Charnel Ground is comprised of three veteran New York City musicians: James McNew of bass, Kid Millions on drums, and Chris Brokaw on guitar. Each is or has been a member of at least one well-established band (Yo La Tengo, Oneida, and Codeine/Come, respectively), and there are enough smaller projects and collaborations between the three of them to fill a short novel. Their self-titled debut as a trio arrived a week ago, and is well worth your time if you’re a fan of any of them, or of noisy, expansive instrumental music in general.
The album begins with two tracks that will feel familiar to anyone who’s caught Oneida in recent years, when McNew has been a semi-regular presence in the lineup: drum hits that tumble like barrels over Niagra falls, amps on the verge of a meltdown, churning together in grooves that draw cosmic power from gutbucket rock’n’roll. This is not exactly surprising music for these three to make together: they could probably spend the rest of their lives with the gain maxed out on their overdrive pedals, but if you’re the type of person who enjoys what they do, you could probably spend the rest of your life listening. Charnel Ground‘s real treasure is its 18-minute album-closing title track, the kind of elegantly sprawling feedback jam that often crops up near the end of a Yo La Tengo album. Brokaw plays with real tenderness as McNew and Millions patiently keep time behind him—a reminder that improvised noise rock, when played well, is fully capable of touching your heart as well as melting your face.
Millions (real name John Colpitts) is a seismic force throughout Charnel Ground, as he is on every project to which he contributes, whether it’s Oneida, his own albums as Man Forever, or with any number of New York noisemakers who rely on his unmistakable backbeats and volcanic fills. Last month, he was hospitalized after a serious car crash in California. He is expected to make a full recovery, but will be unable to play for months, forcing Oneida to postpone an upcoming tour. This week, his label Thrill Jockey established a GoFundMe page to assist with his medical expenses. If you’re inclined to donate, you can do so here. Either way, you should definitely listen to Charnel Ground, which you can hear via Bandcamp below.