Bob Bellerue “Radioactive Desire”

Everything disintegrates eventually. Whether it sinks back into the soil or eviscerates itself into ephemera, sucked back into the open air, permanence isn’t real. Across more than two hours, Bellerue and a crew consisting of some of the foremost artists in the avant garde and free improvisation world ratchet up a bevy of combustible tensions, working feedback to the furthest reaches and surprising depths.

Opener “The Longest Year,” the shortest piece at nearly 14 minutes, throws down the gauntlet from the start, lacing everything with stretched out bursts of anxiety. Bellerue’s chaotic electronics build on the grinding squall from an ensemble of Luke Stewart, Brandon Lopez, gabby fluke-mogul, Jessica Pavone, and Ed Bear to form a metallic pyramid, reflecting any intentional light away from the crowd and into the void. Pavone and fluke-mogul sway like palm trees in hurricane force winds from Stewart and Lopez, their viola and violin permeated with horror and hollering to get out. With Bellerue guiding the storm, the massive weight of everything collapses on itself into a sonic black hole.

Each arrangement is a buzzsaw through the darkness. “Bass Feedback” screeches with purpose, the dual bass of Lopez and Stewart creating an impenetrable sonic wall. Pavone moves to organ, adding organic drones intertwining with the discordant wail from fluke-mogul and Bellerue. Bear on baritone sax almost gets lost in the mix, but that unmistakable woodwind sounds cuts through at just the right moments, especially later on the title track. The rise and fall throughout “Radioactive Desire” is hypnotic, even finding surprise moments of serenity a few minutes in. Once the fall happens, though, Lopez and Stewart up the hellfire, amassing a dense wash of discordant sound tha devolves into an enthralling machete-fueled duel between Bear and fluke-mogul. It’s utterly transfixing and once fluke-mogul drifts out on their own, the world stands still. Nobody shreds a violin like they do and nobody holds my attention more when they go off. 

Radioactive Desire is such a dense album and hard to get through in a single setting. That’s a strength, though, because Bellerue’s compositions give these world class artists room to stretch and offer their own interpretations. That said, when Bellerue ventures off on his own, like the 40-minute “Metal Gambuh,” the intensity of focus is enthralling. Across this massive piece, he traverses an entire universe of sound. Resonance scrapes clatter against metallic floors while feedback (of course) lurks in the background. Electronics shake off the rust, spreading parasitic drones across everything in sight. Aural shadows cast redolent greyscale hues through a cracked prism, bouncing around indefinitely until the moment finally ends. This is cathartic music of the highest degree and within the two hour span, Bob Bellerue and crew build an entire world only to smash it to pieces in the process. Fantastic.

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