Thursday, April 1, 2021

REVIEW - Bitter Elixir: "Help"/"Stop"

Nothing about Bitter Elixir – the newly unveiled collaboration between Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Roger Ebner and veteran New York underground noise merchant Christoph Liggio (a.k.a. Krztoff) – should work.

Ebner is a soft-spoken, sixtysomething sonic traveler whose musical journey has included explorations in (among many other things) Jazz and World music. Liggio is best known as the leader of long-running Industrial Metal savages BILE. This is clearly an odd pairing, but it’s one that makes all the sense in the world when considering that these two disparate characters first met as participants in the “25th Anniversary” incarnation of Pigface in 2016.

The spirit of Pigface’s aural alchemy is all over Bitter Elixir’s debut single, “Help”/”Stop,” out today via Bandcamp. “Help” reinvents the classic Beatles track as a dystopian dirge accented by plenty of vocal effects (which thankfully don’t overshadow Liggio’s surprisingly soulful voice) and sax blasts. Bitter Elixir’s reimagining is equally dreamy and dreary – a perfect reflection of what Ebner and Liggio call “the sense of urgency and uncertainty of ‘the new normal.’”

The mostly instrumental “Stop” is the Skinny Puppy-meets-John Zorn jam you never knew you needed until now. While the heaviness of Liggio’s contribution is expected, those unfamiliar with Ebner’s more abrasive tendencies will certainly be brought up to speed once his pummeling shrieks come in. (If wild sax playing is your thing, be sure to track down Bluewolf Bloodwork, Ebner’s exceptional 2008 album with the brilliant avant-garde collective Snarling Adjective Convention.)

Perhaps the most magical thing about the Pigface experience is that it allows musicians who wouldn’t otherwise meet to subsequently branch off and create captivating sounds of their own. Bitter Elixir is not the first example of this phenomenon (nor will it be the last), but it is certainly one of the best.