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The Haul 2010: Ritual Tension's Expelled

8. Ritual Tension – Expelled LP – Fundamental, 1989 – $1 (Davis Square Goodwill, 1/19)

Ritual Tension's Expelled

Talk about a shot in the dark. Ritual Tension’s third LP stood out from the usual array of Streisand, Denver, and Diamond LPs in the dusty bins of the Davis Square Goodwill basement. I expected punk/hardcore from the band name, album title, and cover art, but a quick check of the Trouser Press guide indicated that they were contemporaries of groups like Sonic Youth, Swans, and Live Skull in the NYC noise-rock scene of the mid-1980s. Goodbye, one dollar. I don’t think I’d endured enough early Sonic Youth at this point to truly fear what Ritual Tension might offer, but fortunately, Ritual Tension isn’t as enamored with the art side of the scene.

Ivan Nahem’s crazed vocals bring my biggest reference point for Ritual Tension: David Yow of the Jesus Lizard. Nahem isn’t as gleefully unhinged as Yow—who is?—but he comes close at times, howling over discordant, misshapen guitar riffs. Closing track “Watching a Diver” highlights these vocals by dropping out the aggressive backdrop for the first half of the song, likely recalling the uneasiness of Swans (a group I’ve never spent time with—please ridicule me in the comments section). Ritual Tension owes some debt to the wonky riffs of Sonic Youth’s Confusion Is Sex, but my inclination of hardcore punk wasn’t entirely off, either. It’s a record that makes some sense coming out of NYC in 1989, but would make far more sense coming out of Chicago in 1996.