Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Totally Dad - Video For the Snake (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

Here's a mysterious one. No info at all on the sleeve and the Abandon Ship website only offers that the group's a trio who live a hermetic lifestyle and cook food for each other. Not all that helpful, I know, but what do I look like? I ain't no biographer! Let's cut to the chase, eh?

The first track, "Miami Beachi Futuri," has a title that screams James Ferraro to me, and actually the sounds aren't that far off. Weird warbbling 80's synth style with odd as percussive noises in the background that sound like someone mechanically feeding springs into a juicer. The synth stuff approaches the absurd here, getting pretty epic in its spazzed out approach. Weird opener, but pretty glorious in its nonsensically/ deliriously fun stance. Like one too many rides on Zipper or something.

Probably the funniest part about the opener is that it's pretty much the only track like it on the album. Most of the disc is filled what guitar improvisations that don't sound too far off from some of Zac Davis' Sky Juice material. "The Painted Plate" does a pseudo blues thing with guitar and bass that goes absolutely nowhere but whose twangy delta feel still comes through. "Camel Coat" has this strange little upbeat tempo running through it, which is odd in relation to the non-sequitor guitar playing that twangs away nice and stoned like. It's the little riff that couldn't, you might say. Fun and a great sound though, it's another example of those groups that master the art of keeping it off: off the beat, off the harmony, off the edge. "Totally Dad ft. Dark Nest" is bass, guitar, synth (maybe?) and drums, and really displays the unit's penchant for almost Sun Ra style un-cliches. Everything is kept just over the wrong side of together, but with the same sort of successful approach as the Shaggs, if even more amazing because they're likely doing it on purpose. Probably easy to underestimate just how difficult it is to play like this. Or maybe not...

Track five, "The Neighbors II," is nearly silent. Really tough to pick out anything here until a piano thing comes through and little weird whistles and things... almost sounds like they're hiding outside the neighbors' house and jamming to their piano practices and then overdubbing some guitar... creepy style. "Nothing Hurts" is an echo chamber of guitar and weird tape sounds (or maybe it's just crowd scramble) but there's a Loren Connors sound here, if even more angular and abstract. Nothing fits, but in a beautiful kind of way. Following that is the 30-plus second "Donis," a synth epic with unfitting guitar twanging that keeps it just as off and weird as the rest of the disc. "Grape Kite" is eight minutes of Captain Beefheart style jamming, just totally out of control and wily as hell. Probably the most full absorbing thing here on here, totally sucks you into its crazy world. "What Was Worse" closes the disc with an almost free jazz blow out, guitar just going all over and drums really pummeling. Sounds like Last Exit as covered by Harry Pussy. Really crazy little disc, and still available from the label, Carbon and others for cheap. Worth snagging.

Steve Hauschildt - The Stairwell is Long Gone (Deception Island CS)

Emeralds' own Steve Hauschildt (the Moog-man when I saw them...) lays down some beautiful synth explorations here on this C20 put out on Deception Island, a killer label run by the guy behind Bee Mask who happens to do some nifty synth stuff of his own.

Where Emeralds has a penchant for building these thick and loud monoliths of sound that sometimes move into unabashedly kraut-like realms, Hauschildt's solo work sticks to a less intense, more drifting take on the early synth route. Like some of Klaus Schulze's less composed stuff, or even some of Roedelius' solo work, the first side (well actually, it's hard to say which is the first side... I lost track after the third listen or so...) drifts along with steady rhythmic pulses that intermingle to create a kind of sweeping environment. No one tone sticks out and whenever anything enters it is with great care, filling in any rhythmic holes with more pointilist shards of warmth. It's beautiful, meditative material that comes fully formed and realized. The ten minutes are just enough for the piece to determine it's own pace, giving it enough time to breathe a bit and change enough that you feel like you've arrived somewhere, even if that somewhere looks a lot like the beginning did. Beautiful.

The second side opens with a less rhythmic approach, offering thick soups of warm tones over which a metallic pulse comes in, reshaping everything underneath into a kind of undulating cosmic voyage. And yeah, that's all anybody ever talk's about with this kind of stuff. And sure. There're planet's on the cover and a feeling of wide open blue comes across in all of it. So sure. It's a little cheap to go that route, but really, there's something to be said for that. Maybe it's the continuing influence of Eno's Apollo and the standard soundtrack to every drifting satellite we see that does it, but this music is spacious and warm and just beautiful. Actually, the side comes across more like an instrumental from Another Green World than Apollo, with the analog warmth of the tones and the skittering digital sounding mini melodies presenting a world of sound to discover as you enter into it. It's ten minutes feel as full as most sides twice as long.

These Emeralds guys all have a grasp on what they're doing. Everyone always remarks on their age and sure, they're doing some great work and they're only 20 or something, but what's most impressive isn't that they're young and making great music but that they seem to be extremely well versed in their history as well. The result is a music that is fueled by its 70s counterparts for sure, but that more importantly has the confidence to create a world in and of itself, inhabiting its own time and space on its own terms and allowing the listener to discover that world as they see fit.

Brave Priest - Precious Summers (Stunned Records CS)

Another delay, but hopefully we're through the thick of the holiday hold-ups at this point. Nice welcome back from New York packages too, with a couple cassettes from Stunned and a copy of that American Tapes silent record, so there's that to look forward to as well. First I'm gonna finish off that first Stunned batch with this tape from Brave Priest, which is Matt McDowell, Dan Barone, and Brain Thackeray from Dark Yoga playing some heavy duty stoner grunge rock straight out of the Easy Rider soundtrack only without any of the preciousness that those group's might have. A bit more motor than Steppenwolf, a bit more psych than the Doors.

The tape opens with the crazy amazing "No Blood," which really puts the stoner vibe in full gear. Slow trudging riffage with spaced out lyrics that are spot on. A whole "who cares, let's ride" feel permeates the thing as it builds from its song structure into this Hawkwind style freakout that's spot on and as tight as they come. "Vampire Canyon" follows with its go nowhere stop start rhythm that for some reason comes across as something like a cross between the sunshine repetitions of Sun Araw's Beach Head and the psych out stretchings of his earlier The Phynx. Maybe it's just that it's on Stunned, or maybe it's that the man himself, Cameron Stallones, has done the beautiful cover art work here. But yeah, the thing just rides along, wah'd out and rumbling with this high two-note vocal thing that totally takes you to that nowhere land. The aptly titled "Give You Bone" closes the first side with some Ozzy style riffage over these dumb-as-nails lyrics about taking you from behind sung in a harsh, cougher's smoke moss-covered manner. Just solid and fun rocking material here.

The second side is one monstrous twelve-minute burner that thrashes its way about with this pummeling drum situation and the herky guitar sputters of Thackeray. The bass stays right with it too, giving it the rounded fat punch required. Sounds like it's just a jam, but the unit is so tight that it comes across as a real workout. Just a heavy duty situation all around, the side manages to reach some pockets of delusional fury the likes of which a lot of those 60s cyclist bands were never willing to go. Guess Brave Priest has time and a whole world of influences on their side. Or maybe it's just that the pot's stronger. Totally amazing tape that's sold out at source but likely available somewhere out there. If not, someone reissue this thing... could be the summer jammer of 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Uneven Universe - Nightcrawler Walls (DNT Records CS)

Haunted Castle's a name a lot of people know about, but lately that unit's Dan and Holly have been putting out more stuff under their new Uneven Universe project. Opting for the basement sax-electronics rig, the duo put out some serious no-go jams that fit right in with that whole midwest sound. This new DNT offering serves up a mighty slab well worth digging into.

Opening with some electronic screech, it doesn't take long for the saxes to come in, bending around and echoing about behind aquarium bubbles. Keeping the skronk in control, Dan and Holly opt for an emphasize on taut unity of feel, with virtually every sax line serving as further textural drive to the electronic slashing. That bass low-end cranking keeps things as dismal as possible, but there's some lively interplay here as the sax's delay sends it bouncing about in the murky waters and buzzing click-clack of dismembered tape loops. Some beautiful moments come of it too, when the elctronics slink back to almost nothing and the sax moves about in lyrical dissonance only to be punctuated by some screeching oscillation or distant cargo carrier bellow.

I guess this stuff could be compared to a group like Graveyards or Slither, but in my eyes it's a bit more Handicapper Horns style. Staying away from being too jazzy or low-end constructivist, the unit keep things intimate and fairly personal despite the apparent coldness of the atmosphere itself. It's imrpov without being "improv," staying noisey enough that there are genuinely unexpected moments of total morticious terror as well as stretches of immense softness and beauty. Has to be a killer live show.

I could really go on and on about this as this is a sound I can really get behind, but instead I'll just suggest you find something by them, especially as they seem to have releases popping up everywhere right now. This cassette's sold out from DNT, but he says to e-mail if you're looking for it, and I'm sure Tomentosa's got a copy. Worth watching, very playful and thoughtful without trying so hard as to become sterile. And you gotta love the skeleton print on the tape, it's too perfect.

Masons / Molten Honey - In the Basement of the Temple / Molten Honey (Stunned Records CS)

Alright, back to it. My apologies for the delay in reviews, but what with school wrapping up and a five day black out in our area, times were too hard to be attending to the ol' bloggie. A few days of rest though, and I'm back at it--hoping to get back to some consistency with it too, despite the incoming holiday mania.

