It’s almost not a music-listening experience. Cephalic Carnage is more of an environment, like writhing in a pool crowded with dolphins and jellyfish and giant squid. Metal castings abound, yes — the thrash-jazz beats splashed out by “John,” the doomy/jagged riffs of “Steve” and “Zac,” the woof & huff of “Lenzig.” But the indeterminate presence of “Nick”?’s bass is a clue to how C.C.’s elements refuse to settle into songness, preferring to establish centers of density and then redefine ’em with a muscular tempo change or a centrifugal tonal shift, often accompanied by stereophonic brain massage. This group can batter you with gargantuan hummingbird wings, roll you on a phenobarbital pirate deck, waft you into the sky on a current of psychedelic rumble. A riff might sound like a rusty headman’s ax, but ting! ting! a little cymbal will flash out of the mix like a glint of dew, because you know executions are always scheduled for dawn.
Cephalic Carnage have been firing up their determinedly original shit since forming in Denver some 14 years ago, and they’ve evolved into a single intelligent yet bent mind, as three engrossingly artful (and damn loud) albums on Relapse attest. My exposure to their live assault has been limited to a few tracks on Relapse’s Contamination Festival 2003 DVD (“Lucid Interval” — whoa) and a recent metal-fest appearance at the Knitting Factory, where they did some goofy stuff with masks and got hamstrung by a rotten mix. This band requires the best a soundman can deliver; let’s hope they’ll be served with starched black napkins. The pairing with Brujeria — a comparably seasoned outfit with a theme of Mexican witchcraft and a masked lineup that includes members of Fear Factory, Napalm Death, Cradle of Filth, Faith No More and Dimmu Borgir — is also savorable.
Cephalic Carnage are a weed cult. No matches required, though.
Cephalic Carnage play the Key Club on Fri., July 28.
The 28-year-delayed reunion of abstract guitar boiler Henry Kaiser and Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo at Café Metropol two Fridays ago was as happy and sparky as you’d expect. Centazzo rattled with surprising groove-consciousness on metallophone and his huge assortment of gongs, drums and cymbal trees, while Kaiser hurled himself into dynamic surges of blues, rock and unearthly emanations, answering a request for some Syd Barrett with a wink & nod to Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive.”
One of the very pleased-looking attendees was sometime guitarist Matt Groening, who took special notice of a gorgeously packaged 12-CD box Centazzo has assembled to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his own Ictus label (www.ictusrecords.com), part-time home to Derek Bailey, Steve Lacy, John Zorn, John Carter and a substantial roster of other avantians. Now you know what to give the cartoonist who has everything. Groening, you may not know, used to write a weekly L.A. newspaper column — about weird music.
I’m going on vacation; watch for Brick Wahl’s jazz picks.?