It really comes as no surprise upon listening to Dark Meat that they should share members with fellow pioneers of the effervescent neo-psych movement, Of Montreal, Circulatory System and Elf Power. On their second record, Truce Opium, the Athens, Ga., punk-psych collective pull out all seemingly imaginable stops en route to creating a masterfully done Kraut-rock revisionist’s album for the new decade. The eight song set, a tour-de-force of free jazz, acid rock, folk and sunny pop, clocking in at just over 50 minutes, tosses Gong, MC5, Neu!, The Flaming Lips, even The Royal Trux in a blender, mixes them around and ferments for before being exposed to the immense rays of the Georgian sun. What allows these contrasting components to come together so fluidly in Truce Opium is an unrelenting yearning to play weird music in a howlingly loud and raw fashion.
Accompanying horn sections with an Eastern tinged section that includes at times a sitar and a tanpura, Dark Meat are able to etch a deep groove that is at once glitzy and whirring. Coupled with an uncompromising energy, they achieve a blissfully abstract quality that avoids the deep pretensions their otherwise probing music would attract. The third track, “Flaps” is a caustic race through a cosmic sprawl, a virulent yet pleasant ride down an interstellar highway that sounds like the “Rainbow Road” level from “Mario Kart 64″ looks. The rhythm section lays down an infectious beat, echoing the kraut rock heroics of Neu! 75 while the trumpeting and tromboning of Charlie Estes and Aaron Jollay emphasize just how kickass a horn section can be employed in a space rock outfit. “No One Was Here,” the next track, commences in the middle of a trance-like state with the throaty singing of backup vocal trio the Subtweeters, giving way to a plodding floor tom beat and a scaling guitar line that highlights the fretwork of guitarist Jim McHugh. The song continues to gain momentum as the Eastern overtones in the beginning evolve towards a single chord strum on a heavily distorted guitar and the solos become increasingly spastic amidst pulsing feedback, pushing it towards freak-out territory for the remaining seven minutes. “When The Shelter Came” sounds like a bizarre take on a duet between Levon Helm and Emmylou Harris treated to a psychedelic makeover, demonstrating the immense scope of the band’s influences.
Truce Opium takes the punk ethics of sweat and unscrupulousness and synergizes it with the eloquent avant-garde aesthetic of meticulously crafted yet completely out there and uninhibited pieces of music. For that, the entire album thrives off of its dichotomous nature; despite its frenetic pace there is a calming, Zen-like aura that is bred from the album’s drone influences, a championing of the motorik style. Even though the music comes across as punk, complete with the ethos of brevity, the songs are monolithic in length. And for all the trebly, high pitched squeals of the fuzzy guitars and trumpets the album relies heavily on the pounding rhythmic interplay among the two drummers and bassist. While I can’t argue that the band is attempting anything new here, there is a level of daring in their crazy concoction of influences. Making it all the more laudable is how a band that sounds like it has made its living on stage can convey such a remarkable au naturel quality in the studio. There is a looseness about Dark Meat that, more than anything else, seems to be a direct of their cohesiveness and faith in the mission statement of creating some of the utmost interesting and indefinable music of the decade.
Neu! – Neu! 75
Gong – Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1)
Olivia Tremor Control – Music From The Unrealized Script, Dusk At Cubist Castle