So last I left off I was in the midst of a bunch of new shipments, and I thought I'd get right back to them with this split from Stunned Records. Dividing the bill is Masons, a brother/sister duo of filmmaker Matthew Lessner and his (at the time) 14-year old sister Sophie, and Molten Honey, a moniker of John Frank.

The first side goes to Masons, which I'm guessing is a one off band name considering that the side was made in the basement of some masonic temple--guess that's how come it's called In the Basement of the Temple eh...? Maybe the underground air got to their heads but this is a pretty sour affair, starting with some pounding drums and pierced out guitar licks over the mumbled satanic baritone mutterings of Matthew. Really can't believe his sister's 14 here, as it's a grim affair that is far more aware and weird than anyone I knew when I was 14. Hell, who am I kidding. I don't know anyone this cool at 22... when the drums and lyrics drop out for a second you get some really fried guitar mayhem and punked out glitched nuthouse stuff. Real free form, back to the basics material that's far more radical than anything about 90% of the free primitivist rock guys can muster. Maybe they could do it cause no one was in attendance. Or maybe they just wanted everyone who was there to leave. Every sound here is so fuzzed out and fucked though that it's just cruddy and scuzzed out enough for it to really come together. A killer side.

The flip has John Frank, who apparently does some weirdo psych folk stuff usually, but if this is his standard fair it could hardly be called folk unless your quotient for that is that it has a guitar. Similar basement vibe as the other, except less punked out and driving and more meandery groove that just barely stays together. Sort of No-Neck vibe in its ordered chaos, with weird electronic synth drums, guitar twangies a la Derek Bailey on meth, and just a general weird atmosphere that actually ebbs and flows quite nicely. Second "song" has some flute meandering over some weird break beat action that's just nutso and totally compelling. Snippets of lyrics come in and out but mostly its just lobotomized weirdness here--even somehow congeals into the weirdest dance beats you've never heard at points. Big time air-conditioned vibe on the third cut, whose hollowed out sonics really manage to get in the noggin and squirrel about. You even get the sound of the door to your skull opening. And then the vibes come in and you're just totally left in the dust. Tinkly quasi-melodies, sratched out blurts of sound and synth kookiness all amount to some of the most genuinely weird and out there stuff I've heard in a while. Totally together though.

Really an awesome split, both sides fit right in with one another, presenting two sides of the same equation. Another awesome Stunned tape, more coming soon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

skozey fetisch - this, then (Resipiscent CD-R)

Some reel-to-reel tape remnants and a Roland Jupiter 6 are all the equipment required for this disc by skozey fetisch, another Resipiscent release. Apparently the whole thing was recorded in some abandoned basement/spooky lair, but even if it was recorded by some babbling, spring-fed eden the feel is as grim as it comes. Split into eleven tracks that total nearly an hour, the disc is a grizzly path that lurches along until it finds a nice corner to sit and hide in.

The opener, "Exploitable Rift," opts for a lurching electronic feel, with all sorts of weird starts and stops that shimmy about without much direction or aim. Really nice way to kick off the whole vibe of this thing, especially as the second track, "ergo a-spin -or- so, spiderly scintallist spins sequential sistering spirals" (what a mouthful...) spends the first half of its nine minutes slowly crescendoing from the bleakest, most minimal material into a heavy duty synth garbler that sways around in some pretty murky water. Sounds like a fan gaining speed until it enters some other dimension.

But really, it's total mindless zonkoid stuff all around, spilling itself all over the place until the puss runs out. Serious basement feel, with nary a beat or graspable constant in sight. "Neatly Entwined Transparent Phase Thing" starts off with some twilight zone, hollowed out material that stays right in the netherworld, statically ruminating along with abandon. The longest work on the disc, "Metastatic Alternative #2: Exterior Refractory Study" is eleven minutes of textural bloops and suggestions that build to absolutely nothing. More of a meditative, be-here-now vibe to this disc, with no fulfilling climaxes or arrivals. Realnice one to space to though. Keep your eyes peeled for more reviews in the coming days from Stunned, DNT, and a rad noise DVD courtesy of Resipiscent. Also, I'll try to get some reviews up for those new Ferraro LPs on Olde English Spelling Bee.

Hans Grusel's Krankenkabinet - Blaue Blooded Turen (Resipiscent CD)

Resipiscent sent me a few things for review, including this crazy disc by Germany's Hans Grusel. This guy has a story that you wouldn't believe, including trying to build a fifty-foot guitar with members of Scorpions as well as escaping East Germany in a cider keg (more details here...). I don't know if the cider fermented, but Grusel comes up with some truly warped sound dilemmas on this disc with an approach that seems to mix the lo-fi basement vibes of the American scene with the more heady approach of the German electronic pioneers.

From what I gather, each of these mini suites (including "Sturm und Drang (at Sea)," "Blooded Door Part One," "Soundtrack To Dallas Bower’s 'Alice In Wonderland'" and "Blooded Door Part Two") is through composed, although with all the buzzing and bubbling running through these it must me strange notation indeed.

The disc opens with the three part "Sturm und Drang (at Sea)," whose string motions and warbbling electronics set up an uneasy mixture of grating electronic motions and atonal, Leroi Jenkins style fiddle washes. It's really a strange mix as the two methods are kept quite distinct. There seems to be little if any processing of the viola itself, opting instead for a sort of duet approach that really peters around in the ol noggin. Some head-scratching moves here that somehow leave you vegetating on the floor without ever getting too brutal.

"Blooded Door Part One" opens with some dizzying clicking that eventually grabs hold of some blippies and just keeps motoring. Using instruments listed here as the zeroscillator and, my personal favorite, the wretch machine, the first part of this spaces way out and actually doesn't sound totally unlike that Olson/Emeralds remix I reviewed a ways back, if a little less overtly spaced out. There's even a trumpet in the mix there, it's lilting little melody dizzily swaying about towards the end of the work alongside some harmonicas that manage to sound like accordions. Hell, concrete is even listed as an instrument, so who knows. Beautiful stuff though.

The "Soundtrack to Dallas Bower's 'Alice in Wonderland'" is total circus-vibe carousel weirdness that slips into some darker, rabbit hole material. Pretty industrial situation here, long hallway steps, drips, metal shards. Generally a pretty dangerous situation it seems, but again, the choice and placement of sounds keep it spooky rather than some onslaught. Serious organization going on here that manages to create a pretty spooky head space. Definitely opts for an anti-Disney, pro Queen of Hearts as post-apocalyptic ruler of the world ordeal, as evidenced most sincerely on "Who Stole the Tarts?"

The disc closes with "Blooded Door Part Two," which features more lurch and grit as oscillators swell and subside around each other, sans trumpet this time. Really together stuff with a clear aesthetic vision that is realized fully. Those Germans always manage to get the crazy in while still taking care to keep it professional, you know? Awesome disc from a label to watch.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tricorn & Queue - Continual Passage (Stunned Records CS)

A beautiful package arrived today from Super Minerals' Phil French and his own Stunned Records. Gorgeous looking releases with a definite vibe of colorful weirdnesses. Figured I'd make a smooth transition form those recently reviewed Housecraft items with this Tricorn and Queue tape, yet another project of Jeffry Astin's.

Working in a similar vein as Xiphiidae, Tricorn and Queue combines warm synthesized drone with an environmental, found sound approach. Such a combination manages to create a world that is far more crafted than most things in the drone world are capable of. Rather than a shifting, endless process of variation, the pieces here feel smaller in scope, and far more intimate. These are beautiful and highly tangible mini-works that begin quietly and tend towards a sifting out of various sound sources, highlighting and rehighlighting distinct moments or motions atop a warm amorphous tonal landscape.

Take the third track of the first side (all tracks are unnumbered, the sides untitled). Moist and air-driven synth swirls drift along beneath scratching whispers that point towards the yellow light of some sunny grove. Whereas some of the stuff in a similar vein tends toward the more obvious however, Astin keeps things from slipping into merely pretty territory. As soft as those synthy dew drippings are, there remains a mysterious--and just plain weird--side to the proceedings. Perhaps it is the field recordings that bring it down to an earthly level. Soft, echoing percussive taps that sound like they could be played on wet, slippery rocks echo about as shimmering drones and a dark underbelly coalesce into a work that seeks to find its peace here rather than out there in the cosmos. It's all very natural sounding, remaining restrained even as vocal yowls slip in and out with enough caution so as to not delve into the world of tribal mimicry or mere expression of self. It all serves the music here, whether it jingles, crunches or shines.

The forty minutes are quite a nice listen, a great morning listen to ease in to the day as well as late night chill out soundtrack. Gentle in its subtlety, yet wonderfully rewarding in its depth. Killer release, and still available from Stunned I believe.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stone Baby / Entente Cordiale - Our Lungs are Bleeding, but We Keep Breathing (Carbon Records 2X3" CD-R)

Rochester's Carbon Records have been dropping weirdness from the north for a while now, and this double 3" is a killer format for showing off two like-minded wranglers of mind-fuckery in a concise and effective format.

