Released around the same time that David Lynch’s acclaimed film Mulholland Drive came out, Blue Bob is a one-time collaboration between Lynch and his sound design friend and musician John Neff engaging in bizarre, electric blues-inspired jamming with a industrial/machinery aesthetic saturating the whole thing, literally (Check out the cover art, while keeping in mind Lynch’s frequent comments describing his inspirations from machinery and smoke). Blue Bob mostly showcases the effects-laden guitar work of both Lynch and Neff, with Lynch often providing most of the leads, along with hard-hitting drum machines, locked-in bass guitars, and the warped, distorted vocals of John Neff.
A couple of the tracks are quite goofy, such as the opener “911” and “Thank You, Judge”, but fortunately don’t overshadow the highlights of the album, such as “Go Get Some”, “Blue Horse”, “City of Dreams”, “Mountains Falling”, and “Rollin’ Down (To My House)”. The whole “industrial blues” aesthetic really comes to life on these highlights, mostly in the instrumental arrangements. The two sultry instrumental jams, “Blue Horse” and “Go Get Some”, showcase Lynch’s surprisingly capable guitar sensibilities. He doesn’t plays fast or flashy, but rather the opposite, oozing out slow, effects-saturated solos that go down deep and nasty, exactly what fans of his films and their composer Angelo Badalamenti would expect. The best part is, Lynch nails his own guitar sound almost too well, while sounding like he is barely trying. (Recent interviews have shown that Lynch is quite humble about his instrumental capabilities, and he doesn’t consider himself to be that great at all.)
It is a shame that this particular album has been very overlooked since its release, since for the past decade Lynch’s creative output has not been film, but music and painting, from writing a couple tracks for Inland Empire (2006) to releasing two solo albums in 2011 and 2013 (Crazy Clown Time and The Big Dream, respectively). The Blue Bob album should be viewed as a crucial moment in David Lynch’s musical career, since it marks his first appearance on actual instruments (It is important to note that Lynch had composed and recorded the Eraserhead (Lynch’s first full-length feature) soundtrack back in 1977 along with sound designer Alan Splet, where they pieced field recordings together to form the musique concrete collage that would serve as the score to the film).
Gaspare Sammartano is the drummer for the underground Italian duo Cannibal Movie, which features just a distorted organ (played by Donato Epiro) and drums, channeling feverish homages to vintage Italian exploitation films of the 1970s (especially the ones featuring “cannibals”) through their loose, droning jams. Apparently there is a whole little music sub-genre in Italy today going under the label of “Italian Occult Psychedelia” which Cannibal Movie are unmistakably one of the leaders of. The sub-genre is a sort of esoteric experiment into the so-called Italian collective subconscious, influenced by everything from vintage film and art to the overall mystique of the Mediterranean area.
Sammartano’s first solo album under his own name is a welcome addition to this esoteric Italian music scene, although it is probably more American-influenced due to his explicit homage to hip-hop, especially the Wu-Tang Clan. The 30 minute album is predominantly a sort of warped, industrial sound collage utilizing hip-hop samples at its murky core, reminding one of the 90s’ electronic music of illbient/trip-hop artists like Scorn, Spectre/Slotek, Req, and DJ Spooky.
But although Sammartano’s “Low-Pitched Italy” is stylistically not original, he manages to sound genuinely inspired throughout every song. The album, although extremely bizarre, noisy, and lo-fi, has an almost breezy quality that makes it engaging from start to finish. Maybe the fact that whole album barely reaches 30 minutes helps, since it is very easy to listen to in one sitting. Sammartano stated the album is influenced by being a “Son of the outskirts, cellars and ruined buildings of Taranto, maybe the toughest and weirdest city in South Italy”, and the record sure does reek of some sort of nasty architectural decay, and paints many images the listener’s mind the of spirits rising up from the dirtiest sewers imaginable, comparable to the best work of DJ Screw. The implied “hip-hop” beats that are scattered appropriately throughout the album evoke much more of a mechanized feel more suited to the dehumanizing nature of vintage industrial music ala Throbbing Gristle.
Overall, the album is most definitely a welcome addition to the record collection of any connoisseur of warped, filthy experimental music, and remains a highly enjoyable and vivid release.
Purchase the Vinyl and digital download directly from Sammartano’s bandcamp page below: