Avant-saxophonist Sam Hillmer officially releases his cassette prequel to his upcoming LP (due out in Fall 2012 on Northern Spy) this month via Words+Dreams. Let’s go ahead and get the obligatory notes on the attributes of Sam Hillmer out of the way. He’s extremely prolific: Hillmer stays busy as a front man to the popular avant group Zs, along with numerous other projects with consistent output and performances. He’s also a down-to-earth, nice guy: everybody likes Hillmer unless they’re an asshole. He also gives music back to the community through his non-profit music organization. So, Zs, prolific, nice. Those things are just always brought up. Okay, on to the tape.
Shrine Flu finds Hillmer at his most structurally meditative to date, with the solo saxophonist allowing a reflective atmosphere to resonate while channeling one of his trademark skills: not rushing toward climax while enjoying the process of the journey. The tape is by no means “drone,” however, as even in its sparsest moments, Shrine Flu is a very active, elaborate, and energetically cerebral collection. Hillmer himself has even paraphrased the cassette’s thesis as “the part of the Venn diagram representing our collective psyche where spiritual paranoia & materialism overlap with political and economic paranoia & materialism.”
Hillmer’s range and textural preference on the densely layered premiere title track is a unique position for Diamond Terrifier, and for the rest of Hillmer’s projects, for that matter. Relying on reverberated space and lower tones, the track builds like an ensemble of harmoniums, rather than the effect-driven amplification of much of his work in Zs. This all changes on the beginning of the b-side with “Chicken Shaman,” as pitch-shifting warbles are introduced for some familiar yet still fresh sax styling.
The release as a whole breathes and pulsates like a disembodied brain in an incubator, and we’re listening in through the monitors, failing to take notes as we become entranced by its hypnotic waves of ecstasy. Shrine Flu is pure cerebral pleasure.
Order Shrine Flu at Words+Dreams.