Stone Baby is a group that, I believe, includes Cory Card, though I'm not sure of or if there are any other members. The "Silicosis Suite" presented here in three parts, maintains the spooky, sterile vibes that both the track and the band name conjure. For those who don't know, a stone baby is the name given to some crazy process whereby a baby gets lodged in the wrong spot of a woman's body and essentially calcifies so as not to cause infection. Sometimes these things aren't found for forty years, which is definitely the kind of grueling, creepy, body invading spinal discomfort that Stone Baby bring to mind here. Really crisp metallic expanses here, with radio babble and guitar tinklings riding atop some deeply buried brain dead mumbles. Eventually the darkness overwhelms and you enter the howling monstrosity of the second movement, which manages to be as dense while still maintaining a kind of oxygenated undertow. The last movement culls more scraping metal with warped vocal bellows while guitar and endless echo trail along in gloomy desolation. Not exactly a finger snapper, which means a pretty complete realization of its own aesthetic.

Entente Cordiale is another mystery group who lead down a similar path as Stone Baby does. A trio consisting of (if I'm reading it right...) Chris Reeg, Will Veeder and Joe Tunis, it sounds like a three guitar attack going on, though the restraint would suggest otherwise. Patiently ringing melodic fragments and textural billows, about forty percent of the sound they wrangle is each others feedback meshing and melting inward. Despite the apparent chilliness of the disposition on "96/89," there is actually quite a lot of warmth in these subtle interactions. Sudden changes are few, but they build themselves a sort of tactile sound world to bathe about in. Sometimes it gets bleaker, sometimes more muddied, and sometimes it is quite harsh, but the overall approach is one that favors interaction and listening to mental degeneration via guitar splaying. Even so, some pretty fucked levels of weird are apparent.

Weird little package in one of those Michael's arts and crafts boxes with packaging fuzz and a nice pro-printed card. The twine (not pictured) really seals the deal on a wild split.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pipeline Alpha - Darking Lights of Mazil (DNT Records CS)

Whoa doggie! Yet ANOTHER DNT series is out already, and this time the suddenly prolific Tynan unloads one of his murkiest runs yet.

Thought I'd start with this one from Pipeline Alpha. Had to go over seas for this one, enlisting Germany's Marcel Seeck, who apparently has had some stuff put out on Ruralfaune and also does stuff on his own Amid the Waves label. Hadn't heard/heard of his stuff before now, so here goes.

Side one opens with "Nagelfar in an Icier Lull," which sort of scoots along with some weird, icy drones and odd gobbley-gook cauldron bubble. A serious Phantom of the Opera castle vibe here, only fed through some Vodka Soap/Dolphins into the Future approach. Slips right into the hushing"shhhs" of "Seth in Deserts," where some weird chant is said all shroud like. Could just be that I don't speak German, but this whole thing has that same Halloween vibe that Heath Moreland put out on that "Shrieks and Creaks" cassette a while back. Nice and airy instrumentation here, fog horns, slipping electronic gagunks, electronic neo-space/undersea urchin material. Some sax line quietly reverberating around, real simple and not jazzy at all. Just plain spaced out, with only the tiniest little rhythm pushing things into more mantra-like, head-nod/kneading grounds. Some real fertile ground here. Third and last track on the side, "Anubis Cures Aschmodaii," continues in this aesthetic realm; lots of dark greens mingling around, with some bass heavy droning beneath the metallic stutters.

Side two only has two tracks, which lets the whole thing sit a bit more uneasily. "Zusa" starts things in similar fashion, with long horn-like drones shot through some mountain pass. There's evil in the air style. Never really arrives though, maintaining a nice, ominous vibe that rests easy in stagnant discomfort. It's where the worry resides. Under the drones there are some truly glitched out, warm gook, not unlike the sticky-icky harnessings of Sam Goldberg's material. "Dark City" is even more ambient, with a nice pseudo industrial, muddled radio transmissions vibe.

Sweet cover too, but limited to 55 so snaggeth quick.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Corsican Paintbrush - Fascinators (Housecraft CS)

When he's not heading the Digitalis and Foxglove labels, or playing in Ajilvsja with Nathan Young or the North Sea by his lonesome, Brad Rose is making music with wife Eden as Corsican Paintbrush, a space synth folk project that generally mucks around in clearer waters than some of Brad's other projects.

This new cassette on Housecraft presents three tracks spread over its two sides. The first side, one epic 19-minute zoner called "My Trinidad Ecstasy Rocket," starts off in some pretty glum locales, burbling along with some electronic babble and strange synth rumblings. Pretty zonked out and nicely paced, the whole thing stretches into itself, evoking some of the same vibes that I get from Demons, only with more organic, less electronic vibe. When pipes come in, chugging along to some odd reverberated pulse, it almost descends into a Vodka Soap vibe, albeit one that replaces the rhythmic structures of the latter's work for a more sprawling, early Cluster feel. Voices pop in and out, careening around as sounds present and re-present themselves. It's pretty go nowhere, only with enough of a sense of structure to maintain its interest throughout, pulling out when it needs to return to the basic drone structures it started on and then enriching itself once more with more delayed skitters and a kind of gently ominous patience that displays great depth here.

The second side starts off with "Sunrise Year," which basically starts where the first side left off. More crinkling atmospherics and spooky, ethereal beauty. Some real night time jungle qualities here, although way more cavernous without any of the obvious connotations that that may have. Just gurgling, what the hell was that sound situations. Not unlike some way stripped-down Fag Tapes release, really. The final track, "We're Wringing Trouble," replaces the low-end murmur with some high end vocal work that sprawls itself out and wavers about with some beautifully synthesized cirrus layers. A nice way to end on a high note, clearing the old noggin and laying down the veer off into infinity approach. Lovely.

It's another killer via both the Rose crew and the Housecraft label. Fits right in with the cold-as-ice, cozy melancholy of this time of year, at least up here. Here's hoping this tandem does it again, as both the sounds and the label fit each other wonderfully.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black Pus / Foot Village - Split (DNT Records / Deathbomb Arc LP)

Just received word about four new (killer looking) DNT releases, which reminded me that I hadn't gotten around to this Black Pus/Foot Village split co-released by Deathbomb Arc. But before we talk about the delicious ear delights, allow me to direct you toward that beautiful cover designed by Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale. I've seen a bunch of different animals used (mine's a llama, which is sick if you catch my drift) but I figured the label stock photo was enough to wet the appetite. It's actually a reissue of a Deathbomb Arc CS from last year sometime, only with two bonus tracks from Black Pus and one from Foot Village.

The first of the unlabeled sides is Brian Chippendale's Black Pus. Considering that Chippendale is the drummer for Lightning Bolt, it's not difficult to see how this stuff fits right in with that aesthetic. Chippendale's drums are crushing, pummeling along beneath walls of static, glitched out electronics and near indecipherable vocals that take electronic thrash to its most extreme conclusion. Using a variety of overdubbed electronic scribbles, Chippendale has a kinetic propulsion rarely matched, and his scrawling gestures and blown out gusto find some odd meeting ground between Rashied Ali and Merzbow. Really beautiful, cathartic stuff, as active and physical as it comes.

The Foot Village side opens with some weird, crazed spoken word stuff about me being "hungy" and how we'll all do whatever we have to for food. Some starved stuff that really puts the ass in ass-backwards. When everyone is properly ready to race for food, the whole thing opens up into a total crushing onslaught of percussive mayhem. Just fucking manic distopia here. Full frontal assault that delves into way more chaotic territory than Friendship Nation ever did. Nice and muddy and, like the flip side, as crazed as can be. Mellows out a bit later on, with more synchronized chanting and the like, but the message is clear. Drumming and screaming are fun. I suppose the chants of "420!" suggest other things are fun as well...

The whole LP represents the onslaught that DNT has been harvesting from time to time of late, and though it may not be for the feint of heart, it does serve its purpose well. Why punch pillows when you can thrash your body about in contorted mayhem? Sounds way more fun to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Loosers / Owl Xounds - S/T (Release the Bats 7")

Got this 7" over at Other Music last time I was in the city, and just now finally getting around to reviewing it. Seems to be the way things are going these days. Ah well, on with the show.

Been hearing a lot about Os Loosers lately, though this is my first direct contact with the Portuguese unit. And sure, it's not the new double LP on Qbico, or even the single LP on Troglosound, but the all-too-brief "At the Foot of the Sphinx" presented here is a rather tasty chunk of sound. A trio whose instrumentation consists of no more than your standard fare voice, bass, guitar and percussion set up, the group bobs their way along little forest paths on this one, the simple two-note bass line chugging along while the guitar line strays toward some Dead territory only far more, well, dead--nice and meandery stuff. The vocals are highly effected, serving up some warm background layers over which the minimal percussive jingle jangles can flounder about nice and steady like.

The Owl Xounds side, called "Translucent Neon Hexagram (Imagined)," features a more jazz-oriented angle, with La Otracina's Adam Kriney handling skins while Gene Janas's upright bass and Mario Rechtern's effected sax squalls do their thing. I had heard their earlier double 3" Stoned and Zoned, but this is a bit more erratic and less all-out blowing. Nice post-post fire music here, and a bit more together--even, dare I say, traditional--than that earlier material. Still a real chaotic treat though, with saxophone/bass duets quibbling about before Kriney's drums come in to drive the whole idea home. Could be some stripped down Center of the World thing, more high-energy than Graveyards but with the same kind of appreciation for the medium. Some real high level interaction here.

