- It's little wonder that Gavin Russom professes a strong interest in occult and ritual—his music is all about conjuring, about summoning forces, unleashing mysterious energies. Russom's compatriots at DFA—where he used to repair analog synths—called him the Wizard. Like an adept of the black arts, Russom wrestles with spirits. On Black Meteoric Star, his first solo project, Russom's homemade analog circuitry breathes, bristles, chomps at the bit and repeatedly tries to buck its rider altogether. It makes the music machine seem a creature like the Hebrew Golem or Frankenstein—forged by the Luciferian hand of the music-maker, designed to obey orders but always capable of revolt.
When we last saw Russom, he was collaborating with Delia Gonzalez on The Days of Mars, which remains one of the most out-there entries in the DFA catalog: a far-flung cosmic voyage that cribbed from the sci-fi excursions of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. In contrast, Black Meteoric Star is a full-on embrace of dance culture, steeped in tradition but not swamped by it, deriving its strength from first-wave techno, early Chicago house, acid, basically anything governed more by feeling or passion than training or expertise.
Russom has said elsewhere that the six tracks are meant to comprise the arc of a single night out: together they present club-life phenomena rendered in mystic-Gnostic form—the street entrance becomes the Death Tunnel, the first surge of bass and beats that washes over you transforms into a World Eater, surging with electric hunger, ready to devour, a swarm of furies in wingless flight.
Elsewhere Russom channels rock dynamics—the differences and repetitions on the fist-bumper "Anthem" recall trance-rock pioneers like Spacemen 3, Velvet Underground and Suicide, where churning rhythms get wound up into overwhelming, epileptic grooves. Four of the six jams are over ten minutes in length, not that anyone's going to ask Russom to rein it in. Quite the opposite—one wishes this was double-album length, or at least pressed on vinyl with lock-groove outros, the better to immerse oneself in the trippy bliss-outs at the end of "Dreamcatcher," or the aptly titled "Dawn," whose dogged downtempo swagger and Riley/kraut noodling seems perfect for that kind of blissed-out zombie sway that overtakes revelers come breakfast time.
Needless to say, with the amount of firepower you're dealing with here, the louder you listen, the better. Ideally try and catch the live show: Russom's recent performance at the MoMA in New York was visceral and entrancing. And, yes, while it's always a bit humorous to re-stage underground culture in something as institutional as the Museum of Modern Art, the juxtaposition didn't seem to drain techno of its life force, but rather affirmed its status as viable cultural expression. Plus it was fucking loud.
01. Death Tunnel
02. World Eater
05. Dream Catcher