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.