1. Soma Remix by J K Broadrick (Stage 1)
4. Soma Remix by J K Broadrick (Stage 2)
2006 Tortuga Recordings
These Massachusetts boys, like other de rigueur two-pieces, create quite a caterwaul on their releases. They've tended towards the HEAVY as a really heavy thing realm, reveling in the desert-baked Big Riffs of Kyuss or the original Birmingham bred blues-based doom of Sabbath. It can be a potent skull-crusher of a sound when hammered out right.
On Versus (two songs from their split with Kid 606, as well as two remixes), 5ive pound away as solidly as ever. The songs give way to vast open fields of minimal sounds that careen into pulverizing Isis-fests of tribal drums and detuned guitar shards. Pelican have been at this trick for a while now, and it's hard not to see the rabbit in the hat from a mile away. Mono does it with more finesse and volume. Yet 5ive add a gloomier tone and a grittier veneer that others of the ilk wouldn't dare.
Hydra Head golden boy and erstwhile Godflesh and Jesu mainstay Justin Broadrick applies the remixing to one of Versus' in two versions. Hence, "Soma (Stage 1)" and "Soma (Stage 2)." I know, you're probably sneering, just what we need, another fucking remix album. But don't expect DJ Jackass scratching in samples of "Disco Inferno" with a twist of Autechre. Broadrick lends his subtle touch effectively, with minimal Hammond organ and other ambient noises.
A Broadrick remix opens the EP. It begins with drawn out guitar chords and Broadrick's organ swelling massively in the background. Other swishing synth sounds appear from the ether, the music panning to and fro from speaker to speaker. A different keyboard melody commences, but just shy of two minutes the song abruptly stops. Done. Finit. This seems a criminal act, considering how Broadrick's take on the song was just beginning to dig its heels in and get really good. Instead we're left with the musical equivalent of blue balls and oozy visions of what could have been.
"Reso-1" begins sounding like a long lost Alice In Chains throwaway. It has that G to E bluesy guitar pull-off. You envision a shirtless fat guy in a cowboy hat sitting on a collapsing porch down south strumming this riff, chewing on a stick of hay or a stick of cancer or whatever. I wait to hear the ghost of Staley croon from beyond, but instead the rough pounding of the drums and dirty guitars rush forth. The drums go tribal and the guitars bust out this Edge-esque higher-noted and delayed arpeggio, bringing to mind the killer David Evans riff from "An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart" (off U2's Boy). All of it builds and builds, bracing us for an emotional apex. Ben Carr adds wah-wah flourishes, but rides heavily on his lower E string.
After a few minutes of this, I realize that 5ive suffers from the "jamming" virus that tends to afflict the best and brightest of our generation. See, many musicians feel it necessary to follow their collective musical muse down whatever winding paths it leads them. It's akin to a snipe hunt, because they chase away, never seeming to catch their prey. They do this with little regard for us, their audience. So you have the band wanking away for 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes on one riff, and we are expected to patiently sit through the musical equivalent of slamming the salami and "get it" or "feel it," when all we wind up getting is scoliosis and feeling bored and ready to ascend the stage and bash the boner riding soft-heads with their instruments.
However before such action becomes necessary, the song lunges into a nice, unexpected twist of the stop/start routine with longer pauses. This convinces me that 5ive know what they are doing and have it in their abilities to concoct unique, compelling music.
The other unmolested song "Soma" goes for a bit more of a psych-jam feel. 5ive recreate the same tempo and key as the previous song. It's primitive and pounding and I'm sure that's the point. The clumsy stop/starts dampen the effect, and when they switch to a ¾ beat with octave chords riding the E scale it sounds like far too many lesser-skilled basement screamo bands (of the Ebullition variety a la Funeral Diner or Yaphet Kotto). Later Carr produces weird, pedal-spawned guitar sounds over Charlie Harrold's slow-burning floor-tom booming drum part. It saves the song from death at the hands of mediocrity. The song dies like the world as T.S. Eliot opined, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Broadrick's other contribution does what his previous does not: embellish upon and improve "Soma." 5ive should take note of just how powerfully the addition of keyboards or non-guitar instruments can affect their sound. Broadrick adds a certain magic with simple synths and twists of knobs that others (like Pelican) cannot conjure.
Bottom Line: Bottom Line: 5ive are competent stoner rockers in the great toke tradition. Yet they'd benefit from the spice of non-guitar instruments. This EP offers a not-so-satisfying taste of what 5ive is about and what they can do.