Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Back in the saddle for a pre-New Years push--been quite a stretch since the last review but there's been no shortage of goodness sent in. My desk is currently overloaded in fact. Been meaning to whittle away at it for ever now but the end of the first term took the wind out of me and then it was season's tidings/writhings time, which of course means any moment found is a moment cherished. Nevertheless, storms have been weathered and reviews may now commence.
Figured I'd kick it back into gear with this one from the now not-so-new Stunned batch. It's been a while since I've gotten to Stunned stuff but, given that it was pretty much my favorite label this year (alongside Holy Cheever and Bug Incision I suppose--a lot more to come from both those camps soon as well...), it only seemed right proper to do it the honor of reinvigorating this here bloggie. What's a further blast is this tape's makeup. Excavations is made up of formidable label heads C.A. Parsons and Nicholas Longworth, who's work with the Offices of Moore and Moore has been most impressive. Killer stuff coming out over there... but killer stuff here as well. As far as I know this is their first delving into public release territory and it's a real nice go.
The whole thing is structured as a bunch of songs believe it or not. And on top of that, those songs are loosely strung together into an honest-to-god album. Moves through some nice stripped back zones too that pull from early/mid-90s lo-fi moves, drone, guitar rock, you name it--it's all wailing and consistently sun embossed. Like some torrid ride that fast forwards you right through this gnarly 9 degree weather and woosh, out into the land of pregnant greenery and tingling blossoms. Utterly listenable stuff for sure, and with enough bite to keep the interesting interested. The best numbers have a rich pop goodness that takes into account the naive melodic sense of so much of the tropical/"hypnagogic" stuff and re-situates it into a real band context with an atmosphere all it's own. Not to mention some serious breadth presented here. Smatterings in between keep it all whoozy enough to get lost in. Only your head can guide the way. Guide on, I suppose, guide on... Surely to remain cruisable deep into 2010.
Monday, November 16, 2009
And if one's not enough, than two ain't either. But here we go anyway--two Riggs in one day?! Some day indeed. Actually this is all part of a much anticipated catch up session that involves a number of long buried releases intended for review... sometimes work gets in the way of play y'know? Hell, sometimes it gets in the way of work...
Anyway, if Gold Danny didn't whet your appetite for the six-string soothsayer, this one's got to. At 71 minutes, it's long enough to accompany most any silent film or almost two full episodes of Lost, your pick. Me though, I prefer to have it sit beside me while I'm grading papers. Keeps things on edge enough that it all flows a bit easier. Opening stuff is some muffled action while doors are creased over and over. Airplane's flying overhead as we speak and it's like a third guitar on this duel guitar attack. Hot billing too, its selling points being no overdubs or mixes. "Really!" Pretty mind bending though once you pick it apart and find all the glistening strains in between. Wiley. Like Riggs hooked contact mics up to his teeth and is having a floss with barbed wire or something. Only it's all in this slow burn style that's totally desperate and woody and frozen. Like some desperate frozen bear fumbling around in the woods while the birds taunt his mammoth weight. Never lets the critters see him fall though, just gets to where he's gotta be and then lays rest. Then the fleas start feasting for sure.
Next level stuff as usual, bruised and alive. Seems Riggs is busy all the time, and the payoff is mighty for those willing to dive in. Lonely stuff. Listen to it while driving and it's like crickets accompanying you. Listen to it while sleeping and it's like bedbugs infringing on your dreams. Listen to it while showering and it'll turn the water blue--wait, water is blue right?! Then it'll damn near stay that way!
Q: You like Chris Riggs? A: Yea, totally. Q: Why you like Chris Riggs? A: Cause he floats my boat, that's why. Gold Danny's another yacht to rest your cap on from the dude. And believe it or not, it's a CD-R. On Holy Cheever? What a sell-out... What's next, a Sub Pop contract and a radio sleeper?
Well no actually. The disc might be cruisable in a larger percentage of rides, but that doesn't mean anything concerning its perceived ride-ability. Wheels are a-turnin' mighty slow here, with Riggs' usual breed of drape and scrape stripped way back to single string benders and hollowed out fenders. Loosey-goosey stuff that sticks its neck out far enough that when the spine's snapped the whole thing just flops over, head first and tail in the air. White lump in the shade.
I can tout Riggs all I like but really you're either on board or your not. I can tell you he's the best thing since Django Reinhardt and that still won't get the gypsy fans on board. Or that Wes Montgomery or Grant Green suck eggs compared to this (duh). A recent description on the Holy Cheever site from John Olson pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of a Derek Bailey to Joe Morris to Keith Rowe to Riggs lineage. One's gotta wonder what's next though? I'm not sure guitar can sound less like a guitar than this really. Sounds more like some deranged tape loop held under water till it can take no more. Add to that lineage someone like, oh I don't know, Fozzy Bear, and you might be getting there. Cagean chance is the tip of the iceberg, but what about purposeful purposelessness huh? Where the point is pointless and the goal is right behind you? Just flesh on metal, with the buzz of signal passage intervening. The short little passages here, skipping along like some drunken elementary school girl, really gives you enough space that you should be able to figure out what the hell Riggs is up to. Clueless still though. Weirdness abounds sleeper style. That's right. Night night. Tight.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Courtesy of new Lisbon-based label Cubic Pyramid, this disc is a nice little foray into some twisted avenues of psychedelic scree, presenting a fuzzed out offering that has some balls behind its burned out walls. Only two tracks here, but the first is longer than an episode of Doug, so what's the worry?
Seems like both tracks are untitled too, so you get to just throw it on without much thought--though some might argue the extended title cancels that out a tad... fear not though, this stuff isn't nearly as quaint as it's name suggests, instead presenting a minor beat in its opening before shifting gears toward some droned out mish-mash of blown blacks. Not so much a dark foray, but it gets noisy enough, moving from Vibracathedral-oriented twitter to attempts at Hototogisu rumble. And despite it's not really making it to either the disc does have a little something going on if I do say so myself. Real sincere stuff that has an organic flow and a pretty together atmosphere, which is nice to hear from first timers and pros alike. Guitar and vocalizings combine Skaters-shades into a real solid sound that at times even reminds me of some rundown cover of a Double Leopards track or something. Only not. A little nastier sounding really, and less mobile capabilities. The focus is solid here though, and these guys manage to control the general shape of the whole thing well without letting it get out of hand too quickly. Well played folks, well played.
The kicker is the palette cleanser, a nearly six-minute guitar diddle that's got some clues bending about it like some serpentine truth module. Weird and lilting and really nothing like the previous track. In my book it's actually the more effective and weirder route, but what's my book got to do with it. True be told it's a perfect bookend to the fiesta beforehand. Groovy stuff. Limited to 50 though, and nice.
Here's another platter for your brain matter, but only if you feel like squishing it to ooze and letting it have a looksy around the premises from the floor. Mark sent me this one a little bit ago, and it's been a delayed delight, especially what with the incoming chill and overextended thrill associated with teaching in the winter. Perfect stuff for elimination of all things detrimental.
Mark's hardly a newcomer though, as he's been popping stuff out for a while on labels like Reverb Worship, Blackest Rainbow and the way-back reviewed Existential Cloth stuff. Which means this is a tried and true tactic, and little could be thought of as trieder or truer than Bradley's laser beam ambiance. With crystal clear precision, Bradley let's it all slip in and out of focus with little regard for the fuzzy affect so often opted for in the scene. Instead you just get shifting planes of lunar lines, lunges of transparent diamonds that reflect so much light that they vanish as quickly as their image gets back to your eye. Split between four tracks, each as iridescent as the next, the whole album virtually melts upon touch. From the shards of "Evolving" to the gentle treatment of vibrato on "Harmonium," the whole work feels far more about the space you're sitting in than the sounds effect. Just let it spill on over and have a go at some manna. It's all for the taking.
The longest work here is the third offering, "Unison," which shimmies around some vacuous nexus like magnetic quarks lured in to inter-dimensional portals. Long and slow, the thing hardly lies still--it just stills the mind while it switches modes with glorious acuity. In the 5th dimension, these pieces are downright quick. Just slows down in translation. "Absolute" closes in satellite managerial moves, blipping and shredding its way out of the steel and into the black. More in line with the Old New Age than the New one, this stuff rests squarely on its blankets of sound--I dare say it's downright cozy in there too. Killer tin package on this one as well.
