Sometimes I wonder what may be wrong with me, that I should seek out such sounds that would typically be described as unpleasant. Often, I would imagine, others wonder the same, particularly any unlucky passenger in my car who is most likely caught in some internalized debate about whether it’s my CD player or my hearing that’s truly broken, or perhaps both.
Nevertheless, somehow, I tend to find some counterintuitive relaxation in the ridiculous and chaotic, that which so many would rightly call “noise” and not mean that in a positive, musical manner. Perhaps it’s because the world itself is ridiculous and chaotic, and art reflects life, after all. Perhaps it’s because, if you listen from just the right angle, there amidst the madness float little tendrils of sanity, and collecting them is both the challenge and the reward.
But really, who knows why I listen to this stuff, and who cares? For all the pseudo-intellectual tone I’m adopting here, I’ve never thought all that long about the whys of my attraction to the loud and fast and ugly. It’s enough for me that I like it. Deal with it, unlucky passenger, or walk your ass to wherever you asked me to take you.
When I think of the ridiculously chaotic, the noisy and the rewarding, Japanese grind duo Sete Star Sept absolutely fits the bill. The pair of Kae and Kiyasu came together in 2004, and they’ve been incredibly prolific since then, cranking out a relentless barrage of splits, singles, full-lengths, and compilations of the aforementioned. At present (and not counting Bird, which seems not to have been added as of this writing), Discogs lists 178 entries under the Sete Star Sept name*, which is 13 more releases than their equally insanely productive countrymen in Unholy Grave, who’ve been active for a full decade longer.
And speaking of relentless barrages, Bird is just that, fourteen songs crammed into nine minutes of head-spinning, ear-pummelling tumult. As chaotic as it is, it’s a relatively straightforward grinding, par for the course for Sete Star Sept — no fifteen-minute drum solos topped with random female vocalizations, for example, like the closing track on Visceral Tavern. Of the Sete Star Sept releases I have (which is a number less than 178, I will concede), it’s toward the more polished end in terms of its overall production, if such words as “polished” could ever be applied to Sete Star Sept. Kiyasu’s drums are live and real, punchy and crisp; Kae’s bass is gnarly and distorted, sliding in and out of riffs as Kiyasu blasts away beneath and more than enough to uphold her half of the madness. Her voice is a powerful array of snarls, growls, and screams, an emotive and expressive exorcism that matches the entropy beneath her. Bits and pieces of musicality poke forth like the broken shards of ideas, smashed in the clattering whirlwind of blastbeats and jutting from the fast-strummed noise around them — the walking introduction to “Far North Door”; the simple five-note swing of “Atonement For Sin,” Kae’s riff punctuated with percussive hits, used just a scant few times and discarded into the storm; the almost bouncy jaunt of “Chopped Contract”…
Bird is only nine minutes long, but it’s a loud, fast, ugly, and damned exhilarating ride while it lasts. This is what Sete Star Sept does. There’s magic in the maelstrom. Get on board or get out of my car.
*Author’s Note: Speaking of the Sete Star Sept name, I was discussing this release with my Last Rites colleagues, and one of them asked what the hell the band’s name actually means. Per the band, the answer is: Nothing, really. It was chosen on a whim. “Sete” is Portuguese for “seven,” and “sept” is French for “seven.” Star is, of course, “star.” So there you have it. It’s pronounced “SET-tee STAR SET.” The more you know…