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I’ve been saying this a lot, but it still makes me happy: The noise genre has evolved beyond the ear-piercing distortion that defined it fifteen years ago into something more textured and, quite frankly, more interesting to listen to. That said, Northern California’s Liver Cancer deliver something that’s almost more an old hardcore punk record than a typical noise album, in that the tracks vary in tempo and meaning while retaining the extremism that makes noise what it is.
Make no mistake, Liver Cancer are completely uncompromising in their approach, but where boring noise stays at one volume and doesn’t go anywhere, Children of the Vortex has peaks and valleys. The opening “Massive Irritation” begins with bad poetry, then a shout of “Fuck this shit!” before exploding into a tsunami-of-static for about two-and-a-half minutes. “Circumscribed” follows with an Aube-like repeating pattern that begins quietly and builds to louder, controlled distortion. “Hemorrhoidal Train” shifts from the lulling chug of a railroad to ear-splitting frequencies and back in a wave-like fashion. The seven-minute “Hypostatic Abstraction” is haunting and ominous, the soundtrack to riding Charon’s boat on the river Styx. Fittingly, “Ipsa Morietur” closes with demonic voices and speaking-in-tongues, a chilling end to an unsettling collection of tracks.
Children of the Vortex is the type of album that should propel noise out of the tiny niche it currently inhabits into a place where it may not be popular, but it is respected and acknowledged. Though it may not be easy to listen to, artistically it says volumes more than anything at the Grammys.
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