(8 out of 10)
From the mid-‘80s through the early ‘90s, it seemed that all the cool alternative musicians were part of a giant, collective family. Of course, in a philosophical sense, they were (and today’s musicians are no different), but in a practical sense, there was a lot more collaboration happening between artists that one would typically not expect to see together. To this day, I still can’t get my brain around the fact that Ian MacKaye and Alan Jourgenson made multiple songs together.
In the spirit of those days comes Turning Lead Into Gold with the High Confessions, a collaboration between Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Chris Connelly (Ministry, Revolting Cocks … but not Lead Into Gold; that was Paul Barker), Sanford Parker (Minsk), and Jeremy Lemos (White/Light). While Shelley may be the marquee member here, this is very much a project that reflects the Chicago roots of the other three musicians; there’s a crusty dissonance and sprawling, post-industrial gloom set upon all four of these tracks, three of which blow past the 10-minute mark with ease.
Yet, like all good collaborations, it’s not all that easy to suss out the individual members’ contributions. Nothing here sounds like any of the dudes’ regular bands (although “Dead Tenements” comes close to evoking the sludgy oppression of Minsk, albeit oppression tempered by Connelly’s gruff, militaristic vocals), and instead manages to evoke influences as disparate as the Velvet Underground (“Mistaken For Cops” pretty shamelessly rips the riff from “Sister Ray”) and even David Sylvian’s recent art-noise (“The Listener”). It’s unapologetically heavy stuff, but manages to also evoke an untethered looseness that naturally comes from the members getting out of their comfort zones.
First appeared Aug. 10, 2010 at Blurt-Online.com.