It's a strange split, with both groups presenting the same side of two very different coins. It's all improvised greatness though, and where people may tend toward one over the other, it's the dialogue between them which fuels the release's momentum while also fostering general appreciation of the improvised form. Limited to, you guessed it, 420 copies with a nice stripped down aesthetic and two cut outs giving personnel info. Cool stuff.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

C. Spencer Yeh / Sick Llama - Split (Arbor 7")

Grabbed a copy of that new C. Spencer Yeh / Sick Llama split on Arbor, and it's a doozy. Love this 7" style, as it allows these guys to let rip with no concern for pacing or album formulation. Just quick fat slabs of sonic gunk from the leading purveyors of sticky sounds.

Sides are unlabeled, but we'll start with the Sick Llama action. Can't believe I haven't posted anything on Heath Moreland yet come to think of it, especially considering what a mammoth masterwork his label, the estimable Fag Tapes, is as a whole, and more particularly that killer 12 CS boxset commemorating the 200th release was. Couldn't exactly bring myself to tackle that for the review treatment though... maybe some day. Anyway, Moreland offers up a nice crunchy side here, really murky and glitched out with bellows of vocal weirdness drowning out the static electronic psycho babble. No one sounds like Heath--almost feel like he's managed to grab that whole basement aesthetic and take it into some twisted, psyched out land, welcome to the stone zone style.

The following side features Burning Star Core hauncho C. Spencer Yeh, but if you're expecting anything like the rich drone melodies of BSC's recent Challenger think again. Rather, "Solo Violin 11" is all nervous kineticism, sounding far more like a violin being tormented in various ways: scraping of strings, machine gun fire on that fine wooden body, high end tear-me-up squeals, pitter patter bow one string style.Even water like plunks make their way in the mix, all with the most disruptive, skull-gnashing underbelly though. Finds the meeting point somewhere between AMM and Prick Decay, if you can dig that. Totally warped, but in that thoughtful, avant-garde thoughtful chaos kind of way. Dude can play.

It's limited to 500, but still available from the label for a small sum. Good purchase as both sides represent some highly focused and fine representations of their sounds. A masters' sampler if you will.

More Shameless Self Promotion!

Hey, alright, I know, I've been name-dropping my band Herons' first cassette for a while now but it's finally out for real. Put out over on Housecraft Records, "Walk Upright" pulls from some recent material as well as some stuff that's nearly a year old now. SO yeah, snag a copy if you want, it's a mind melter if you ask me. But who am I to say? Surely I'm just a bit biased?

Scope out Housecraft's website if you want to get your mitts on one. Cheap cheap!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Xiphiidae - Used Parts Galaxy (Housecraft CS)

I believe Xiphiidae is the name of Jeff from Housecraft's solo project, though that's only through some potentially misguided research... whoever it is, it's another Housecraft winner that presents a bit of an airier vibe than so much of the drone out there these days. Where many bands opt for the thick as curry take, Xiphiidae ventures into thinner, more refractive waters.

Side one, "Paper Giant Blind with Age," opens in a kind of ultra stripped down take on modal, Paul Bleyish improvisations over ambient cut ups that create a whole world unto themselves. Almost sounds like a Hammond under there, weaving these slow and speculative riffs around one another. Specifically I think of this Muhal Richard Abrams solo on Marion Brown's Sweet Earth Flying (coincidentally, an album that also has Paul Bley sitting in at the keys...), but a more obvious touchstone would be Sun Ra's bare piano explorations, spaced out but not lacking in soul. Yet really it's none of these, and in fact couldn't be mistaken for jazz at all... just that that keyboard sound conjures some warm vibes while the background creates a sort of sputtering backdrop, though really more of a simultaneous sonic happening than that term might suggest.

Side two, "When Trees are Bare," starts with some sort of wagon wheel thing before more natural sounding wood and leaf sounds come through. A high end warbling of blissed out keys roll through, emanating like the negative space of the forests. Lulling stuff, with a distinct tide pool air about it, voices bouncing about in the backdrop, never infringing but, as in the previous track, entering to say their peace before receding into the heavily oxygenated murk.

It's only a C-20, but the tape makes its mark with such immersive material that it'll feel like an hour. Real slow paced drooling stuff, blown apart and then airbrushed back together again. Another one from Housecraft that has all of its shit together. And it ends pretty much right where it begins, chimes and all. And how bout the, again, delicious cover morsel? Eat up.

Do Tell - S/T (Housecraft 2XCS)

A stack of new Housecraft releases arrived recently, so I figured I'd start digging into them, especially as my band's tape is being released by the label this coming Thursday, the next full moon no less! So call it a plug if you will, but the material Jeff's been putting out more than warrants the review treatment; Housecraft's been in some spot on territory for a while now.

Do Tell is the pseudonym of Kyle Conklin, and as far as I can tell this double C-40 is his debut full length. Really don't know any more about the man behind the sounds, but I can say this: Do Tell is an epic collection on par with Super Minerals' mammoth Not Not Fun tape released a ways back, managing to present an extended look at the work of one person over what I suspect is a relatively substantial period of his musical development. This "best of" style presentation could lose some of its charm in its broad scope, but Do Tell works to provide more in its vastness. Instead we can see the vast depth of an already fully realized aesthetic, and it works beautifully. Of course maybe this is merely a long album and all of this "best of" stuff doesn't apply here at all.. can't really tell. Still worth ruminating on I suppose.

As for the tunes, the whole thing opens up with some nice and gentle drone, with thick textures of warm high end and undulating waves of bass that seep right in there and just bob around for a bit. When the waves of another track come in beneath rich chords of guitar gesturing, it manages to dissolve any misgivings I may have had about waves in music and the connotations of such "natural moods" style works. It's beautiful, and only further set off by the quickly arrived at state of the next track, which scraps along in some strange percussive netherworld before the guitar, again reverberative and warm, overtakes the clanging in favor of gorgeous flowing drawls while monkey calls and dog barks meddle around in the background.

Conklin explores darker territory too, but it's never without its sense of beauty and awe. The deep rumble on one track, mixed with the shooting star machinery of these high end, cross-town, synth slides, creates some dark matter blanket of cosmically inclined patchwork over which calls can be made, radio heard chattering, general moments of minute actions and gestures. Cavernous, like some love hole in your mind. The disc further delves into New Agey lands on the crystalline piano of the next track, whose arpeggios are slow and selective atop the higher drones of the synth. Walks the right side of a fine line, it does, and always makes sure to follow up with an extra weird one (try warbling saw lines and weird, folky drone vibes, like the folk music of druids only as rich and heartfelt as any true music of a land is, not some shitty fantasy creature soundtrack...).

And on to side two... actually, no, it's not necessary, the idea is there. The tape has enough carefully conceived gorgeosity that I could go on about it for some time. For those into the Emeralds/Sam Goldberg/Eno/Cluster realm of this world, this will be a must have. Every side is as varied and beautiful as the first, and with eighty minutes to explore it'll be most frequented. Sold out from the source, but check Tomentosa and the like. The package is as beautiful as it looks.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fantastic Magic - Witch Choir (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

There's a lot of talk about New Weird America these days, and while i don't necessarily prescribe to such broad strokes of band lumping (I prefer much narrower ones, I guess... what's a music fan to do!?), the genre has come to imply a certain aesthetic (here I go again...) or at least approach that is experimental and interesting but still steeped in form and, to some extent, rock/blues traditions, even if those traditions are as loosely rendered as Sunburned's psychedelic romps or No Neck's folk improv twang approach.

Fantastic Magic falls somewhere closer to the Sunburned side of things, with a wild psychedelic approach and seemingly anything goes attitude. Still, the trio also incorporate a far prettier, song/vocal technique, using richly harmonized lyrics on top of ornate instrumentation including various horns alongside scraping electronic commotion. The result is a sound perhaps closer to a Joanna Newsom or Devendra Banhart or some other freak-folk contemporary.

The album breezes through its ten tracks in just over twenty-two minutes, moving between the opening pastoralism of "Fox Wedding," complete with indecipherable Animal Collective vocal musings and pan flutes, to the pseudo-Sun Ra blurt sessions of "Balloons," whose electronic keys and saxophone reveal the group's unexpected depth. Still, Fantastic Magic's strengths are in their compositions, which all manage to sound as loose as a fire side jam while still remaining intricate enough to cipher them off from the legions trying to bring their own sound to "out" folk stuff. "I've Covered the Halls, with Glitter and Awe" might represent their best construction, richly orchestrated quirkiness that has enough interesting sounds mixed into to keep it off kilter enough to suggest a kind of LSD sing along. "Etains Whirlwind" is a heady dose of noisy dimensions while "Moat Island" is bedroom pop, just guitar and voice in some sun-lit grove. The closing "Jam & Yima" (speaking of which, did you hear about Yma Sumac passing away yesterday... I thought I'd heard she was a goddess...) is a cute and mellow closer that doesn't delve too deeply into its own adorable nature that it can't get out.

