Sometime around 1989 I was sat, minding my own business listening to John Peel (as you did) and in session was a band I hadn’t heard of, Band of Susans. I immediatly grabbed the volume control and turned it up, way up.
Named after the fact that the original line-up had three “Susans” in the band, Robert Poss was one of the others, that weren’t called Susan. After numerous line-up changes the bands core members revolved around Poss and Susan Stenger. Band of Susans split up in 1995 however, but not before leaving a noisy droney feedbacky legacy that has influenced many lesser bands and shamefully never really gave them the praise that they deserved.
The new album from Robert Poss, Distortion is Truth is a bit of a hotch potch really, there are songs, soundscapes, improvised guitar noodlings and frankly one or two things that sound like the tape machine was left in record while he tried a few things out. It all works however, because what holds it together is Poss’s distinctive and innovative guitar playing. Distortion IS the main tool here, and using this he brings out harmonics and resonances that become tunes in themselves.
He is not interested in riffs or songs, but tone and yes… drone. There are layers of meaning in what he does, I was listening to one track thinking “This is just one chord over and over” then I listened harder, and there above the root note of the chord were ever shifting harmonics that shimmered and shone like bells or gongs and shows the subtlty that Poss is interested in. The drones and the minimilism are there not as an artistic statement but as a simplistic backdrop for new ways of playing the guitar to come to the fore.
However, this IS a rock album (well… its not Loaded or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Nevermind) and you shouldn’t get the idea that is all a load of po-faced experimental guitar… man. On You were relentless he rocks with a deep grooving bass chug, hypnotic crashing drums and a weally wonderful wall of wah. And Managment Confidential is a bit of cool metronomic electronics with squelchy modular synths and analog sequences with a bit of an eighties feel.
I am interested in the guitar tone experiments but I find they get in the way of the really great tracks here. But in a way that is the point. You hear guitars, played alone and simple, a man trying things with tone, harmonics and feedback; then you hear guitars, in situ, placed in tracks with other instruments, and the whole thing just confirms what you already knew but maybe had forgotton while listening to “Clicking noises from Japan Volume IV”…
Guitars are GREAT…
Distortion IS Truth.