Just in from Foxy Digitalis:
Proving to be one of the more consistent offerers in the tropically-minded vein of experimental sounds, Dylan Ettinger has broadened his output from his own El Tule label to recent releases from the likes of Not Not Fun and this one, on Curious Lacunae. Meshing his palm-tree aesthetic with a crude, tape mashing sensibility, Ettinger's sound is considerably woozier than many of his contemporaries, reading more like the post-margarita memory of some chopped up circus night in old Cancun.
A lot of the stuff on this tape is actually quite subtle considering its clear overall angle. Small sounds and miniature transmissions are frequently hushed and stoic, writhing like jellies on the sand. Daytime comes, bringing with it the parasols and pina coladas, but at night the moon's glow still gets the crabs out for their crustacean cuisines. It's these moments that are best too, floating in the same waters as Dolphins into the Future and Ferraro without sounding too deeply rooted in it. If Ferraro's in Long Beach, Ettinger might be in some secret Canadian bay where tiny whales sing effortless lullabies. It's nice stuff, and careful at that.
The carnival always returns though, steel drums clanging away in riotous revelry. But the underlying interest is in the little things, the blurts of sound coming from beyond the waves. Ettinger's willing to let it all speak for itself in that way, presenting a scene and examining it one piece at a time. Yet the squids are always of greatest interest, and Ettinger seems more than eager to let them fill the vast majority of the tape. Without the contrast of sounds these synthesizer drifts wouldn't hold the same weight, true, but it's nice to see him work where he knows his strengths are. A carefully done release that exhibits further growth from this up-and-comer. Nice.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Here's another go that I'm sure people are psyched for. And if not, well, your problem I guess. Cause ROR's back with new offerings and that's cause for celebration in my book for sure. Figured I'd open the batch up with this one though, as it represents a new project from some familiar faces, and isn't it always nice to see your buds in a different light? Whole new deal. Waterside Gala is actually the duo of living room lunar king Sean McCann and Kellen Shipley, whose previous release was reviewed quite favorably over here for a bunch of legitimate reasons.
Civilized cover, no? Well, partially. The people look pleased enough, but where are their faces? And why's the water so splotchy? What's in there anyway? Finding McCann and Shipley meeting each other somewhere between Bennie Maupin (or Chick Corea, if the reference is better), Leroy Jenkins and La Monte Young, the sounds speak to that more or less on the opening "Scotch & Soda." One too many cocktails deep at the Society Ball, I suppose. Beautiful bowed moves on the opening alongside lone sax lines and synth sprawl. Very strange and restive stuff that moves toward an earned passivity by side's end. Action without reaction can only go so long before nap time, you know? The important thing is it speaks for itself while it can.
Flip side features "Guest of Honor," a considerably more crotchety go that sees the crowd getting sloppy and sounds getting floppy. Overlapping horn lines and thick bows attempt arranging themselves over junkyard searches. What are they looking for? Haven't the foggiest. But the sound's coming from somewhere. Real nice loopings that never get caught up in their own mess, instead presenting and slipping out, each giving their compatriots time to have a say. Real nice stuff that sits pretty where it is instead of flipping over itself time and again. Summer's over, November's here. Don't let the soporific chill get you down. Sleep on, Gala, the season is upon us. And don't get your head stuck in the water wheel while you're down. Short tape, small run. But (of course) nice stuff from a considerably excellent batch.
Sequestered in my abode due to borderline dire health circumstances, but luckily healthy enough to take a minute to catch up on some long neglected merch that's been coming through. Wanted to start with this one, which I actually lay down the dollars for, but I haven't really heard much hype surrounding this label and I think it deserves some. Gel's run by former Racoo-oo-oon member Daren Ho, whose solo output as Driphouse has gotten some fond criticism, but everything else on the label seems like it's been largely ignored which has got to--GOT TO, I say--stop. From the production of these things--transparencies with print--to the sounds, the label's put out some monster stuff already.
This one is a real mystery from a band with a numeric name. Don't know anything about the unit other than the presentation here, but it's a real solid go of it. Stripped back high end oscillator stuff it sounds like, but real drifting and lilting--far removed from American Tapes high end pummel. Just little drippings and smatterings of elevated pinpoints on F.Y.P.P., which sounds like some beautiful and lush pop track if everything but the most frozen tones were stripped away and left for dead. "Trust Track" has a similar effect, ultra minimal cymbal smatterings over some dual chord synth and wordless mermaid wallowings. Anybody seen that newish Werner Herzog flick "Encounters at the End of the World." Good flick, but a lot of this stuff reminds me of the ultra haunting undersea seal screes that the scientists listen to, seemingly for hours, heads pressed into the ice in some proto-primitive ritual of Zen archaeology. Hey, how bout that?--thar she blows! "Like Pink Floyd or something..." Hmmm, I think not. But the frozen tundra idea is alive and well here, as is the isolated foreignness. Good god.
Flip side's got more offerings, including part two of the aforementioned "Trust Track," which is less bare but equally there. They seem pretty relentless in their refusal to build beyond skeleton structures here, and it's a fine resistance. Not much else is needed. And again, gotta go back to the fact these guys are largely working in a preconceived form--there's an element of new age fetishism here to be sure, but it's so controlled and weird that it changes things up to keep it mere ice crystals in the wind. Chilly in the way that heats my hearth slow and steady style. Even gets into some sawed off singer stuff, like some little girl's voice drifting into the netherworld as a saw's taken to her torso. Grim? Sure, but it's all air at the end of the day I suppose. Almost reminds me of Peaking Lights without the glow, or Pocahaunted with snow. Slow go bro. Whoa. And dig the drum machine weirdness on "Sma," bra. Special mention too of the art--the transparent element and black and clear color mode really fit the bill here in a way that goes beyond the tape "looking like" the music. All builds on itself for a super package. As with all of it really, so have a have.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
From Foxy Digitalis:
Expo 70 is, by now, a fairly well regarded name in the world of kosmiche/drone world, and truth be told the hype is well earned. Few have explored the outer space ways in recent years with such consistency and direction as Justin Wright. This hour long tape, presents two side long tracks, remarkably recorded in the same day. With this much time to work with, Wright and his compatriots are able to stretch out, in and over each other in the name of some truly zoned excursions.
The first side belongs to “Meetings of the Lunar Bridge,” a duet between Wright, on guitar and drum machine, and McKinley Jones' Moog. The results are fantastically rich, and far fuller than most would assume was possible between such a limited instrumental lineup. Opening with a punch, the side soon slips into a meditative drift aided by Wright's loping pulse, which enters and dissolves at will while the two veer around, peaking first at this sun, then at that moon, and that quasar, and that nebulae. Hubble happenings to be sure.
The flip side, “Black Pyramids Under the Martian Sun,” adds Matt Hill's organ to the mix, which fills the sound out even more. The trio's smart though, knowing full well the freedom this allows. Rather than lifting off together they fade in gently, playing little and merging textures as they trod towards their soupy abyss. A beautiful side and release overall, with stellar artwork to boot.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Here's another treasure trove uncovered on the remote beaches of Stunned. Padna, who as far as I know hasn't ever released a thing on this or any planet, emerges out of the grove fully formed and truly unique here. The solo moniker of Nat Hawks, who also works in the swell group Christian Science Minotaur (whose release on Peasant Magik earlier this year was a big winner in my book), this situation is one of stripped down and subtle play that nestles inside the funny bone and tickles till it hurts.
The almost hour long excursion is split into two side long works, which are in part broken down further. Siberia, the opening offering, takes the chilly countenance of its title and turns it on its head, presenting the blustery winds of its locales tundras, but also revealing its hidden gnome dwellings and elven passings. Electronic bloops emerge like pointed red hats, tiny and faint among the blizzard, a lone passerby riding a snow fox and whistling as he does so. There's a definite combination of feels going on here, with a heavy Tomutonttu vibe but less crazed and acid-drenched. Think Tomutonttu played by some loner electro-buzzer whose trying to play a "joyful" tune, but can only muster moves of slight lucidity. Eventually the dude gives up and heads face first into the glaciers, finding dense and ancient smoke under the ice. Some golem's thrill nest no doubt. Light to dark, sure, but the feel is remarkably consistent.