The Abandon Ship disc is a repress and it's still available, though sold out from the band itself. For those into this kind of stuff, it's a real find, and far more compelling than so many of their less adventurous (and often more famous) counterparts. It's an honest and fun record that pushes its song structures towards new bounds without closing themselves off to exploration outside of that realm. A nice one indeed.

Bobb Bruno - Clown's Castle (DNT Records CS)

Goliath Bird Eater member and frequent Pocahaunted, Robedoor and Upsilon Acrux collaborator, Bobb Bruno is clearly a regular man about town, albeit one adorned in some kind of easter bunny costume with over-sized head. Bruno brings his cartoonishly psychedelic visual approach to this DNT release, but be warned: it's not just cutesy fun on this cassette.

Opening with the slow synth jaunt "Snail's Pace," Bruno begins with dark chordal patterns working and reworking themselves underneath fuzzed out rhythmic bits. The piece stays fairly motionless for some time, brooding in a sort of spaced out, underbelly of the mind kind of way until drum machine enters and it takes a decidedly more industrial slant as fed through break beat weirdnesses. As soon as that beat drops out it's an endless tunnel descent, Alice in Wonderland style, before this plodding drum beat comes in that gives the whole thing a form all its own. Some soundtrack to neon induced LA life-binges or something, slow-mo as all hell, a real head nodder for the mind rotter. The synth work is layed on deep here, maintaining its dark, organ(ic) riffage--it's the Phantom of the Opera remix, he all hunched over in his castle weaving some crazy arpeggiation while Bruno and company are hunkered down behind him, bunny costume adorned, partying it out. The record's called "Clown's Castle" after all... When the beat drops out its all guitar fraying and synth rides. Super reverbed out stuff here, whose muddy bass runs and clearer, less blown out high synth runs do bring to mind something not totally un-Skaters like, albeit with a more formalized structure and slightly dancier take on the whole thing--given that dancey is defined as "potentially bringing to mind movement in a club setting" rather than some sort of beat oriented toe-tapper. This would be one dark club, and surely few would be shaking it.

The album titled second side starts off with some heavy metal Sunn O))) riffage, not far off from the sounds of Bruno's Goliath Bird Eater. Buzzing comes into play as the guitar slows itself down and rides it out. The beast keeps building as choral vocals sweep across and the beat drops, making the whole thing as heavy as concrete feet over San Francisco Bay. Really heavy duty stuff that just rides and glides, the beat dropping in and out as it emits itself toward eternity. It's a real soul crusher, so don't be fooled by the blue pig and the cute pines on the cover. Limited to 79 and sold out at the label, but I'm sure Tomentosa and other like-minded distributers will have it soon. Beautiful.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Steve Gunn - S/T (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

Here's another Abandon Ship outing, this time in the form of a solo outing from GHQ member(as well as sometime Zac Davis collaborator) Steve Gunn. A reissue from the Onomato label, the self titled disc is a collection largely comprised of solo guitar improvisations which, according to the label description, are based to some extent around travels to Morocco. It sounds it too.

The first track, "Young Subjects," is a nice drifting excursion that opens on some kind of string drone looped over and over before finger picked/frailed/sailed acoustic guitar leads the tour. What sounds like a mandolin enters next, acting as lead over the now looped guitar chordal pattern. Largely based in some modal, eastern-tinged chordal pattern, the whole thing floats along with the great delicacy and beauty, truly evoking not only that particular region of the world, but also a general sense of travel as art and narrative as travel. The closing electric guitar freak out only adds to the mystery.

Whereas "Young Subjects" consisted of a fair amount of layering on Gunn's part, "For Tyrone Hill" is all solo acoustic improvisation, though with the chops that Gunn has it would not be a stretch to assume there were others here. Opening with a series of ringing, open ended chords, the piece builds over it's nearly seven minutes into a work of real beauty--you can really hear the sounds of the strings against the wood here as he raps his hand over the metal, interweaving lines of delicate and careful runs. Comparisons to Fahey are inevitable--especially toward the middle--but Gunn takes an even more stripped down and overtly (at least harmonically) eastern approach as he builds finger picked waterfalls out of the near silent pools between them.

"Jerone and Jimi Chaplin" starts off with a distant hammering of the strings, allowing the guitar to reverberate and solidify its overtones against the rasping sound of the strings hammering against themselves. A small clicking cymbal comes in shortly before the acoustic solo enters, breathes, and expands. At under five minutes, it's the shortest work on the set, but it needs no more time than that to realize its fragile beauty.

"Two of Ammon" follows, closing the disc on a long fifteen minute suite of sorts. Heidi Diehl of Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice, as well as Time-Life, guest features on voice here, though the opening, with its horn solo and long, bowed string drones, wouldn't have you suspecting as much. Something like tabla drums come in to the construction, making for a distant drone effect that is soon disrupted by some of the most well crafted guitar work on the disc. It's a languid state, notes ricocheting off each other, furling and unfurling into some sort of back porch sailing venture. An electric guitar is soon layered over top, adding an epic touch that somehow fits right in to this otherwise less is more approach. When Diehl's voice comes in, it is only to summon tiny melodies of half-whispered lullabies hummed on a lonely sandy shore. The piece ends palindromically, returning to the strummed guitar and finally the horn solo over the strummed string. Quite a lovely structure for such an expansive musical gesture.

Gunn's guitar work is of great character--he never over plays, opting for carefully chosen and overtly melodic material that suggests both Moroccan traditionalism and an overtly experimental edge. That he can so obviously pull from such rich musical backgrounds without diffusing it into anything less his own statement is an accomplishment indeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nessmuk - Flies Free (Abandon Ship Records 3" CD-R)

Another package just arrived, this time from Nate of Abandon Ship Records. The label's been releasing great stuff for a while now, it's latest batch consisting of four 3"ers (two from Ray and Eric of Century Plants solo projects respectively) and two from Digitalis head Brad Rose's Ajilsvga and North Sea. Thought I'd start with this little 3" though, a format that seems perfectly suited to this kind of small, side project related experiment.

In this case, Nessmuk is the side project of Evening Fires and The Clear Spots member Kevin Moist as joined by a few friends. It's a funny little disc, spanning under twenty minutes but moving quite a ways in that time. I don't know if Nessmuk is some Viking god or the name of some titanic whale of yore, but the whole thing definitely has a kind of frigid feel to it. The first track, "Station Signals," opens on this clicking rhythm which stays the whole way through, becoming wrapped in guitar lines and echoing gestures of great beauty. Voices mumble about in the distance, but this is largely a guitar based work with warm rich delta twangs entering in at about the halfway mark. Something like a jam between Emeralds' guitarist Mark McGuire and Lambsbread Zac Davis as it vaults itself into riff territory towards the end.

The second track, aptly titled "The Diamond Hard Grindstone of Heaven," opens a bit more chaotically, with rich guitar staccato drones and heavy riffage going on above. There seems to be some distant synthesizer drone too, but if it's there it's so buried that it really only serves as a filling tone. This tends towards a more aggresive, garage style solo that only reveals its under-workings when it subsides, where there exists a whole slew of textural material. Some real guitar fireworks here, but rather than heat it's still chilly stuff, likely due to the blue-green tones he's working in here.

"Everything Living Grows" closes the disc, starting things off on a quieter and more meditative slant, with weird skitterings and low end undulations beneath a field of guitar meandering. Really well placed layer work here, keeping the whole thing unexpected and intriguing as it goes along. By the end though, this too has built itself into a real monster. As each musical cell combines, a glacier of sound is created, walking a fine line between late night chill out and zonk out riff fest. A good one for sure, with much more to come from Abandon Ship. Pretty sure this one's still available from their website if you're into it though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Foot Village - Friendship Nation (Gilgongo Records LP)

Foot Village have been making quite a splash lately, so when I got this one in the mail from James over at Gilgongo, I was excited to finally get to hear what all the hype was about. As is to be expected, the hype is both warranted and perhaps a bit over ambitious at this point. Which isn't to say that Friendship Nation isn't totally great. It is.

A quartet made up of members from bands including Friends Forever, Gang Wizard and Deathbomb Arc head Brian Miller, Foot Village's unique niche in the experimental scene consists of no more than a stripping down of approach to perhaps the most primal noise makers of all: drums and voice. All four members are well versed in both of these tasks it seems, creating a full blown dervish of gutteral screams and pulse pummeling rhythms. Almost sounds like a quartet of Animals (the muppet, that is) as they rip through thirteen tracks of punk-encrusted hippie slam sessions. Like a drum circle gone terribly awry, the group fills in the blanks between Lightning Bolt, Deerhoof, Minor Threat and Olatunji. The difference is, this consciously light-hearted, despite its cries of protest throughout. This is playful, energy music, sometimes reverting to storms of drums while others relying on tightly crafted call and response themes that evoke something close to a pub chant only with lyrics as grimly provocative as "nothing is real, but still there are rules to follow."

It doesn't seem to make sense to discuss individual tracks here as the whole album essentially explores one highly distinctive sound through similar means. The opening "Urination" or "Erecting the Wall of Separation," the second side opener, move with a fervor of easy to recite lyrics more in line with Fugazi than Gang Wizard, but that seems to be what Foot Village are all about. Just kick out the jams and move. It doesn't surprise me at all that the group's from Los Angeles, nor that they are equally talked about in Brooklyn--it has the sound and kineticism that urban noise heads adore while sucking inspiration from the communal nature that such environments encourage.

