Wednesday, January 26, 2011


IDIOT CULTURE is the latest project by reclusive Seattle guitarist Byron Duff. Byron began to make his mark in the 1980's with the band The Spectators. The band were known for jaw-dropping performances in the underground clubs that were legendary even before they spawned the emergence of what would be the 1990’s Seattle Scene. Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar) once called The Spectators "the best unreleased band in America". Although the band lasted no more than a year they landed opening and touring spots with the Huskers, Dead Kennedys and The Stranglers among others. Before splitting they developed a strong following that lasts to this day.

In 1986 Duff formed ’Dive’ with bassist TJ West and drummer Steve Dodge and continued into the 1990's. After Dive, Duff and drummer Steve Dodge reformed as ’Moth’. Eventually the three original Dive members-Byron Duff, T. J. West and Steve Dodge-were reconstituted and spent time writing and recording for several years out of the limelight. This trio that has emerged as Idiot Culture.

Because Byron Duff been missing from the Seattle music scene for a number of years, his re-emergence and the upcoming album has been highly anticipated among those that are familiar with his work. Duff’s sound in Idiot Culture definitely leans heavier nowadays, but the music is still a hybrid of seemingly contradictory styles. One minute the sound may seem metallic or punkish. A few bars later the melody is overtaken by jazz chords. At times the prog rock guitar suddenly transforms into a surf riff….imagine Dick Dale doing Kraut rock…if that’s possible.

The album is full of trance-like riffs and hypnotic hooks. But it’s also clear the band is also not afraid to tread into the realm of momentary unrestrained chaos just for the joy of it. There's always something unexpected to rise to frenetic levels, but the pace is leisurely enough to allow the soundscape to fully sink in. The album was recorded live in-studio analog recording and mixed by the renowned producer Jack Endino. Idiot Culture isn’t the product of, or inspired by Soundgarden, Nirvana or Mudhoney, but Endino‘s work with those bands makes him singularly qualified to understand and enhance what Idiot Culture wanted to achieve. His deft hand takes care not to detract from the original intention of the recordings. He’s allowed the sound to remain incredibly tight while allowing tones to go where they may…is that a ripped speaker cone or Duff‘s playing? Was that feedback misplaced or on purpose?

Idiot Culture uses long passages and favors guitar and bass as a way of delivering deeply into compelling sounds rather than rely on solos. This is stuff you’d listen to late at night, motionless in an altered state…or as loud as hell in the middle of a herd of buffalo. It works successively on both levels. It's all the more impressive for it’s seamless layering of guitar sounds played simultaneously. Duff has long been regarded as an extraordinary guitarist with the ability to play several parts in unison as well as abrupt effects changes. Dodge’s drumming is strong but not ham-fisted and West’s bass plods, plugs along and shines exactly where it should. The results here are extraordinary.

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