We’ve encountered a lot of the…unusual here on Rainbows in the Dark, but I think this one might be the most unusual of them all. Not that unusual means bad. It doesn’t inherently imply quality, and (spoiler alert) it doesn’t apply here, but Dismemberment Cabaret, the newest collaboration between harsh noise outfit Gridfailure and uber-prolific trumpet player Mac Gollehon might be the toughest release I’ve ever had to get my mind around in these parts. To sum it up succinctly would be almost impossible. The title of the album kind of tells you exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Dismemberment Cabaret is probably not what you would expect when you look at the body of work Mac Gollehon has under his belt. You might not know the name, but you certainly know Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” and for that reason you know Mac Gollehon and his trumpet prowess. His recording credits boast over 200 gold and platinum albums from artists like David Bowie, Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, Chaka Khan, Sheena Easton, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The man is a legend, but besides playing with almost every pop artist who’s been worth anything in the cultural lens of the past four decades, he’s also been prolific with collaborating with David Brenner, aka Gridfailure. Brenner too has a large body of work under his belt, and he is no stranger to collaborations. While it might not seem like the two would go anywhere near together, Dismemberment Cabaret is sewn together neatly by the vision of Brenner, who took bits and pieces of Gollehon’s work at previous sessions coupled with recordings that Gollehon took in the stairwell of his apartment building, and threw them together with harsh noise and distorted samples to achieve the effect of something like jazz-meets-slasher film soundtrack. The result is about as bonkers as you might expect, or hope, it to be. Post-industrial beats and a wealth of instruments and samples are run through a sonic blender and then layered under free-jazz, almost bebop, atonal trumpet lines. It is, quite honestly, a lot to take in at once, but it is one of the most wildly creative releases I’ve ever encountered.
The tracks on Dismemberment Cabaret all follow roughly the same format: big beats come in strong at the front, followed by harsh samples and electronics and distorted vocals, interspersed with trills and runs from Gollehon. Tracks like “Evisceration Guest List” and “El Temblor” make use of horror-style shrieks and screams, and possibly some slasher movie samples to breed an atmosphere that reminds me a lot of the vibes that one gets from The Lion’s Daughter’s Skin Show with how they breed an atmosphere full of tension and suspense. The fault of this method though, at least for me, is that there’s no release. It’s just all tension from start to finish, which I am positive is a conscious choice, but one that doesn’t make for an easy listen. Gollehon’s trumpet lines are just overlaid over everything else, in a way that makes them sound very discordant and out of place. No two components seem to mesh with each other in a way that is satisfying, but what it does do very well is foster a sense of cinematic foreboding. Again, I don’t know that the point was to have Dismemberment Cabaret be a cohesive listen, so just take that into account when you go for an experience.
Ultimately, Dismemberment Cabaret might be a little too much to take in all at once, and it suffers from a little too much sameness throughout, mostly because everything is so crazy all the time it’s hard to pick things that stand out. Still, its flaws and its triumphs come from the same place, and that is a place that is so unbelievably creative and unique that it’s hard to criticize it too much. Who would even think to come up with something like this? Certainly not me, and that is definitely something to be said for the duo behind this. There is nothing at all like Dismemberment Cabaret right now, and I doubt there will be for some time, at least.