Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the solo project of Kemialliset Ystavat frontman and respected Finn Jan Anderzen. This reissue finds Anderzen further pursuing his deranged and chaotic sound worlds, albeit on a much smaller, more intimate scale than with his better known group. Almost childlike in its playfulness, the album is a rich and colorful affair that will have heads spinning with delightful sensory overload.
Translated, Anderzen's side project actually means "dust gnome," which is about as close a descriptor as one is wont to find for such an approach, especially when considering the artist's penchant for detail. Each piece lays down a world of kaleidoscopic sounds that largely intermingle amongst each other more than point toward any decipherable point. This means that tracks like the opening "Tteema," with its pitch shifting fuzz and interlocking computer trails, leaves ample space for immersion into its unique vision, seeking its eccentricities in the broader scope of its whole.
Much the same can be said of all of the offerings here as Anderzen appears to incorporate an entire children's orchestra into his lineup. "Kohtublues," with overlayed bendings of a slide whistle bobbing between lo-fidelity keyboard meanderings, is at once nostalgic in its sense of youth and forward looking in its sonic conception. There is an elfish quality to its mischevious charisma when the looped vocals and birdcalls of "Live in EU I" mesh with the toy piano loops and various fuzed interludes, as if Anderzen knows he's playing unfairly by bending the rules so much and getting away with it.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this work though is not that it manages to be as dementedly pleasing as it is without making concessions, but that it manages to avoid the trappings often associated with this kind of cuteness. Rather, Anderzen's work is neither redundant nor overly precious despite its natural feel and fried aeshetic. Certainly psychedelic in its connotations, it is still a challenging and rewarding enough a listen to warrent significant attention in any mindstate.
Take "Oksat Pois" as ample evidence. Its bird calls, including owl hoots and morning doves, coexist among electronic shards of light that come and go to cartoony effect, playing off of the associations of the bird calls rather than riding their intrinsic charm toward any cheap success.
By the time "King of Nu H" closes the album it's clear that this is a certifiably distinct vision and one far beyond the developmental stages of the typical debut album. At once experimental, joyous, immersive and overwhelming, this is an album to be cherished in the world of new music, and one whose emotional content extends far beyond the technological or instrumental tactics used. Filled with mystery, it is a disc well worth returning to many times, as there is surely a wealth of discovery to be had. I'm glad to see it finally available to more than the initial 400 who bought the vinyl.
Just wanted to throw up a quick post about the recent lack of posting over here. Last week I took a two and a half day bike ride across state to get over to Cape Cod for a family reunion and since then I haven't managed to catch a second to get around to the piles of tapes in my bag. I figure it might stay like this the rest of the week (maybe I'll sneak one or two in) but otherwise I'll be sure to get back to it this Saturday or Sunday. Otherwise, I'll throw up a couple of the reviews just piblished at Brainwashed for perusal. Ah, summer.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Just received this cool little package a few days back from Madrid-based label For Noise's Sake, which included some super nice looking numbers. Loved this one best of all package-wise of course, as the CD inside the envelope inside the ziplock gave it a special kind of toxic vibe.
No disappointments sound-wise either. I hadn't heard of Pier, but it's a pretty crazed situation they've got going on there as they take the 20-minutes present here to rally some pretty rattly improv goop gathered around thudding cardboard drumwork, shredded guitar mingling and some sax/trumpet/kazoo freak outs. Really tough to grab on to anything here as it all kind of rallies together, pulling from hardcore, free jazz, Beefheartian destruction and total free-rock mayhem. Might as well be some homemade instruments LAFMS thing or something. Like Airway redux maybe, only played with shit for equipment.
It's cool to hear a band letting loose and getting undeniably zany without being silly or overly conscious of themselves. This is some dedicated shit that's far more about finding their own groove than purposeful demolition. You can hear it in the little mini riffs that various members find themselves at a given point--the bassist rocking a near Chili Peppers line before losing it and throwing the axe down, the guitar hitting some chords and calling it quits when they realize they're playing something they've heard before. And when they all converge it's that much more effective for it. At least if you're of a certain mindset I suppose... Really nice and shattered sound, much more to come from this label (and hey, even one more from this band it looks like!). Cool beans, real stuff that gets moving and just don't quit.
