"The Blackest Black" is a compilation of Interdimensional Vortex League's electronic and "acidic guitar" work, which began in the early 1980s and coincided with the birth of the modern "acid house" and "rave" scenes in London and in certain American cities. It is the companion piece to "Falcom's Flame-Licked Beats," which was also re-released in 2013.
After forming its subsidiary, "I.V. League Southwest" in Austin, TX, the LEAGUE kept its feet in the Ohio Valley throughout the 1980s. Cincinnati, of course, has close connections to the London scene, via the intermingling of Ohio and British families... At the time, I.V. League was playing in the same sorts of clubs, ad-hoc "flash mob" warehouse spaces, and "acid houses" as were the hipsters in Manchester, Ibiza, and Montego Bay. It was a heady time for the band, as they were riding high on the hype generated by their performance series, "Art in the Dark," which launched the LEAGUE's founder, Andy Colvin, into the international-jetsetter art limelight. Colvin, presenting himself as a guru of "collaborative art," quickly managed to wrangle his way into working with several notable artists in the NYC scene.
However, Colvin's relationship to the electronic scene was ambivalent, to say the least. Colvin complained that much of the electronic music in vogue was "watered down, apolitical, and/or the product of a cheap sellout." In his visual art, Colvin was searching for the "blackest black" - the deepest, darkest recesses of the subconsicious. The Void... This album is a celebration of those unconscious drives - the things that you can't think about because they lie just below your conscious awareness. Fears... Hopes and dreams... Ideas that cannot be put into words or action, but which resonate through the ether and become "meaning" for the recipient. The One Chord... The Multi-Chord... The frequency vibration of the Psychic Sasquatch...
As always, standing between the listener and "ultimate compromise" is the LEAGUE, holding firm to the idea that the early 1980s was the "last great stand of revolutionary art; nothing much else has happened since Reagan/Bush ruined it for everyone."
The music on "Black" seems to emulate the greatness of that era, although there are also couple of cuts from the 1990s and 2000s. The band's newer material keeps to their taut tradition of "unusual sounds mixed with unusual ideas." The music is primal - almost cavemanlike at times - yet the lyrics are conceptual, creating a startling auditory effect.
I remember hearing the song "Psychic Sasquatch" for the first time. I found the strange combinations of sounds somewhat disconcerting. I had never heard such extremes together on a record before. Yet, over time, that song has become one of my favorites. The LEAGUE's music, even though it may seem very fringey, has an unusual ability to penetrate one's brain - almost like it is a product of the Tavistock Institute (which is rumored to have mind-controlled the Beatles into being so great). Could this be - as the LEAGUE claims - the "Mind of Plooney" at work, or is it just good experimental exploration by artists with a deeper understanding of "sound and vision?"
"Black" features several LEAGUE old-timers from different eras. We hear the blazing guitar work of Marc Trujillo ("El Mariachi" film soundtrack) and Falcom Mindrum (aka "The Cuban Slide") throughout the album. Trujillo's metalwork, along with Mindrum's versatility and knack for risk-taking, make the album a surprising mix of moods and textures. The Changs, Aaron (guitar) and Andrea (bass), lay down some of the best brooding tones around. Keyboardist Dave Scott contributes mightily with his techno tracks, which were very popular in the Midwest in the 1980s. Dave's art performances were notorious for their political edginess and, since the issues haven't changed, Dave's lyrics are still applicable today.
The many live cuts on this disc are exceptional and inspiring. It's nice to hear these rare cuts from a great live band that rarely tours anymore. The pomp and visual spectacle of early LEAGUE shows was legendary; one never knew what to expect... On "Black," Colvin (vocals and effects) uses his sound engineering skills to successfully bring together several genres and recording situations in a way that feels consistent and "right." One of the special treats here is the inclusion of Colvin's song, "Sedrick," which was featured on the soundtrack of Richard Linklater's groundbreaking film, "Slacker."
Interdimensional Vortex League, of course, pushes the envelope on "Black." it is in their blood. The distortion is taken right to the cliff. The topics and moods change radically. One is asked to hold two opposing thoughts in mind. Nothing stays the same. The present moment is infinite. The Absolute meets the Relative.
But the LEAGUE can never NOT subvert the controlling paradigm. And since the paradigm here is ostensibly "blackness," this amazing album - created decades before we would hear similar strange ditties in TV commercials for, say, Velveeta - ends up promoting light, or "enlightenment." The truly unique individual cannot exist without the absorbent, black-hole views of the group to react against, and one can't learn to climb mighty peaks without understanding and overcoming obstacles.
Together, "The Blackest Black" and "Falcom's Flame-Licked Beats" prove the Interdimensional Vortex League "time-travels" in a way that is truly remarkable. Such time-travel helps us cross physical distances, jump psychological hurdles, and reach new artistic heights. Most of the answers to our problems lie within, and until these depths are plumbed, one cannot hope to escape what Philip K. Dick called the "Black Iron Prison."
-Ben Camp, Taos Public Radio
"Sedrick is one of my favorite songs. Reminds me of the early Slacker days in Austin..." -Richard Linklater, director, "Slacker"
"Imaginative... Alternative... Funny... Impressive..." -FORCED EXPOSURE
"Top-notch... My show has played this record over and over..." -Barry Courtois, WBOR, Bowdoin College
"Grand and fresh... Reality leaps an urgent step forward..." -THE RETRIEVER
"Brilliant... Very popular in Missouri..." -Tom Hersfield, KWSB
"This record is worth it. Measures up to the high standards of groups like Butthole Surfers and Nice Strong Arm..." -SOUND CHOICE
"Huge..." -Tessa B. Dick
"Great..." -Scott Haig, WCUW, Worchester, MA