12 Rounds

My Big Hero review from the Alternative Press

From the July 1998 issue of Alternative Press:

12 rounds:My Big Hero
rate:Enthusiastically Endorsed

Death and sex, the two star topics on the evening news,figure just as highly on this album from 12 Rounds. No topic is safe from the reach of the band’s darkly moving morbidity, or invulnerable to the lure of singer Claudia Sarne’s drawl. With a voice sharpened by clove cigarettes,Sarne leads partner Atticus Ross’ thick trip-hop constructions around by the necktie, attracting the inner aggressor with dark rhythms flecked by specks of light.

“Don’t breathe on me when you’re full of alcohol,” Sarne tensely warns on the spacey Old West stage of “Pleasant Smell”, it’s here that the first real signs of trouble appear.Dreams that girls good or bad aren’t supposed to have follow on “My Big Hero,” Sarne indulgently muses,”there i sit upon his head/Cool water at my feet/Drowned his face and crushed his neck/And loving every scream.” Throwaway songs like “Sunshine,” along with the virtually unrelenting doom that pervades this CD,can be a drag.But here and there is an upbeat step, an unwinding bass guitar or a gorgeous turn, and always the fascination behind Sarne’s powerful vocal expressions.

Claudia Sarne doesn’t shy away from implications,however ugly. And it’s hard not to think of those creepy,grainy photos of smiling high schoolers who’ve just blown away a significant percentage of their classmates when one hears the name of her band,12 Rounds.
Sarne has somewhat of a gift for creating distressing implications. “Put me in your juicer/Come drink me,” she pleads on “Bovine,” the creepy, grainy track 12 Rounds Nothing Records debut,My Big Hero.But with this group,implictions conceal as much as they reveal. Sarne and partner Atticus Ross are British, and disturbed teens picking up Uncle Bubba’s shotgun for a little people-hunting is more of an American pastime.

“The name of the band came from one of the first things Atticus and I did together, a song called “12 Rounds of Jesus,” Sarne says from her cell phone as she walks around New York City. “We weren’t at the the point looking to work together,but it just sort of happened.”

Ross had built up a long resume in the electronic/club scene with such projects as Bomb the Bass; but again implications conceal and reveal.My Big Hero has a density that cries out,Written piece by piece in the studio.

“Not at all,” Sarne says,firmly but pleasantly-but firmly all the same. “In fact,all the songs were written on a piano or on a guitar. What happens after that”- her voice melts into traffic noise.
“I’m not really into digital sounds-most of what we used were organic or organic-based,” Ross says later from an outdoor restaurant. “My outlook is more a mix of traditionalism and, sort of,millennium thinking.The record isn’t one-sided,you know there’s more to it.”

That is, of course, one of Ross’ sly understatements: My Big Hero is a maze of misdirection, most of it pleasant.The industrial repution of Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records,which plans to release NIN remixs of the single “Pleasant Smell” is soon tempered by the twisted Delta dread of “Where Fools go,” which samples Nick Cave and Conjures PJ harvey’s to Bring you my Love. And although rhythm textures that recall Massive Attack or Tricky abound, the album is awash in discordent and aggressive post-punk guitar and shaped by Sarne’s voice-which at least one critic has aptly described as “Eartha Kitt on crack.”

“You just know when something fits,” Sarne says. “I’ve never really defined myself as rock or electronic or whatever,one thing or the other.Anything that as any kind soul I like.”
But even if no gun metaphors are implied in the realm of 12 Rounds,there are still some weapons. When Sarne and Ross work out their music in the studio,there can be…disagreements.
“We have terrific rows,” Sarne admits. “neither of us is afraid to say what we think.” A pause. “But that doesn’t surprise you about me,now does it?”