Child-eating goddess inspires a mixed blessing.
Spencer Grady 2010-05-24
Many centuries ago, the Balinese witch queen Rangda was banished from her kingdom on charges of magical malpractice. From that moment, she lived only for revenge, dedicated to spreading chaos among the people of Java.
The trio of Sir Richard Bishop, Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano have chosen an apt moniker for their largely improvised powwow. The lion’s share of sounds on False Flag display the same destructive tendencies as its venerated deity. Tumultuous blow-outs such as the tricky, yet mercifully brief, Waldorf Hysteria and the fruitless tom-tom rolling of Fist Family are bouts of sheer messy bedlam; vicious free assaults that fuse the torrid squalls summoned from Bishop’s and Chasny’s guitars and bludgeon them beneath Corsano’s percussive pummel. There’s no denying the brilliance and originality of the three musicians involved, but too much of this collection seems acute in its anonymity, the distinct voices of its three protagonists lost in a smeary brouhaha of directionless, impotent bluster.
Fortunately, Rangda the group mirrors the duality of Rangda the daemon in totality – for she was frequently regarded as a protective, benevolent goddess. False Flag’s more pastoral, largely composed, moments find the trio weaving a mesmeric spell of idyllic enchantment. They’re also the instances when the influence of Sir Richard Bishop’s veteran ethno-occultist unit, Sun City Girls, comes to the fore. On the sumptuous slow-motion spiritual, Sarcophagi, easily this set’s highlight (and one of the most beautiful pieces of music this writer has heard in a while), Bishop lays down a series of mournful ghostlike melodies, recalling the spectral blues vignettes of Loren Connors, as Corsano deftly coaxes some metallic murmuring from his ride cymbal.
The concluding Plain of Jars is nearly as impressive, with its spiralling psychedelic licks unfurling into the starry night like the protruding tongue of a certain misunderstood Indonesian divinity – a devilish dose of faux eastern esotericism that comes over like some long-thought-lost archaeological find from the Sun City Girl’s cult masterpiece, Torch of the Mystics.