Ich Bin N!ntendo - Look [Va Fongool - 2014]
The inexplicably named Ich Bin N!ntendo (yes, with a bang) are a noise rock band. From the lackluster packaging and silly name, I admittedly expected to dislike this album, titled "Look". When I put the album on, I heard a number of gritty amplifier textures to my liking, and found a generally pleasant level of energy in the band's freeform excursions.
Looking at the liner notes, I found that the album was recorded and produced by guitar noise legend Lasse Marhaug, whose involvement allows me to make a lot more sense of this band's sound. The same sort of rough hewn, chaotic mass of midrange distortion that comprises most Marhaug albums can also be heard here. In this sort of endlessly crackling and crumbling mud, no one sound comes through with much clarity, but the sounds pleasantly blur and meld together in your ears with a sharp fizzing. The cold, raw guitar tone combines the best of post punk, black metal and industrial. Those comfortable with wearing ear plugs in cold garages will find the sound they are looking for.
There is a decidedly retro feeling about the murky detuned sound, and I'd guess the band lists groups like Throbbing Gristle, Swans and other no wave artists as influences. This is a decidedly anti-musical affair; much of what the band does could be considered 'noodling' even compared to other noise rock groups such as Lightning Bolt, who are most definitely playing actually riffs underneath the layers of overdriven harshness.
Ich Bin N!ntendo occasionally see fit to attempt an engaging bout of minimalist interplay, in which a rudimentary 'tribal' rhythm is repeatedly hit, a drone pitch is found, or a repetitious chant is begun. These more focused sections dissipate after a few minutes into meandering bits where each band member trails off into separate realms. There is a rebelliously lazy, possibly drunk or stoned feeling about this recording that slants toward apocalyptic darkness in sudden moments of seriousness.
While it's quite entertaining to hear the band stumble upon occasional ideas which are certainly gems, some of the tracks are very long, such as 13 minutes opener "Endless Bovis", and these tracks couldn't be said to amass much momentum as a whole. There is nothing much to make the pieces here feel separate, either; after "Endless Bovis" ends, "Cream Corn Wand" picks up in much the same fashion.
The vocals, always shouted and laden with fuzz, are provided by the drummer, and as such, generally follow the heaviest downbeats. Largely sharp and rhythmic barks, they add massively to the band's punky aggression, their strongest suit, and are never overused.
Listening to this band brings back pleasant memories of Throbbing Gristle live recordings and great $5 shows at cheap venues. If raw analog distortion and fiercely unstructured, irreverent anti-playing are your bag, you could do a lot worse than Ich Bin N!ntendo's "Look". Any fan of Lasse Marhaug would likely be quite satisfied with this album on a sonic level, as I am. My ears like the sound of this album, though ultimately I do wonder how much substance, distinctiveness and staying power this spontaneous smear of distortion has. In the end, it's nothing revolutionary or particularly significant, but it's a quality album of freeform noise rock jammingJosh Landry