Download: Mission of Burma - "Dust Devil" (lead-off track from Unsound)
From the outset, Unsound was not going to be like any other Mission of Burma album. As you would expect, the material is raw, primal and aggressive. They still have a signature knack of twisting even the most ferocious noise into complex structures. There are, of course, those killer hooks scattered throughout but just not quite where you would expect. Yet with all three lead members resolutely making the decision to deliberately stretch their boundaries even further, they stepped out of their comfort zone to create their most rewarding, bewildering and multifaceted long-player yet. Unsound is Mission of Burma’s fifth studio album, continuing their remarkable legacy. It seems redundant now to even call it a comeback because they’re a dynamic, current band, but having disbanded just four years after they formed in 1979, when they reformed eighteen years later and went on to record ONoffON in 2004, no one expected them to keep putting out records; let alone records that were every bit as vital and influential as their seminal early recordings. Their first album, Vs, is down in the annals of music as being one of the most important post-punk records of all time. Their subsequent recordings continue to expand on that and grow in scope, depth and accomplishment with every step.
So here we see Mission of Burma messing with their comfort zone during their recording session at Woolly Mammoth in Boston. As usual, Roger Miller (guitar, vocals), Clint Conley (bass, vocals) and Peter Prescott (drums, vocals) share the songwriting credits with their very distinct styles. All of them tried their hand at other instruments and sounds, allowing them to take risks with their creativity and giving them a more fluid line-up. Of course regular fourth member Bob Weston (of Shellac) was on hand to provide the tape loops and production duties.
As part of the manifesto to stretch musical boundaries, Roger wrote two of his songs “Opener” and “ADD in Unison” on the bass rather than guitar, and another ("Dust Devil") was based on an acoustic guitar improvisation. Both Clint and Peter also tweaked their writing just enough to make them feel it was actually worthwhile making another record. They also decided to use trumpet on the record, so Bob pulled out his trumpet playing skills to oblige.
Peter Prescott describes the experience: “We are a four headed hydra trying to create unity without canceling or censoring each head. So we juggle melody, groove, noise, depression, disruption, ecstasy… tension, release. I guess it’s thrilling for us to walk that musical plank.”
Clint Conley describes being in the studio: “There were certain technological advances as well, that might have been unthinkable just a few short years ago, in a distant time and century. During the mix at Woolly Mammoth, Peter occasionally opted for a virtual presence. From time to time a hologram of his head would appear, hovering in a darkened corner, issuing directives and encouragement. Not to say there weren't occasional glitches in the system. For a few days the hologram seemed locked in a mystifying loop, calling for more cymbals, regardless of whether the band were working on a mix or ordering Vietnamese food.”
Mission of Burma Tour Dates:
09.14 - Dan's Silverleaf (Denton, TX)
09.15 - Antone's (Austin, TX)
09.26 - Shank Hall (Milwaukee, WI)
09.27 - 400 Bar (Minneapolis, MN)
09.28 - High Noon Saloon (Madison, WI)
09.29 - Lincoln Hall (Chicago, IL)
Mission of Burma