By pulling all of this music back down to the beginning (of human consciousness?) and reinvigorating it with contemporary tactics, Foot Village have managed to carve out a specialized direction for themselves as well as opening the door a bit for similarly minded musicians who might be worried that their pedals and samplers aren't doing the trick anymore. Like a big "fuck you" to pedal collectors and the like, the group manages to create its own chaos with only skin and bone. Oh, and it's mastered by Yellow Swans' Pete Swanson too, so you can bet it sounds fucking great.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ducktails / Mudboy - Summer of Saucers (DNT Records CS)

Just got the latest batch in from DNT-meister Tynan, featuring an LP from Black Pus and Foot Village as well as a Bobb Bruno tape. First in my deck was this one though, judging from the last Mudboy 7" I heard as well as all the hype (and killer myspace tracks) from Ducktails' Matt Mondanile. It's a New England lounge delight, providing two different takes on kicking back and calling it a day.

The Mudboy side opts for the more contemplative back porch brewsky approach. Opening with some low murmur and a bunch of nature samples--birds, frogs, crickets--they all mix together before electronic murmurs start to zip around, thickening things up a bit. This nice bass growl keeps a steady pace to the whole work as it drifts--or rather, crawls--along, sounds panning all over with rich stretching and long delays. Nothing like that remix 7" at all, much more pensive and earthly, though hardly without its own droning playfulness. Rather than pulling from the new age angle for its beauty, like so many artists are wont to do lately, Mudboy opts to keep things skittering and hushed, like a soundtrack for some vegetable garden late at night when all the snails and crickets and slugs really have at those morsels under the moon. Or it could be one small cross section of a rain forest floor, an investigation of each little creature and plant that comes to inhabit the area underneath some star-lit palm leaf. Much smaller than the journeyman, Heart of Darkness jungle vibe more commonly presented. As the track drifts off we here the crunching of footsteps in the woods, a fitting close to this lonesome trek.

Ducktails is Matt Mondanile, also of Predator Vision, a Hampshire grad with a typically west coast, sun-drenched tropical take on the whole sound. Here, fitting in quite nicely with Mudboy's side, Mondanile starts with a bassy, navy colored sprawl before synthesized washes of notes glide their way across building themselves up into trance inducing rhythmic motives that ride, just brightly enough to see, across the looping bass sky. Departing from the Corona-in-hand approach of the Breaking World Records 7", Ducktails shifts the setting from day-lit, shades on chill-out to sandy night time ship watching. Cliffs of rhythms build, swaying along as more and more textures are added--a flute now, 80s electronic piano--before, out of nowhere, the whole thing is cut off in favor of a more beat oriented tropical meltdown that still can't remove itself from the cool summer night atmosphere of the previous track. Maybe this is the soundtrack to the end of some all night coming of age movie. Of course that too must end, in favor of a much more contemplative Miami detective soundtrack, drifting along and losing its bearings as the scenes overtake the matter at hand. Or dig the solo guitar work of the next track, somehow meshing right in with it all.

It's another super release from DNT, featuring some of the better work I've heard from these two, though I confess my experience is limited. Still, it's unusual for a split tape to work s well as a whole, but both these dudes manage to keep the summer breeze alive as October comes to a close and the leaves start falling. Beautiful work from a label that only gets better. Nice work all around.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dana - Adult Weekend (Self Released CD-R)

Figured I'd throw up a post on this disc I just got from fellow Bard harbingers of bliss Dana, aka Charlie and Ryan, aka Righteous Bros. They copped me a copy of Adult Weekend at a recent gig we played with them and the thing slays through and through, zooming through its eighteen candy-coated LSD-spiked tracks in a little over half an hour.

Opting for the kind of sample-happy pedal music that proponents of Black Dice and Panda Bear go crazy for, Dana bring their own sound to the mix, aesthetically falling somewhere between the rainbow colored digital mayhem of Paper Rad, the maximalist onslaught of Edward Flex and the glitchy mobility and sonic lushness of Boredoms as covered by Timbaland. From the first track, "Peace Age," which builds itself up from bassy utterances into kinetic glee, the album is one big dance party for the psychedelically minded. Melodies sweep across the rhythmic overdose underneath, each beat being given its own sloppy, wet sound as the whole thing statically pulses onward. Or take the jungle lurch of "WFN," a brief foray into Keith Hudson's "Hunting" territory before "Digz" kicks out the jams in true crunk mode with pogo sound effects galore bouncing off the elastic walls of your mem(brain). "Bodies are Diamonds" starts off like the soundtrack to some Frogger cloud level or Richard Simmons' mind on acid, losing its rhythm almost immediately in favor of a ride on the backs of Care Bears down the river of glee. Once you hear "Concern Burger" you know exactly what that title sounds like, with slinking bass lines and claps mixed between garbled voices echoing off into eternity.

"Bug (Wish On Your Life)" features some woman's vocalizings before Charlie and Ryan's voices emerge to lead into a monolith of mutterances that stop and start over keyboard gestures and thick slabs of gunky sticky sound vibrations, blissed to eternity. "Carousel" spins laxidasically for a minute before "Dan7 (Alex Dream)" enters like Eno's "Big Ship" once did, only this time the waters are purple and the ship is propelled by sea gulls. Truly gorgeous gestures before the closing "Imaginate" leads us off into our own Dana mind-states to further contemplate the journey.

In taking this compositional method towards its extreme, Dana provide the world with a distinct vision as steeped in African polyrhythms and mystic talismans as it is in hash fueled dance parties held on island beaches in the mind. A real beauty--if you want a copy I'm sure you can get one through their Myspace.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Burnt Hills - Blunt Greeper (Bum Tapes CS)

More gargantuan psych out tumultuity from Burnt Hills, this time on serious up and coming label Bum Tapes. With a nice and filled out lineup of six guitars, bass, two drums and of course xylophone, Blunt Greeper does as all Burnt Hills do. Which is to say, ignite the universal vibrations of riffdom and journey into the cavernous depths of the land of Helderberg.

As usual, Burnt Hills opt for the single hour long outing, yet another moment of glory from the scores of Monday jam outs these guys have over in Albany, but again, as with their Morning Glory disc for Ruby Red Editora, Blunt Greeper suggests even greater growth from the unit. Rather than Eric Hardiman on bass here, he works the guitar angle while Eric K. steady's the ship with some mind-numbing bass work that's just right for the kind of scree conjured up by the rest of the band. What's funny though is that among all of the action going on you can tell the players are different--the thing has a different kind of feel, perhaps a little more stable and less elastic than Hardiman's take on the rudder. Which isn't to say it's worse or better; quite the contrary. It just further serves to show the depth that the group has developed and the natural, individual as collective sound they can harness and work under.

As for the guitar sounds here, these are some of the best I've heard from the group--the six axes really slam around, careening all over in fits of ecstatic glory. Whole thing even dissolves at a certain point to some kind of weird quiet(ish) place where the drums and xylophone are left tinkling under waves of guitar blast. Always been a fan of Phil's drumming too, and he shows some serious versatility here too, working up a spasmodic beat only to let it become crushed under its own weight before finding another pocket to hack away at. Actually, the tape features a lot of slowing down and stretching everything way out in to bent and heated metal rings that start to create audio hallucinations reminiscent of some kind of strange tape music as fed through infinite feedback loops. Pretty wild work.

Also have to mention the killer cover art, which could be the sun exploding over the mountains or some huge ball of fire emerging from the distance to speak to you. "Come, it is time for me to light you up." Or maybe it's just your mind on Burnt Hills. Either way, another nice and crusty one from one of the truest practitioners of psychedelic mayhem in the world. It just keeps getting better, and I haven't even heard Microburst or Tonite We Ride yet. How good a title is that? Tonite We Ride. Says it all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rambutan - Rusted Prayers Converge (Tape Drift CD-R)

Rambutan is the nom de plume of Eric Hardiman, half of Century Plants and the main man over at Tape Drift. This is the first thing I know of Eric's to be released solo style, and if it's any indication then Rambutan is a name that will be heard from far more often in the coming year.

Whereas Century Plants always burns fairly brightly though, chugging along in a duet of improvised propulsion, and Ray's solo project Fossils from the Sun moves quickly through varying styles and methods, Rambutan sits a bit stiller, opting to tone down the riffage in favor of sheets of tone that stretch far and wide across the disc. "Broken Through the Middle," the first track on the disc and the longest at over eighteen minutes, is all aired out streams of effected vocals and distant clacking railway pulses. Maybe it's the cover art but the whole thing has a bit of a Dead Man, train to nowhere vibe that's bleak and empty enough for anything to happen within it. Long scrawls of rich, straight out of Death Valley tones mix readily with the obscured mutterings of derangement buried beneath the (burnt) hills. Moves nowhere fast just the way I like it.

