Friday, December 6, 2013
By RICK JOHNSON
You've heard the old saying, "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs." In other words, sometimes you have to destroy something to create something new. Or, sometimes things will get messy before they turn out the way you want them to.
HOW IT RATES
HEAVY BREATHING, "Dogbreath"
This applies to cooking, it applies to art, and it applies to rock 'n' roll.
Because eggs aren't usually needed to create rock 'n' roll, the original phrase needs to be modified. Maybe something like, "You can't create good rock 'n' roll without a little noise. Or a lot."
It's this noise-sculpting concept that one must keep in mind when listening to "Dogbreath," the latest release from Portland band Heavy Breathing. Working from the solid foundation of an ungodly racket, Heavy Breathing wields guitars, bass, drums and vocals like chisels, chipping away at a big block of noise until the faint outlines of songs emerge.
Listeners who like to put labels on their music would call this art punk, or maybe noisecore. Caught somewhere between the L.A. punk scene of the early '80s and the artier hardcore of the late '90s, Heavy Breathing is loud. It's angry, dissonant and atonal.
The production is sparse and minimal. The guitars are tinny, the bass is muddy and rumbly, and the vocals are strictly of the gargling-with-broken-glass variety. And all this is as it should be, with song titles like "Hagfish," "Rathole" and "Blood Bank Robbery."
Though not for the faint of heart, those who concentrate and listen attentively to Dogbreath will be rewarded. There is emotional resonance to this music.
Of course, the dominant emotions are anger, pain, anguish, etc. But there's also a black sense of humor at work here. And beneath the howl are tiny hooks, little musical surprises that are the sonic equivalent of finding that one candy-coated peanut at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.
Yes, buried under a mountain of Heavy Breathing's jagged eggshells, there's a subtly flavored, surprisingly tasty omelette.
Download the tracks from "Dogbreath" at heavybreathing.bandcamp.com/album/dogbreath (almost all the tracks are free), and be sure to catch the band on Aug. 25 at the fifth annual PICNIC Music and Arts festival at Lincoln Park in Portland.
Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at: