You don't need to be on drugs to enjoy this double-disc live document of ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki's 2002-2003 tour with avant-rockers Cul de Sac, but it really, really helps. This exhaustive (and exhausting) two-hour-plus set, drawn from performances in Europe and the US, is about as much head-expanding free-form composition as the human body can withstand.
The appropriately-titled Abhayamudra (named for a Buddhist pose symbolizing reassurance and freedom from fear) collects eleven of the tour's best and most out-there moments, ranging in length from just under four minutes to over twenty. Even if you're not into this sort of thing, the collision of Suzuki's mad, out-of-the-ether vocal rants and Cul de Sac's bottomless grab-bag of drones, quasi-funk grooves and pyrotechnic guitar explosions makes for breathtaking listening. The pieces, all improvised, are staggering in their scope: doomy tribal death-songs unfurl from swirling, hypnotic drone excursions, rising and falling with the speed, pitch and intensity of Suzuki's crazed narrative. On "Halle 2", the longest track here, the band builds a threatening vibe of head-nodding bass rumbles, paranoid guitar textures and cloudbursts of drums that sustains its menace for a full twenty minutes without once getting boring, then launches into a psychedelic joyride through the bad part of Hell.
Can devotees will love it, but listeners who are unfamiliar with Suzuki's "unique" vocal style will find his strange, frequently cartoonish tics and warbles more than a little off-putting. No, there are no actual "songs"', but that's not the point; this isn't pop music. It's experimentalism -- the sort of sounds an expressionist painter hears in his head that either (a) drive him to paint, (b) drive him mad, or (c) both of the above. There's so much going on here (and so much of it) that mind-expanding pharmaceuticals are virtually required just to get it all to fit. I don't know if it's art or folly, but whatever it is, it sure ain't boring. Worth living through, if not for.