At first glance, with its monochromatic ventriloquist dummy cover art, The Gag File appears to be the smart, pretty, popular cousin to Ohio-based noise artist and former Wolf Eyes member Aaron Dilloway's previous LP Modern Jester. Surface similarities aside, though, Dilloway's 2012 masterpiece of loop-based chaos — which some have described as the equivalent to his War and Peace — is considerably more monstrous and psyche-damaging than this latest effort, which at a dainty 35 minutes is eclipsed by the unrelenting savagery of that prior affair.
The Gag File, on which Dilloway advances his standard operating procedures to deploy an arsenal of mangled eight-track loops and garbled vocal mumblings, is certainly rife with meritorious moments. The tension-inducing "Ghost" is a cacophonous blast that would put the entire catalogues of some noise artists to shame, while "Karaoke With Cal" is a limping anthem drowned in booze and downers until it's barely able to get up off of the floor. A gut-wrenching assault of brutal samples, "Inhuman Form Reflected" is a bar of soap across the noggin that is as remarkable as it is pain-inducing.
The inescapable "Born in a Maze" is a hypnotizing stunner of repetitive cluster bombings, which gives way to Dilloway's ghostly croon on "It's Not Alright." A mythical party anthem, "No Eye Sockets (For Otto & Sindy) comprises celebratory field recordings before "Switch" chirrups its way into one's cerebellum and the stuttering hiccoughs of "Shot Nerves" induce a jubilant mania.
Five years on from his gargantuan masterpiece, Dilloway shows that he's no slouch in the noise department, having carefully honed a sequence of sounds that might appear slightly less punishing than his fans are accustomed to, but that are certainly just as impactful when careful consideration is applied. (Dais Records)