The flip side takes us to Hinterland, whose opening strums find an oasis of beach beauties bathing on some far off peninsula. Quickly come to find the peninsula isn't so much a land mass as the tail of some gigantic sandy ocean roamer, and you the mere passenger, so as said beast decides nap time's over your in for the ride. Much briefer cuts here, as if you're getting a repertoire of the world's offerings one stop at a time. Only you only get the pit stops--travel time is frighteningly forgotten. So instead, here's a chorus of jellies, wrapping around each other while the light glistens, merging them into one. And over there's a whale leaping towards the some festering sea gull, who taunts the leviathan with its jeweled amulet. "Metronorth," (yes, the bits are individually titled) doesn't so much recall the commuter line as it does the tracks, rust covered stretches of steel that rumble in communication at night. Between the opening number, "CCCP," "Tapewars," "Metronorth," "Norbit," "Funnystoned," "Newpaltz (For Mother 33)" and the closing "They Shut Off Our Gas," you actually have, more or less, an eerily similar trajectory of my mid-Hudson valley college career. Played tapes, took Metronorth, saw "Norbit," "Funnystoned," girlfriend lives in New Paltz, and boy did they ever shut off our gas. Weird, though I suppose that's a similar scenario for many a Hudson wanderer. Great stuff, lively and always in motion. A real voice, and one who I'm sure will get a bevy of offers post this. Maybe Tomentosa? Find it whether you're a fan of Sick Llama or Es alike.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Yo folks. Likely going to get a review or two in later today but first wanted to clue people in to a pretty great sale going on over at DNT. Tynan just had his place ripped off, so he could use the dollars, and the prices are pretty unbeatable on some totally worthwhile stuff. Check it here:
Monday, October 19, 2009
Okie doke, back on task here after a rough weekend of student break-ins and cranial breakdowns, but here I be and off we go. New batch of Stunned material arrived on my doorstep a few days back and it's another head spinner to be sure. Figured I'd start with the most well known of the offerings, a point indicated by the increased print run (222 copies) and near immediate selling out. Sun Araw's been making a bit of a splash in the last year it seems, and good for him. This is more than another lad resting easy on the tropical bandwagon. It's a cog in the wheel itself, whose veins run far deeper than mere easy-living vibes--look no further than the yesteryear offering of The Phynx for proof.
While that disc had a kind of acid kraut feel to it, Cameron Stallones has veered into balmier waters since, but not without losing his sense of controlled cajoling into mental pockets hitherto left cool. And maybe for good reason. The first cut, "Luther," has all the slowed down, 60s psych sneer of a band like the Seeds, just stripped back and numbed into submission. As if they've acknowledged that the only freedom is of the mind, so kick back and enjoy the journey. No attitude, no sexuality, no condemnation. Only solo flights to lunar landscapes. Float on maestro, float on. And while you're doing it, blast some of that hot air in my direction, will ya?
Major achievement of this stuff is how little it takes to make it all happen, and how patient and slight the general arch is. Smooth as a balloon, the thing practically reflects light off it, a big sphere of sound that moves forward like a boat drifting in a tidal pool. It might get somewhere, but that's not necessarily any different, or more significant than its original locale. Till it all turns klippity-kloppy for a hot minute after having pulled up on dry land for some cosmically inclined fire pit ritualism.
Flip side rights it into a jolly good romp on "That Geosynchronous Feeling," which bounces about in a droning, yodeling, joyful glide that avoids some of the proto-primitive tendencies of a lot of stuff that works with the same materials without taking it there completely. Instead these dudes just ride the wave from beginning to end, that vibrato guitar surfing along atop a constant pulse and cascaded vocals while some organ drone just hums around behind. Great sound, and probably my favorite thing of his since Beach Head. But maybe I'm biased--the beachier the better in my book. Especially as the cold stretches it's icy fingers my way. Burr?? Stallones says nay.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Was looking around for a couple of Stunned tapes that I haven't gotten to yet from a ways back when I remembered that my sister stole my car for the week, and they've been holed up in there for cruising for a time now so they'll have to wait till the weekend I suppose. Thought I'd put in a word on the new batch though, which is of course already almost gone but hey, better late than never. It looks killer as always.
Of course good things come to those who leave tapes in their car, and I had to hit up the review pile for new options which reminded me of this beauty from Michael Jantz and his rightfully respected doings as Black Eagle Child. I had gotten in touch with Michael about doing a Wet Merchants release and he was nice enough to throw a couple releases my way, so here be one. According to Michael these two sides were each recorded in one take over Two Days close to his daughter's birth. Just a delay and acoustic guitar, the sides are simple and elegant excursions into repetitive and lush beauty, at once minimal and rich. Totally of the earth stuff that glides out from the speakers like honey over wax. Terry Riley's guitar counterpart, only with a softer melodicism. If this were released in '68 people would have been dropping and rolling around to this for sure but avast, we be in the new millennium now, so it'll have to happen alone between me and the headphones.
It seems arbitrary, but the fact that Michael was a new father when he recorded this makes a lot of sense. It's soothing stuff, almost lullaby-esque in its apparent ease of movement, but also contemplative and thoughtful. Especially the second side breathes in an open air, fresh as dew manner that's neither pointed skyward nor internal. Very content in itself. Beautiful little package too, with dainty flower cloth and felt cradling the red tape close. It's so cheerful it's almost cute. Though cute is far too belittling for sounds this complete. Lovely, and available a number of places if I recall.
A lot of folks've probably been wondering what happened to ye old Ear-Conditioned Nightmare of late, and rightly so. Been straight bogged down for weeks now, and anytime I get a moment I have to take it for the noggin rather than the bloggin. Not to mention a new acquisition, namely this old 82 soviet synth which is oh-so-scrumptious and pleasing to knobify. But fear not, the blog ain't dead and it won't be so long as I have something to say about it. Which gets me to the point I suppose. The review.
Truth be told I've been playing this tape so much lately it hardly feels new anymore. And in the grand scheme of Holy Cheever it actually isn't, as it's way back at catalog number 028 (up to 033 now, which by the way is a free download that'll only be up till the 20th of this month, so go get it quick at the new address--). Still though, it wasn't so long ago that I got this number in the mail, and it's a nuthouse. First off, it's over an hour long, which is lengthy by most any standard. But it's also a new group consisting of Matt Endahl and Riggs, with Endahl on Fender Rhodes and Riggs on the trust axe. Sounds like it has potential to be a real jam out right? Of course not. The thing is called Quivering Mass for chist's sake. Starts out in this low murmur rumble with high tones coming in and going in a totally mesmerized and totally zonked manner. And yes, I use the term zonked to describe a lot of stuff. But this is ZONKED. Like Sunn 0))) without the Sunn or the 0))), just hollow volumes beckoning the heat of noon. Really amazing stuff that slides out and into more weirdo territory right quick. Can't believe that's an electric piano going there... totally whacked sounds that are subtle and dry and fresh as fungus. Each little pocket they hit is a total vision, pittering life forms (man, tough to avoid the title of the work in the description ain't it?) just futzing about in the slime. Amazing.
Best part is there's an hour of it, so you can really commit to the vision. They hit some high points here and there, staying still and bouncing between one another, but the transitions are where it really gets kooky and fried. Come hither sounds of the future. The world is ready to unite. Like the soundtrack to the pre-post-2012 mindstate, and it's right as acid rain. Grab it, for my money it's one of the best things Cheever's done yet. Which of course is saying A LOT.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So much stuff on the back burner right now but I had to slip a plug in for this one. What a tape! First off, amazing cover, so weird and washed out and, well, Alanis. Then the title, which is about is descriptive as it could be. And then the sounds, which are exactly what the title says they are. Literally, this tape consists of a number of Alanis Morissette tunes playing while whoever the brilliant mind behind this release is rips angular, vaguely congruent lines along with her. Is this Zac Davis' genius and super secret guise? If only.
Best of all is that all the hits are included--"You Oughta Know," that one about how "You've Already Won Me Over," "Isn't it Ironic," the works. So if you're an Alanis fan, you're already set. If you weren't previously, these solos might bring new light to just how forward thinking Alanis really was.
Shit. Who am I kidding? This stuff sucks. But boy is it made better by knucklehead riffage on top...
Best of all is that by doing this obscene recasting of Alanis, this dude has managed to actually make me sit through four songs of late 90s alternative rock wankery. Wasn't this album one of the top selling albums ever or something? How can that actually be? And why isn't this one trumping it in sales? The questions just keep coming... the last track claims to be Alanis with Health, which basically means laying a technoish beat and weird vocal line from Health over "Thank You," a heart warming close to the tape. Irreverent? You bet. Not lined up in any way? Absolutely. Strangely compelling in its complete dismissal of forms from all parties? Ay ay Captain, ay ay! Tape concept of the year. Hope he doesn't get sued.
