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The Ed Kemper Trio – Live at WREK (The Ed Kemper Trio)

The Ed Kemper Trio - Live at WREK
13 December 2013

Once again, Bandcamp provides a useful service in allowing a now-defunct band to release old recordings for posterity. Formed from the ashes of Bert and He is the Queen, this Montgomery, AL noise/math-rock trio (named for the early 1970s CA serial killer that targeted co-ed hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area) existed from 1997-2004, releasing three LPs and a live album. They were also featured in Shane Gillis’s 2004 Montgomery music scene documentary, People Will Eat Anything. Live is a 20-song radio session (two tracks are a DJ intro/outro) recorded on August 20, 2003 at Georgia Tech’s WREK, and primarily focuses on their final two studio LPs, 2002’s How to Win a Sword Fight and 2003’s Hack.

Bringing to mind a cross between Shellac, Mission of Burma, Jawbox, and Rage Against the Machine, their music is characterized by Kenny Johnson’s dense, jagged guitar riffing and exasperated, barked vocals, Vonda McLeod’s irregular, grinding bass, and Glenn Grant’s economical, yet piledriving drumming. Don’t expect catchy melodies or much in the way of stylistic variety; all of these tunes are cut from similar cloth. Perhaps it’s best to start with the original albums – available on their Bandcamp page – which have brawnier production (I’d recommend the aforementioned second LP How to Win). Still, Live is gnashing, discordant, and punishing post-punk that seethes and burbles with vitriol and tension, and their relentless attack never lets up for a second. It sheds favorable light on an unfairly overlooked band, and makes its case as EK3’s ultimate document.

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