The soundtrack to the accompanying visuals provided on the DVD-R, this disc got sent to me from Paul T. Kirk, a Scottish ex-pat now living in Japan and working under the Akatombo moniker. Though his output is somewhat small (only one other disc released, albeit to some significant critical acclaim) it is more than apparent that Kirk is fully in his element, meshing dark ambient, industrial and dub into a brooding club sound that falls into--though avoids the trappings of--dubstep. When the visuals get involved it's an even more complete vision.
Truth be told though, the visuals aren't required whatsoever for this to be successful. There is an inherently grimy, urban feel here from the get-go, as "Friend for Hire" lays out some thick bass fog for a clacking electronic rhythm to glide over, creating a doom-laden, though motion-filled soundscape. Same goes for "Tondo," whose funky rhythm loop sees glistening neon light shards appearing out of the corner of the eye as you cruise the city streets. Extremely visual even without the visuals, this is some really well conceived stuff, and Hamish Low's slow and long guitar emissions steam the surroundings like sewer air.
"Cypher" gets into more ambient territory, gliding about three inches off the ground with shawl in hand as moody and mellow shadows drape over the buildings. Definitely something quintessentially Japanese about it it seems, can't really help but picture the lights of Tokyo and bustling subways as vocal shards are delayed across the terrain before the bad ass funk/bachelor vibes of "SSRI" serve as the Morricone soundtrack to some Tokyo gang movie. One of the nicest works here, but really it's a highlight among highlights, with the whole album clearly serving as a masterfully conceived journey. "Portable Pariah" could be African Head Charge if they took their cues from hip-hop instead of reggae, commercials instead of ganja (or commercials on ganja, maybe...) while "The Sand Collector" is a grimy and glitched out techno stew sent through the factory liens before getting sent to the cruncher. The closing "A Prior Disengagement" (not a bad title, eh?) thuds along with grim malice, displaying the snarky smile of a serial killer throughout.
The DVD only solidifies the already ample visual component of the disc. Beautiful work here--"Cypher" is all white-out fog stuff while "SSRI" looks like a cartoon overlay of city trekkers. Really wild and extremely interesting to watch. Not to mention the deluxe package, which comes with a couple newspaper cuts-outs )mine speaks of Ringo no longer wanting autograph requests) and photos--just uber-deluxe. The first release on the label too, so if this is any indicator keep an eye out. Beautiful through and through.
Got this one a little bit ago as well, this time from Hammer of Hathor with the first LP release on their new label, Shimmering on a Dim Tide. A duo comprised of Mark E. Kaylor and Heather Vergetis, the LP looks, I dare say, spankingly wonderful. Nice uber-light image on the front and white vinyl gives it all a real ethereal look. Rather than complimenting the music though, the look serves the sound more in its opposition than in any mood setting role. Apparently the duo more or less shows up and plays whatever's lying around, making for a raw improv sound that is often focused on repetition and slight change more than endless momentum.
This is apparent from the get-go as "Run Run" features drums and guitar engaging in some pretty minimal dialogue. The guitars endless strumming of one chord rumbles on while the drums clatter along with it. Change does occur, but its more in the way the instruments are hit than in what's getting hit. Almost like some super minimal and loose Branca experiment or something, with a real focus on the repetitious aspects and the variations found within it. The next track is aptly named "Plum Blossom Killer," not necessarily because it sounds like one but because it's such a righteous name and the track is righteous as well. More or less all rhythm, the thing is a real experiment in garbage can gamelan, with some highly capable and taut drum work and odd inside of the piano (maybe?) strums. Nice little mini percussion orchestra thing, and again it goes nowhere, just drifting on nice and nimble-like, skeleton fever style. Seems to be a real focus here on digging themselves into a hole and setting up shop, which I'm all for. Refreshing to hear a rhythm thing too that doesn't veer into tribal pseudo-spirit conjuring. Just sounds straight fun to play in fact. Though I would say that by the end the plum blossoms are still in tact, if a bit loose on the vine.