Wow, what a month... have been sliding into this new teaching position like velcro on concrete. Trying my best just to keep my head screwed on straight and make a point of actually going back up to my apartment and grabbing some time with yours truly... been tough to rally in those situations though. Now that things are settling down a bit though, and some semblance of a groove is taking shape I figured it's a good time to get back into making some time for some of the amazing stuff I've been receiving lately. Had to start with this one, as it represents two of my recent aural habits--though Stunned surely is more than a habit at this point... a lifestyle perhaps? Still, the merging of Stunned and Dreamcolour makes all too much sense, and Dreamcolour's Alex Gray fortuitously got in touch with me around the time of this release to drop me a copy of an Earjerk tape they did too (surely to come soon). Got to talking, and now Alex is gonna be doing a solo effort for Wet Merchants, so all's well that starts well eh?
As for this particular victim, it fits right in both with the Stunned and Dreamcolour modes of operation. For those who don't know from Dreamcolour, this is a pretty mega group of like-minded musical thinkers. Seems like a rotating cast too, pulling anyone in who's willing to partake in the free gloop of the group, which pulls psychedelic sheets over the eyes of post-Fire jazz squall. Almost like some Alan Silva orchestra or something, only with less virtuosity and thus a more frayed and unexpected sound. Sort of an Arkestra meets LAFMS situation, never ungrooving but rarely just soothing. And at an hour in length there's plenty of room to slip down into their world.
This is especially the case on the half hour opening, "Praying." Starting with a clattering and moist opening, the piece glides back and forth from stretched landscapes to bubbling masses of fertile waters. Actually, these distinct parts are quite apparent throughout, the group changing angles with quick flicks of the wrist, a capability aided by Sean McCann's (that's right) production, which treats each mode in panoramic color. Actually, the whole Roll Over Rover crew is in here, with Dave "Old Softy" McPeters offering some upright bass and Stewart "Ugly Husbands" Adams on guitar and recorder. Them being alongside fellow explorers Rob Magill, whose saxophone is an important and substantial presence, Natalie Alyse's vocals, Danny Larussa's electric bass, Maura on drums and Teddy Skupien on guitar. It's quite a lineup, and they play together with a surprising delicacy and group interplay. This is no all out cruise fest, but a real group, playing together and off one another in a sort of a careful abandon.
Flip side splits the difference between "Worshiping" and "Repenting," though with all this prayer and worship I'm not quite sure what there is to repent for other than a swell time had. The former of the two sweeps in blustery style, with Magill's sax drifting in the wind with Aylerian attack. A real full blown one here, hollowed out like some clay sphere made for dripping richly colored paints into drop by drop. Rainbow spelunking material that starts to gray up as it descends deeper. And then there's "Repenting," which burns hot like the magma found underneath. Total grooving, churtlting go of it here, with Magill's melodic fragments keeping it taught as can be whilet he backing throbs and retracts in superheated tandem, like some head-nodding fusion group. Amazing, and sure to clear out any of the bad karma you've built up over the course of the record. Do I sense a Love Supreme arch here? Me thinks me does. And when has that ever been a bad thing?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Whoa, just posted that last review and saw that it's September already. Heh, a day late I guess. Still, life approacheth... Given the encroaching cold though (nights definitely are past that mid-summer cooking temp) this one seemed like a good fit despite it's coming from Portland, where I doubt leaves fall at any point during the year--maybe I'm wrong. Either way, this is another one in the new Stunned batch--scratch that, the last batch, a new one already dropped like two weeks after the last one. Regardless it's newish, and this split is one of the best from that recent one, teaming up unknown-to-me Matthew Mullane and his Fabric project with well-known-to-me Frank Baugh and his Sparkling Wide Pressure. Super tag team I might add.
First side belongs to Fabric, which seems like an electronic project pointed towards thick ambient techno structures. First piece, "Long Coat, A Robe," is total open cavern drift, spaced out lasers shooting eternal beams into the dark and lighting galaxies far beyond our own color viewing sensibilities. "And a Borrowed Shirt" takes it down past the night for a second, laying you by some seaside cliff at night, with only blacks and thick blues intermingling with the dark greens of shrubs around you. Beautiful stuff, melodic without even approaching cheesy electro melody ambient stuff. "Wrapped in Silver Rags"--I'm sensing a story in these titles here--goes into some open tuning strum that maintains all the color around the notes that the electronic stuff does, building a bristling drip-world of color that glides as much as it punctures. Everything across these six tracks is as deeply magical and carefully treated as the rest, a delicate balance between sheer sonic energy and guided precision.
The Sparkling Wide Pressure side offers, by contrast, three pieces, each demonstrating the same sense of precision and color but exploring entirely different sound worlds in the process. Equally carefully conceived as the Fabric side, the bit opens with gentle guitar chords loping down some forgotten river, tiny little electronic lights lining the shore, guides through the night. Frank's latest stuff has been stellar, and this seems to be in line with the consistently impressive doings the guy's partaking in of late. Spaced out but comfortable as hell, just settle in and let the wash go over you. Calls to mind a similar secret world as the moon does on its reddest nights, bright and lonely hovering over the hills. Slowly, as the sun goes down and the river widens, the space between shore and waterway merge under feint moonlit indicators, briefly lifting the folding planes a couple inches up, turning it around, and redirecting it toward the stars. Total beauty, great match-up, all around killer times of course. Maybe fall ain't so gloomy after all...
About to head down to New York for the birthday weekend, but first things first. Reviewing must be done. And first on the list is one that I've let slip by for far too long. The last remaining culprit in that first batch of Vanishing Hour stuff, this is actually numero uno in the catalog and it sure is treated as such. DELUXE treatment here, with gnome-conjuring psychedelia as its cover story and super lucid day dream hand-job on the inner sleeve. One of the fairer looking productions I've seen in a while, and it doesn't even look like it broke the bank.
Of course the sounds ain't half bad either, and I've been tooting Jeff Astin of Housecraft's horn for a good stretch now. By the way, anyone know what happened to Housecraft? Site's down and no word... hope it hasn't gone the way of all things... Regardless, this is one of Xiphiidae's nicest outings yet, which is saying something. Moves away a tad from the earth crunch of yore in favor of a more high pitched, white drift vibe. Opening with the nicely titled "Pan Cyan Essence," the album sort of floats through its course, moving from backyard worm digs to pink sunsets over miniature puddle lakes. Deeply psyched stuff that moves into a sort of muddled church takeover as conducted by rainbows and bees. Maybe it's just the cover leaving it impact, but the holy vocal backings and the squiggly, almost Tomutonttu style warbles call to mind a special locale being made more so by a steady infusion of glee. Nice stuff.
The flip presents one extended go of it in the form of "Aeckt Wetting Shower," which lays down some cicada buzz and layered flitting that totally lurks beneath the tumbleweeds like some tiny mystical critter. Reads like some Miyazaki creation or something, totally harmless but mysterious as hell, leaping in and out of eye sight, between this world and the next. Call it a ghost or what have you, but its fuzzy allure is undeniable. Really deep stuff here, highly layered and full of commitment to its cause. More Astin does, more it seems he's moving away from any recognizable influence and into his own pseudo new-age genre. Though to say it calls on what so many of the other new-ageists are pulling from is dead wrong. It's too filtered of any direct connotations, instead just grabbing hold of the general vibe and letting it take hold in his own sound world. Beautiful stuff, absurdly limited to 100. Really, one of the best goes I've had all year. Grab one, I think there are some left at the label operations base. The art alone, but all together it's something special.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Another tiny disc that packs a wallop from Kim Dawn and their miniature vaults, this one is by one Jeremy Walker, who apparently works mostly in homemade electronics, though you wouldn't guess it from the numbers presented here. Which isn't to say there's not plenty of electro-business to be found, it just serves the purpose of bolstering the pop backbone of Walker's material. These are songs to be sure (and thrilling ones at that) that are surprisingly dense considering their listenability.
Made up of 11 tunes the disc ranging from the lengthy (over seven minutes) opener, a buoyant, almost shoe-gazey go of it that moves from full on forward revelry to slow builds over Townshend style circle strums to the nothing dabbles of the 16 second eighth track. In fact, the whole thing seems to move from impressively conceived tracks that are fully realized to little demonstrations of specific sounds, an intriguing and off kilter organizing principle.
