Review: Mac Gollehon ‘The End Is The Beginning’

For those who may not be aware, Mac Gollehon has worked with some of music’s biggest names including Blondie, Madonna, Billy Ocean, Chic, David Bowie, Duran Duran, and Grace Jones, though my first exposure to him was via the fantastic Gridfailure collaboration Dismemberment Cabaret. In comparison to his aforementioned mainstream studio work, the album saw Gollehon move down an infinitely more uncompromising avant-garde path.

Mac Gollehon 'The End Is The Beginning'

The album is entirely written and performed by Mac himself and sees a familiar cast of characters including David Brenner aka Gridfailure on engineering/production duties (as well as additional field recordings) and mastering by Dan Emery of Anti-Corporate Music and Black Matter Mastering (home of the awesome The Magnolia Sessions).

The promo-notes mention Don Elias’ score for The French Connection as well as Lalo Schriffi’s work on the Dirty Harry soundtrack and these come to the fore with As Your World Burns, with a sound that helps to conjure up a 1970s New York in terminal decline with streets piled high with garbage and out of control crime rates. The longest track on the album at six and a half minutes, Enigma takes the listener down a more Karlheinz Stockhausen musical concrète route alongside Gollehon‘s periodically disjointed trumpet interventions. Had Miles Davis chosen an electronic format instead of a rock one, Bitches Brew would have sounded not too dissimilar to what is presented here.

Rumbling thunder and rain feature on Neon And Gunpowder, followed by Mike Patton-esque scat singing and John Zorn style stylistic eccentricities that fans of those artists will fully appreciate (myself included). Passion For Wrath features the hustle and bustle of The Big Apple with people talking and sounds subway trains before leading into a big band style exuberance that has one thinking New York, New York, all that is missing is Frank Sinatra’s swaggering croon. The blink and you’ll miss it Revenge For Brooklyn has a tribal sensibility, the kind that you would expect to find on a 70s afrobeat record ala Fela Kuti while Dead Protégé has a mournful contemplative blues like quality that had me yearning to crank out my Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf records.

a beautifully madcap clash of demented free jazz and warped electronica…

Bronx Motor Inn opens with police sirens (?) and features some sexy dark noir jazz (check out Signora Ward Records for more of the same) that should be listened to when reading a James Ellroy and Mickey Spillane novel and Turn It Up Motherfucker Go makes for a beautifully madcap clash of demented free jazz and warped electronica. Judging by Google maps, the Sackett Street in Sackett Street Racket, looks to be a fairly leafy pleasant suburban area in Brooklyn that contrasts wildly to the chaotic piano (think the late, great Cecil Taylor) of the track itself but is no less a joy to listen to.

Finally, The End Is The Beginning video features an appearance by Vincent Pastore (Salvatore ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero in The Sopranos) and seemingly takes its cues from classic Martin Scorsese movies such as Mean Streets. Taken in conjunction with the tough sounding Bernard Herrmann influenced cinematic score, this number helps to expose the dark underbelly lurking beneath the surface which your average tourist would not be exposed to (unless incredibly unlucky) and makes for a deliciously unsettling and disturbing conclusion to the record.

If you can’t stomach the potential rigmarole of travelling to New York in a Covid world then The End Is The Beginning is undoubtedly the best option in the meantime for immersing yourself in the glamour and grime of one of the most influential and important cities of our time. 

Label: Nefarious Industries
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Scribed by: Reza Mills