The Quiet In Your Bones is 5uu’s seventh studio album.
Multi-instrumentalist and virtuoso drummer David Kerman (b.1959), better known as Dave Kerman, is one of the most prominent figures in the American avant-prog scene. He has played as a drummer in bands such as Thinking Plague, Ahvak and Present. The most important band in Kerman’s career, however, is 5uu’s, which he founded in 1994.
The band’s second album Elements (1988) was a collaboration with another genre’s band, Motor Totemist Guild. After Elements, 5uu’s merged with the Motor Totemis Guild to form a band called U Totem. That band made two great albums between 1990 and 1994. After U Totem broke up, Kerman revived 5uu’s with multi-instrumentalist Bob Drake (Thinking Plague). Since 2000, 5uu’s has been mainly Kerman’s solo project with occasional guest appearances by other musicians. 5uu’s sixth album, Abandonship, released in 2002, seemed to be the project’s last album. Now, 20 years later, however, Kerman has returned to 5uu’s.
Dave Kerman recorded The Quiet In Your Bones mostly on his own at home in Switzerland with rather rudimentary equipment, slowly working on the album over a period of four years (2016-2020). Most of the instruments were played by Kerman. In addition, sound effects and various musique concrète-type elements play a very important role on the album. However, there are also a few guests who bring an additional colour to the music.
The most important of these is Michele Fuchs from the Swiss interdisciplinary pop band Les Reines Prochaines, who also plays trumpet here and there. Fuchs sounds very much like Dagmar Krause at times, which makes the most song-like pieces on the album sound a bit like Art Bears.
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The Art Bears vibe is not limited to Fuchs’ vocals, as the whole album seems to strive for a similar balance between avant-garde experimentalism and song-like material, remotely reminiscent of pop music.
Usually the songs on 5uu’s are quite short, but this time the backbone of the album is formed by three 11-12 minute songs surrounded by seven shorter tracks. Most of the songs feature vocals, but the lyrics written by Kerman are often only a few lines long and normal pop formulas are not pursued in the for example in form of choruses.
If the album’s songs are reminiscent of Art Bears, its heaviest and most violent moments are reminiscent of the Belgian band Present, in whose ranks Kerman has played. The Quiet In Your Bones also has a complexity of at least the same calibre as the aforementioned peers. The music is at times experimental textural, at times really musically dense and complex. Kerman’s favourite irregular time signatures are head-spinning on the album. The numbers dropped by Kerman in his ”press release” are in the 35/16 and 23/16 sections, so we can safely say that the rhythmic complexity of the album is quite hardcore.
A good example of the experimental nature of the album can be found in the first song ”Sign Maker” where Kerman taps a metal table in 10/8 and 9/8 rhythms throughout the song and at the very end the same table gets a boost from the electric cake mixer. However, Fuchs’ Dagmarkraus-like vocal choices prevent the song from sinking into a not entirely experimental mire. The fascinating thing about The Quiet In Your Bones is how in many songs a single element manages to bring a little entry point to an otherwise very challenging piece of music. On the 12-minute ”Quills And All”, one of the album’s finest tracks, it’s a wistful trumpet that brings relief to an extremely complex rhythm and harsh metal soundscapes.
Perhaps the best track on the album is the 10-minute ”Routine”, right in the middle. In its sublime middle section, a screeching synthesizer ostinato, a massive bass riff and relentlessly polyrhythmic drums meet Fuchs’ fatal vocals in a stunning way. Towards the end, there’s also a demented organ solo from Hamster Theater’s Dave Willey, buried in the industrial soundscape. It’s quite amusing that the rather heavy and dramatic ”Routine” (as the name suggests) reflects Kerman’s routine in the quiet Belgian city of Antwerp as he tries to kill time while waiting for the other members of Aranis (Kerman played Aranis in 2010 on the album RogueForte) to finish their workdays so that the music-making can begin again.
Otherwise, the album is a darker offering in terms of lyrics. For example, the brutal ”King In Coma” refers to the rage of Nepal’s Crown Prince Dipendra, who ended up slaughtering almost the entire royal family with assault rifles in a drug-fuelled fit.
When I wear my combat fatigues, I feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’ll marry whomever I please, and not let the family deride.King In Coma
Tanked-up on some Scotch and Hashish, Hell-bent with a King’s vendetta, This ‘aint Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Rather Dinner With Dipendra.
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Although The Quiet In Your Bones is not a true hi-fi record due to its homey origin, it still has an extremely carefully crafted feel down to the smallest individual sounds. The sounds are also not brick-walled by compression, as is often the case nowadays, but the volume knob can (and should!) be adjusted with light hand and Kerman’s twisted sound design can be enjoyed to the fullest. The sterile artificiality that plagued some of 5uu’s earlier albums is not a problem for The Quiet In Your Bones at any point.
The Quiet In Your Bones is a challenging listen as a 5uu’s album should be and is an impressive return from Dave Kerman. Let’s hope the next efforts from this jack of all trades don’t have to wait as long.
(Unfortunately, The Quiet In Your Bones, released by Cuneiform, is only available in digital format. The easiest way to get the album is via Bandcamp.)
Best songs: ”Quills And All”, King In Coma”, ”Routine”, ”Occams Razor”
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Author: JANNE YLIRUUSI
- Sign Maker 04:36
- Quills and All 12:31
- King In A Coma 03:25
- Sociopath Song 04:05
- Routine 10:52
- Immured Again Naturally 03:05
- That Saved A Wretch Like Me 06:21
- War Elephants In The Room 02:59
- Occams Razor 11:43
- Mouthfuls Of Gravel 03:28
Dave Kerman: instrument Michele Fuchs: vocals, trumpet, baritone trumpet Liesbeth Lambrecht: altoviolin (2) Bill Gilonis: guitar ja bass clarinet (4) Dave Willey: organ solo (5) Keith Macksoud: bass guitar (9) Joel Trieger: intro guitar (9)