The pop material here is especially vibrant, with track two's electric shards backing a melody that would be right at home on any of a number of Animal Collective/Pavement pawning folks, though Walker's go of it is no rip-off. This is a highly founded voice with a delivery that is as mournful as it is earnest. The electronics go nuts too, somehow managing to never turn the record into an electro-based album. There's never nay question these are pop tunes no matter how overzealous it may get. Even when it all breaks up into straight noise freak out it never loses course, jumping immediately into another pop rock gem on the third number, a mix of Built to Spill guitar thrill and epic lo-fi construction. Pretty amazing really. As the disc begins to break down it gets increasingly abstract, sliding into spare electronic demos that move from one to another with deceptive ease--and somehow the feel remains. The fifth number, for it's 15 or so seconds, sounds like some night life neon soundtrack, as does the sixth, each skipping out right in the middle of itself and losing sight before sliding into the melancholic carnival of the seventh track, the near 80s ballad hints on track eight, the "Toxicity"-style guitar on the ninth, with warbling echoes to boot, and the hollow, new age loomings of track ten. Closes it out with a mini melody that's as feint as air and as hard to find as sugar in tea. And then it cuts out. And that's it. Surely one of the wildest sequences I've heard in a while, but totally successful on all fronts. Crazy one, once you pop you don't stop.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Now here's a sleeper. Another one from that last Unverified run, this number is apparently the brainchild of the head of Scumbag tapes, though I suspect the quartet claimed to be in tow here has actually been left behind in the riptide quite a ways back. And I only say that because this is some seriously lonely, claustrophobic stuff, an empty little keyboard excursion with blown feedback whispered beneath.
Opening side is as dank and deep as the mysterious cover fetus suggests, like some tiny little worm feeding off some vent 20,000 leagues deep. Never seen a ray of light other than the glow given off by itself when it's after some equally solitary female--that or going in to confuse its microscopic prey, blinding its dinner before absorbing it. Not much happening here at all, but a world of sounds folded in anyway, with slow and steady little warbles of the keys squiggling between the masks of blackness and the feint outlines of hot water currents sliding above the colder, saltier residings of this lowly sea slug. And then it's gone before it even leaves a mark.
Flip side finds total reentry into the same prehistoric spot, the next generation if you will. Like this stuff just keeps going and going through the millenia, unchanging as its so perfectly suited to its function beneath the waves. And we thought we were the best adapted? These dudes just live their little lives over and over, mirrors of one another, from past to present to future to some post-Earth asteroid induced emigration which they'll obviously survive and flourish through anyway. Little fuckers are the definition of time. And eventually, when some big tuna carcass slides past the un-attentive eye of carnivore large and small alike, down into the dark and, one chance in a million, right into their living quarters, the worms join up to indulge, each little key patter furthering their appetite and each little crunch the sound of a million teeth tasting the energy of the distant sun. Ritual moistness, nice and lonesome stuff, totally killer.
Here's one that was sent to me by Frank Baugh (Kim Dawn head, much touted in these parts) on British imprint Colour Ride, more of which was supposed to arrive my way but has yet to. Couldn't wait any longer though to get around to this one, as it's one of the better items I've heard from Frank, which is of course saying something serious.
At five tracks, this might well be Frank's widest reaching excursion yet, at once spaced out and intensely personal. Right from the get-go with this one the sound is different, more intimate or something. Frank's always got a heavy emotion associated with his stuff, but "String" fades in off a wind surfboard, arms out and fingers stretched to deliver a message concerning some encroaching darkness. You're at once heartened this guy showed up and had enough care to do so, but also aware you get active quick before these dudes show up. A dead synth line appears right away, signaling the entry to "Parts," whose various parts garble together like watching some factory chuggings from high above--all business below, but it looks so tiny from this far away. Some guitar wiggles come in while the metronome punctures light holes in the mesh and hollow vocal ohms recede back into the skull. "Bed" gets even deeper in to the nowhere world, opening with this loop that sounds like the opening to that Moby hit or something before calling on some fuzzed synth and organ to urge it off the shallows and into the deep. Slips right along this way, rich and warm as a bath with gentle light modules shimmying across until it lifts itself up, blue droplets shedding off its feathered weight. And what does it get upon arrival you ask? Why, little guitar fragments of diddies long forgotten wedged against the gentle curdling of shredded mouth maneuvers.
"Plane" is, if you can believe it, a real live "song," featuring Baugh's dreary vocal delivery over some coma-inducing geetar before slipping into an ephemeral, glittering space where resonances are heightened and everything shimmers. And among it all lies the caveman, hanging tight and living right. This one grinds itself out for a good stretch too, really stretching its rubbers in the name of ultra drift attitudes. Closing the disc is "Vapor," which reads like a stripped back Cluster number, with crescendoing synth warmth escalating and retreating over small piano melodies, barely there and quite content and warm. This has got to be one of Frank's best yet--it moves through so many zones but still retains a strong sense of unity, perhaps his most assured outlook yet. A must grab if you're into anything that Frank's done yet, or anything at all for that matter.
On the one hand, this is a bonus from that last batch of Stunned releases, only available if you got the whole load of em. And continuing on that hand, it's sold out and was limited to 50 in the first place, so it's probably tough to track down. On the other hand, this stuff is so downright grooving that it's got to be given the review treatment pronto, so here goes.
Given, it's actually pretty tough to pin these guys down, let alone tell how many dudes are it at here. Could be one guy making beats, could be a whole band taking it on. Regardless, tracks like the opening "Slice n' Dice" have a singular idea, meshing beat culture with a spaced out, go nowhere attitude that fits as well alongside your Madlib discs as it does next to some Tuluum Shimmering cassette. Definitely danceable, but with a pan flute piddler going at it over the super slushy beat, which crunches under foot as it turns to liquid. "Bomba" is the same deal, pulling Arabesque guitar and rhythms out of some parallel netherworld while some submerged nut spews out faded vocal babblings--nothing quite fits together, an approach done with such assurance that it's tough to deny. "2010 Riot" lays a beat over ripping guitar shred that slowly disconnects itself and drifts into fumbling string moves while a flute loop drops a melodic remnant around over and over. Extremely disorienting but with this beat that keeps it feeling familiar.
Elsewhere, "Chapter Three" explores the noisier side of the group, laying down huge blurts of circuit bent fuzz over the slipping, barely tangible rhythm. I guess it's still for grooving, but you'd have to have dancing shoes made of lead to get down to this sound. "Four (reprise)" has this little early 90s alternative bass line (think the Breeders' "Cannonball") but sends it into some spacey foam that hovers, frowning, in some brightly lit motel room. Weird stuff. And closing it all out of course is "Some Heads Will Rock Others Will Roll." Personally, I think it's more of a head roll-style track, if not a straight up head rolling one... all beats evaporate here in favor of deep strums and clacks that feed off the springs and just keep growing out and up. Thick stuff and a hell of a freebie for those who acquired it. Sure you can snipe it down somewhere though, and well you should.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Riggs is all over the place here, I know, but this one got handed off to me at that Graveyards show I mentioned a bit ago and, it being my sonic introduction to (though certainly not cerebral intro...) the Middle James Co. experience, I figured I'd slap it on here for posterity's sake. In the usual Riggs vein this one is, although perhaps even more restless and uneasy, but all under the MJC banner of ultra crude aesthetics and dead to the world production runs. Totally indecipherable cover, as it seems to be with most of these releases, but you do have to appreciate the dude, who happens to be the man behind Fossils, and his apparently devout dedication to his (un)aesthetic.
As for the tunes, these are even more buried and swampy then the usual Riggs fare, with all sorts of shards spewing out from blown out amp rumblings, amounting in a kind of homegrown freak fry that jilts along. Parts of it even remind me, oddly enough, of some Muslimgauze number, sounding more like the hacked up, static induced transmissions from some Arab underground radio outfit spitting its signal out across the Dead Sea. Burned to the ground material that goes on and on, moving between approaches in a second or none, all high-pitch hum here, total bass burnout bumble there. Truly smoked poetry. Slips into a real minimal mode to at one point, bowed notes whispering sweet hostilities through the electric fence, volting its recipient good on the other side but in a pleasant, tingly kind of way. The soothing sounds of stutter worship--they should play this stuff to promote proper head spaces in the work place for sure, especially when the strums start coming in and gliding around each other, like some massively detuned harp plugged into a can opener and played through the metal refractions of the sound waves. Run a saw over it and you get the idea. Second side is much, much shorter, and equally unhurried and wonderous if you let yourself slip in. So let yourself. Killer again, seek it out if you can land a copy--maybe Riggs has a few left over?
A collabo of sorts between Lee Noble, Patrick Singleton, Samuel Steelman, Geoffrey Sexton and Frank Baugh, this little disc represents yet another go of it from the impressively singular Kimberly Dawn ranks. Theoretically intended as a live soundtrack improvisation, the sounds are wisely left to stand alone, the only hint of visual inspiration coming from the still on the front, which, conveniently, manages to say about as little as a film still could while still providing an idea of the feel that these guys were going for. Like the still, the sounds here are pretty bleak and grinding, though in the consistent and hushed way that the highway traffic is rather than outward grating material.
