Album Review

Gerritt Wittmer – Vessel (Misanthropic Agenda, 2010)

Gerritt WittmerSide A (excerpt)

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Gerritt Wittmer is that crazy motherfucker who I saw play with Paul Knowles at the Black Pus / Sissy Spacek show. He also runs the incredible Misanthropic Agenda label. He’s made some insano harsh noise records and his performance with Knowles was intense to say the least, but his new album Vessel is an exercise in restraint & tension, with LOTS of silence.

I’ve read that the only sounds contained on this record are from Wittmer’s mouth. Digitally altered occasionally, but still everything is supposedly sourced from his voice & breathing. The A side starts out with some bumbling around, like you’re carrying a mic while looking through a dark attic for a flashlight. Then, nothing. Wait, no, there’s someone here. Hiding in the corner. Definitely, some creepy murderer is doing his best to control his breathing and it’s not working. You can totally hear him. WTF. Why is there someone hiding in your attic? FUCK. It’s pitch black, you can’t see a goddamn thing, and you have no way to defend yourself. So you do what’s only right & natural. You start making creepy mouth noises back at him.

Duck squawk? Duck squawk. Constipated straining? Constipated straining. Silent cat yowls? Silent cat yowls. This guy becomes your mirror. Everything you do, right back at you. Then you start goin CRAZY together. A fucking choir of anti-harmonic dying frogs, ghosts with porcupines in their throats, demonic tea kettles, rewound mouse farts. If anybody walked in on you right now they’d shit their pants in terror and call an exorcist.

The B side is a bit more subdued, but also a bit shorter. No cacophony, no release & eruption from silent tension. It’s ALL tension. Waiting, uncertainty, disgusting sloppy slurps and punctured dog lungs. The long voids of nothing seem interminable, the only clue that time is passing is the vinyl crackle. If you focus all of your attention, the abyss becomes an actual thing, an entity all its own. Pulsing, breathing, but still motionless.

Wittmer is doing some crazy shit on Vessel. I’m not sure if he’s experimenting, or if he’s using this cathartically, or just further refining his obviously fine/performance sound art. Whatever he’s doing, it works. It feels like you’re holding your breathe the entire length the record. Muscle ache is an immediate & inevitable byproduct of listening to it. Maybe pop some pain killers beforehand.