MANIFESTO ZERO – Gunslingers (World In Sound)
This disc arrived at the most inopportune time. The friend who pulled my coat to the first Gunslingers opus, "No More Invention", had committed suicide a few days before. I’d just finished penning his obituary for the local alt-weekly rag when I opened the envelope and Manifesto Zero fell out. Listening to it the first time, I couldn’t help thinking, “Dude, you would have so loved this.”
"No More Invention", of course, arrived on the back of massive hype from Julian Cope, which promised a sonic blast that’d out-everything every Les Rallizes Denudes/Keiji Haino/Asahito Nanjo/Kawabata Makoto noisefest extant (for indeed, nothing exceeds like excess). But these three Frenchmen delivered the goods, both on disc and when I caught them live at the Chat Room here in Fort Worth, Where the West Begins – a space the size of your ass pocket, jammed with more expectant fans of raw-wails-from-the-bottom-of-the-guts than any I’ve seen since, I dunno, Boris played Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio in the nearby college town of Denton a couple of years back.
Alpine-hatted frontman Gregory Raimo jabbered like a demented insect, assaulted us with flurries of Sonny Sharrock chaos-slide, and skillfully coaxed feedback from his borrowed amp while bassist Matthieu Canaguier looked on with an air of grave concern and unflappable drummer Antoine Hadjioannou kept the tempos fast and furious. Nice fellas, too. (They made a less cosmic showing at SXSW, where a cloth-eared soundman and uncooperative gear prevented them from taking full flight.)
Such an auspicious debut inevitably raises fears of the dreaded sophomore slump, but that doesn’t apply here. If anything, Manifesto Zero is more sonically varied than its predecessor, and better recorded to boot. Just listen to the bass rumble with drum clatter that opens “The Spectre’s Sinister Commandment,” and the definition in Raimo’s manic rifferama. Sure, you still can’t understand a thing he sings, but hearing lyrics clearly is vastly overrated. And when he takes off on his first solo ride, sounding like an unholy mutant hybrid of Dick Dale and Ron Asheton, you know for sure what’s good. “Coupe-Gorge” alternates sections of tribal thump with ones where the guitar and bass take off like Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band on amyl nitrate.
“An Eye for a Knife” starts out as outer space garage-rock before morphing into a lengthy, hypnotically pulsing psych jam, replete with phased drums, that performs the same function here as the tour de force “Lighter Slinger Festival” did on "No More Invention", with Raimo ravaging his axe like Uncle Lou on “The Black Angel’s Death Song” meets Jimi at Monterey. The highlight of the equally lysergic “I Know What You Want” is a punishing wah-wah workout that features some of Raimo’s most fervid fretwork. Indeed, things don’t let up till the end of the closing breakneck raga “Condor’s Radiant Spawn.”
In sum, these guys haven’t lost a step since their astonishing debut. If anything, they’ve gained depth and texture while preserving the manic intensity that got everyone so excited to begin with. See ’em live and let ’em make a believer out of you. If you can’t, this great album will have to suffice. - Ken Shimamoto
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