Considering the number of players present, this little project is about as spare as it gets, incorporating some electronic hum, percussive clatter and distant vocal weirdness into some kind of moist ritual that occurs inside of factory piping deep in the night. Super basement oriented, you can almost hear the wash of light on the participants' faces as the screen projects some seemingly desolate stance. Hollow material that just kind of fumbles along, drifting with rudderless with ease down some precipitous river. Nice to hear dudes laying down any cathartic inkling they may have in favor of dark and done, fried and fearful. Towards the end it heats up a tad, going into some blurred black vortex that splashes about a ways, but this is just the end of the road--you've made it. The whole preliminary feels like it would be just as happy to let you wade through its grime on repeat till the bitter end. And yet, despite its invisible tunnel of crud, it all comes out with more of a stoned out, no-zone than a dank dirge. Nice and softened at the edges, just a big nest of black twine for you to curl up in. Another righteous one.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Got a new batch of Kim Dawn recordings in earlier this week, again all of them in the illustrious 3" format. Love that Frank's just going for it with that--such a great layout in my book. Dan Dlugosielski, who's all over the place lately in projects like Uneven Universe, Handicapper Hornz, Body Morph, the EXBX label and that recent collaboration with Xiphiidae, this is Dan at his solo best, combining deeply zoned electronics with an odd, field recording feel. Fried as hell.
The whole thing actually stays fairly tame in the beginning, emerging from some white haze and slipping into hushed forest burnings and chainsaw massacres. It's all eerily subdued though, kept at a steady hum and murmur that makes it all the more unconscious. Not sure what the title is in reference to, but I know he's been working on some VHS pieces lately so it would seem this is an extension of that, taking the whole tape as tape feel and mashing em together till they're buttery smooth and all you get is the product, with a little skin in for variation. Deeply patient and strangely uplifting in a downer kinda way, the thing adds loops of incomprehensibilities over eachother, building a muted color gradient and watching it wash out as oil's poured on top and allowed to drip over.
To some extent this seems like the direction Dan may be headed. A little rounded at the edges, one step removed from the outer bounds of free electronics but still with the same goals in mind. Just a little duller at the corners, numb and dumb. It's a hell of a sound, and one that Dan treats masterfully, at one point sliding out of the loop that's been building and going into some electro-ether for a bit before returning. Tapers off a tad once more though to start something entirely new, with blobs of sticky static flitting around the room while larger waves redirect them to their liking. Totally absorbing and claustrophobic, but with a spatial element that's tops. Another beauty from Kim Dawn for sure.
Monday, August 24, 2009
There's a funny story to this one. A ways back, as part of a Digitalis package I got this tape that wasn't marked for review, but I dug it enough and tucked it aside. Then, recently, I got an e-mail from this guy George Gukerdas who went to Bard--yours truly's ol' alma mater--and was in some classes with me, and he had some handmades he wanted me to give a go--turns out one of them was that tape though. So he was right ther eunder my nose the whole time. Weirder still, this number was recorded by Anthony Kingsley, who lived my dorm a stretch, and features Gordan Spencer-Blaetz who I go way back with. So yeah, some representation from Annandale here, which is always swell to come by.
As for the sounds here, most of it steers between tribal style hippie jamming and deep space synth work in a pentatonic vein. Opener has some sung syllables from spaced out contributors over a barely there thudding before moving into some loose clatter and chatter. Pretty heady dabblings here, fulfilled further by the following synth zonk out, which reaches deep for some celestial pins but manages to stay nicely aloft in the dark. Vocals return along with drum pulses, I'm assuming from the likes of the aforementioned members and Ben Lorber and Austin Julian, eventually slipping back into the void. Third track starts with some real zonked synth stuff, right up my alley, just oscillators on automatic, before the chanting returns--a major theme it appears. The neo-primitive thing works fairly well here though, if only because of the sincerity of its execution. If you think of the album as a cohesive work rather than a series of songs it gives it a real shape in fact, and some nice personal character. Track five gets pretty spacey with some Animal Collective synth vibes before the closer calls on some "Watermelon Man" rhythms and melds them to cheapo pulses and, again, a fair share of earnest syllabic expounding before drifting into the most head-twisting drift on the disc, with synth runs and slipping percussion blowing all about. Nice little disc, especially for those folks into the free-folk/early Pocahaunted realm of the spectrum. Comes in a lovingly crafted handsewn case too. Can't argue with that.
Here's one I've been sitting on way too long. Chris gave this one to me months ago, but it wasn't officially available so I figured I'd wait till it was. Well it finally got the mass publication treatment and boy is it deserving. Been jamming this one for months and it's still got some seriously demented vibes.
Actually I got a chance to chat with the man himself about this number back at the Graveyards show and he dropped some bombs on me about the title, which is actually an anagram for someone--namely one Ava Mendoza--who never got back to Chris about something in some random and ultimately unimportant e-mail. Revenge is sweet, and Chris' wrath is heartily felt, though he made sure to expound on this being between the two of us and the internets. So here, internets. And thanks Ava, for the killer title.
The tape itself is one of Riggs' most sickly offerings, presenting on the front half a sort of warbbling sea shanty that sounds like sickly little cretaceans, their scrawny bones weak from malnourishment, dragging their way across the sea floor in search of cud. Turns grizzly too as they enter the oil fields, slick as hell, and they have to go zig zagging terrified through it--needless to say many are left behind. No one can make their axe sound less like a guitar than Riggs, but when a sax/some reeded instrument comes in over the thud of amps on the floor and metallic clink it almost turns into a straight up free jazz blowout for a second. Old tactics meshed for new, ultra weirdo approaches. Rusty seesaws mounted by albatrosses in heat.
Flip side starts off with some string boinging that oddly enough sounds kinda like a kitchen sink version of that Skaters tape start sound that lies all over those Monopoly Child discs. Plenty of space here, with the white sound of the room giving a hushed sense to it, like this is actually some field recording mic picking up on the sounds of some manic flea orgy. Hell, it's almost cute. Everything flits about while little sounds get added atop, creating a rubber band orchestra. Strangely accesible in its own way despite the utter incomprehensibility of it. Almost seems like it might be the alternative soundtrack to some alien planet's world peace day dance party. Or maybe it's just what happens when you put metal coils in the microwave and try and turn them into popcorn. Careful though, those thigns are not edible. No matter how fucking tasty they look. Killer, one of Riggs best and actually a really good starting point as it's some of his most relentlessly active stuff. Wild all the way.
Just in from Brainwashed:
It may not be an earth-shattering concept to go analog, but this is not your average take on the idea either. Presenting one nearly hour-long track, there is plenty of room here for this Russian artist to sprawl out and develop ideas, but Alexey, the project's sole protagonist, seems to feel little need for sticking to anything, instead bobbing around from idea to idea with fluid and exciting ease. Pulling from as many realms as he can and synthesizing them into one bombastic go of it this is, as the title enthusiastically suggests, timeless stuff that could just as well be some odd Soviet new-wave experimental excursion as it could be the basis of future beat culture worldwide. If only...
If an hour-long track of analog beats and drifting electronics sounds a bit heavy-handed, fear not. This is as light and warm as it gets, with Alexey's instrumentation guiding the way between miniatures, each of which explores a new incantation of the musician's sound. Some of them are pure rave drift, with little ticking beats tickling the underbellies of vast stretches of electronic tone; others take a more spaced out stance, pointing their eye out toward the nebulae and watching it drift apart while marbles crash underfoot. Each one drifts in and out as effortlessly as the next, some lasting longer but none exceeding their desired timetable.
As with so many of the smaller run labels today, Stunned's limited pressings have allowed the album maximum conceptual freedom. These could easily be broken into tracks (of which their would be many) and sequenced as sketches, but the coagulation of the ideas into a single long take means gives the whole a much more weighty feeling removed from the brevity of the numbers individually. Rapid fire drum machine numbers with laser beam stutters rest alongside brooding drone nod-offs, but the necessity of experiencing one before the other provides real shape to the output.
With so many ideas packed into it though, it's a wonder the album maintains the cohesion it does. This never sounds divided, no matter how many areas are drawn from, and even the stoned out white hum of one part, whose only accompaniment is aimless squiggling above, feels as if it is arriving from the same voice as the strictly beat oriented tracks. Much of the material sounds more like early synthesizer experiments, with single staccato runs going ad infinitum, but these give a retro sterility that efectively clears the air for lush drone pieces that sound as if they could go be drawn out for, well, the entire album.
