New Music: Usse’s ‘Cancelled Crop’

Saint John’s newest experimental soundscape rockers, USSE’s debut EP Cancelled Crop was released October 21st in a digital format, but mostly importantly it comes along with a cassette free. I love cassettes.

I still have a cassette player in my car. My favourite songs were always on the B-sides. As an eighties child, I can appreciate the attention given to the division of the two. The point of the matter is, USSE chose the cassette as a medium to reflect how their style of music is pulled from earlier times.The album falls into a crossroads between free jazz, post-punk/no wave, and German experimental music from the 1970’s labelled as Krautrock at the time by English journalists.  There are also definite strains of dub, Afrobeat and early industrial music in there. It’s something of a mixed bag to the extent that it evades easy categorization. Some of the more obvious influences USSE draw from are ESG, Neu!, Harmonia, Can, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Adrian Sherwood’s production work with folks like African Head Charge and Creation Rebel, and Portishead.

Jud Crandall states that the format demands a bit of a balance when it comes to their live performances. Crandall plays a dog’s breakfast of guitar on the album, as well as saxophone, bits of percussion, some vocals, and an old public service band radio run through some effects.

“I continue to discover uses for [it] as I go. It’s been a steady pursuit since I was in junior high in the early 1990s. We are performing roughly half instrumental and half vocal, with myself singing on the vocal cuts. The song ideas are ones I have brought to the band as the initial springboard, but from there it is a group effort to flesh out and discover what kind of shape the compositions will take through execution.”

The album itself is concerned with industrial use of land and the environment, and positions of power as they determine courses of action in that dynamic. The lyrics are essentially bits of wordplay that Crandall had written down long  ago, and taken as a whole, pulls in themes from early anarchist science fiction, land art of the 1970’s, neoliberalism, and agricultural anti-globalization protests. The nut of album is that much of the decision making over the preservation and use of land is not made by the people either occupying or having stewardship over that territory.

“We’re seeing it play out at Standing Rock and Muskrat Falls, not to mention here in New Brunswick with the discourse over the Energy East pipeline project,” states Crandall .

Cancelled Crop features three songs: ‘Angel of the Revolution’ the first track is a refreshing start to the album was created by synthmaster Dan Chamberlain. He recorded it by the ocean. It seems to me that people have been doing a lot by the ocean lately and reminds me that I should get out more.

The second track, the eponymous ‘Cancelled Crop’, was only an idea for a very long time. Crandall says that it was their rip off version of The Stooges but offers a new, deep transformation, darker than anything Iggy & Co ever did .  The build up at the beginning of the song is fittingly elaborate. The lyrics are powerful. Inevitably a favourite.

Finally, ‘Neoliberalism’ is the last track, and suggests ideas of consequence, set to a fast beat. The music starts quick and slows almost like the pounding of a heart. The way it lowers, slower, and fades back in is touching to the senses – a great album.