 2000)
Asteroid Schoolhouse - "Two Big, Fat, Bass-Playin' Dudes" (InstrumenTales Records 2001)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
On Mind-Drill, Asteroid Schoolhouse return with more of their lo-fi instrumental improvised noise rock. Though the harshness of their debut, Blame Your Parents And Move On, is present, Mind-Drill comes across as being more controlled and close listening reveals instrumental intricacies that make this a tasty jamming guitar noise-fest. Fans of the avant-guitar experimentations of folks like Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Derek Bailey will enjoy Asteroid Schoolhouse's noisier, and often spaceier, take on the genre.
"Yodel" opens the set with a static high pitched whining space tone, percussive clatter, a droning bass, and guitar that seems to cross both Frith and Fripp, with a right turn into space. A nice little jam tune. But from "There's Plaid In My Soup!" we launch into beautiful chaos with a mosh of Snakefinger-like guitar and an array of high volume sound. And speaking of the late great Snakey one, "Uncle Don's Umbrella" struck me as being something like Part II of the Residents/Snakefinger rendition of "Satisfaction", only here the individual players stand out more amongst the madness. Having a sort of freaked out dance feel are "My Underwear And Why I Wear It" and "Eugene, Fred, And Henry". Underwear is a noise and clatter dance song, while the later features jamming guitars and varied, but well placed noise patterns that give it a robotic dancey feel. Strange indeed but mucho fun. The guitars on "The Hamburger Song" are playful and remind me of something from Fred Frith's Gravity/Speechless albums. But there's also an incessant, brain-piercing bird-call sound that seems to keep the beat. "So Happy, She's Sick" is a simple lo-fi bluesy rocker that's given a dose of complexity by the trio of guitars that come together so nicely from contrasting orbits. A really solid guitar jam tune that is head-boppin' while drifting a bit into the avant-garde. One of my favorites on the disc.
Two Big, Fat, Bass-Playin' Dudes is Asteroid Schoolhouse's most recent effort. While Mind-Drill places the guitar front and center, this set is a more purely cosmic affair that incorporates heavy doses of ambient noise into the proceedings. This was apparent from the opening track, "Deep Space S.O.S. Transmission", with its freaky signals that sound like communication with the beings billions of light years away. Of course there's plenty of guitar combined with the space efx. "Davy Jones' Locker" features spaced out electronic noodlings but with equally noodled acoustic guitars accompanying them. High pitched tones blast the eardrums while drugged guitar ramblings set the pace. Lots of tracks that include a gorgeous mosh of contrasting sounds, instruments and themes that just seem to work well together. I really like the mixture of alien drones, bleeps, burps, and improv acoustic guitar. "Red Line Aquarium" is a standout track with acoustic guitars, but also brain splitting tones that find just the right note to pierce your cranium and hold it. Definitely not for the faint-hearted but if you're the type that likes to listen to improvisational guitar music in one ear and Hawkwind and Ash Ra Tempel in the other, then Asteroid Schoolhouse will gladly mix the two into one channel for you. Tough to describe. Gotta hear it.
Both CDs clock in under the 30 minute mark, but the differences between the two are such that they make a great double set. If you're willing to seek the order amongst the chaos then Asteroid Schoolhouse is worth the effort.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz