The Seattle-based duo of Robert Millis and Jeffery Taylor began to record their initially lo-fi avant-rock sketches around 1993. They quickly developed penchant for studio improvisations, often produced by Scott Colburn and manned by several regular collaborators, among them drummer John Vallier, sonic explorer Jeph Jerman and visual artist Jesse Paul Miller.
Despite their post-hardcore sensitivity, several of their explorations ventured deep into sound documentary. At its most esoteric, Climax Golden Twins celebrated the form pioneered by Luc Ferrari’s revolutionary field recordings. On the other hand, the band’s studio avatar alternated between avant-rock collections and dreamy compendia of loops, drones and sinewaves. It is the latter incarnation that has contributed auditory haze to countless art exhibitions, radio, theater, film and dance performances.
More recently, the duo reappeared under the Climax Golden Twins moniker in a more cohesive, orientalist rock format, officiating as a promising substitute the now defunct co-locals Sun City Girls. This is more than a coincidence. Robert Millis had for years collected field recordings in South East Asia, some of which have now appeared on Sublime Frequeuncies’ series.
Climax Golden Twins are also behind Victriola Favorites – a highly enjoyable collection of deeply obscure 78rpm singles from first decades of the 20th century, a treasure imported from most exotic destinations including Japan, Turkey, Burma, China etc. Charming acetate documents occasionally make an appearance in the band’s multi-layered textures.
After a brief phonemic cluster of unknown origin, acoustic guitars begin to strum lazily, carrying us through a stagnant, slumbering environment, laced with glasslike chimes. Aimless infant vocals vanish somewhere in the backyard. The informal atmosphere is breezy, summerlike.
The beguine accents turn this primitivist guitar piece into a quasi dance. It is as if the guitars surreptitiously spied on something, lurking and poking around in a comical fashion. A self-replicating piano chord obsesses deliriously with little effect. Unenthusiastically, drums, bells and some non-resonant guitar plucking fill the space. More abstract cymbal and piano missive finish this off. It is the “dance” character of this piece that drew references to Fred Frith’s Ralph-label period.
This begins with heavy tympani pounding. Animist Orchestra’s Jeph Jerman rolls around some round or spherical objects, placing us in the middle of the installation. The skeletal melodic component is sourced from an ostentatiously purposeless, clacking guitar/bass/drum trio of Mills, Taylor and Vallier. Despite the radicality of metallic scraping behind them, the sustained bass line makes the band’s outing almost spacey. In turn, the fuzz guitar erupts violently in short, scalding bursts. All along, the mysterious round objects keep rolling. The track wanes when a more prudent guitar peels away gentle notes along with respectful clinking from little bells.
This (longer) track wastes about a minute before audible elements can be captured. These “elements” unfold into a tardily progressing rock trio with simple tempo runs on bongos. Rhythmically pedant, the beat is unmasked as purely accidental when a screeching guitar unfurls a dirty fuzz carpet, eventually spreading over the pounded drum, rather monothematic bass and some insulated piano keys. This pattern of tortuous progress is reiterated after each fuzz relapse. An acoustic guitar closes the piece.
Under a prominent bass ostinato and a trickle of cymbals, oval effects pile up, mutating into a rocking behemoth when the bass drum joins to pinpoint the offensive ostinato. Almost instantly, a choking vocal deprives this “rock” number of any semblance of commercial potential. The sound is processed through folding, faulting, caving effects. As usual, the piece ends with a contrasting accent – this time from skittery percussion.
Heavy Hippie Shit
Here the bass falls even lower – to a threatening register as perfected by Boris. But the palette is more diverse: detuned acoustic guitar, grimy, coarse guitar fuzz hijacked from the densest of metals, organ’s vitreous resonance and marimba.
My Peppy Loins
A strangely tuned “Asian” string instrument (cha’pei?) cackles, followed by a speed punk suprematism in search of something to loathe.
Satanic growl is being smothered by a heavy tornado of several electric guitars, and curiously inept drumming. Harsh electro-core production places this excursion somewhere between the realms of Orthrelm and Psychic Paramount. Overall, it is a sonically repulsive experience, unless you’re in the mood for discord.