To some extent, the disc's most valuable asset is its ability to sound entirely removed from any context; it appears as a truly outsider work despite the clear reference points of its practitioner, which include everyone from Gordon Mumma to Asmus Tietchens to Aphex Twin. Still, it seems Alexey's most important influences lie far below the public radar, lying under the Russian streets in continual drift.
This is what keeps the music as exciting as it does. It is wisely constructed but also one step removed from that which it initially appears as: an infinitely rich take on synthesizer music that reveals more with every listen. Each detail is as unexpected and inconspicuous as the next, giving it a life far beyond many more consciously connected to these areas of musical output.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Well it feels like forever but here it is, fully formed and ready for anyone willing to receive it. With a full two-plus months between batches (not so long by most label standards) Stunned has reemerged, just in time for back-to-school detox sessions. And of course it's another winner, packing a full eight bands into five releases and making it all feel just so right. Not a rushed number on any of em.
Thought I'd start with this damage from Denmark based Mikkel V. Dunkerley and his Pummeler project and, on the flip, the synth excursions of Derek Rogers, whose slow ascent seems to finally be heating up a tad. First side's a monster, with both artist moniker and piece title pretty much hitting the nail on the head. The whole thing moves from thick black swathes of crush to ominous cave entry beckonings that really capitalize on creepy come-hither brews. Pouring buckets over here right now and thunder's rolling in something ominous, which is pretty much the perfect backdrop to such blustery stuff. The four tracks each glide right along into each other, little pauses representing breaths between gusts. "Juggernaut" might be the most brutal, but the creepy quotient goes up a notch or two with "The Sialagogue I and II" and the closing "Imago," whose little vocal groans and stuttering bellow give it a real trapped, restless hostility feel. Sinister but also well enough gone from the present world that it doesn't feel too tyrannical. Too zonked to kill, maybe a nap's in order. Still enough streams of static to remind you what's underneath though.
The Rogers side is similarly zonked, but not quite so brooding. More glitched out and giddy than heavy and hindered. Little synth blips doodle about in squiggly go nowhere moves that sound like a tyke sticking forks into various appliances and seeing what the circuits feel like. The derangement begins young. Whole thing kinda reminds me of those kiddie work benches where you gotta slam the shaped blocks in the right holes, which might teach them shapes and colors but also gives them a solid lesson in how to let loose wrong way style. As the thing moves along it gives off a kind of glow that moves away from the playful feel and into more volumetric sound bubbles that hover around and fill the space quite nicely, taking on fuzzed out melodies that boil over into blown out pink passages before softly settling down like feathered rain drops into some unseen glen. In many ways these parts feel a little like the antecedent to Pummeler's unrelenting strength. But there's a different strength on hand here too, and sometimes the feel moves toward pure electronic hiss, taking on a kind of white hum that feels less like a beckoning from beyond than it does mere happening in the here and now with little to no regard whether anything goes anywhere ever again. It's trying to tell you something. Cool split from a nice new batch, with more of the killer diagram collages so prevalent in recent runs. More to come shortly for sure.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Here's another offering sent to me by the Hammer of Hathor folks, Mark and Heather. Dug that last LP and it's no surprise that this one provides a similar strain, though the presentation here is a bit more constrained than on the other one. Apparently the duo used to be a sax and drum duet but when Heather got pregnant she couldn't manage the sax quite so well so she picked up a geetar, and what results here are some duets featuring Mark's fairly nimble rhythm work and Heather's wonderfully detuned guitar repetitions.
This is some tight stuff. Given how loose the general sound is the couple react on a dime to each other, settling into these little coves of repeated mantra stuff, Heather sounding like a stoned out Arto Lindsay and Mark giving it a real poly-rhythmic go-round, nice and grooving but without anything too firm to latch on to. Rather they both sort of get something going and then sit there, barely changing it at all but still maintaining freshness through tiny little differences within the very enacting of the looping. It's a surprisingly minimal and interesting approach, and the stuff has real life in its folds. While a lot of stuff like this tends toward the irritating end, either not sticking with the idea long enough or, conversely, sticking with it in too limited a scope, HoH finds a really funky in between spot that really has a lot of space for movement in its constrained universe. Each little piece is as chugging and confusing as the last, and Heather's damn good at proving that if you repeat it enough, it gets head-bobby. These lines are totally fried little things, but they keep going and eventually you'll be tapping your foot right along to its a-melodic anti-groove. And Mark fits right in as close as can be. A little release, but one that further demarcates the group's unique sound. Adding to the mystery, it's a c-30 on a c-90, so I guess there's plenty of room to try it out yourself if you want. Good luck though. Another cool one from these guys.
Whoa there doggie, what have we here. A new format getting the review treatment over at ECN? And how! Of course it's hardly too divergent... for one, it's courtesy of the much praised and enjoyed Sean McCann, and for another it's on the always stupid good Roll Over Rover, so it's not exactly outside of box. Does provide another angle though, does it not?
To some degree though, a DVD seems to be more in line with where McCann's heart lies, and the visual component is almost too obvious when placed alongside his drone shimmer. There always was something soundtracky to his material, and it really coagulates here into something lovely and not at all surprising in the fullness of its realization. So where to start? Needless to say, the visuals here are hardly storytellers, but work more in the same way as his music, slowly shifting and catching different angles of the same reflection. Big time arboreal theme here with a psyched out jaunt through the woods feel, colors and layers overlapping as the soft bows and glides melt across one another beneath. Reminds me a little of the Prelude to Dog Star Man, if a bit more grounded and, importantly of course, not silent. This is not so much a study in visual language but an immersive little twenty minute venture, transportive without being wonky. Almost seems like its meant to be projected on some wooded wall and lived in for a night.
Interestingly, the music here seems even more subdued and subtle than usual. With the visuals gong in and out of focus in an abstracted haze it leaves a bit more room to just let the music drift, heading nowhere and, unavoidably, merging together with the image at once and together forging ahead into the crimson moon. Some of the stillest music from McCann yet that isn't in the Midnight Orchard style, like a slowed down version of that DNT tape sort of. Psyched, but also upright and in control. Rumor has it there's a VHS on the way, which work wonders fidelity wise for this stuff but the DVD is swell too, clean and submersible, a pleasure craft through the ferns. Real, great late night simmer down/burn down stuff. End of party night nights for sure.
Back from the beach, with some new sounds in tow courtesy of Strange Maine, including some killer 16 Bitch Pile Up disc packed in some blue jeans complete with poop stain as well as some of those uberweird Ophibre self releases with the baggies of detritus glued on. Also came across a little tape from Dead Labour Process on Unverified, a label I only knew through Riggs and his Amazed Nova (review pending), but I picked it up and, upon return, found a package from the label with a bunch of zany little numbers. See, it all ties in. A lot of blogs out there seem interested in sharing their musical spending habits with the world but not I because honestly I don't find much more boring than people talking about the cool shit they have--at least until it connects up as nicely as this does. Nice.
Anyway, figured I'd just throw one on and have a go, but it was a real joy to come back to the tape deck with something like this. A duo (though according to the youtube video sometimes a trio...) out of Michigan, Precious Trombley definitely pull from some usual suspects. Knox Mitchell, who also did the EXBX/American tapes style cover art, plays drums, trombone and electronics while Rick Boy is on sax, making it somewhat of an attempt at the whole Uneven Universe/Graveyards/Wasteland Jazz Unit approach. Still though, the unit manages to do something pretty different in that vein, focusing way more on loose horn interplay than skitzo-inducing electronic grind. Not that there's any shortage of circuit skree on it, but it's a little subdued, skittering beneath the horns and numbskull drum patter. And actually, some of the horn work is pretty swell--these guys clearly don't give a damn, and from the sounds of it they're getting a little light headed and just giving the Ayler thing a go. And who cares if they can play or not, they're into trying and to boot, they're really listening to each other, trying to mesh their lines together whether it be in harmony or rhythm or, most of the time, in nothing but movement and energy, true free fashion.
