Kevin Martin from the demolition jazz group GOD decided to name his new studio project ICE - not because it was particularly cold and unemotional - but after the drug that heightens sensory awareness to the point of overload.
"People who took the drug were unable to close down their inner voices," explains Martin. "They'd turn schizophrenic and take knives to their ear holes to try and cut the voices out. It sets off aural and visual hallucinations. Kamikaze pilots took it the way U.S. pilots took speed in World War II, which I think is unusual because I think flying into a warship with full sensory overload has got to be the most dramatic way to die, really."
Ice's debut 'Under the Skin' takes a razor to the synaptic gaps of dub music and arrives at an end result that's brutal yet compelling, the way people like to slow down and gawk at car accidents. Martin met Alex Buess, the sax player for the Swiss free-jazz band 16.17 while producing ALBOTH! Both men had a mutual appreciation for various music styles, especially dub, the outgrowth of reggae that focuses more on creative engineering techniques behind rock-steady rhythm tracks which are mixed to the front. Buess suggested a collaboration in his Swiss studio. Martin returned to England and set up rehearsals with bassist Dave Cochrane (God, Sweet Tooth, Head of David) and former Terminal Cheesecake drummer John Jobaggy. Godflesh's Justin Broadrick contributed guitar parts that Martin technologically mutilated. Martin and Buess took these tapes and heaped layers of samples on top of them, working with sound frequencies that rattled consciousness. "I wanted to do a dub record that wasn't reggae," says Cochrane. "PiL was dub without really doing reggae, but it's not necessarily easy-going music. But there's not a lot of dub stuff I do like. It gets formulated and a bit generic. It's not about songs, it's about sounds. We did three rehearsals before recording and I got so tranced out, I fell asleep. Not a very good selling point!" he laughs.
"The idea was to subvert the mind through conscious normal working processes and let the subconscious run amok," says Martin. "Dub production triggers a lot of subconscious things you put to rest and most reggae music is rather hedonistic. When we've got all these effects in the studio, it sounds like more of a headfuck. Dub techniques and subliminal sounds make you feel something without being able to pinpoint it. In the end result, there's quite an oppressive feel to it, but I didn't think it would turn out that way. The worse it gets, the more you want it." Martin promises more documents of Ice's chemical-free consciousness alterations when schedules permit. He figures it's safer than scoring the real thing.
"It sounds like the most dramatic drug I've ever heard of in my life. I can't say I'd particularly want to participate!"