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Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire

Thrill Jockey

Lightning Bolt - Fantasy EmpireThe two Brians from Rhode Island are back with Lightning Bolt‘s first album since 2009’s Earthly Delights and their first for new label Thrill Jockey.

Lightning Bolt are a classic example of an underground noise band who have had some success in the mainstream without compromising their sound or attitude. Their live shows are blisteringly visceral, often violent and incredibly loud experiences, the band playing on the floor surrounded by the audience. An acquaintance once hilariously described them to me as “a really talented drummer and bass player showing off.” I couldn’t disagree more.

The first thing that hits you when listening Fantasy Empire is how well recorded it is compared to their previous output. The make a point of mentioning this in the press release, this record being the first to be made using

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Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights

Load

The centrepiece of the recent All Tomorrow’s Parties documentary is a clip from a Lightning Bolt set at the festival back in 2006. The band, true to form, is set up on the floor of the venue and the crowd is jostling around Brian Chippendale‘s drumkit in a claustrophobic huddle of beards and sweaty t-shirts. In between songs, a greasy fan taps Brian on the shoulder, leaning over the floor tom to get his attention. “Ten, three!” he shouts, holding up his greasy fingers to illustrate. “Ten plus three! Thirteen!” “Ten plus three?” replies Brian, his voice heavily distorted by his skimask and ball-gag mike setup.

“Ten plus three is thirteeeeeen!” hollers the fan deliriously

“Ten plus three is thirteen, right.” says Brian. Then,

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Lightning Bolt (live)

The Garage, London 18th May 2006

In a Garage not exactly rammed to gills for a sold-out gig, Lightning Bolt – positioned as ever in a corner on the floor instead of taking to the stage – open their set with a looped low fidelity rhythm which soon wavers into loudness sliced by stabs of tuning-up sounds. An emergent chug struggles foal-like into unco-ordinated yet groovesome earshot, and given the amount of time they let the process continue, it’s certainly one way of building up anticipation. Such is Lightning Bolt’s cult status that even a jack plug interjection is greeted with eager yelps from the crowd, so when they actually lurch into a double-tapped frenzy of skronk bass guitar and flailing drums, the tension is pitched towards a cathartic release.

Live or on record, Lightning Bolt’s ethos seems to bo to take riffs and rhythms and worry them beyond death

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