by Nikolas Soelter (@nikolassoelter)
For the uninitiated, Lil Dowager (2013-2016) were an Oakland band who trafficked in raw noise straddling the lines of hardcore, grind and screamo. Had the trio existed in the early 90’s, they would have been right at home on Ebullition, Level Plane, or even Three One G Records. Released posthumously, Live For Nothing, Or Die For Something, the band’s first proper LP, follows a string of implosive EP’s.
Opening with a salvo of call-and-response, “Prince is Dead” is Lil Dowager in their comfort zone - pummeling rhythms courtesy of Zachary Alexander (bass) and Tucker Bennett (drums) laced with Matthew Ferrara’s precise burst of noise and atonal guitar work. Strings are distorted to sound like pitch bending synths, to an almost science-fiction like degree of gurgling and digital fuckery.
Standout “White Star” is a Glenn Branca-esque lesson in harmonics and feedback, and hilariously titled tracks “Frey Like An Eagle”, “Ace of Bass”, and “Vega Genesis” showcase more of the bands preferred juxtaposing of wildly careening chaos and lockstepping beats. It’s the trio’s impeccable sense of timing that sets them apart from contemporaries in the genre, and makes would-be impenetrably dense compositions not only intelligible but exhilarating.
On this first long-player, Lil Dowager make some of their most interesting music to date, particularly on album centerpiece “Master Crooner,” a brooding, slow-burner with white noise electronics, and whispered vocals that builds to a shrieking crescendo. On “I Want Your Hex,” the band make their first and only foray into straight up sludgy doom.
Live For Nothing puts Lil D in the canon of fantastic Bay Area noisemakers like Mansion, OVVN, and Daisy World - all experts in pulling off uniquely aggressive punk experiments. Despite the groups untimely demise, they’ve left us with a great catalog of irreverent post-hardcore.