[sic] Magazine

Grem – Esme

By day, Shaun Durkan plies his trade as part of Weekend – the awesome San Francisco noise-rockers. Grem, by nature of Esme’s miniscule release, is his current pet project-cum-hobby, and it’s downtime well spent for both listener and Durkan alike. It’s clear he enjoyed making Esme; you can tell from the demonic laughter that arises spontaneously during the well-reverbed vocal meanderings of “Something Inside”.

Yet, those expecting Esme to be made up of Weekend cast-offs are out of luck. Though the release does laud it up on speaker-blown static, guitar squall and raw sonics, it nevertheless has more than enough of its own identity to warrant separate discussion.

For a start, Grem is the more experimental of Durkan’s two offerings by some distance. This could be read as indulgent depending on how you react to the synthesised romp “Blade Runner”, or passages like “Eat The Beat”. Its slowed chatter, rattle and sizzle struggle to be labelled anything but noise, but, to these ears at least, this is not a complaint.

However, the glitchy dissonance that heralds “Nightstalker” certainly sets Durkan apart from his other incarnation. Coming on like HEALTH with perpetual tinnitus and nought but broken equipment and prehistoric howls by way of communication, it’s a track not entirely representative of Esme, but one that doesn’t jar, carrying the same abrasive quality that the titular opener does with its tinny drum battery, distorted vocal that seems to chew on itself and sirens of feedback.

Supposedly, “Wicked Game” on the a-side is a cover of the Chris Isaak “classic”, but it’s difficult to tell with this version arriving so heavily disguised in smashed sibilance and delivered in ghostly lo-fi. Ultimately though, it’s actually pretty fine, strangling and scorching the drippyness out of the original, lingering as a result little like the most distant of the A Grave With No Name catalogue – a comparison given more credibility with the arrival of the rolling psyche that plays out through a fizzy smokescreen in “Walk”.

Later, “Black Skull” – though its tough to tell tracks apart at this stage as there’s no clear demarcation and this is a cassette release remember – fries under its own white noise so as to really put the equaliser through its paces. Through this maelstrom, Durkan tries to make himself heard pushing spectral waves of vocal toward the surface, bolstering them with an arsenal of drowning percussion, which all serves Esme well as a dramatic blow-out.

Undoubtedly one for the more extremophile of noise and lo-fi fans, Esme is actually pretty likeable when its varied layers of distress are peeled back – just don’t expect to hear right afterwards if you’ve turned it up as loud as Durkan recorded it.

~Esme is out mid-March 2011 on a limited run of 50 cassettes on Skrot Up .~

Grem @ myspace

Grem @ bandcamp