After 25 years of noisemaking, lots of home-rolled releases, numerous costumed live shows, and one Kickstarter campaign, D.C.’s Chester Hawkins has finally issued his first vinyl album as Blue Sausage Infant, and the results make perfect sense: The three-track Negative Space is dense and adventuresome, but it shows a keen sense of just how far to push a listener. It’s built for a turntable, but it’s fit for a train or car ride, too. (Here’s hoping the folks at his label, Zeromoon, make the MP3s available eventually; the LP has a limited run of 500.)
Hawkins works primarily with krautrock, space-rock, and drone sounds, and although his performances can conjure up an ambient or escapist vibe, his epics on Negative Space trend toward the ominous. There’s nothing gauzy about the 21-minute “Motion Parallax,” which starts out weird (with creepy, minor-key synths and a warped, disembodied voice), evolves into some loud, anxious drum sounds around the 8:30 mark, and then slowly circles back to its initial motif. It’s darkly cosmic—and it rarely drags.
Side B starts with the nearly 15-minute title track, which is a straight-up krautjam featuring drummer Mike Shanahan (Reanimation), guitarist Jeff Barsky (Insect Factory), and percussionist Jason Mullinax (Pilesar). It’s all groove, and if there’s any question about Hawkins’ love for Hawkwind, this settles it. But it’s hardly pure homage, and the musicians shoot for muscularity and momentum, not a retro freakout. Only the final song, “Subferal,” truly goes to extremes: It’s grooveless, buzzy, galactic, and a bit scary—as if a sinister pipe organ is giving birth to a theramin, and the umbilical cord is patched through an effects pedal.
But even amid the squall, it’s obvious that Hawkins values skill as much as impulse—and it’s his command that makes Negative Space a vital document of D.C.’s noise scene. Like some of his local contemporaries, he knows how to communicate with audiences instead of just pummeling or agitating them. And on this album, at least, he’s all about the ride, the turns, the surprises, and the visions.
Blue Sausage Infant performs Sept. 4 at CD Cellar in Arlington. 6 p.m. Free.