Keeping on with the loner desert vibe, the second track is a solo guitar twanger that rings warmly, if alone. Pulling from the Mazzacane camp as fed through a kind of No Neck-y haphazard methodology, "Bat Star" is equally alone in its world, ringing around and bouncing off the painted dunes to create a sound all its own that works at its own tempo (i.e. slooow) before fading off into the dust bowl. "Wool Coat" is the shortest track on the disc, but it fills its four minutes well. Thick washes of basement drone congregate among static gestures in a sweeping motion, the tumbleweed to the first track's lonesome cactus. The final title track ends on a darkly foreboding note, and at over seventeen minutes its a real downer of a jam, monolithically slow and maniacally patient. The train's broken down folks, and there's no water to be found.

It's all dry and hot and sticky stuff, basement jams for adobes (do adobes even have basements?). Eric manages to carve out his own sound here, and it's quite a revelation. Beautiful.

Vodka Soap - Shee-Ro Gateway Temples (Pacific City Studios CS)

As I said before, Skaters have been taking up a good chunk of my time lately, and this is another one that's been blowing me away lately. Vodka Soap is yet another solo project of Spencer Clark's, and tends to represent the more spacey, oceanic side of his sound, though on this release at least it represents fairly little difference in approach from his Monopoly Child projects. That said, other albums under the name (such as Un Chand Pyramidelier or Oceansion Island) do represent a spacier, airier approach, and I guess in some ways this one does too, only in this case without sacrificing any of the humid jungle trance of the Monopoly Child material.

The first side opens with some of the best stuff I've heard from Spencer. Beginning with the sound of some dripping holy water deep inside an underground Mexican cavern, the piece slowly builds itself up by adding parts and then letting them intermingle. When the off bat battering rhythm comes in it is off-putting at first, but quickly becomes another part of the mix as it plays over and over, reconfiguring the whole thing. When the spaced out synth tones--as blue and cove-like as they come--drift in they too don't seem to fit, at least rhythmically, until they've been played so many times that it all begins to work. There is an elusive, ethereal quality here that isn't found in most Star Searchers' material I guess, as a lot of the space is kept empty, making it about the spaces between each of the sounds as much as about the richness of the sounds themselves.

Of course Spencer always keeps you on your toes, turning on a dime to drop everything he's built to in preference for some tinkling chimes and monotone vocal hums. The sound of pressing play on the tape deck is, as always, kept in, the only preparation for the oncoming changes as bubbling rhythms emerge among the Moroccan street fair scene. Each time something is added, the territory changes completely, dragging you from Baghdad deserts to the Congo with the addition of only very minute rhythmic details before stripping it all back down to take you out to a Thai sea for some night fishing under the stars, all without ever slipping into the ethno-appropriation realm that's a bit overused these days if you ask me.

Side two is a bit darker than the first side, with wobbling lines bellowing below sustained tape chords. Everything's teetering over itself here before the rhythm, so reverb drenched so as to almost become lost as a series of bass notes, enters to confuse the mix. The blissed out bird calls and buoy dongs of the next bit, mixed with a single flute flourish, keeps this one in more uncomfortable territory throughout.

Despite the similar methodology used on each of these tracks, Spencer has a knack for tone choice and the feelings emitted by varying rhythms that keeps the whole thing moving in absolutely beautiful, unpredictable ways. When this one's rhythm comes in, it's back to head bobbing sand coverage, and that's a pretty swell place to be in Skaters land. A favorite from Spencer's discography.

James Ferraro - Marble Surf (New Age Tapes CD-R)

Been on a Skaters tear lately, and managed to dig up a copy of this new one from James under, believe it or not, his own name. His new set of releases has been receiving all sorts of accolades already (this release already got Tip of the Tongue over at VT) and they're right too. The run has been one of James' best, and certainly explores some new territory for the singular mind behind such mind bendingly sweet classics as Edward Flex, Lamborghini Crystal and Pacific Rat Temple Band.

Made of only two tracks, Marble Surf is one long lo-fi ride down the transcendental rivers of Emerald City. Mixing synth piano percussion with choral cries and bellows, Ferraro creates a new age for the new agers. You know that crazy Pillsbury commercial where the dough boy lies back and drifts across this white background with ecstatic floating music sweeping him along? Well it's not far off, at least in effect. It all meets somewhere between Arvo Part, Terry Riley, and the Healing Sounds of Crystal Bowls, only as interpreted through immense draperies of washed out production.

The tracks are split fairly evenly down the middle of the thirty-five minute-ish album, and each track even has a name, a real rarity for these self released Skaters things. That said, the two tracks could practically be one, as "Memory Theater" (not sure if he's referencing the Axolotl album of the same name here or what...) suggests the same fluid haze of languid dementia as "Surf Washing on Spring Marble." Both tracks manage to drift along without ever caring to change too drastically; the sounds present at the beginning are more or less unscathed by the end. It's in the way they intermingle with each other, going in and out of phase to shape and reshape the sounds that keeps it interesting. When new sounds do enter they are hardly recognizable as new, yet they covertly manage to reshape the entire orchestra of sound. Take the arpeggiated run that enters thirteen minutes into the first track. It does not effect the feel, nor the flow of the work at all, but rather slips in as yet another line to follow. The whole thing really builds toward the end with lush, cloud riding string players floating down to do their bidding, creating an atmosphere suggesting some montage of a blissed out woodland romp between satyrs and water nymphs.

As "Surf Washing on Spring Marble" begins to break down with oddly distant fuzzed out pounds (Zeus' thunder perhaps), the thing once again takes on a different light as each shard of astral melody is forced to shine through that much more. The listener, in following these loops that have been going for so much time, is forced to meet the music at an odd place between what is coming into your ears and the memory of what you know is actually back there. This run, and this one in particular, is some of the most overtly beautiful stuff I've heard from either of these guys, and again, it's like nothing anybody else is doing. A monumental release, this is new and smart and fully realized stuff. Here's a wild idea: James is Bill, Spencer's Ted, and The Skaters are Wyld Stallions, the band that will catalyze the coming of a new age in humanity. If only.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sun Araw - Beach Head (Not Not Fun LP)

A while back, I reviewed Sun Araw's first album, The Phynx, which fell into a psych guitar, Parson Sound niche that was really killer. Given that discs ripping guitar overhauls, I would never have guessed that his next two releases, Boat Trip and this one, would have gone to the territory they do. Rather than slaying its listener into spaced out freak out heaven/hell, these two releases opted for an equal dose of spacey while enlisting wholly different doped up vibes to perform the task.

Opening with the tinkling bells of, you guessed it, "Thoughts Are Bells," Beach Head is one spaced out tropical adventure into the jellyfish fields of your mind. This is some lay back on the sands and ooze into the stars stuff. The beginning might as well be some exploration into chime-based avant-garde composition, but Cameron Stallones knows how to let those elements blend into something completely different, eventually allowing the piece to melt its way into raga/mantra no-man's land. Or dig "Horse Steppin'," which is essentially a pop tune complete with steady, loping bass line, drum prancing, guitar swells and thick chordal organ blocks that, if flown a couple thousand miles north, would sit just as well in the hands of Suicide. Still, Stallones has a way of taking these tried and true techniques and blending them in bizarre and truly heady ways. The whole thing, right down to his cries and the Hendrixian guitars, suggests nothing of what the overall effect is--this is some chilled to the bone material, summer jams for stoner hams. Everything is blends so well, each sound melting across itself, that you'll be grabbing a cold one before you know it.

A lot of people seem to be opting for this tropical, reggae-fied drone stuff lately, and I guess the two share enough in common in terms of the mental state they require. But whereas too many of these groups end up sounding a little too close to the Jimmy Buffets that they're theoretically mocking, it takes a different sort to work something that is actually original in this vein. Spencer Clark's Monopoly Child Star Searchers pulls it off, as does Ducktails most of the time, but Sun Araw contains none of the humid grime of Monopoly Child nor the quirky mini constructs of Ducktails, instead falling somewhere in between. Side two opens with "Beams," another pop tune of sorts, with finger-picked guitar melody, reverb infused tequila backing drone, and vocal forms that are quite well controlled. Whispers come across the speakers as if Amon Duul II stepped in for a second. It's all very controlled in its spaciness.

Actually, the Amon Duul comment may not be far off. When the bass riff comes in, cementing the whole thing to a disjointed, Hawkwind style heavy metal vibe, it becomes clear that Stallones is pulling from those same krautrock and acid metal guys that he was on The Phynx. Only this time it's slowed down and sprawled all the way out. His guitar work careens across in shawls of rich tone while the percussion keeps it all loping along like some head bobbing acid casualty. That last track will, "Bridal Filly," will have you nodding off and drowning in no time. It's beautiful stuff, and if you think it's too late to enjoy the summer vibes think again. This stuff will keep you warmed all the way through the Ice Age.

MV & EE with the Golden Road - Moment Spacing / Bong Judge (Golden Lab Records 7")

Been meaning to get to these guys for a while. The first MV & EE album I ever picked up was the time-warped Moon Jook way back, so when I realized that the group also had a vocal, folk song slant rather than the John Fahey as fried by the sun vibe of that record, I was pretty surprised. Of course they do both varieties as well as anyone, so this 7", which would surely fall into the latter, folk song pocket of their work, doesn't come close to disappointing.

