Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pus Pustules

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The new LP by Cotton Museum, the solo Michigan noise project by Chris Pottinger, reveals the electronic producer's gifts as an artist of extremes. On one side is a shapeshifting sound piece that swings between fluttering ambient metal and grinding industrial klang; on the other are engraved drawings of Pottinger's hyper-gory, ooze-excreting creatures that populate his visual work. The cover art is of a piece unto itself: it's a five-color screen print using mainly kidney-color pinks, muted blue-grays and subterranean earth tones. This otherworldly marriage of sound and vision on the aptly titled Pus Pustules can't be ignored, and it's impossible to imagine one working without the other. It's a neo-pagan feast for the senses. Or the senseless, if you prefer. Although Pottinger uses the same grubby palette in his other Detroit-based musical projects — including Odd Clouds and Slither, the horns plus electronic effects duo with Heath Moerland of Sick Llama — the direction on PP begins a slow tease toward a newly developing sophistication. 

This has been coming, arguably, since Cotton Museum's 2007 split 12-inch with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and other untitled works (released on the Italian Qbico label the following year) that included a loop broadcast continually for months during the Museum of Contemporary Art's Shrinking Cities exhibition, heard by anyone within range of Odd Clouds' Get Lost house in northwest Hamtramck. On his new piece, Pottinger launches a drone that stays largely in the midrange, with occasional plunges into darker, sub-bass territory and high-end bursts that sound like treated flutes or — more appropriate imagery to suit Cotton Museum's deviant body of work — the hollowed out femur of a cave bear. It's the call of something wild wriggling out there in the murky bottoms of an ancient world, at once alien and strangely human.

Walter Wasacz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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