On the heels of his genre-defying A Love Electric trilogy and subsequent song project, Man With No Country, guitarist-composer-poet-lyricist C Todd Clouser joins forces with drummer Jorge Servin and the potent one-two punch of Abraxas guitarist Eyal Maoz and bassist Shanir Blumenkranz in forming Magnet Animals.
Their slamming and startlingly unique debut, Butterfly Killer, full of skronking noise guitars of blast furnace intensity and stream of conscious raps over righteous riffs and humungous backbeats, stands as one of the most strangely compelling outings in the extensive and wildly eclectic catalog of London-based RareNoise Records. From the opening salvo of “Headphone Girls” to the jarring punk-funk of “Martha Fever,” the eerie Ennio Morricone-styled spaghetti western vibe of “I Give Up And Love Somebody” and the sinister title track, Butterfly Killer sidesteps convention at every turn while boldly stepping to a different kind of muse.
Throw in a B-52s-styled ‘80s dance party number (“Igual, Pero Peor”), a throbbing jam with a haunting, an evangelist preacher styled incantation (“Little John The Liar”) and an ode to a late junkie author/hipster (“Bill Burroughs”) and you have one of the most daring, fully self-realized creations of the current year.Credit Clouser with creating the vehicle for such a powerful statement to take place.
“The Magnet Animals record is very impulsive,” explains the auteur. “I wanted to get back to just a creative impulse, honoring that, expressing, and moving on.”Clouser details his connection to the three other intrepid improvisers and skilled musicians who comprise Magnet Animals. “Eyal and I have talked about playing together for years and when I was on tour with A Love Electric I visited his apartment a couple times and we just set up and improvised. He is so fearless and himself. He kind of plays how Mexico City sounds to me. I played with Shanir Blumenkranz at the John Lurie tribute show at NYC Town Hall with Billy Martin and John Medeski. We played Marvin Pontiac songs from that Lurie record (1999’s The Legendary marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits).
Shanir is so scouted when he plays and his feel is so warm. We got along well and talked about doing something together at some point. I have played now with a lot of the ‘Downtown scene’ heroes, including John Zorn, Cyro Baptista, Medeski Martin & Wood, and always crossed paths with Shanir. It seemed like it was time to play together.”Though Clouser wrote all of the songs on Butterfly Killer, he says the recording is very much a product of everyone’s contributions.And while modernists may point to the influence of guitar shredders like Sonny Sharrock or Nels Cline or Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore in the skronking metallic interplay heard on harsh tunes like “Headphone Girls,” “Martha Fever” and “State of My Face,” Clouser explains that the influence actually goes back much further. “A lot of it, honestly, is old Delta blues, the voices as much as the guitars. Listening to Skip James sing, going back to a lot of the Alan Lomax recordings of prison song, field song, gospel…that raw feel is all there. That being said, I grew up in the late 90’s, so Sonic Youth was an influence as well as a lot of the NYC downtown stuff I started to listen to. I liked the personality and personalities of it.
People there had something to say that I related to. I have spent a lot of time with old blues records and psych rock records, some of the Brazilian psych rock stuff and Os Mutantes, and then, of course, hip-hop. But I have a background in jazz, knowledge of these harmonies, and spent time playing Thelonious Monk music, so some of that creeps in as well.” Clouser also explains that the sparse, lonely, vaguely Americana feel that comes across on tunes like “Atayde” and “I Give Up And Love Somebody” comes from his Midwestern upbringing.
As for the kind of evangelical fervor that he takes on in his spoken word rants on “Little John the Liar” and the title track, Clouser explains that it comes from the deepest recesses of his childhood. “It’s just a character, but I do think I am perhaps unhealthily drawn to talking about religion, Jesus and preaching in my music. My parents, who I love so much, sent me to Sunday school when I was kid, which I hated so much.”
He further explains that “Bill Burroughs” was an homage to someone he greatly admired and felt a kinship with. “I never met him. I didn’t share much time on Earth with him but I live about a mile away from where he did when he was in Mexico City. I love his writing. His story is tragic and heroic and offensive and teaching. I almost died from being an addict and I am gay. That’s two big ones. From there on, its pretty easy to relate.” It takes an inspired person to come up with something as audacious and uncompromising as Butterfly Killer. Clouser and his Magnet Animals crew deliver goods on this provocative new release on RareNoise Records.