Iron Dog – Interactive Album Rock (2012)

Straight out of Brooklyn is a improvisational trio that frolics far in the outer reaches of avant-garde. Iron Dog, consisting of Sarah Bernstein (digitally altered violin, poetry recital), Stuart Popejoy (electric bass, synthesizer) and Andrew Drury (drums, mayhem), create odd sounds both digital and analog, inserts spoken verses of Bernstein’s eerie, esoteric poetry and collide them all together to form abstract splotches on an sonic canvas. It’s not mere music, or even mere noise but rather, edgy, offbeat performance art.

That’s how, in very broad terms, to describe Iron Dog’s first studio album — and second overall — Interactive Album Rock, which is very interactive but not anything like album rock. You can find any description of them involving the use of extreme adjectives, and I will soon follow with a few of my own, but it’s nothing to do with three musicians playing fast and loud for forty-seven minutes straight. Iron Dog instead explores the spaces between the notes as much as the notes themselves, thriving on minimalism to put the odd sounds they create in sharper relief.

Culled from a single, extemporaneous session, Interactive Album Rock is broken up into nine discreet tracks stringed together by its ominous sentiment. The tactics might change a bit, and that’s what sets each track apart. So, for “The Slow Train” there’s a disquieting electro-acoustic cauldron suggesting stress from Drury’s randomly paced drums but never boiling over. “Love Segment” is first awash in ambience, eventually settling into a two chord bass figure that’s turned into skronk after echoing poetry recited amidst increasingly assertive drums. “Februarists” is a tale of two speeds, with the violin and bass going slow, and the drums going fast. But ultimately, violin and bass speed up, reflecting how the three start out in three disparate places and end up in roughly the same spot.

Bernstein is adept at leveraging the technology to get impactful sounds out of her processed violin, and it’s not just from the scraping of strings. With “He Said Writing,” her fractured pizzicato is dancing about Popejoy’s random blurting synth sounds and Drury’s darting patter. She makes her violin even approximates the sound of a wounded trumpet alongside electronic industrial drone on “Pain Glorious.” By the time we reach “Full Employment,” the one moment where silence is destroyed by a blizzard of bionic violin swirls, the thrash-jazz groove the trio eventually settles into sounds downright conventional by comparison. The whole gorgeously guided chaos comes to a close with the ominous, barren sonic soundscape “Is It For Breaking,” as Bernstein asks over the chiming bass notes sounding like tolling funeral bells, “are you ready for this?”

It’s a fair question, but more appropriately asked at the beginning of the album, not the end. And if you’re ready for it, Iron Dog delivers in a big way.

*** Purchase Iron Dog albums here. ***

feature photo: Reuben Radding

Interactive Album Rock will be released November 13 by Phase Frame Music. Visit Iron Dog’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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