Album Review: Bill Orcutt – How the Thing Sings




Back in the mid ’90s, there were few American noise rockers kicking out material as aggressive, brutal, and nerve-rattling as Harry Pussy. After releasing eight LPs (not to mention a slew of other singles, splits, and compilation cuts) between 1993 and 1998, the group faded away. Drummer/vocalist Adris Hoyos’ scattershot percussion and animalistic intonations makes him the direct ancestor of weirdo set-smackers like Chris Corsano, while the clanging, unhinged, acerbic electric guitar provided by Bill Orcutt in those heady days is a sound equally aped.

For a while, Orcutt went AWOL, but he returned to performing live and releasing material just a couple of years ago, declaring his return with the amazing 2009 disc, A New Way to Pay Old Debts. While the primal intensity may have stayed the same, Orcutt’s method of expressing it has pretty handily changed. Now favoring an acoustic to the old electric axe, the veteran Orcutt sounds as if he is perpetually on the edge of swiping at the strings so hard that he’ll wind up fitting his fist through the instrument like the Hulk.

On his new release, How the Thing Sings, Orcutt takes a similar tack, his start and stop waves of mulched acoustic tremors and barely human howls evoking a Southern preacher lost somewhere in a dark wood, fighting between ritualistic methods and returning to primal instincts. On “The Visible Bosom”, a discernible melody haunts, interrupted by sharply hammered, Jackson Pollock-esque splatters of tones, as if Orcutt’s strumming the thing with a cheese grater. His scraggly voice moans out a counterpoint from time to time, as on the title track, full-body sighs, moans, and grunts portraying as much emotion and meaning as any lyric could. All the way down to the expansive 21-minute album closer, “A Line From Ol’ Man River”, the distorted soundscapes are powerful, evocative, and a must listen.

Essential Tracks: “The Visible Bosom” and “A Line From Ol’ Man River”