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.

James Fella - Post / Coast (Gilgongo Records / C-Salt CD-R)

Here's another one from James Fella over at Gilgongo. This disc, which consists only of one thirteen minute track, was intended as a gift to people who helped out with his west coast tour with French Quarter this past June. Couldn't resist throwing up a review of it, if only to give everyone a look at the killer package. Orange, no?

Of course I wouldn't give it the review treatment if I didn't think it was a pretty scrumptious piece of sonic delight, and it sure is that. Recorded in one take (the hiss of the room is super present, and ultimately quite nice), the piece starts as a slowly building ambient pool of guitar loops, and what sounds to me like some sort of synth, though according to the description there isn't any.

The work opens on a gliding slant, just bright and lovely arches of sound floating along. These don't last too long though, as they are quickly interrupted by harsher shards of looped clangs of radio static, demolition explosions and sci-fi lasers. As is Fella's tendency, the piece never settles too long, keeping it interesting in each singular segment while maintaining an air of unpredictability by moving from such seemingly disparate styles in such short periods. When the noisier stuff subsides, an underside of buzzes and kinetic hums is revealed, sounding like a bunch of little Miyazaki characters playing inside some paper mache. The creatures subside too though, leaving only crumpled paper sounds underneath higher end air leaks and door creaks.

The whole thing ends quite nicely with an extended romp into glitch land before cutting off. Again, Fella's managed to squeeze so much into such a short period that the whole thing ends up feeling far grander in scope than it actually is. Another strong effort.

throuRoof - Whale Bones (Sentient Recognition Archive CD-R)

The fine folks over at SRA just sent me a nice little package, including this disc from Italian drone unit throuRoof.

Opting for a thick, textural drone on the first track, throuRoof manage to sound almost entirely barren without losing the organic feel that is their strong point. Expelling dark sheets of low-end rumble on the first track, "Humpback Cemetery Blues," the disc immediately throws itself into a bleak locale that doesn't so much move forward as simply evolve along at a steady pace. Humpback whale cries emerge from the deep blackness before reverberating pulsations shift from speaker to speaker. It's cold down this deep, but there's life in those oceans. Each sound that enters is well chosen, and needs to be considering the precipice the piece rests on. Relying on its broad sonic sweeps and the utter slowness of its development--perhaps the track's most important trait--the piece eventually begins moving toward the shallows, with bright piano taps delayed over increasingly bright, luminous drones before ending in a convoluted reef of color shards.

The second part of the two-part sweet is entitled "Sing the Last Dream," and represents the brighter side of Whale Bones. Rather than habitate the same deep sea, black shawl realm as the previous track this one seems to suggest the open seas, blue and crystalline, with giant beasts roaming the waters. Given the similar pacing and methodology, it becomes ever clearer how adept throuRoof is at controlling their beasts, opting for the vertical movement of tones to drive the horizontal one. "Sing the Last Dream" represents a beautiful, ambient infused synth work; at one point, the beautiful solo brings to mind whale songs whether you know the album title or not. It's deep and majestic stuff that works well without becoming cheesy "whale song" music in the least. Rather, throuRoof use the whale as a jumping off point by which to explore something far broader in scope, and thus far closer to something really special. The end only raises further questions, as whale cries emerge from the newly abundant blackness before drifting off with the waves.

Limited to 100 copies, the disc should still be available from the label. A beautiful one.