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BASTRO (Buy CDs by this artist)
Rode Hard and Put Up Wet EP (Homestead) 1988
Bastro Diablo Guapo (Homestead) 1989
Sing the Troubled Beast (Homestead) 1990

David Grubbs, Jim O'Rourke's future Gastr del Sol partner, formed Bastro after the end of Squirrel Bait; the Kentucky-born guitarist/singer recorded the band's six-song debut with only a former bandmate, bassist Clark Johnson, and a rhythm machine. Bringing drummer John McEntire into the lineup, the trio made Bastro Diablo Guapo, an above-average LP that embraces — but isn't consumed by — Chicago-styled thrash noise. Rather than careen around like a rhinoceros plugged into an electric socket, Bastro stays tight, well-structured and musical, even when engaging in meltdown firepower.

Sing the Troubled Beast tempers Grubbs' extremist instincts to reveal a rough but stately melodic side, and an affecting poetic sensibility. The guitar has the rich textures of a Hammond organ (an instrument which, along with piano, makes an occasional appearance here); the rhythm section demonstrates the facility to dig trenches or drop back to small-scale time-keeping. While "The Sifter" is either a disastrous mastering mistake or just a pointless bit of transistorized foolishness, the haunting, somber "Tobacco in the Sink" crystallizes Bastro's achievements.

[Ira Robbins]
   See also Bitch Magnet, Gastr Del Sol