Sticks, toy xylophone and acoustic guitar strum, pluck, click and crackle. There is something Art Bears-ian in the ascendant, skeletal harmonies of this anti-professionally delivered track.
Microspace Patrol II
Non-metric drumming evades any responsibility for rhythmic structure, allowing the fuzz guitar to play with feedback. The band wakes up into a solid avant-rock number. Were it more rhythmically complex, it could be categorized alongside Canada’s Fat.
Theme from Climax Golden Twins
Southwestern atmospheric heavy rock – melodically one of the most promising moments on this record, plunges into discordance and is cut off way too early.
Telephone Call from the 70s
Billy Cox-like bass could be considered an anachronism. But Climax Golden Twins insists on jabbing the listener with colliding messages – a phoned “hello”, high-end feedback, annoying organ, itinerant, stop-go beats.
If you remember pre-industrial bass utilized by Joachim Stender in German band PD, then the Twins get pretty close. It migrates through pre-recorded dance tunes, vocal tapes playing backwards, various voices, engine-prepping guitar. Despite non-rational sawing and scratching, occasional piano tremolo and some dramatic vocal interjections, there are unfortunately not enough ideas to keep it continually interesting.
You Drove Me, Nearly Drove Me
Groovy Hammond organ teletransported from 1950s small-town pre-rockandroll dance party could have remembered Vivien Leigh’s first steps. Yet no saccharine allowed here. Tweeting and twittering juts out from a tape run within a reading range recording head. The effect is simple, but ingenious; it does chirp and occasionally sings. And then, an eerie crooner at half-speed does, indeed, loop in a line from the title.
Probably the strongest moment on the disc. This Heat-like guitar symphony with rambunctious drums, simple electronics and tapes thrown into the sonic whirlwind. It plods on ponderously, toxified further by stammering bray. The lead guitar crafts a solo and a scream resonates inauspiciously. The hoarse voice later returns, if only to incinerate the gates of hell.
A Door A Fish Your Head
Clarinets and Gene Krupa-like archaic 12-bar drumming accompany a failed recitation of “Poems for a Dead Man”. Amplified, jazzy guitar softly points to the verse ends, with the warm clarinet pouring in additional color. Later, the clarinet pierces in Ornette Coleman’s style.
Here’s the basic trio falls into a groove. Structurally, this is a dialogue between two simple themes: one tense and suspenseful, one joyful enough to resolve the suspense. After some to-and-fro, a Jon Hassell-like windblown effect quells the dispute.
1, 2, 3, 4
Voice snippets are followed by a cut-up punk charge. Black metal vocal hurls lethal syllables whenever the charge stops to take a breather.
A relaxed tabla, field recordings and exoticist guitars à la Sir Richard Bishop, crowd in a market full of children’s voices.
Back to the beginning. A sizzle sneaks through a rather random mapping of acoustic guitar strumming, melodica blowing and crystalline intonation. The guitar cradles slowly, effective and swinging, but relatively uneventful. Then it attempts to impersonate poor-man’s Appalachia plucking style, despite the geographic and cultural gulf that separates the coal miners from Seattle’s coffee shops… Isn’t it closer to Thailand?
1. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins” 2EP (1994)
2. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Three Inch” MCD (1995)
3. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Imperial Household Orchestra” (1996)
4. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Lovely” (1997)
5. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins (Locations)” (1998)
6. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Dreams Cut Short in the Mysterious Clouds” (1999)
7. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins (Rock Album)” (1993, 2000)
8. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Session 9” (1995, 2000)
9. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Highly Bred and Strictly Tempered” (2004)
10. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Climax Golden Twins” (2006)
11. CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS: “Five Cents a Piece” (2007)
The band has also issued plenty of cassettes and I am yet to hear several of their early recordings. Position 8 is a soundtrack using some material from 2 and 6 and I do not recommend it. 5, 7, 10 and 11 would offer a range wide enough for anyone willing to explore the band’s variegated approaches.