Album Review: Prostitutes – Crushed Interior

[Digitalis Recordings; 2013]

Though he’d actually released his self-titled debut back in 2011, James Donadio seemed to come out of nowhere (technically Cleveland, but you know) with last year’s lovingly damaged Psychedelic Black, an album that melded analogue tones with the sort of neo-industrial techno the likes of which labels like Opal Tapes have been trading in. No surprise, then, that earlier this year Donadio put out a split release with similarly crunchy noise auteur Basic House for that very same imprint.

But Crushed Interior is his solo followup proper to Psychedelic Black, and it’s out now on the veritable institution of experimental electronic music that is Digitalis Recordings. The eight tracks here represent a move towards a more ramshackle conception of tech house, not unlike Pete Swanson’s recent Punk Authority. Both are filthy records; they just *sound* dirty, in the best possible way. *Crushed Interior* makes me want to take a shower afterwards. But I like showers, almost as much as I like Bruce Springsteen, so let’s fucking rouge our knees and roll our woolen tube socks down.

It would be a stretch to call this “dance music.” The stuttering shallow beats and lurking drones of “Dial Tone Degradation,” for instance, sound like they’re building up to some mind-altering crescendo but instead wind their way ’round and ’round, like aural quicksand, never dropping the uneasy pretense and masterfully keeping the listener both satisfied and waiting in anticipation of a climax that never arrives. After a quick fade-out, “Through Their Hungry Lips” employs staccato blips and a gradually building layer of gamelan percussion, exemplifying Donadio’s liminal positioning between abstract noise and hollowed-out techno. The repetition and slow, overarching movements of the latter genre give these tracks a sense of purpose and structure, while the oil-stained static of the former casts a menacing glow over these soft rhythms and harsh accoutrements.

Even the track titles signal an impending sense of doom: “A Pack Of Dogs,” “Spiders In My Eyelids,” “Lots Of Scars.” This is not glamorous music. “Lots Of Scars” submerges its beat in a cassette sinkhole into which Donadio also chucks a few heaping dollops of feedback and some Eleh-esque synth utterances. Towards the midpoint a steadier and clearer beat emerges, but instead of elevating the track to even a remotely danceable status it simply becomes another percolating element, another plume of smoke emanating from some unseen fire.

What I love about music like this–and what Donadio does exceptionally well as Prostitutes–is the way it exists outside any specific atmosphere or scene. I can’t think of a perfect place to listen to Crushed Interior. It does go hard, so it’s probably not meant for the rather staid “home listening” category, but the shuffling abstraction of tracks like “Make a Hole, Look Out” make this absolutely inappropriate for any imaginable DJ set. As for driving music, the krautrock repetition is present but not the forward-thrusting direction; rather than zooming down the freeway, Crushed Interior seems apter for a lurching nighttime drive through the bad part of town, during which you slow down at each intersection to see if your turn is finally coming up. Even weed, that sonic panacea, fails to illuminate these tracks’ garbled messages. Message in a bottle? Hardly. Donadio has indeed stuffed something in a fractured glass bottle, but I imagine him tossing it into an oncoming mudslide. It will get dirty and buried and it might smack someone in the face, but it’s still there, damn it, even if it’s never meant to be unfurled.

By the time we reach the relatively benign “Jungle Wine,” Donadio’s transmissions have become no less intimidating. But like a great slasher film or a LiveLeak exclusive, even at its most gruesome we just can’t turn away. This is music to revel in, even if it’s unclear what exactly we’re celebrating. It’s grimy, possibly diseased, and wonderful.