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Jan 22

Omargeddon #28: Minor Cuts and Scrapes in the Bushes Ahead

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There comes an inevitable moment during every long, pointless passion project when a person begins to seriously question why it seemed like such a good idea. I passed this point during the first lockdown, when, like many others, I was both fascinated and horrified by the seemingly constant stream of images showing previously busy and now totally abandoned locales and watching the daily statistics increase exponentially. I was also job-hunting during this time, which is never fun at the best of times, and all I could think of to distract and cheer myself up was the utter pointlessness of Omargeddon. I concluded that the said pointlessness of the project was actually very the reason for doing it and powered on. And then probably bought more scented candles from Etsy. 

The source of my power is like a delusional Prius that runs on a battery charged by magical thinking and is propelled with the petrol of bloody-mindedness. Magical thinking dictates that the closer I get to finishing, the more new material will surface. As The Clouds Hill Tapes came out in 2020, it gives me hope that there will be something new this year. As for bloody-mindedness, I’m convinced this mindset has fuelled most things great and small and that this is actually a virtue. 

And whilst sometimes nearing the finish line feels more like a stick than a carrot, it does help to cross Minor Cuts and Scrapes in the Bushes Ahead off the list. It’s the last of the ‘extremely difficult’ albums – that is, the ones that hurt my teeth when I think about them and almost certainly exist solely just because they can. Presumably also, drugs. Lots and lots of them, and unfortunately, none of them were shared with me. But as of right now, I’m just over halfway through the series and soon to arrive at the sunlit uplands. Right? Yes! I love my delusional Prius! There’s room for a shit-tonne of emotional baggage without sacrificing passenger space (my delusional Prius is an estate car / station wagon, because I may be crazy but I’m still deeply practical). 

To be fair, like Omar Rodríguez-López & Jeremy Michael Ward, Minor Cuts was initially a friends-only minidisc that got a formal release in 2008. And like that collaboration, this is an experimental soundscape featuring the late Jeremy Ward, and with the addition of Marcel Rodríguez-López on drums. You can guess how excited I wasn’t to give this a spin, and so I procrastinated for ages. 

I actually rather enjoyed this on the first listen. Then I hated it on the second. Then I found some parts I enjoyed on the final listen, for some given value of ‘enjoyed’. The terrible parts are TERR.I.BLE, but they are also quite short, both as individual tracks and overall running time. This is a massive improvement from the horror extracted from the depths of Despair, which I will not need to reference again, Seabiscuit being well and truly flogged. 

Most of the pleasure I get from this album is purely obsessive dot-joining rather than active enjoyment of the music. Several tracks feature snippets of dialogue that sound very similar to those heard on “I Like the Rockefellers’ First Two Albums, But After That…” from Old Money. Unfortunately, sometimes the dialogue sounds pretty unpleasant – I’m almost certainly projecting, but during “Electrodorphines”, it sounds like masked screaming.

Similarly, it’s fun to isolate sequences that either heavily influence or (possibly) directly appear on Octopus Kool Aid, such as on the zippy “White Paint White Meat”, which also gets points for its classic weirdass ORL title. The final notes of “Devouring a Sibling” were used on “Discursos” from ¿Sólo Extraño? for certain, but I also feel like elements have popped up elsewhere I can’t directly identify, presumably because it’s so obvious it’s hiding in plain sight, or maybe I’m actually thinking of twelve different things at once. As much as this exercise feels like trying to search for a needle in a haystack during a hurricane, I persist (and fail).

An actual beat is present on “Pawn Shop Blues”, and I suppose would count it as my favourite alongside “A Pinching Invention” as examples most akin to ‘normal’ music. There are some funky layers but also some grating whinnying with closer inspection, and the disappointment is like biting into what you think is a delicious chocolate chip cookie only to realise it’s actually oatmeal raisin. 

But neither of these is my favourite kind of this and nothing I’d press anyone apart from a fellow obsessive to listen to and even then not more than once. They are also my preferred songs compared to those which I can’t stand. The centrepiece of “Thankless Serpent” is a section of unbearably adenoidal spoken word. “Sliding In and Out of a Laceration” has an admirable title but again has random talking and stretches three minutes out over a century. 

There are some droney soundscape ORL records I do rate highly, but they feature basic music components not wholly present here, e.g., a beat and recognisable instruments, and do not feature samples from Ross Geller’s Casio. Minor Cuts is just too jarring to be suitable background music and not interesting enough for more active listening. 

Ultimately, I think Minor Cuts should be thought of as another weird, sweet tribute to Jeremy Ward, whose vocals feature on final track “Atrotecism Fenleon” (a title that sounds like it’s been lifted from one of Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s short stories). Maybe it should be taken for and appreciated as a pointless passion project and respected accordingly. 

Track listing:
Solenoid Mosque
Trident Resting on the Pulse
Work on Motors
Electrodorphines 
Pawn Shop Blues
Thankless Serpent
Devouring a Sibling
White Paint White Meat 
Sliding In and Out of a Laceration
A Pinching Invention
Atrotecism Fenleon

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