Low Blows
Malt Duck

I feel like Malt Duck is a label stringing us along, waiting for the right moment (perhaps 2010) to take over this whole game. Though they’ve been quite unprolific so far, what they have given are a handful of records that seem constructed with the utmost precision and creepiest of intentions. These aren’t records you put on in polite company, nor are they anything that would scare off the family pet or toil in minutes of monotony and noise for noise sake. Still, there’s something off about each. Now, right as we’re about to delve into delirious fits of winter hell, Portland’s Mattress decides to release Low Blows, the debut long-player for this one-man project. Perfect timing as I’ll need this basement-dwelling electronic weltering to counter the bleak tundra outside.

Rex Marshall assumes the role of Mattress and is responsible for all the lurid blips and skank beats you’ll hear on Low Blows. In a method similar to Mike Sniper becoming Blank Dogs after the midnight hour, Marshall’s teen-wolf transformation should have Sniper kicking himself because Mattress has the cold-wave mastered down to a science—as if he’s high on the elixir of an Eastern European cave-rave, where depression and Suicide are cocktails instead of life choices. “Stay Poor,” for example, might be vamped to lounge extremes, like the soundtrack to a Bela Tarr documentary on the sub-Ljubljana karaoke scene, but it also gains dancefloor traction with specks of confetti-sized illumination in the dead battery strobe. Marshall’s Nyquil-coated bellow is excruciating and addiction forming. On “Gone to Waste,” especially, there’s a constant “Mephistopheles loaded on pills” vibe that draws you back with loaded blurts and the promise of trashy lot lizards and trashier shots. In every instance of his exaggerated muscle-memory loss, there’s an inkling of inflated class. Sure he’s sloth and gluttony incarnate, but you can’t wait till the next time you get to hang.

The favorite moment of Low Blows occurs on “No More Try.” This song, Marshall’s farthest reaching “industrial” melee, proves he has absolute rule over his machines. It’s just that his trigger finger is either noticeably absent or held down with medical tape (on the lowest rung of the synth). I’m assuming it’s both the sustained restraint and brief tumbles of excess that make the record so intriguing. If you’re a veteran of pigfuck, you may think you’ve heard it all before. Sure, this has plenty of sleaze (I had originally thought Mattress originated in Texas) and it drips with a heavy film of concentrated grease. But all of the slurred beauty and dark arts that appear to exist in Mattress’ bag of tricks is some kind of nth wave charred to white-hot bone ash— just enough so you’re not choking on it.
Kevin J. Elliott