Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dust It Off: Ut - In Gut's House

Sorry folks, Dust It Off is a day late this week - I had no internet access for most of yesterday. Here goes...

In Gut's House
Album: In Gut's House
Blast First, 1987

Formed at the tail end of New York's late 70's No Wave scene, Ut captured the avant-garde noise of their colleagues, but throughout the 80's, they tightened the sound and perfected the use of contrast - dissoanance and resolution, melody and drone, composition and improvisation. The all-female three-piece didn't release much recorded material in their early years, but in the second half of the 80's, they put out a series of excellent records showcasing the style they'd spent half a decade crafting.

In Gut's House is the peak of their efforts. Technically a double EP, the album kicks off with "Evangelist," one of the group's most accessible and best tunes. It may be a misleading as most of the following songs are considerably less melodic, but on the other hand, it warms the listener up, easing them into the angular experimentation of the subsequent tracks.

Ut's music draws heavily on Sonic Youth and particularly the Velvet Underground, and manages to predict the sounds both of early 90's math rock and early 90's riot grrrl, two genres usually considered miles apart. In Gut's House has the jumpy, sparse guitars of the soon-to-be-invented math rock, accompanied by pounding toms that never fall into a set rhythmic pattern for more than a few bars. The vocals are sometimes coherent, welcoming melodies, but at other times, they are yowls, screeches or chants, much like the young feminist bands that would form in the Pacific Northwest just a few years down the road.

And despite all the flexibility of their relatively unstructured songs, Ut maintains coherence and a sense of focus throughout the album - the tension and release, the sudden veering from beauty to ugliness, the detailed arrangements, everything indicates that this was an album made with a unified vision and careful planning.

"Homebled" is a particularly interesting track. It sounds like a completely fried Velvet Underground trying to play a folk ballad. It even includes John Cale's signature electric viola sound. (Well, in this case, I think it might be a violin, but same idea.) The vocals would be conventionally pretty if they and their backing instruments didn't keep falling apart.

While confrontational like their No Wave peers, Ut also gives the listener more inroads and moments of true beauty than the orginal New York No Wavers, perhaps translating the movement's experimentalism more accessibly than anyone besides Sonic Youth. And unlike Sonic Youth, Ut never enjoyed commercial success and certainly never scored a major label deal. But despite their unending obscurity, the band has made its mark upon modern indie music and should be a feature in every art punk fan's collection.

MySpace (fan page)

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