1 February 2019

"Near Death Experience" CD

“The bastard son of William S. Burroughs, Antonin Artaud and Crispin Glover. Hilarious, awful, heartbreaking and brutally honest, his Stand Up Tragedy is some of the best shit I’ve heard in a decade” - Lydia Lunch. Bryan Lewis Saunders is a multi-media artist, poet, videographer, and performance artist from Tennessee mostly known for his disturbing monologues and somniloquies, a master of an outlandish universe of his spoken word. In 2006 he started his own label, Stand-Up Tragedy Records, and since 2007 has been performing in Contemporary Art Museums, Media Arts Schools, and at music festivals mainly in Western Europe. “Near Death Experience” is a 2010 recording, originally produced by Erratum as an LP release, that takes his twisted world and jams it into a 74-minute mindfuck. He channels his disturbance into his creativity, using visual art and musical performance as alternative ways to deal with recurring demons and mental health issues, conveying a message about the power of addiction. “For hundreds of years, artists have been putting themselves into representations of the world around them. I am doing the exact opposite. I put the world around me into representations of myself as I find this more true…” - B.L. Saunders. “Near Death Experience” is an extreme sound poetry collaboration with music from Joachim Montessuis, Marcelo Aguirre, Christopher Fleeger, Michael Peck, John Duncan, Spastic Dementia, Kaontrol Kontraos, Murmurists, and Tracy Lee Summers, from harsh noise to heavy drone, an impressive and immersive piece of contemporary art. Limited edition of 300 copies printed in a lavish, full-color glossy 4-panel digipak with a 20-page booklet with all the lyrics. First 50 copies come with an exclusive A3 folded poster.

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Lastly we have the dark horrors of Near Death Experience  Erratum Musical (EM006), an LP in a charred gatefold cover adorned with mirror-writing on the back cover and close-up photos of the extreme genius that is Bryan Lewis Saunders. While I’m still finding previous listen Daku quite an indigestible proposition, there’s a chance my ears can worm a way into this vocal fright-fest as I follow its oneiric, surrealist trails; although known for his viscerality, Saunders also likes to record himself speaking as he dreams and perhaps unlock secret chambers of the mind thereby, in fine Andre Breton style. Nevertheless the shouted and intense vocals on here, not to mention the overall accusatory and hysterical tone in which these toxic utterances are delivered, will make this LP a tough experience to sit through even for hardened fans of apocalyptic music. “I myself have only listened to it once on a great system in the dark”, reveals Saunders in an accompanying letter, in which he describes the release as a collection of “extreme autobiographical stories”. Where Daku featured Z’EV’s music, this one offers numerous co-creators, among them John Duncan and Marcelo Aguirre and five more, all of them contributing suitably sick and demented backdrops of unpleasant sound. Capable of generating extreme physical reactions in the listener, this record represents the sort of material that a wimp like me normally steers clear of, but I do respect the all-or-nothing qualities of Saunders’ performances; everything to him is truly a matter of life or death, with no hyperbole! A splendid presentation from this French concrete poetry label; purchasers of this item get a link to download the whole LP plus nine extra tracks as MP3s, and a PDF of texts. Like the man says, pure “PCP Poetry!”  - Ed Pinsent


TSP20 2011

Bryan Lewis Saunders
Near Death Experience
Arrgh! This is a horrifying record. Be prepared for some extreme psychological discomfort from these spoken-word pieces which are delivered with frightening passion and energy, along with some very unsettling musical backdrops. The voice parts are all the invention of Saunders and are performed by him; they could only be performed by him in fact, as they seem torn from terrifying fragments of deeply personal traumas which are too vivid for words. The musical parts are provided by a long list of guest collaborators, including Christopher Fleeger, M. Peck, and others named below. This is undoubtedly the most alarming and cathartic record I’ve ever heard and I advise listeners to approach with caution!

‘Social Masochist’ seems manageable enough, a bracing dose of physical pain and agony expressed in words, palatable to any fan of Butthole Surfers records from the 1980s. But then comes ‘Hide and Play Dead’, which starts off detailing childhood fears of persecution and abduction in harrowing detail; Saunders seems to crawl right inside your brain and probe the areas you don't want probed. The tone of the voice is verging on hysterical at the start, and it soon becomes more panicked and desperate as the scenario quickly turns into a complete nightmare of sickening child abuse. Yuk! I had to reach for the volume control; I couldn’t face hearing this.

