El Deth may not be as active as the Knoxville-based label once was, but mastermind Arrison Kirby is still doing music and helping others make it as well.
In addition to his own projects Memetics and Never Sorry, he sent me a new album by a one-off project called Cop back in December. Kirby teamed up with Wes Wyrick (Star Mountain, DolphynRyder) and SK (The Glaring Sound) for the CD, titled “Urgency.”
It’s an apropos title, given the frantic energy that crackles to the surface on every song. The trio crafts a sonic groove on “Urgency,” a three-part telepathic freeway from their collective minds to the listener’s ear. It can be a jarring journey, as on the pounding drums crash into a sustained reactor-is-failing buzz of guitars on the opening track “You’ve Gotta Go,” but songs like “Botched Operation,” with its undercurrent of menace, can also call to mind the soundtrack to a seedy crime film, where the anti-hero is pushing his way through a crowded dance floor, gun drawn, looking for the bad guy. Slow-changing progressions, wrapped in shimmering electronic effects and the occasional quick-slap of drums, quicken into a frenzy on the album’s centerpiece, the 13-plus-minute “Formal Misgivings,” and by the closer, “Filthy South,” Cop channels the slow-before-slamming thrust of the blues, drenching the whole mess in fuzz and feedback that oozes into the brain like river sludge.
The next El Deth project is the upcoming release by West Tennessee band Dire Con. Kirby, who produced the self-titled album, describes the band (fronted by singer-songwriter Hamilton Ellis) as “a dirty Southern rock band, with a gruff and gritty exposition of the darker aspects of Southern living.” Kirby’s lo-fo approach to the board adds to the dour tone of the record, which kicks off with the doomy lament of “Cocaine” (”One minute seems just like a day, I hope I don’t get stuck this way,” Hamilton moans). The ravages of “Pills” gets dissected on the EP’s second track, but this time the subject matter is set to a jangling guitar echo that almost sounds pretty, in the way the feeble sunlight filtered through stark-naked tree branches might seem on a cold winter day. Uneasiness is woven throughout “Dire Con,” but there’s also a resolve beneath it all: “Dealing with the pain is better than feeling numb,” Hamilton tells us on “Empty Room.”