The second side opens with an odd guitar and drum jangler called "Lady Hermit" that's odd as can be; angular and repetitive, the thing builds into some kind of crunchy take on minimal free jazz, almost like some Blue Humans thing or something. The drummer can really play here, and the odd meter and movement of the guitar lines are well on point. Nice and curious stuff that drifts on for a ways, cresting and crashing back to its origins over and over in some perverse take on verse chorus verse format. The closing "Black Butterfly" is a super stripped back drum, flute, trombone (?) thing that's equal parts Art Ensemble of Chicago and Chicago City Dump. Not unlike Alloy Orchestra's score for Man with a Movie Camera at parts actually. Clattery thumps and bumps accompany the spare order of the various tonalities before some wood block comes in to take it back inward. There's something very structured about all of this actually, almost meditative like some shakuhachi thing. Zen thing going on even, Monkish and ceremonial in the best kind of way. Get the feeling this could have gone on for eight hours, which is always a good feeling and a great way to end this one, which really has a fantastic overall shape and some spectacular moments in there. Nice.
Finally getting around to this split after way too many months on the shelf. This here is a split 10" believe it or not, a format which always makes me think of a bygone era, 78s etc. Jimmy Lunceford doing "Blue Moon" or whatever. Not that any of this is really pertinent whatsoever, especially with regard to this outing. Given that I hadn't heard either of these bands before, it was nice to be pleasantly surprised by both bands here, which is to say that neither of them plays "Blue Moon."
Bipolar Bear is a trio out of LA (both bands are in fact), and they go with a pretty raw angular post-punk sound here as they roll rather quickly through five tracks. It's all good here too, with a nice overall sound that's heavy on the fuzz and loose on the atmosphere. Definitely an anthemic quality here, as the opener "Cape Verde" and especially "Library," with its extended guitar splay out and catchy chant. "March of Mudmen" could almost be an early Fall single, with a frenzied and buried sound that grooves without managing to peel its face off the sidewalk. Something quintessentially LA here for sure, especially with the echoed vocals--almost makes me think of Jane's Addiction or something in a weird and not very applicable way. Nice tunes, and plenty of energy to be sure. Nice that the production is kept low too, making it all mesh together into a soupy, concrete walled club thing, sweat included. Not too much that's showy here either, as the group is too busy moving forward to be bothered with pyrotechnics. That said, this is an extremely tight unit fully capable of shredding it all up.
As for Talbot Tagora, this is another trio effort and, while the sound here is less charred up, the energy is equally fertile. Definitely can see why these bands run in the same circle, as each have a penchant for unleashing it, with Talbot especially sounding like a bigger unit than it is. A bit less sloppy and more angular as well, with "Internet Fixture" opening to jostling, herky-jerky guitar work and pummeling drums courtesy of Ani. Great sound, and it only gets better too as "We Live in Sack" is a real demented rising line theme whose shrouded lyrical content is so far immersed that it sounds more like the guitar remnants reverberating off the ceiling. "Black Diamond" channels the pummel of no wave but filters it through some LA epicness via sing-along lines before "The Weather Man" closes it out with the most straight ahead punky number here. Super good split for fans of sloppy art punk stuff, these are two bands well worth keeping an eye on. Great twin bill too, they fit together like two peas in a, um, mod.
A recent discovery to listeners in this country perhaps, Omar Souleyman has nevertheless been a staple of, in the words of the press release, "Syrian street-level folk-pop" for years now. This collection unearths some of his strongest moments put to tape, compiled and lovingly assembled by the always on point Sublime Frequencies imprint. The result is a non-stop collection of the singer's signature grooves, which stand tall beside this shore's often paltry pop offerings.
It is always a difficult job task to listen to foreign music without bringing too many cultual expectations into the mix, but here most of those expectations are shattered in seconds. Immediately identifiable as an import, the work manages to erase any preconceptions, meeting its audience well beyond the halfway point and, arms folded, declaring itself with confident poise. From the opening "Leh Jani," whose snaking synth lines are met by Souleyman's instantly catchy melodic chanting, it is clear that this is a wholly conceived and realized musical approach.
That approach is marked by a dichotomy between the spare instrumental presence—most of it being played with only an accompanying synthesizer, guitar and drum machine, it seems—and the full, even over-the-top quality of the sounds used. Used in conjunction with traditional sounding melodies only deepens the strength of these works. "Dabke 2001," for example, presents frantically melodic arpeggiations engaging in a call and response with the singer as a steady up-tempo pulse pushes the whole thing forward. With synth tones resembling computerized guitar shredding, the piece is at once a kind of low-tech dance music and, conversely, a hyper-futuristic sounding space serenade.
