According to the dictionary, “glossolalia” is defined as “strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly.” In Christian circles, it is known as “speaking in tongues” and is considered a divinely inspired event.
Either way, the sounds of glossolalia are both recognizable and unrecognizable at the same time. It is a perfectly apt description of the style and sound of Indianapolis-based noisemakers Melk The G6-49 as well. While the instruments used (drums and bass) are familiar, the sound this duo makes is nothing like anything else you’ve heard.
Its historical antecedents may be the sprawling noise experiments of the Velvet Underground, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and, most notably, Sonic Youth, but Glossolalia is that rarest of creatures: a whole new thing.
A 35-minute soundscape more or less divided into seven songs, Glossolalia begins with some atonal guitar or bass noodlings, nothing special. But it soon forms itself into a feedback-heavy, atmospheric sculpture reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s early instrumental epics. Masters of building tension and then releasing it, Melk the G6-49 has created pieces which evoke either the voices of hell, a bad acid trip or the apocalypse, depending on your own prejudices. Like EVOL-era Sonic Youth, each note is deceptive. They could be randomly generated noise or, most likely, meticulously arranged and lovingly crafted bits of sound.
From the listener’s perspective, it doesn’t matter much. This is challenging, ambitious music geared toward people who demand more than three-minute pop songs. There are instrumental themes that reappear throughout; there are pieces which end on single notes that fade into the ether, only to re-emerge seconds later as the basis of another sonic sculpture.
Local music fans have had a hard time categorizing these guys, and that’s because, like the album’s namesake, it’s impossible to adequately describe in words. At times, it sounds like a screaming tar pit of alluring noise, luring victims into it. At others, it’s a pool of coagulated blood at a murder scene.
Much credit goes to drummer Karl Hofstetter and bassist John Spencer, who created and directed this piece of fascinating sculpture, and to the folk at Queensize Twin Air Studio of Indianapolis who facilitated its recording.
Glossolalia is most definitely not for everyone. But for those who care to give it a listen, it will seduce, repel and move you simultaneously. It’s a minor masterpiece that’s unlike just about anything else being produced in Indiana in 2004 and instantly propels Melk The G6-49 into the upper classes of Indiana musicians.