If you’re listening to Jason Crumer albums without quality headphones, you’re doing it wrong. The Baltimore-based noise artist’s catalog teems with eldritch nuance that rewards close listening. “Disqualifier” ferries the consciousness through moods so bleak they should come with trigger warnings: the disorienting, alien-abduction tonal flickers of ‘Clio’s Arrival’ that gives way to scrambling, feedback horrors on ‘Rendezvous At Big Gulch,’ or how ‘Start Again’ peddles quantized splendor at the outset before descending into a hellish melisma of hostile drones and ice cubes rattling in a glass.
From 2006’s “Hum Of An Imagined Environment” onward, a strong cinematic streak has characterized Crumer’s solo work; it’s often impossible to experience without succumbing to the whys and wherefores, the mysteries of creation. “Disqualifier” is no different in that sense. The wriggling ‘Most Dangerous Man’ suggests a meta-human desperado crushing sheets of industrial aluminum within a sea-breached submarine out on maneuvers—as voyeuristic and claustrophobic as Yellow Tears at that band’s most anti-social. Planetarium synthesizers and high, ear-stinging frequencies bleed surreptitiously through the blow-torch roar that front-loads ‘Eaten, Not Awed’—a cantilevered blare that in turn decelerates into something more civilized on ‘Clio and Wellsley.’
‘Wellsley’s Philosophy’ is the most striking moment on “Disqualifier.” It opens inauspiciously with the concussive throttle of machinery, quickly gathering pieces of dander: the clink of pickaxes on steel, the rumble of locomotives, inaudible masculine shouts. The clinks accumulate, the shouts recede, Native American flutes interject, drums thunder through, distortion floods the scene, is chased out by equanimous synthesizers. There’s a strong whiff of blue-collar, all-American mettle in the track, communicated with the evocative, concentrated intensity that characterizes professional advertising. A narrative of some sort clearly unites “Disqualifier”—why else would the names of characters recur in the titles?—but ‘Wellsley’s Philosophy,’ taken as a single chapter, makes a greater showcase for Crumer’s storytelling potential.