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Artist Profile – Oxbow

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With titles like “King of the Jews” and “The Balls in the Great Meat Grinder Collection,” it’s not hard to fathom Oxbow’s lack of fame. But you’d think the foursome would at least be known for their frontman– if only for the hecklers he’s beaten down in his day. There are few spectacles like Eugene Robinson, more than six feet of black muscle standing downstage, thighs spread, brief-clad crotch thrusting forward, eyes rolling in holy fervor. The crowd steps back a few feet and eyes the exits. – Pitchfork

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Propelled forward by a growl/howling of their vocalist Eugene Robinson, San Francisco quintet Oxbow is now in their third decade of activity together and still going strong. Their blend of musique concrete, noise and blues brought them a small but loyal following and band’s records appeared on labels like SST, Hydra Head and Neurot Recordings.

 

Fuckfest - 1989
Fuckfest – 1989

 

Oxbow (comprised of vocalist Eugene Robinson, guitarist Niko Wenner, bassist Dan Adams and drummer Greg Davis) debuted in the late 80s with “Fuckfest”.  According to Encyclopedia Metalium website, the album was supposed to be a suicide note for Robinson, but due to an album’s success, he decided to continue making the records.

All Music Guide described “Fuckfest” as “fierce, rigorous album that challenges almost every preconception rock listeners might have.” They also noted that the record “begins with the sound of a record playing — vinyl crackle and some gentle, looping music. After a minute or so, though, the band roars to life like they came in and plugged in their amps while you were listening to something else, and now your attention is 100-percent focused on them, for good or ill.”

A follow-up to “Fuckfest” was 1992 “King Of The Jews”, which one of the reviewers on Encyclopedia Metalium described as “one of the most challenging and difficult albums” that he’s ever heard. Further on, the reviewer commented that “Fuckfest had been a true success in the underground, but King Of The Jews managed to outshine its experimentation and took everything further, especially the guitar tone. Generally speaking, the song structures stayed obscure and unpredictable as before, but the dynamics were slowed down and everything took a much “bluesier” edge. The drums got a less fat sound than on the previous album, but are still easily audible. Robinson evolved since Fuckfest and got even crazier on this one. Noise rock characteristics like samples and tape experimentation are to be found there, but used cleverly, unlike many, many bands of this kind.”

Both “Fuckfest” and “King Of Jews” were reissued one CD multiple times – first with “The Balls In The Great Meat Grinder Collection” (on Pathological Records) and as “Fuckfest / King Of Jews” on Crippled Dick Hot Wax. “Fuckfest” was also included on “Fuckfest / 12 Galaxies” double CD set, which came out on Hydra Head Records in 2008.

 

Serenade In Red - 1997
Serenade In Red – 1997

 

Further into the 90s, the band produced 1995 “Let Me Be A Woman” and 1997 “Serenade In Red”, as well as “Insylum” 10″ (which included collaborations with Kathy Acker and Marianne Faithfull) and a split with White Tornado.

One of the Encyclopedia Metalium reviewers pointed out that “extreme music is no place for Sandra Brown or Danielle Steel to pop up with universally acclaimed and sold stuff. And Oxbow, on this album, became another golden act to confirm this law.” Further on, he commented that “To the most hardcore fans of Oxbow this piece of work showed a mellower, tired part of the band. Not that it wouldn’t have its rockin’ moments too. This album is almost baroque in its intent and a deviation for the usual experimentation style of Oxbow. Those more indulgent will find some great songs to stay as classics.”

New millennium saw the band releasing 2002 “An Evil Heat” and 2007 “Narcotic Story”. Pitchfork commented on “An Evil Heat” that it “may not be for everyone, but you’re going to keep an open ear– it’s been too long since you’ve listened to anything this hard. So kneel yourself down now, and look upwards at old Eugene. It’s time for your confession.”

Outside of Oxbow, guitarist Niko Wenner was a member of God and more recently he also played with Celan, a band that includes members of Unsane and Redux Orchestra. Eugene Robinson wrote a book called “Fight: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You’d Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking”.

Band Members:

Dan Adams

Eugene Robinson

Greg Davis

Niko Wenner (Celan, God)

Discography:

Fuckfest LP (Pathological + CFY, 1989)

The Balls In The Great Meat Grinder Collection CD (Pathological, 1991)

Let Me Be A Woman CD (Brinkman, 1995)

Insylum 10″ (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!, 1996)

Serenade In Red 2xLP (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!, 1997)

Fuckfest / King Of The Jews 2XCD (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!, 1998)

Oxbow / White Tornado Split CD (Free Land, 2000)

An Evil Heat CD (Neurot, 2002)

A Love That’s Last: A Wholly Hypnographic And Disturbing Work Regarding Oxbow CD + DVD (Hydra Head, 2006)

The Narcotic Story CD / LP (Hydra Head, 2007 / Black Diamond, 2008)

Fuckfest / 12 Galaxies 2XCD (Hydra Head, 2008)

Live At Supersonic, 2007 LP (Capsule, 2008)

Lover Ungrateful 7″ (Midmarch, 2008)

Compilation Tracks:

“Gal” on Strength Thru Ooij – A Brinkman Waaghals 10th Anniversary Special (Brinkman, 1995)

“Brujita” on Double Of Love Volume Uno (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!, 1996)

“Insylum” on Crippled Champions – The Crippled Bargain (Crippled Dick Hot Wax!, 1998)

“Glimmer Bird” on Ricci’s Pieces (Mindfield, 1999)

“1969” on What Would This Record Have Sounded Like If John Cale Had Had Some Setback And Cinzia La Fauci And Alberto Scotti Had Taken His Place (Snowdonia, 2003)

“Time’s Up Sailor Man” + “Music For Adults (Excerpt)” on Neurot Recordings | (Neurot, 2004)

“Take It!” on End Times Festival 2006 (End Times Festival, 2006)

“3 O’Clock – 30.09.02” on You Are Hear (Hearing Aid, 2007)


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