CD, Soopa/Radon/Base Recordings/Fonoteca Municipal de Lisboa, 2005
From the name and the graphic design, I assumed this was going to be a breakcore CD, or something along those lines. Appearances can deceive, however. What we have instead is a quirky and original jam from Portugal that combines the attitude of the most antisocial kinds of free jazz experimentation with the sounds and tools of industrial noise. And a saxophone. In hindsight it seems like such a natural synthesis that I can’t help wondering why it hasn’t been done before — or if perhaps it has, by groups obscure enough to escape even my own painfully eclectic investigations. In fact the sax is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an ‘extended’ trumpet here and there, whatever that is, and someone wringing the kinds of sounds out of a harmonica that Merzbow would make by wiring all the outputs of his mixing desk back into the inputs, and then turning it on and off while frantically attacking the faders.
There’s little in the way of liner notes but it sounds like these guys work by improvising in the studio, then digitally sifting and arranging the resulting recordings, dubbing over layers of noise, muttered vocals and whatever else they can lay their hands on. You can hear this at work in the percussion in the first few numbers, particularly. It’s composed of mechanically-produced sounds throughout (‘drumming’ I believe it’s called), but often dissolves into bit-perfect machine-gun repetitions and unplayable fast and furious thrashing, like an old Nachtluft track I have somewhere that turned timpani recordings into an artillery barrage. Unlike many bands, however, USS use computers to break up the structure of the raw material, deliberately subverting the usual role of the sequencer as enforcer of motoric authority.
After four or five tracks at this chaotic level, “Return Of The Flatliners” is a bit of a relief, starting with a drone and growing into a Shinjuku Thief-cum-Aube noise track, and then calming back down again — a breath of fresh air. Things are a little more measured after this, and “Scum Release Orchestra” even briefly sounds like the beginning of a Neubauten song, before what sounds like the drunken marching band from Coil’s “Herald” start playing cartoon soundtracks… While falling down a spiral staircase. The closing track, compared to what has come before, sounds mostly live and is comparatively melodic. This kind of thing clearly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I have a soft spot for people like Bladder Flask and Steven Stapleton and the musical celebration of all things Dadaist and unpredictable, and USS are clearly in the same tradition.
— Andrew Clegg