Review Summary: You call THIS an orgasm?
In many ways, Cromagnon's "Orgasm" embodies just what 1960s America was. For better or for worse, it was a time for expression, individualism, and counter-culture. A barrage of experimental music and films were poured out to the public through the growing underground scene to showcase just how "different" everyone could be. It seemed to be a competition. Who could push the envelope the furthest? Who could completely eliminate the envelope from the equation? Who could rip the envelope into hundreds of little pieces and reassemble them to form a piece of contemporary modern art?
Cromagnon is a band with virtually no recorded history. They were quite the reclusive troupe for the short time that they were around in the 1960s. The band was formed by Brian Elliot and Austin Grasmere in New York. This was all at a very strange point in American history. The 1960s offered the country (and world) with an onslaught of protest movements and anti-this/anti-that causes. Every band had some message to send, which generally leaned towards peace instead of war and returning to how we lived long ago. A tribal setting, perhaps? Well, if so, Cromagnon would fit right in.
The opening track, "Caledonia," shamelessly underlines all of what makes this album an annoying experience. First off, the tribal whoops and hollers from white men pretending to be their ancestors from long ago is borderline racist. The odd blackened folk sound of "Caledonia" is as confusing as it is intriguing at times, but by the sixth unintelligibly mumbled verse, you're just about done with it. That is exactly how the rest of the album goes. It's all a slow death by repetition and lack of new ideas. "Ritual Feast of the Libido" continues this trend of strange groans and yells. A lazy percussion beat trudges on in the background as the vocalist shreds his vocal chords by simply.... yelling. Just yelling, in a style much like that of Yoko Ono (who would not be a bad comparison to these guys by any stretch of the imagination). It can be seen as an emotional outpouring to some, but maybe a drunken fit to others. I'll stick with the latter. Many of the tracks wander in a zombie-like state and never manage to hit a central theme or climax. They just travel down a hallway, occasionally passing by a room with an avalanche of noise pours from it, but keep moving, bumping into walls all the way. "Fantasy" begins with a man laughing maniacally amidst his drug trip while an odd glitchy sound buzzes from ear to ear. It fades in and out of other noise passages but amounts to nothing when added together. "Genitalia" offers the most disturbing of the tracks. This is where it crosses the line from a confusing form of art to plumb insanity. A soft melody is sung in a pleasing baritone while the shrill cries of babies and demonic sounding things croon along. The result is frightening and painful to put yourself through. Through it all, pro-drug and pseudo-political elements are thrown in at random. It all becomes confusing instead of provocative. In order to make a complete album, one must have clear priorities.
The album is poorly titled, if anything. If this is what orgasms felt like, I would be rushing out to get a vasectomy right away. It's clear a few minutes in that the album is trying its best to mirror the effects of an acid trip. Not only because of the hellish, jagged noise that surrounds everything, but also because of the sloppy manner in which the songs are put together. This could have been an aesthetically interesting experience due to its unconventionality, but literally nothing is achieved here, except for maybe making the listener's stomach churn. But isn't that what they wanted? That's the problem with this music, paired with a 1960s mindset. It's not a war that the naysayers can win. They say they hate the culture's music. The culture replies with a resounding, "Good! We don't want your society anyway!" What's the point in arguing? There's nothing wrong with noise music in my opinion. It just depends on how it is created and how different sounds are utilized. Other than showing that they know how to use some cool studio tricks new to the 1960s, Cromagnon achieves nothing significant.
"Orgasm" has left its stain on the music world yet is still heralded as being one of the root albums of the industrial genre, as well as some odd sub-genres. It's been the figurehead of the industrial genre to many, but to me, it's just another reason to be confused by the 60s.