Comprised of two discs of compilation tracks, throwaways, improvisations, and other willful acts of musical immolation, So, Were They in Some Sort of Fight? amply showcases what San Francisco's late, great A Minor Forest was best at: overkill. Formed in the early '90s in San Diego out of a post-punk scene including Drive Like Jehu and Rocket From the Crypt, the trio -- guitarist Erik Hoversten, drummer Andee Connors, and bassist John Benson -- quickly mutated into hardcore's answer to the Grateful Dead. Or, as the pundits put it, math-rock: Offering protean songs with massive hooks and whatever sonic treatments seemed appropriate, the band merged the aggressiveness of punk with something decidedly smarter.
The two official records the band produced -- 1996's Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996) and last year's Inindependence -- both had a sense of unity and the grace of consistent production about them. Some Sort of Fight, by necessity, is more chaotic. Including everything from early demos to late-period unreleased tracks, the charm of the set is that it displays the members' growth as musicians. Early songs like 1993's "Cocktail Party" and "Well Swayed" are typically aggro, but even at that point the band was tinkering. The nine minutes of "Disco Party" combine harsh noise blasts with a recording of a woman's confession and tale of religious conversion -- in essence giving her sanctimony the response it deserves. Still, there was always a sensitive side to the group, showcased here with sharp, extended covers of Uncle Tupelo's "Fatal Wound" and Little River Band's "Lady."
But the most fascinating works are the group's collaborations with local sonic manipulator Lesser; their shared insights into turning sounds inside out has resulted in some well-nigh psychedelic excursions, including the jarring remix of Altruism's "Speed for Gavin," and treatments on the gorgeous "Armigh Is a Hovercraft" and "The Ball Window," which shuttles across all sorts of bizarre modes of static. And while most bands with punk roots would bristle at being referenced next to the Dead and psychedelia, with A Minor Forest the tag has always been somewhat appropriate. Having spent hard time looking for the rudiments of rock music, the band found it and, smirking, poured acid all over it.Music Reviews