Review: Fox/Soper Duo – Magenta Line

Back in circa 1524 or whenever the hell it was, the leather-jacketed rock critic Lester Bangs wrote that Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music was the perfect medicine for worst kind of hangover because “when you first arise you’re probably so fucked (i.e. still drunk) that is doesn’t even really hurt yet (not like it’s going to), so you should put this album on immediately, not only to clear all the crap out of your head, but to prepare you for what’s in store the rest of the day.”

Well that was yonks ago, Bangs is long dead, and rest of us have had the time to build up such a tolerance to Metal Machine Music that its once-radical skree no longer has much effect on us; whether hungover or not, we just sit there nodding politely along to its atonal feedback squeals with a mug in our hand and a ‘meh’ on our breath.

So what’s the hungover boy or girl to do in this day and age? You could do a lot worse than hammering your aching head with the debut collaboration between drumming extraordinaire Greg Fox and modular synth wizard Ryan Soper. You’ll already know Fox from his work with transcendental black metal group Liturgy, the freeform psych band Guardian Alien, cult Brooklyn experimentalists Zs and his appearances with Dan Deacon, Ben Frost and Hieroglyphic Being (among others). Soper, meanwhile, is the video artist, photographer and sculptor who is one half of New York City’s performance-based Non-Native project and also a member of an audiovisual trio named Brat Pit. Together they are the Fox/Soper duo, and they make one hell of a bloody racket.

Having been filtered slightly to give them an even more inhuman and otherworldly feel, Fox’s drums crash, crush, patter and splatter all over the place, veering from mad-jazz randomness in one section to frantic thrash super-beats the next, only occasionally calming down to more minimalist tip-tappery. To put it in terms clumsier than Bangs at his most poorly-focused and pharmaceutically debilitated, Fox produces the kind of noises that Spider-Man’s arch enemy Dr Octopus might havemade had he used his additional mechanical limbs for bashing pots and pans around in a rhythmical manner instead of robbing banks and kidnapping innocent women. Reports suggest that in reality

Fox possesses just two normal fleshy arms, which is pretty hard to believe when you hear what those biceps can do with just a couple of sticks and some skins. Meanwhile, out of his synth, Soper wrenches all manner of drones, buzzes, roars, squeals and screeches, which complement Fox’s beats very aptly indeed. At various times, Soper’s synth improvisations sound angry, playful, floaty, heavy, cosmic, earthy, caustic, grunting, whistling, drone-like and skittish. It’s a strangely cohesive schizophrenia, however, and it’s all very satisfyingly noisy, with none of the tracks outstaying their welcome (that’s often the downfall of many an average thunderous freestyle pair; you’ll find they have no idea how to rein it in or bring a “song” to its long-needed conclusion).

I recommend you whack Magenta Line on your headphones the next time you’re recovering from a 20-pint lock-in at The Butcher’s Arms. It’ll clear your head, set you up for the rest of the day, induce a detoxifying spell of vomiting, or have you reaching for the comparative serenity of Metal Machine Music.

Pre-order Magenta Line via Bandcamp.

Written by JR Moores