It all makes for a slightly less restive sound, kind of like some deranged take on New Orleans street jazz. Not so much boom boom chick as boom boom sick--there's really something to be said for the nausea inducing slides of the always regal trombone. And on top of all of that it sounds like they're having a total blast. They probably do this for hours, taking rips in between solos before forging onward and outward. Cool little tape from a nice label based in Edinburgh. Good deal. Nice to be back.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Went to see Burnt Hills, Cruudeuces and Graveyards this past Sunday which was a ball--got to catch up with Riggs and Hall a tad, met Olson and saw all the Burnt Hills crew and Nathaniel from Cruudeuces, so overall a swell night. Tough to argue with it. Anyway, bought a bunch of Grave merch including that tour box, a tape and the new Brokenresearch Graveyards LP, but also was given a bunch of stuff from Chris, Nathaniel, and Eric of Century Plants/Burnt Hills/Tape Drift fame. Had been a stretch since I'd gotten to give Tape Drift a go, so it was swell to receive the morsels I did, including this one from Campbell Kneale's post-Birchville Cat Motel project Our Love Will Destroy the World.
To be honest, I'd never really heard Birchville Cat Motel despite the project's sterling reputation, so I was psyched to give this new one a go. Apparently this project presents a new approach for the man, but from what I've heard the sounds are more or less just the same. And by just the same they must mean some full on tectonic blasts, cause the first side here, "Charmed Haruspax," is a storm of electro-glitch out mayhem, just sheets of buzz and scuzz with these little bleeps meandering about like a moth to flame. Real crushing material that leaves little room for misconceptions, just throws it all out there and lets it invest type stuff. It's not entirely brutal though--there's way harsher stuff out there--it's just full on electronic weight with so many little sounds packed in it's a veritable sardine can of sound. I know, delicious right? Sounds like it could all crumble apart and melt into a million colors but somehow he keeps it going throughout, moving along some psychedelic train of contortion whose destination is neither here nor there, but OUT THERE. Somewhere.
Flip side presents the title track, another live document that finds the due in a similar vein only with a whole new bag of sounds to pull from. Clashing plates are droned out while rumble underneath gives it a festering quality that suggests of organs and deep body grumbles. Kneale's willingness to let it happen of its own volition is a nice thing to bear witness to, as he sort of allows it all to creep in over time. Almost like an ambient framework only the beginning is so full on that it wakes you right up, leaving no room for soporific proclivities. Shard after shard here, and once they're in they're in, so it's a real good time for all. A beautiful one, gone from Eric but likely findable else where due to the "extended" run of 150. More to come from Eric soon in the form of that Simon Wickham-Smith disc. Also, the rumor mill has it that the label's considering moving into wax territory, so that's something we can all get excited about for sure...
Here's another number from that latest Roll Over Rover batch to get sent my way, this one coming from another previously unknown dude to me. Apparently the man himself has mostly been making songs for a spin but this is a real drifter, totally unraveled and expansive in scope. Which falls right in there for me given the hot weather and sedentary nature of working in the record store. Nice little soundtrack for perusing clientele as well.
Starts off with this buzzer of a drone track that features some pen drawn horizontal lines that fade from green to yellow to orange and back. Dave McPeters' organ contribution gives it that organic sound too, so as to really lift it off and into the clouds, albeit with a tinge of sadness for soils left beneath. Spare enough to really float though, the thing isn't bogged down by anything at all, as ephemeral as they come. Nice thing here too is that the album closes in on an hour in length, so over the course of seven tracks there's a ton of diversity, but the vision's all the same. Twinkling bells and life force swells on track two, which sees McCann and Ashlinn Smith contributing drums and vocals respectively. Flies right into some neo-nexus space age discovery too, at which point the unbearable blackness of nothing goes white and time stands still till you arrive on Xenu, where all plants are purple and no one is alone. Third done creeps right up from the ponds of the first one too, presenting a kind of chilly haze where McCann's synth co-mingles with Shipley's whatever-the-hell to conjure some zones that bob about, reveling in the oil slicks for their buoyant properties. Slides right on out too, real slippery-like, all shiny black but with rainbows when the light hits it right. Of course in comparison to track four it seems more like a pool of sludge than a graceful little oil pool, as four is so momentously hypnotic as to tear aside any of its less welcoming properties with measly little key melodies that trickle about under McCann's swell drum work. Perhaps the most focused thing on here, but not without settling beautifully in among the rest of it with sun dappled outlooks and fuzzy beaming insides. Really grabs hold of some Lion King vibes without sounding like a whack African hijacking scenario.
Fifth track mellows it out a bit, McCann again contributing with some lovely viola work, getting nearly bluesy but still maintaining the lofty, not even close to down-and-out feel. Just restful and content while harmonica and guitar twang gratifyingly across each others chicken coops, sipping on bourbon and getting increasingly light in the ol' loafers. More guitar fry on six, with Smith again offering up talents on organ, giving it a kind of arcade dream state feel--fuzzed and fine by me, I say. Seven sees McPeters and Smith on organ and pennywhistle, but no matter how you cut it it's clear this is one concept and I reckon it must all be that of Shipley's, as sliding nimbus sounds sift through one another across pale birds wings and grazes of sun. It's a lovely closer that's as peaceful as anything here, settling it all back down to within earshot of the houses, but far enough away that not a voice can be heard. Just nice folks scuttling around. Lovely.
Here's another one received as part of that first Vanishing Hour batch, and like the Antigua Ibis it falls into a weird little category all its own, combining field recordings with odd instrumental interludes and electric current for a pastiche of subterranean sounds.
First side opens with some pastor, whose proclamations are quickly derailed in the name of contact mic futzing and choral drift while some barber gets the old electric razor out beneath and has at. Muddles about a while while guitar comes in and presents a few chords over some bird clatter, but none of it goes anywhere at all, instead opting to sort of ruminate it over a bit. Keeping an eye on it while it hardens and becomes brittle. A nice go of it, totally allows itself to just wander the grounds and take in the scenery until it comes to some nice looking lap pool speckled with potted plants around its exterior, so you dive right in and lo and behold there's some tiny humpback whale living down there, no longer than your fore arm I'd say, and it's sort of scoping you out for awhile, taking in your impressive size and gorging itself on plankton, till you've had enough and leap out, wet as hell, and head right for the fair on the other side of the field. Tough to get there though, so attention starts to wander and you settle in on some workers banging away at some concrete and chattering their chatter while they're at it. A real strange land no doubt, but one that's a pleasure to dabble in.
Flip explores much the same ideals, if in a slightly more focused--or at least diverse--landscape. Little metallic clatters rebound it into being before it mellows down a notch and starts to hover just over the crisply cut grass. Still that same suburban surreality though, with voices of red-haired wives tending garden or men in "Kiss the Cook" aprons flipping burgers while the chilluns huff paint behind the swingset. Only still spot seems to be where the cat's lying, on a carpet letting the sun fall over him and dreaming of mice. It's these moments that really keep it lively too, and somehow the movement from convoluted sensory overload to simple statements of quiet beauty flow nicely, giving it a chance to get you somewhere beyond mere residence. Really cool little tape, interesting straight through, though apparently there are only two left at the label HQ so you might want to move in for the kill quick. Otherwise Tomentosa and, apparently, Discriminate Music have copies.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Here's an interesting one. Basically a remix album, this finds Frank gripping some recordings made by a friend of his, Blake Barton, and using them as the source for this little 3"er. Strange sounds abound, but it all has the distinct feel of a Sparkling Wide Pressure release, a testament to the strength of vision practiced by Baugh.
The little thing starts off with some looped smokers-cough vocals that growl over and over while clanging guitar sort of rebounds around beneath. Takes its time spreading out, but when it does it sprawls all the way, lending itself toward drawn out percussion and semi-tonal murmur. Starts to really lift-off about minute eight, when the tin pan, rain on steel rhythm accompanies some increasingly sci-fi laser drones that shoot right out, emitting toward some sun without a glance back. Real spaced stuff here that serves the noggin well if it's incorporating the proper ingredients. Baugh's control of the material is clear too, as he really lets each little part evolve all on its own, some heading toward the trees, others dipping deeper into the oceanic bowel systems, and some skipping the life step and turning right into pure energy with its eye on the quasars. As the whole thing pitters out, it sorta lets slip each part at a time, leaving the skeleton but getting rid of the muscle so all you have left is this odd space of hollowed out activity that you can still bend; it just can't do it willingly anymore. Has to lay there limp instead until someone else comes and gives it a bend. By the finale the thing's disintegrating between your thumbs, dust-to-dust, but man what a journey.
Second track is a little more neon, even nearly dancey, with little statements of melody below ping pong ball rolls and reversed plate clatters. Sort of gentle-ish before it slips into pure sound zones for a stretch, weighing still while the blade gets closer. Might as well be the sounds of some Rube Goldberg machine in motion, spewing out Seussian sludge till the nimblequacks emerge to sing their songs of peace. Short and sweet, but again, it sure is sweet.