"NYC's Laddio Bolocko were borne of the ashes of classic early 90s post-rock. Formed in 1996 by members of Dazzling Killmen, Mars Volta, Panicsville, Craw and Chalk, they began as the next logical step for hardcore bands wanting just a bit more to chew on than shards of metallic noise and haphazard speed-beat. However, where most musicians with the cumulative pedigree of this quartet would either be playing straight jazz or make a nice livings as mercenary session men, LB channeled their muso energies into a tightly wound ball of steel rods.
As a group, they effortlessly converged at the service of drive and trance, occasionally jutting out unpredictably into harsher realms. Live, they were a powerhouse (perhaps drummer Blake Fleming learned a few things during his tenure with Zeni Geva), and though their recorded history is brief, it demonstrates a remarkable range of expression, precision and raw power. I've read comparisons to This Heat, Can and Albert Ayler, and while dropping names is usually a quick, cheap way to avoid describing music, in this case I think it really does pay tribute to the quality of their stuff. In short, Laddio Bolocko were fucking awesome.
And now, they're gone. Sorry, you missed them. The guys are still playing (Fleming and Marcus DeGrazia in Electric Turn to Me; Drew St. Ivany and Ben Armstrong in The Psychic Paramount), but if you want to see LB now, you'll have to check out the video clip for "As If By Remote" on Life & Times of Laddio Bolocko. This two-disc set collects the entire recorded legacy of a band that might very well have become the premiere representatives of the noise/prog/kraut/jazz legacy as put forth by the aforementioned legends, and host of others currently receiving mega props (Flying Luttenbachers, Lightning Bolt, Ruins).
The first disc of Life & Times contains 1997's Strange Warmings of Laddio Bolocko, and is the more rambunctious of the two. "Goat Lips" opens on a pseudo-fanfare of guitar and drums, sun-beaming riffs reaching toward the sky like a bizarro universe prog band that didn't realize they were supposed to insert a keyboard solo in the middle of all that commotion. Before things get too stagnant-- and they never do; one of LB's strengths was they were able to play repetitive music that didn't seem redundant-- they launch a kinetic, jackhammer groove that might fit well on a new Boredoms CD if it was just a tad less funky. They change again, playing an emergency-siren guitar riff while Fleming slams anything in sight. It's a beautiful sound, and they're just getting started.
"Call Me Jesus" and "Nurser" emphasize the pure noise aspects of LB's sound, though still with enough a sense of pulse as to grant them post-rock membership on a technicality. Again, though they tend to hit a beat and stick with it, the small details-- DeGrazia's horn interjections in the right speaker, or the vaguely King Crimson-esque "chorus" blasts-- make very little go a long way. This pays major dividends on the unthinkably massive "Y Toros", which finds a few hundred ways to play the same three notes during its 34-minute tour. In much the same way This Heat played with rhythm on "Repeat", LB very rarely let a phrase go by the same way twice. Furthermore, they take almost ten minutes to climax; that may sound gratuitous, and I'm sure some folks are going to run screaming from the room during parts of the second half of the piece, but if extended foreplay with a messy peak is your game, this band wants to love you.
The second disc collects 1998's In Real Time and 1999's As If By Remote, documenting the band's considerable growth over its short lifespan. "As If By Remote" is exotic drone, full of disparate sound-bites, jungle bounce and a Middle Eastern guitar riff that leaves a dreamy haze over the entire tune-- a state perfected on the practically untouchable "The Going Gong". "A Passing State of Well-Being" serves up the sunny organ chords, similar to the vibe of the first tune on the other disc, but adds flute and a metronomic funk beat to transform what would be run-of-the-mill Chicago post-rock into muscular psychedelia. Similarly, "Laddio's Money (Death of A Popsong)" takes two chords and half a riff to construct what should be the world's most inept attempt at a Ted Nugent song into avant-garage greatness.
Obviously, if instrumental freak-outs of any variety aren't your bag, Laddio Bolocko might induce migraines. Yet this is rarely "noisy" music: where their would-be peers are going for the loudest and fastest riffs imaginable, pushing boundaries of sound into thresholds of pain, LB seemed to have been heading in a more textured direction. It's too bad we won't get to hear where they might have ended up, because bands that can craft delicate stones as well as rocky rave-ups aren't terribly common. In any case, Life & Times comes very recommended for those in need of a jam."
Awesome album for certain. Kick these jamz homie geez.