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DNA, "DNA ON DNA"

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DNA played angular freak noise for spastic punks; fiercely intellectual, bordering on the psychotic. The Brazilian-born Arto Lindsay played guitar in the most anti-musical, reptilian brand of non-funk that had ever been heard outside of music hour at the local laughing academy, barking and shrieking like a constipated Artaud in clipped fragments of opaque poeticism. Ikue Mori played a drum set with big taiko sticks in a manner that suggested neo-tribalism but delivered cold, muscular propulsion. Robin Crutchfield's synths unsympathetically reveled in circular insanity, and later, Tim Wright's bass danced around flittingly like a dying mosquito, never finding a foothold, falling over itself in a mad rush to the end of the song.

No More

Sure, it's noise, but noise as precise and deadly as DNA's deserves your attention. DNA were the longest-lived of the brief No Wave scene in late-70's New York City. Highlighted on the famous Eno-produced No New York compilation, DNA always seemed like the most vital of this grouping of high-energy avant-punks. Their four tracks from that compilation, as well as 28 other studio and live tracks, many rare and previously unreleased, comprise DNA on DNA, this definitive new collection from No More Records. Critics often lazily attempt to place DNA squarely in line with the previous generation of boundary-pushing jazz-improv mavericks like Albert Ayler and Sonny Sharrock (and the liner notes to this collection are no exception), but I've always felt that DNA have much more in common with Damo Suzuki-era Can freakouts, their influence continuing in a straight line to Japanese freak-metal noise outfits like the Boredoms and Ruins. DNA sit more comfortably on the margins, unabsorbed into an easy critical assessment of their music as some kind of punk-improv. Believe me, this stuff is much more entertaining when you back off from neatly-considered definitions and surrender to its oddness and angularity. For anyone who has collected other reissues of the band over the years, all the familiar stuff is here: the superlative debut "You and You" single, the vaguely teutonic keyboard-driven NNY stuff, and the jagged, chaotic intensity of A Taste of DNA. But where this collection shines is in the inclusion of the live material and never-released studio outtakes like "Grapefruit," a five-minute nervous breakdown on record, all non-verbal chanting and instinctively structured rock abstraction. Surprising, since previously, the world had never heard a DNA song that exceeded the three-minute mark. There are five tracks of alarmingly evocative instrumentals meant to accompany a theater piece. "Egomaniac's Kiss" should be, but is never mentioned in the same breath with the classics of the punk era, a miniature epic of raw, aggressive emotion and minimal rock construction. Put simply, DNA were a great band, and this indispensable document proves it. 

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Last Updated on Saturday, 03 September 2011 14:19  


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