Sunday, March 9, 2008

Axolotl - Trade Ye No Mere Moneyed Art (Loci CD-R)

I'll never forget the first time I encountered Axolotl. I was shopping around during my first fated trip to Yod, noise mecca and digs of Ecstatic Peacers Thurston Moore and Byron Coley, as well as more recent helping (sunburned) hand John Moloney. Whilst perusing the vaults, getting all tingly and such, Moloney slapped on "Memory Theater," a compilation of Axolotl works put out on Important. Needless to say it blew me away from the get go, and both I and my cohort immediately expressed interest. Come to find out that, despite the seemingly endless piles of weirdness lying around the store, they didn't have it in stock, and no, Moloney wouldn't sell us his copy. It's wide availability did allow for my eventual acquisition of it though, and that disc was spun for many moons before I found a used copy of his self titled release on Psych-O-Path lying around the Other Music bins. Again, maximum spinnage was obtained, and my Axolotl craze was in full bloom.

Recently though, Karl Bauer, the main man behind the group, hit the world with a piece of news that could not have been more welcome. He was starting his own label, Loci, and was to initiate the label with three new releases, two Axolotl and one in tandem with Weyes Bluhd. Well I certainly wasn't gonna turn down this opportunity, but my being a starving college kid and all I had to make my decisions wisely, and decided that the obvious choice would have to be to go ahead and snag Loci numero uno. Housed in a plastic sleeve with a super cheapo xerox cover and an even more bootleg CDR (literally just one of those blank Memorex discs with the word Axolotl written on it) my hopes were slightly diminished. Momentarily. After all, this was the first release on the label, and according to descriptions of the "Live" album a mere taste of what is to come, so let's press onward into the sounds shall we?

Who was I kidding? Axolotl has released beautiful packages before, but what this release is missing in aesthetics it more than makes up for in sonic beauty. Bauer's unique blend of violin, electronics, and vocals, are masterfully blended to create drones far superior to your average over-hyped drone act. Where most contemporary drone acts opt for murkier waters, Axolotl is all bright sheen and layers. Rarely one to bother with a buildup, Bauer instead throws the listener right into the middle of it, an act that displays his confidence in not feeling the need to lead his audience through his fine craftsmanship. Nay, he'd much prefer to just throw you int here and let you meddle around the construction for a while like some gaping pantheon with a plethora of tunnels and hideaways to play hide and seek in.

The album consists of six untitled tracks amounting to nearly forty minutes of music which, to my ear, is never enough. The first track creeps in, sounding like a fan directed into a trumpet, creating strange overtones and building worlds of air. The trick is that, while other bands opt to either send you into the stratosphere or demolish you back into the bowels of the land, Axolotl keeps you hovering just over the salty brine, sprawled out and swaying. Halfway through, an encroaching train of bucket percussion and savory gliding tones emerge from the distance, providing the same feelings of uncertainty and seeking as Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question." Of course Bauer too is smart enough to understand that the question CAN'T be answered, so the only solution is to continue moving forward as before.

Highlights include the fourth track, with its undulating waves of glowing breezes over the clicking and static murkiness of a darker place. Truly the sound of a lonely beach on a gorgeous, cool summer day. Yet Bauer is always wise enough to remind you of the microbes under your feet, tearing at your skin as you walk by. The vocals drift in and out before the song cuts short, interrupted by electronic humming and snapping and tribal yalping emerging from beyond the tree line. Again though, Bauer's patience in confidence in his constructions allows even these seemingly harsh noises to lull themselves into a gentle slumber. The last track, the longest by a stretch, is all blissed out electronics that lead from point Z right back to point A. Never one to give in to any need for proper conclusion is Axolotl's forte, and he does it better than anyone. One track ends, another begins, and before you know another Axolotl release has come and gone.

We should thank our lucky air waves that there's a label by this chap, because if #1 is any sign, great things will continue to emerge and evolve out of the Loci catalog. I only wish I could have grabbed all three of them.

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