Blood Rhythms‘ Assembly has been one of the most filthy records I’ve received to review. A typewritten “Blood Rhythms” label is hastily taped to the plastic encasing of grimy and roughly hewn stack of vinyl and paper. It’s Chicago-crud in a bag; opening the plastic gives a nice whiff of varnish, paint, and stale air. The packaging seems to be created via papier-mâché—out of newspaper, cardboard, and black paint. An unmarked (except for track names scratched on the inside of the vinyl) LP is contained within the assembled sleeve. Outside of this sleeve is a separate record in a standard paper sleeve which seems to have formerly been, according to a record store label, “Becket/All the Time.” However, this unfortunate Becket release would probably ruin any turntable it was placed on: it’s decorative. The vinyl has been machined, it seems, and spattered with god-knows-what where any semblance of a label would be. With the whole double-album confusion cleared up, I came across the kindly Blood Rhythms logo insert with its menacing spear-points. I placed the record (the actual one) on my turntable as I continued to look at the inserts.
“Side A: ‘Course Land’ (45 RPM), Side B: ‘Cutter Magnolias’ (33.3 RPM)” is written atop the main insert, though the distortion of a faded typewriter ribbon keeps the text on the border of illegibility. Scrawled by hand next to this advisory is “Playable At All Speeds.” A thought reoccurred to me in which I wondered if most noise musicians really care which speed their releases are set to play on. Regardless, I started out with the suggested speed for “Course Land,” adjusting my record player’s belt manually. Side A was calmer than I had anticipated: a looping dark ambient piece that seemed to me like the aural equivalent of running a finger slowly down the wall of a rusted public restroom stall. Several droning recordings are mashed together, diving and rising from evolving filters. Barely discernible backgrounds give the track life. “Course Land” becomes volatile as more brass instruments mix into the drone. The track then turns to a solemn dissonance and a feeling of ominous despair that should be familiar to anyone in the post-industrialized Midwestern United States. The arm lifted on my turntable, and I was still sort of clutching the type-written and hand-revised inserts, making out words and admiring the spontaneity of the caps-typed release notes . I pulled the record off, switched the speeds and placed “Cutter Magnolias” back on the turntable.
Where Side A is like a slow tetanus infection, Side B is an aggressive mangling through an assembly line with breathing machines of brass and wind. Repetition and grinding are all-encompassing with loops that raise the question of turntable malfunction. At 33.3 RPMs, the engine of seemingly unyielding discord fades only slightly into an infinite rut of tempo-dropped loop. This side is certainly more on theme with the title of the album. Silhouettes of compounds, smokestacks crumbling, and ghosts of assembly lines roar within this track.
Listening to each side again at reversed speeds didn’t change my impressions much. Side A drones on with a more pleasant note, with the same squeaks and moans of instruments in the distance. The atmosphere is still undeniably eerie, but there are aspects which appear in this relistening that weren’t perceivable at the faster speed. Side B feels rushed at 45 RPM when compared to the thumping, threatening nature of “Cutter Magnolias” at a lesser speed, but when it crashes down about halfway through the side, the faithfulness to death industrial is evident. The factories of Chicago have been reinhabited by something evil, and Arvo Zylo is dedicated to preserving that in authentic, old-school noise distribution.
I’ve purchased noise tapes that have been nailed to planks of wood, unlabeled floppy disks, painted mini-disks, and CDs whose cases are covered in some sort of plastic goo. Even among these nihilistic competitors of packaging, Blood Rhythms’ Assembly stands out for its intensive craftsmanship (in the most appropriately filthy way) and calls back to earlier days of underground experimental music. From the sleeves (100 uniquely made by Arvo Zylo, 100 crafted by Emil Beaulieau, famously of RRRecords) to the very stamps on the inserts, there is labor going into this release. Upon further post-listening inspection, I noticed that my particular sleeve contains black-varnish-stained pages of an encyclopedia containing entries on New York, Norway, the North Star, and a redacted bit on Northwestern University.
The music itself was composed of three directional recordings of five musicians in a meat locker: Arvo Zylo, Bruce Lamont, Brian Klein, Dave Purdie, and Andy Ortmann wielding brass instruments and a fifteen-foot tube. Zylo, who is the only consistent member of Blood Rhythms, chopped up and coordinated the hundreds of layers which comprise this release. If the record would take the shape of its music, it would bear a greater resemblance to the fucked up decorative record that came packaged with this release.
Assembly was co-released by Zylo’s No Part of It mail-order label and Lowell, Massachusetts’ infamous RRRecords experimental record store and label. The record’s multi-directional recording foundation demands a beautiful sound-system in order to take in the full experience of the industrial decay that Arvo Zylo has pressed to vinyl. However, I suppose playing the record over the PA of an abandoned warehouse would work just as well. The rusted conveyor belts and creaking meat lockers of Chicago still lord over American noise music.
Side A: Course Land
Side B: Cutter Magnolias