The first track, "Moment Spacing," is a quick tune complete with girl backup singers doing the whole "oo-la-la-la" thing amongst the flowers and melting cucumbers while Matt Valentine steers the ship with his heartfelt, sun dazed vocals. Given their base up in Brattleboro, VT, it's fitting that this is some fruit-of-the-earth stuff with a heavy back porch, sip some acid spiked ginger root tea feeling to it. Cute, but at least personally this side's sole purpose is to set the stage for side two.

The second side is the same song slowed way down and stretched all the way out. Fittingly, it's renamed "Bong Judge." Actually, this take on the song is hardly recognizable from the other one save the lyrics. Rather than the high-end instrumental cooing beneath the earthy, Valentine vocals of the previous one, here the background is all bass-y, elongated and drunk as hell while the vocals are a bit more airy and drunker. Everything is so slow that it all kind of warbles around, highlighting every tiny overlap of instrumental goodness. The tea's sunk in at last turning any Neil Young vibes of the previous track into, well, MV & EE, splayed out in their hammocks, still sipping.

Nice cover, and perhaps the sturdiest 7" I've ever held. The thing's practically thicker than it is wide, providing those extra deep grooves for you to sink into. Yum.

Little Women - Teeth (Gilgongo Records LP)

Wow, I did not expect that. Had heard of Little Women, but didn't quite know what I was gonna get in throwing this one on. Assumed this was going to be more of a Pocahaunted / Scorces type thing, but what's in a name eh? This doesn't even come close to the world of Louisa May Alcott.

Actually, Little Women is a quartet consisting of Travis Laplante, Ben Greenberg, Darius Jones and Jason Nazary (not Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy) and their whole deal is far closer to a mixture between Anthony Braxton, Last Exit and the Flying Luttenbachers. Opening with a full on blast of acoustic thunder (sans electric guitar, if that counts...), the album is as together as it gets. Hell, I'd even go so far as to say that this whole thing is composed, though I'm sure there's plenty of improvisation in there--if not it certainly manages to sound like it. The whole piece has an attention-deficient mobility to it, sometimes sounding like a mid-70s quartet, then sounding closer to Bloodcount before ending up with some Zappa-like post-rock workout. Of course none of these tags actually manage to sum up there sound at all, and frankly I'm not going to try and do it; there's too much here.

I can say that I'm fairly sure the group consists of two saxophones, a drummer, and a guitarist, and that all involved are super nasty at what they do. Turning on a dime, from mathy, rhythmic workouts to more textural, AACM or Studio Rivbea workouts, this is some serious stuff. The horns lead the way, but their backing (which, I should note, is often up front) works just as hard, managing to somehow weave these beautiful, driving melodies into more than their math-rock rhythms might suggest. The sheer versatility of these guys brings to mind Zorn's Naked City far more than it does Olson's Graveyards, though at points it does meander into the realm of acoustic panting, quietly murmuring along as horns are substituted for vocal fits and moments of Greg Kelley or Bill Dixon style bleats. Somehow, the group manages to always avoid sounding like their ripping anybody off though. Their abilities are too great and their intensions too honest. While I really can't begin to go into too much detail on it, this is one well worth snagging, especially for those with an ear for the freer end of the jazz spectrum. Some post post-fire music for the basement age. Wild.

Family Underground - Helium Rug (DNT Records LP)

Denmark dronesters Family Underground are an elusive bunch, but their consistently dazed fields of industrial lurch are prominent enough. With releases all over the map (Not Not Fun, Weird Forest, all over really...) the group has a way with dense, thickly metallic drone works that manage to boil the mind right over.

Helium Rug is a single-sided effort for DNT that especially hits the mark as far as these folks are concerned. This is rich and vibrant stuff that manages to both sound mechanic and utterly organic at the same time. Mixing thick, silver drones with rattling maraca, steady hand drum, and vocal moans, the side manages to pull of the same sort of time-bent delirium that some of MV/EE's stuff does, only through utterly disparate means. The percussive backbone, to which the drones and vocals seem to pay no mind, gives the track a kind of tribal vibe despite its imagery conjuring something closer to stealth jets cruising overhead. The Skaters-y vocal yalps, heavily effected, mesh beautifully as the piece slowly bends itself into less propulsive territory. The whole thing actually morphs into a pretty messy cosmic stew, burning away in total delirium. Everything is off here, the percussion playing among themselves while shelves of drone melt across each other over top and odd cat calls blend into some alternate space the likes of which few drone artists are able to carve out for themselves.

Walloping organ drones start to fill the mix, initiating a new slant for the side that starts to sound a bit like James Ferraro covering the Fugs. Weird stuff, but these guys sure have a grip on what they're doing. Absolutely beautiful screened cover art too, some of DNT's best, not to mention the pink spray job on side 2. Sure to get your money's worth too, as this single side is looong so's you can get lost in it right proper. Well worth finding.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Daniel Clough - A Trip to the Mountain Shark (Sentient Recognition Archive CD-R)

Here's another one from SRA. Really enjoying these discs, especially as head-honcho Nicholas seems to have a clear and righteous agenda of getting new and psychologically effecting music into the hands of people all over. Just check the "about" section on the website if you don't believe me. Given that this particular lens has been provided, it seems particularly apt to view Daniel Clough's A Trip to the Mountain Shark in that vein--needless to say, it works.

I'm not sure exactly who Clough is, but the Brit knows what he's doing with another release out over at Reverb Worship. The first two tracks here lay down some thick static washes that hint at a far more composerly approach than similarly minded material. Bleeps and bloops approach and build into mini melody fragments which emerge out of the dense white noise, giving both tracks a beauty despite the tense, even harsh, atmosphere atmosphere suggested by the tones themselves.

Track three changes the tone quite a bit, starting with a looped string instrument that sounds like some gagaku fragment. Odd whispers and mutterings build behind a wall of distant low end rumbling that eventually grows into a far fuller wash of noise under, over, and on top of which vocals, string clatters, and shards of whatever remains are allowed to bounce in and out of existence. The fourth track similarly begins with a string instrument before delayed guitar mutterings and cello drones build this too. The steady fortification created at the beginnings of this work allows for far greater clarity as the piece descends into a thick cloud of sonic debris. Those small melodic loops presented in the beginning are that much more easily spotted for it.

Track seven might be the most overtly pretty number here, though by the end it too morphs into one gnarly ball of sound. The beginning though presents a series of synth waves a lush as they come. Shards poke through here and there, but mostly this is a benevolent beast, some rainstorm out on the open seas. The production here is strange but ultimately quite effecting, providing a distance to the music, a sort of hushed noise that demands its listener to fill in the gaps it creates. Its steady and logical growth culminates in far more tumultuous territory which the last track tames down and continues to explore.

Given SRA's mission statement, Clough works excellently, though it is equally well suited to those more interested in listening for listening's sake. Clough has an aptitude for allowing each distinct sound's inner chaos to coexist with an arrangement and production that culminates in a distinctive and fully conceived sound all his own, and that's no small task.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sam Goldberg - Cycles (905 Tapes CS)

With a few releases out on mostly Emeralds related labels/releases, Sam Goldberg has already entrenched himself as a reliable source for the kind of squelchy, warm drone works that get me giddy. Cycles is no different, and it's on the always well done 905 Tapes, so this cassette is an especially good situation for all.

The tape opens with stun gun sputterings over hallucinogenic, new age style synth movements, babbling along with smears of warm waves emitted from some giant flower cannon. This is some thermal stuff, drifting along cloudless like some pollen postal worker. Soon though, the clouds start moving in, vast vents of reverberating heaviness that go nowhere in their monolithic discourse. Everything is blubbering along in some column of heated currents, a wasteland of zoned out synthesizer painting.

Goldberg's approach is as much about the warmth and richness of his textures as it is about his silences though. As each wave of jet engine flop comes, it also goes, diminishing to nothing before it returns or a new sound presents itself. It is here that tension is maintained, though one is also perfectly capable of letting the silences in to fill their own voids here. After the whole blubbering gust thing is finished, a mini-keyboard piece gives way to more looped drone garbling as shores are carved out. Each pulsing tone is doing so at such a rapid pace that it's practically a sheet, only with holes in it (like those shoes that let your feet breathe) so those sweet currents can get inside.

Side two opens sounding like some long lost Mario soundtrack. Like Mario in Crystal Palace or something. Each gesture enters and dissolves, somehow forming a nice little melody of fumbling numbness, eventually being overcome by a darker drone that too subsides in favor of more careening echoes of organic underwater dolphin cries. Not to push the Mario metaphor, but you know the sound he makes when you get one of those power-up mushrooms? It's like a bunch of those slowed way down and layered over one another--surprisingly effective actually. Soon it changes again though, evolving into tinkling high pitched screes over more video game dream sequences. Beautiful lullabies with organ notes that dissolve as quickly as they appear.

A thick drone comes back to initiate the final minutes of the C20, sitting on itself in preparation for the vast infinite ahead before disappearing into more pointillist mutterings. When the piece ends, it could be the melodic framework for some techno meltdown, only its so beatless and undanceable that you have no choice but to be drifted off by the tiny suggestions of melody presented. Each fragment suggests a far greater whole, creating an odd paradox of rich minimalism.

Killer tape, just lie down and let your brain do the walking. Still available from Tomentosa I believe, and each tape has a different cover cut from some piece of film. Nice.