If the Mongolian warlord
of Mongolian warlords came back as an android
and took over the world, what would it sound like?
Would it sound like Mookie Singerman, co-founder of the record label Lovepump United
, shrieking his lungs bloody? Would it sound a bit like Hamilton Jordan on guitar, tapping near the bottom of the neck in time to a berserk, wickedly calculated drum machine? Would it be Michael Sochynsky handling two keyboards at once? If so, would Jordan and Singerman have keyboards of their own?
That would be a "yes" to all. Genghis Tron is a three-member cybergrind band originally from Poughkeepsie but are now based in Philadelphia. Cybergrind? That's like grindcore with electronic parts mixed in, isn't it? Yeah, pretty much. There aren't many bands around that call themselves cybergrind, since it's a mash-up of a mash-up of genres, and ultra-specific genres that describe two or three bands are pretty tedious. Genghis Tron may not deserve their own genre, but the point must at least be made that they're doing something no one else is. It's not hard to throw some keyboards in a rock or metal band, but that doesn't merit the creation of a whole branch of music, or count as remotely unique. You have to do something else.
Genghis Tron is extreme music. By that I mean it's got fast guitars and harsh vocals, which doesn't distinguish them from thousands of bands in the slightest. However, the ways in which they use these techniques are very interesting, as well as the ways in which the keyboards contrast them. The key word is "surprise". A lot of songs will start out with keyboard only, and usually slow, grooving parts with little or no drumming. Then, without any sort of buildup or warning, a frenzy of guitar and terrified screamed vocals take its place. Still perfectly in time, this outburst will vanish as suddenly as it came in, and more eerie electronica dominates the track. You might hear a quarter-second of screaming periodically interrupting the groove, and then only keyboard for a while before the guitar joins it in a much more restrained fashion. The next time the vocals come in, they may be remarkably calm. But you've learned your lesson, and are on edge for the next violent seizure the music has which will spring up right when you are lulled into false security. They are very effective at using silence; a few seconds of raucous clamouring might cut out abruptly for a beat or two before crashing back in. This is how Genghis Tron gets you.
So far they've got three official releases:
Cloak of Love EP (2005)
Dead Mountain Mouth (2006)
Board Up the House (2008)
as well as two EPs that were sold exclusively at live shows, consisting of remixes and alternate versions:
Cape of Hate (2006)
Triple Black Diamond (2007)
and finally, a series of five Board Up The House remix EPs, with staggered releases through 2008 and 2009. The remixes were not done by Genghis Tron, but by other musicians, notably Ulver, Tim Hecker, Dntel, and Nadja.
If you think you're interested in extreme experimental music, you owe it to yourself to hear Cloak of Love. It's succinct, but it assembles all the best parts of Genghis Tron, wraps them in barbed wire, and forcefully sits you down in front of the bundle, giving you a knife and fork and looking at you pointedly. Their live performances are quite good; they set up a great light show, and it's amusing to watch people trying to headbang or mosh to music that unpredictably swings from thrashing to smooth downbeat. It's also quite a sight to see the trio bob their heads as they go back and forth from mic to keyboard, guitar to keyboard, and keyboard to keyboard without missing a beat. Dead Mountain Mouth and Board Up The House are both very good, but neither have the benefit of being as uncompromisingly blunt as an EP can be, making Cloak the best choice for first-time listeners.
You don't necessarily have to be a fan of Napalm Death to appreciate the way Genghis Tron toys with expectation and convention. Pull back and observe the patterns underneath the seemingly random alternating noise and nothingness. Let yourself fall into the traps, let yourself be played with. There is method in this madness.