‘Subject In Question’ is like a clinical report on symptoms of mental illness. Saunders reads it out relentlessly in his insistent voice as though he’s firing bullets at the listener. The tirade starts out insane and also follows the pattern of going completely bonkers in the middle of the track, laced with a stream of four-letter words, accusing God…all of this is too close for comfort, a graphic depiction of a life and mind on the edge. John Duncan provides the music for this piece, for which "dilemma" is nowhere near strong enough. On ‘The Store’, the simple act of going out shopping (misleadingly disguised as a simple text like something from See Spot Run) turns very nasty in short order, resulting in an escalating catalogue of theft, crime, violence, madness, scatology and child abuse. Bad things are all he sees, everywhere, all the time. The sound effects of the shop in the background don’t help; they only bring the nightmare closer to us.

‘Promethazine’ is pure body horror, incredibly rendered in words and sound in vivid ways that exceed anything that could be produced by a Hollywood torture-porn movie. Grotesque sound effects and music by Joachim Montessuis enhance the evil of this bad acid trip. I’m feeling nauseous. Can I face the B side? B1 is the title track which depicts another bad trip, this time detailing the unbelievable delirium and rush of unpleasant images with astonishing conviction. Philip K. Dick meets the Butthole Surfers on this cut with its aggressive percussion music and sneering rock guitars courtesy of Spastic Dementia. Amazingly, Spastic Dementia made all of those black metal guitar sounds with his mouth, and used 17 tracks of drums.

‘PCP Poetry’ begins as an alphabet of street names for PCP. Saunders barks them out to the accompaniment of a threatening buzzy drone from Montessuis, then flips out as he recites extreme horror stories of drug abuse and the unspeakable things people do when they’re on drugs. Unspeakable to anyone but Bryan Lewis Saunders, that is. I expect the reality is even worse than this, but not by much! "Crazy...one drug shouldn't have so many street names, not even weed," reports Saunders in an email to this magaizne. "That's what makes it so scr=ary to people's psyche I guess. It has nothing to do with crack, it is ALL about experiences with PCP believe it or not." Then for ‘Methanol’, he conveys the effect of actually being on drugs, with a performance and musical progression that (I guess) exactly matches the unstoppable rush of “huffing methanol” into the brain. The crashing reverbed noise by Kaontrol Kontraos is highly apt. This is actually about the most listenable cut on this strong and confrontational record.

That said, things start to calm down for the last two tracks. ‘Brain Death’ is another set of clinical catalogues straight from the hospital's emergency wing, a doctor reciting the circumstances of his own death to the tune of almost-beautiful cold and abstracted music from Murmurists. The last track is the monologue of a vulture, reminding us that not only will everything end in death, but also that our rotting carcasses are just more morsels of food for his ravenous beak. A fitting end to this grisly record whose abiding message seems to be that life is brutally painful and inhuman, so you decide to take drugs to escape it; then the drugs cause even worse things to happen, and then you die – and you find your troubles are only just beginning. 

However, I don’t want to minimise the power of this extraordinary and shocking record. After a history of creating records themed on drug abuse, mental illness and institutionalisation, this LP confirms Saunders as a master of his own virulent brand of performance art. If acting is about “inhabiting” the character, then Saunders succeeds to an extreme degree, even if the characters are not ones you particularly want to meet!




Oh God, it’s this guy again. With his last album, spoken-word gremlin Bryan Lewis Saunders straight-up gave me hives with his in-depth polemic on bedbugs, and now he’s back, talking rapid-fire about scary topics that no one with clean hands and sane mind would dare to broach. He covers a wider swath of horror this time around, kinda drug-heavy, but still capable of making an institution as American and safe as “the store” sound like a Clive Barker horrorscape. Saunders loses me on the one track where he just alphabetically lists drug names (he’s far too cerebral to waste his time donking me on the head with a big list), but makes up for it with the variety of (non-)musical accompaniment on Near Death Experience, from the usual post-industrial detritus to what sounds like a Load Records band clattering away on their rock instruments in the background. Oh, and it’s a gatefold album with all the type reversed, further contributing to my vertigo. I probably shouldn’t own two Bryan Lewis Saunders albums – which one should I keep? Actually now that I think about it, I’ll just leave both of them here and move out. Bad juju like this is not to be toyed with. - Yellow Green Red (May 2012)


Related tags: Death, Experience, Near