Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vacant Fever's Heparin & Saline on LP and CD

"Leon Spinkx here. Thanks for the kind words. I, of course, AM the star attraction of Vacant Fever, as you so cromulently noted in your review. DMM is my vessel, in a platonic sense, although he is kinda scarringly handsome."

Just a few weeks ago I reviewed Vacant Fever's new 7" single, Kill Kill Kill, and this dark, twisted slice of garage rock immediately became one of my favorites for 2012. Afterward I received quite a few comments concerning their first album, 2011's Heparin & Saline, and how I really needed to check it out to gain new insight into this Portland band. Well, DMM saw it fit to send both the LP and the CD to my home--probably with cooperation with drummer Leon Spinkx, who evidently is the mastermind behind the band--and it's a very different but equally compelling sound.

I don't want to be presumptuous here, but when I listen Heparin & Saline, I think about drugs. I'm not talking about ends of ropes, Shannon Hoon and Layne Staley's last two weeks on earth or anything so destructive and desperate, but perhaps the volatile brand of fuel that delivered White Light/White Heat to the unsuspecting masses, or anything the Spacemen 3 did in the early '90s. Even the album's name suggests chemistry, although the titular drug in question is an anticoagulant used for blood clots. It's also noteworthy for having the highest negative charge density of any biological molecule. Saline implies a hospital stay, so maybe the album is intended to be more sanguine than wayward.

But I digress. As I said, this is very different animal from this year's EP, perhaps the entropic party after Kill Kill Kill's gakked-up mischief-making. Where Heparin & Saline truly excels, however, is in its ability to replicate the feel of drugged-out garage rock circa 1967, replete with boatloads of sweaty, dripping reverb. You can almost hear the cobwebs in the guitar amps. After talking with DMM about the old-fashioned recording processes used for Kill Kill Kill, I suspect the same approach was taken here. This sounds like a lost classic, one of those edgy '60s excursions that was deemed too subversive and revolutionary for its time only to be picked up and cherished by the kids of its intended audience.

Again, the LP pressing is impressive, surprisingly so for a group rising up in the ranks. As you can see, the colored vinyl is psychedelic and takes on a spacey countenance while spinning on your turntable. The CD sounds close to the LP in sound quality, however, and only lacks that last iota of antiquity, those artifacts that enable the band to pull off its time capsule trick. (To put it succinctly, digital formats still lag behind analog when it comes to decay and presence.)

Despite the fact that they scare me a little bit, I really like this band a lot. If you are into Velvet Underground, Moby Grape or even Joy Division, you should recognize Vacant Fever's kindred spirit. I just hope I haven't offended them with all this drug talk; if you guys are actually straight-edged or even guys wearing suits who ride around on bikes in pairs when you're not in the studio, I apologize. If not, party on and keep making cool records. And a post-script to Leon: your fine, innovative drumming is more than cromulent. You are all that's right with the world.

You can order both Heparin & Saline and Kill Kill Kill on the band's website.

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