In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark,” Georgiana’s sole flaw (a tiny, crimson “handprint” on her cheek) was simultaneously the locus of her husband’s increasing terror, and the source of her beauty. For The Painful Leg Injuries’ sophomore release— whose title I dare not type twice for fear of a painful hand injury– it is much the same; for amongst the almost alien beauty is established a palpable sensation of unease. Yes, something is wrong, but herein lurks the fascination.
The Painful Leg Injuries, a husband-and-wife duo (and can there be any other kind outside Utah?) split the duties– Bill Byrne on computer, electronics, and field recordings; and Suzanne handling percussion and cello.
The end results aren’t easy to describe; a mixture of repetitious looped phrases, disassembling horns, curious chatter, abused strings– without being at all similar, The Painful Leg Injuries recall Throbbing Gristle’s uncanny ability to mix sounds into something both familiar and foreign. Bill Byrne avoids processing sources into aural sludge, and instead aims for combinations where the original sound “flavors” are retained. The mood isn’t as much frightening as it is constantly in a state of instability, paranoia, and nervousness.
Makes you wonder about their home life.
All joking aside, this is a terrific, well-made album. The sound quality is much improved from their first album “Backwards, Broken, and Incorrectly,” and it really lets listeners get into the tracks.
If that wasn’t enough, a DVD-R is included, featuring six videos accompanied by selected tracks from the album. Byrne’s digital wizardry is showcased for three, with my favorite being an impressionistic look at a space station crew having a very bad day. But I have to give it up for John Ibarra, whose video for “In The Haze, You Can See So Much of Everything It’s Nothing” features a spastic blend of lasers, old film (I think I saw a snippet of “Rear Window”), and bizarre editing to achieve an effect where the viewer is in a near permanent state of retinal burn. I’d have titled it: “Home Epilepsy Diagnosis Kit,” but that’s just me. Recommended!