2008. Originally available for download as separate albums then released together on cassette by SickSickSick Records. Two psychedelic sci-fi western concept albums; one song oriented, the other an epic soundtrack to a movie that never existed.
"I had some pretty bizarre preconceptions about what a project named “Retard Slave” might sound like, but it turns out that none of them were remotely as deranged and disorienting as what I actually got. This lengthy tape contains two full solo albums by Steve Hammond, who is the guitarist and vocalist in Albuquerque’s Leeches of Lore. The key things to know about this particular release are: 1.) Steve is an absolutely amazing musician, 2.) he has an extremely limited attention span, 3.) he is a wizard at self-sabotage, and 4.) he is quite possibly insane (SickSickSick actually summed up this release perfectly with the very succinct and insightful query, “What the fuck is wrong with this dude?”).
I really have almost no idea what is going on here or what Hammond is hoping to achieve, but I am fairly certain that the Horseborg half of this cassette is some kind of Sci-Fi/Country rock opera or concept album. The other side might have some sort of overarching concept as well, but it doesn’t seem too thematically clear if it does. Regardless, whatever it is that is happening here is either kind of brilliant or maddeningly schizophrenic, depending on one’s predisposition towards the absurd. In either case, it can be a rocky ride, as Hammond has a tendency to launch into sludgy metal or ripping thrash with no warning and it is also very hard to wrap my mind around jaunty country ditties about demons, robots, severed limbs, time travel, and melting skin.
The most unsettling thing of all about this tape is that there are tons of striking and incredibly melodic passages strewn all over it. If someone just wandered into the room at some random point while this is playing, they might easily mistake Retard Slave for any number of other artists: Yes, Puppets-era Metallica, Negativland, Calexico, The Ventures, some killer classic country album, some sizzling rockabilly side, and god only knows what else (he even gets into some nightmarishly warped noise for a while on the second side). I was especially fond of his occasional epic dual-guitar metal solos and his languid slide-guitar interludes, which can easily hold their own against pretty much anybody else around. Even better, however, is the organ and maraca opening to the HD 209458B side, which is one of the most majestically awesome passages that I have heard in years.
It seems like Hammond could be wildly successful at literally anything he tried, but he’s just way too funny and mischievous to bother with that and happily pours months of his life into utterly inscrutable and extremely limited tapes instead. Is that admirable? I think it might be, but I am not completely sure. I am also not sure if something this fractured and self-indulgent will be able to connect with too many people, but Hammond has certainly made it clear that he is one of the more unique and unpredictable people in the American tape underground. I have literally no idea what this guy will do next. Someone should dare him to do a note-for-note recreation of Reign in Blood with meowing kittens."