Trenchmouth & Damon Locks

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Construction Of New Action , 6/10
Inside The Future , 6.5/10
Vs The Light of The Sun , 7/10
The Broadcasting System , 6/10
The Eternals , 6/10
Eternals: Black Museum (2002), 7/10 (EP)
Eternals: Rawar Style (2004), 6.5/10
Eternals: Heavy International (2007), 6.5/10
Eternals: Approaching The Energy Field (2011), 5/10
Eternals: Espiritu Zombi (2016), 5/10
Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds (2019), 7/10
Black Monument Ensemble: Now (2021), 5/10

Trenchmouth is a hardcore quartet from Chicago whose rigmaroles are infeted with heavy-metal solos and elements of ska, funk, reggae, even jazz. Vocalist Damon Locks and guitarist Chris DeZutter are superbly coupled, the former a terrifying preacher and the latter a creative volcano, but the whole owes a lot to the ingenious foundations provided by the rhythm section (Wayne Montana on bass and Fred Armisen on drums). The band conquered the crowds with its epic shows but the more complex EP Kick Your Mind And Make It Move (Dead Bird, 1991) revealed their true mission. Center Of The Universe and Making Money For Freak Machines are more than mere punk-rock fits, they bite with style and grace. Fugazi (for the unrelenting energy), Bad Brains (for the reggae overtones), Saccharine Trust and Universal Congress (for the jazz touches) are the natural precursors, and possibly even Black Flag (heavy metal blasts) and Minutemen (spastic meter shifts). The band was groundbreaking to say the least.

The full-length Construction Of New Action (Skene, 1991) boasts Ultraman and Friction, but fails to fully capitalize on the EP's intuitions. A jazzy Bear In Mind is the boldest track here.

The philosophical and visionary journey of Inside The Future (Skene, 1993) ups the ante, but only the dub instrumental Now I Have Tasted Life delivers the goods that the ambitious concept promises. The tone is generally more sinister and cryptic (Hit Men Will Suffocate The City).

The first two albums were combined on Volumes Amplifiers Equalizers (Runt, 1995).

Trenchmouth virtually invented "sci-fi core" with Vs The Light of The Sun (Skene, 1994). It is really Locks' personal show. Here Come The Automata, How I Became Invincible, The Effects Of Radiation and Doing The Flammability are chapters of a convoluted saga that relies on bombast and neurosis (and more funk than ever). A Man Without Lungs is a delightful excursion into dub.

The dub and jazz elements of Trenchmouth's music bring them closer to math-rock and post-rock on The Broadcasting System (Skene, 1996). Songs like Contrast Beneath The Surface and Interference boast odd arrangements, tempos and dynamics. In High Contrast is probably the piece that best summarizes the slower, softer sound of the album

As the band split, Damon Locks metamorphed into DJ Black Nuclear Power and teamed with studio wizard Casey Rice (who, as Designer, had released a few singles of drum'n'bass like 1996's Vandal, Arashi and Gebarck Star) to record the EP Super ESP (Hefty, 1998), an electronic project that delves into modern dance music and, of course, dub (Born With ESP, City Counsel).

Trenchmouth's bassist Wayne Montana and vocalist Damon Locks enlisted drummer Dan Fliegel and started a new band, the Eternals, that debuted with the single Chapter and Verse (Thrill Jockey, 1999) and the EP Where Will We Live Now? (Thrill Jockey, 1999), chock full of dub, jazz and funk. They were rehearsals for the album The Eternals (De Soto, 2000), produced by John McEntire and Casey Rice. A stronger emphasis on keyboards, an intellectual post-rock stance, a stubbornly mid-tempo dub beat and a complex, dissonant, warbled jungle of sound effects redefine acid jazz and trip-hop in tracks like Billions of People, Stirring Up Weather and the instrumental Forever People. The funkier Phase 3, Eternally Yours and The Eternals 2000 are almost anthemic. On the lighter side, the Eternals can shore up cocktail jazz as they do in Feverous Times. The soundscape gives Locks plenty of chances to show off his vocal skills, all the way to the almost mystical rapture of the closing ballad, The End and the Beginning.

The Eternals' music was much more sophisticated and ambitious on the mini-album Black Museum (Aesthetics, 2002), with Tortoise's John Herndon on drums, a collection of lengthy disjointed suites of hip-hop, dub and electronica.

The Eternals' EP Out of Proportion (Antifaz, 2003) blended reggae, funk and post-rock in a less subtle manner.

The Eternals' full-length Rawar Style (Aesthetics, 2004) is perhaps too anarchic for its own sake, but its convoluted funk-punk jams, halfway between Material and the Contortions, rank among the most visionary moments of post-post-rock. The intellectual, brainy hyper-fusion of Heavy International (Aesthetics, 2007), deconstructing and reconstructing funk, dub, jazz and techno is the post-rock equivalent of what the Talking Heads did to the new wave in the late 1970s.

The Eternals still recorded Approaching The Energy Field (Addenda, 2011) Espiritu Zombi (New Atlantis, 2016)

Meanwhile, Damon Locks was becoming also a visual artist and an educator, even teaching art in a prison, and became the vocalist of Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra. He founded the Black Monument Ensemble, a loose collective of singers and players first documented on Where Future Unfolds (november 2018 - 2019), a live recording of their inaugural performance, featuring clarinet player Angel Bat Dawid, who had just recorded The Oracle (International Anthem, 2019), percussionists and several vocalists. After the introductory Statement Of Intent/ Black Monument Theme, a political/aesthetic declaration a` la Fugs over free-form percussion, the concert settles into a festive collective folk-jazz experience reminiscent of Lol Coxhill's Welfare State, except that archival speeches are an integral part of the show and upgrade it to agit-prop art. It is a concept album of sorts, although several passages are intentional cryptic, the same way that Brecht's theater enjoys "estranging" the viewer. Sounds Like Now couples hypnotic tribal drums and a vibrant clarinet solo before a gospel choir intones a lamentation about poverty. A clarinet invocation opens Solar Power, a sort of Greek theater in which a choir advances an idea and various sampled speech of activists respond. Which I Believe It Will is a vignette of retro-electronic effects that seem to be stolen from a vintage sci-fi movie before, and Which I Believe I Am is simply a brief sample of an African dance. The Afro-beat drumming segues into The Colors That You Bring, based on another interplay between a yearning melody sung by the choir and the sampled voice of an activist, with a finale that is pure gospel frenzy. After the cacophonous jamming of The Future? (one of the cryptic movements of the album), the choir intones an anthemic refrain of "power", simply repeated with maximum emphasis for four minutes. The closer, From A Spark To A Fire, is a lively Afro-beat dance.

Now (2021) suffers from the fact that it was recorded during the covid pandemic, partly indoors and partly outdoors The ensemble consists of electronics (Damon Locks), cornet (Ben LaMar Gay), clarinet (Angel Bat Dawid), percussions (Dana Hall and Arif Smith) and six vocalists. It is not surprising that the pieces feel less cohesive, more "collage" than "song", and in general more "digital", artefact. There's a charming choral singalong inside Keep Your Mind Free that seems to hark back to the 1950s, and the tour de force of The Body Is Electric (10:24) radiates plenty of raw energy with savage percussion and excited horns but too much of the album feels unbalanced and confused.

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