I Live Here is a challenging debut from a band that was somewhat overlooked in the rush to gush over such New York noise scene contemporaries as Sonic Youth, Live Skull and Swans. The links are there, both stylistic and genealogical (Ritual Tension’s vocalist drummed on Greed and Holy Money), but this quartet writhes to its own noisemaker. On the best material (like the gripping “Tightrope” and the scathing “Social Climber”), Ivan Nahem offers an alienated, surreal persona, his voice a cool monotone rising to a frantic bray, while his brother Andrew spews piercing, Rowland S. Howardian drone-guitar. The rhythms are unpredictable and convoluted; Ubuesque arrangements play havoc with traditional songcraft. (The tape and CD mix in the three songs from a subsequent EP, including a totally out-there devolution of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”)
Live at CBGB, The Blood of the Kid presents Ritual Tension in a most conducive atmosphere. More intense than on I Live Here, the band presents some great new material, like the throbbing “New Super,” the tempestuous “Devil Dog” and a primer of paranoia, “Oh I See.”
Ritual Tension has been an on-again, off-again proposition the last few years. Recorded in 1988, the excellently self-produced Expelled is the finest display yet of the band’s offbeat musicianship. The dissonance is so vibrantly arranged and performed that it actually becomes catchy.
Bassist Marc Sloan has kept himself busy during Tension downtime with a multitude of projects, including a stint in the False Prophets. While the solo Yeow predates Ritual Tension, Lure of the Oxowl finds him collaborating with Reed Ghazala under the Gawk moniker. The all-instrumental cassette ranges from ambient classical to avant-rock, played on Sloan’s usual bass-with-effects and such instruments as kalimba, bamboo flute, ravanastron, er hu, cello and “electronic insects.”