ST37 - "Nunavut"
(Blue Circle 2002, GI 70,double CD-R)
From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
In the tradition of previous ST37 cassette ('John Deere Isolation Tank') and CD-R ('Frantic Search For Zero') releases comes another installment of the band's collection of rehearsal space / garage jams and improvisations. And clocking in at over 100 minutes, it's their longest such release so far. "Groover" opens the proceedings with a two-chord chug under all the standard ST37 ingredients and accoutrements - liberal fuzz and echo on the guitars, high-pitched synth chirps and sweeps from the Roland SH-101, and a precisely-driving rhythmic pulse.
Things really hit deep space with the third track, the 16-minute, "Legends On". Starting with bass man Scott Telles playing sweet recorder melodies over shifting drones and a bit of synth swoosh (plus some band chatter and tuning [drums, too!] noise, but sometimes that's unavoidable when the best jams happen), melodic guitar and organ tones (the latter, I believe, played by special guest star Elijah Telles, Scott's son) gradually ease into the sonic stew and gradually intensify into a driving rhythm. Eventually, the spirit of full-on improv takes over, and the jamming gets quite amorphous before the music gradually dies out over a slowly repeating bass pulse and keyboard noodling.
"Among Peaceful" is a lengthy droning piece, with cool wah-ed/filtered/echoed guitar leads (sometimes reminiscent of Nick Saloman with Bevis Frond) in parts, and lost-in-space vocalizing elsewhere. Classic ST37 throughout! Nice Mellotron sound (although surely not the "real thing") on the brief "Pt. II". The low-key and spooky "Could, Born" brings the first CD to a close (is that Elijah again, at the end, criticizing the guitarist?). "The Pride And The Hole" sounds like a fully-developed song, reminiscent of some of the more memorable tunes from Amon Duül II's 'Carnival In Babylon'/'Wolf City' era. Hopefully, it will see some sort of reworking for a future studio album.
This set makes a great companion/contrast piece to the band's most recent "real" album, 'Down On Us', which presented mostly ST37's more punkish and song-oriented sides. Not that everything on 'Nunavut' is a languid space jam (although the 18-minute "The Pledian" exemplifies ST37's vision of THAT sound)! "Hanging Alibi", for instance, is 5 minutes of high-energy overdrive spotlighting Carlton Crutcher's wailing vocals and synth swoosh (a good thing, since he has subsequently departed from the band). "Psychosquarlic", another great high-energy tune, could pretty easily evolve into a rocking song, and even has a tiny bit of Texas twang in some of the guitar parts (but the pummeling rhythm is, of course, much more Hawkwind/Neu! than any band they'd ever have performing on 'Austin City Limits'). Even more heavily rhythmic is "I Am Drowning", until it breaks down to end. "On Either Side" also features a great percussive pulse from drummer Dave Cameron, and is another track that would make a good song on its own, as would its even faster & heavier follow-up, "When You Were Dreaming", with the rhythm section going wild at the end.
After those rocked-out numbers, it's appropriate that "They Time" starts out as another relatively distant space jam, but it soon evolves into a massively heavy album closer. Telles pounds out doom-laden bass riffs that would do any stoner-metal band proud, even as the band slowly ratchets up the intensity level until breaking apart with a slight coda to the melodic intro. A great trip the whole way through, and evidence that a hidden camera in ST37's rehearsal space would be far more worthwhile to tune into than any "reality" TV show ever could be.
For more information you can visit the ST 37 web site at: http://www.st37.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Blue Circle; PO Box 4962; Austin, TX 78765.
Reviewed by Doug Pearson