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Words to the Blind [Slipcase] *
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Performer Notes
  • Lyricists: Jehnny Beth; Taigen Kawabe.
  • Personnel: Jehnny Beth, Taigen Kawabe (vocals); Gemma Thompson , Yuki Tsujii, Kohhei Matsuda (guitar); Fay Milton , Monchan Monna (drums).
  • Audio Mixer: Johnny Hostile.
  • Liner Note Author: Gemma Thompson .
  • Recording information: The Red Gallery, London, UK (05/29/2013).
  • Introduction by: Thomas Bernhard.
  • As two of the wilder bands to earn acclaim in the 2010s, it's easy to hear why Savages and Bo Ningen are mutual fans. On the best moments of their debut, Silence Yourself, Savages lived up to their name, bringing some much-needed passion back to indie rock; a similar restlessness informed Bo Ningen's breakthrough album III, which transformed psychedelic rock, Krautrock, and more into something uniquely their own (and also featured Savages' Jehnny Beth on a track). The bands' collaboration Words to the Blind, a partly improvised, 37-minute performance described as "sonic poetry" and inspired by the Dadaist movement, could have been paralyzed by pretension, but the sheer energy both parties contribute makes it an often thrilling listen. The two bands bring out the best in each other: Bo Ningen's psychedelic flow helps Savages unleash their experimental impulses more fully than they did on their debut, while Savages' fiery attack galvanizes Bo Ningen's already formidable sounds. Recorded live at one of the bands' performances of Words to the Blind, the album places Savages in the right stereo channel and Bo Ningen in the left to approximate the show as closely as possible. While picking apart their interplay is rewarding in its own right, it's more satisfying to let the entire piece rise and fall in its entirety. Aside from its somewhat lengthy whispered beginning, which threatens to cross the line between anticipation and irritation, the music isn't difficult to get into even at its most challenging. The bands explore a taut, implosive beginning that echoes jazz improv in its interplay before moving into experimental rock that flirts with grindcore and noise with a surprisingly effortless flow. Before coming to a furious close, Words to the Blind nods to Silence Yourself's dark post-punk just once, which may frustrate listeners hoping for more of the same. However, fans of either band -- and experimental music in general -- who appreciate Savages and Bo Ningen's restless spirits will likely enjoy Words to the Blind for what it is: equal parts duet and battle, and a hell of a ride. ~ Heather Phares
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