Review: Exhaustion/Wanders – II

exhaustionwanders-iiIn my head, it plays out like this. Mere moments before pressing record, an earthquake rips through the Exhaustion rehearsal space. The lights cut out. The walls fall down. Everyone is bruised and confused. II documents the aftermath, as four musicians freak out and try to take stock. Guitar, drums, sax and bass (and occasionally shellshocked moans of human voice) all stagger through the darkness and swat at the smoke, assessing the extent of the damage, limping on wounded and bloodied limbs. It’s a record of pain and panic: four minds scrambling to comprehend a sudden catastrophe, using free improvisation to journal every twitch and blurt of (ir)rationale.

Something about the room acoustics evoke the sensation of being underground. I’m in a dark, dank concrete bunker perhaps, and a mild claustrophobia settles upon an atmosphere that’s agitated enough without it. During the moments of quiet – those fleeting dips into faux-calm, when the terror reduces to an anxious simmer – I hear cymbals fidgeting in protection of their personal space, batting away the guitar feedback that creeps over the kit. The bass guitar mumbles to itself in an eternally inconclusive monologue, with each note casting shades of scrutinising doubt onto the one just before it. Meanwhile, Kris Wanders’ saxophone is often the most brash and unmoderated presence on the whole thing, bleating in a such a way that seems to iterate the phrase “we’re all fucked!” over and over again.

The moments of loudness are often the most gruesome. Most notably, the second side opens with a horrible vocal wail that sends the room into frenzy: the drum kit tumbles to the floor like a body in seizure as the guitar spews jets of distortion and dissonance, writhing like an unmanned firehose. It all happens so quickly. Some of these eruptions come completely unannounced – one loud sound will send the other instruments spinning out of control, and suddenly everything is screaming at eachother in a splayed, cacophonous chorus of fight-or-flight. So very volatile, so relentlessly terrifying, so wonderfully executed.