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Features and Reviews Southeast Performer vs. The Ed Kemper Trio
7/1/2002Chad RadfordThe Ed Kemper Trio / How To Win A Sword Fight

When listening to HOW TO WIN A SWORD FIGHT one is immediately reminded of the first time you tapped your fingers along to the drumming on Rapeman's "Two Nuns and A Pack Mule", or the first time you threw your neck out from listening to the Jesus Lizard's "Goat" a little too intensively.

This could easily become one of those timeless albums of Steve Albini proportions : Drums that fall like the hammer of God, tiptoe guitar pluckings sprinkled over driving rhythms, and vocals that are rife with scathing immediacy; they're all here. However, instead of simply reworking these identifiers, EK3 are taking their influences and reworking them from the ground up. It's Albini rock - without all of that pesky Albini - that embraces their influences, but doesn't dwell on them. On the production end, it's a surprisingly clean-sounding recording for such a chunky effort, that's filled with all kinds of filler in and around each song.

"Killed For This" opens the disc and sets the mood for a rather aggressive listen. A woman's voice preludes the song, stating: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you." The only problem is that no one else is laughing. Not yet anyway.

"Spells Devil Backwards," brings an element of evilness into the mix, and "Scatter" is the sonic equivalent of a scrape on the knee.

As the music plows forward one could easily drop other names like the Minutemen, Unsane, Helmet and Black Sabbath, but again, nothing ever stalls out to the point of sounding overly derivative.

Throughout the disc, the same desperate uneasy feeling is sustained over seventeen songs without falling prey to a dull moment even once. Even when the agro levels are turned down a bit, the intricacies of each song are more than enough to tow the line.

"Pain In Sound Experiment" opens with a disembodied voice proclaiming : "Rush. I listen to Rush and that's all I listen to, pretty much." Although it's funny, one can definitely hear a Neil Peart guilty pleasure fighting to break free.

"Little Pink Pencil," opens up with a sample talking about some psychological problems and is accompanied by an outburst of maniacal laughter. Perhaps this is the laughing brought up in the opening track, but again, no one else is laughing. Perhaps these soundbites were added to the songs to serve as something much more than just cool samples. Although there aren't really any discernible elements of a concept album at work here, other than a general theme of rage and psychosis, these songs do fit together a little too well. But in order to put together a proper concept album about rage and psychosis wouldn't it make sense to not tie anything together with anything other than unwavering stamina, disembodied voices, and unexplained laughter?

-- Chad Radford