The slower numbers are just as strong, often providing even more space for the eccentricities of the sound to come to the fore. "Atabat," an eight-minute mostly instrumental excursion, has a tempo so slow that the pitch-shifted melodies bring out the distintive potential of playing music whose melodic content extends beyond the limitations of the keyboard itself. Odd chirps enter and accentuate while the guitar frenetically dances above, further developing the content present throughout.
The nearly psychedelic beginning to "Bashar Ya Habib Al Shaab," with foreboding synth lines and Souleyman's echoing vocal refrains, is at once grating and cosmically attuned, relentless in its power before hastening the pace over halfway through to take part in a kind of droning rap. "Don't Wear Black, Green Suits You Better" continues in the poppier end of the program with more interlocking lines between the three main melodic providers.
Known for the dark sunglasses he adorns nearly always, Souleyman is a true Syrian legend who, we can hope, will finally have a chance to be appreciated outside of his homeland. Given the immense versatility of his outfit and the undeniable power of his vocal delivery, perhaps this is Souleyman's opportunity to extend his listenership. For now, Highway to Hassake is a fine intro to the singer's enormous output.
Volcano the Bear / La STPO - The Shy Volcanic Society At The Bear And Bird Parade (Beta-lactam Ring CD)
As fitting a split as could be, this album joins two of rock's most experimental experimentalists in a meeting of minds that, as any split should do, provides new insights into the output of both artists, creating a fitting relationship between these two diverging takes on weird.
The disc opens with Volcano the Bear's five tracks, whose sumptuously layered take is, comparitevely at least, the more palattible of the two. Not that that means much here. "Our Number of Wolves" drifts from concrete scratch to ultra-slow New Orleans funeral music as covered by European avant-improvisers, while "The Boy with the Lips Inside" presents a spare beat and odd hummed melodies that trickle outward like some hi-fidelity field recording from hillsides yet uncovered, never presenting too much or getting carried away.
This comfort working with a single idea can be seen throughout here, as the extended "The Open, the Closed" presents sputtering synth lines and odd feedback that grows, shrinks, and grows again over its eight elliptical minutes. It is a compelling and, as is typical for the group, exceptionally well paced sonic descent before "Death Sleeps in the Ear" and the cosmically titled "The First Circle is the Eye" see the group moving deeper into the abyss.
La STPO, a relatively large ensemble of like-minded musical players (and I mean that in both senses) takes over from here, displaying their knack for oddly orchestrated mini-symphonies on tracks like "Guayaki," which could just as well be a meeting between gamelan classicists and early Zorn game pieces, and "Les Oreilles Internationales," whose silly and sputtering stop-starts, overrun with vocal antics, lunges deeply out of sync with any conventional genre trappings.
"Invalid Islands," opening with bent reed and string slides, eventually drifts into a kind of ether-drenched poetry before turning around and harkening toward a downtown aesthetic that's as much Pere Ubu as it is Branca, let alone Material. The closing "Colonies" is just as chaotic, jumping between sytles and approaches at a moment's notice while remaining entirely together and cohesive.
Given the strength of the music here, and the vast potential of such a tag-team as this, it seems a shame almost that the split wasn't done track by track. Given the world music influences, open sonic stances and moment's notice phrase changes of both groups, it seems like, rather than splitting the disc down the middle, this offering could just as easily alternate every other track. While the relationship of both groups is highly apparent here, perhaps there would be even more to discuss were they presented side by side and title by title. That said, this works too.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The follow up to Vakhchav's debut on Abandon Ship from way back (which reminds me... I still have some Abandon Ship tapes to finally get around to soon...), In Embers presents five tracks of Nickolas Mohanna and his guitar/electronics motions. Nice to see him teamed up with Stunned, as two rights always make a double right.
Maybe it's my fast fading memory banks though, but I seem to remember this unit being a little less contorted than this... eh, likely so. The important thing is that, whether it sounds like the Vakhchav of yore or not, the guy's still got it. The first number, "Morning Shroud" (nice doomy name there...), lays down some crunch quick, building static on static until the whole thing conjoins its rhythms into a real vault of hot air compression. Total destructo stuff here, with nice woeful lines hiding somewhere behind the shrapnel. Ok, I'm pretty certain that this is heavier than anything on that first one now... will have to go back and do a Venn diagram or something. "Teething" follows, starting from a similar rhythmic non-tone angle before Mohanna's guitar begins to materialize, wrangling some vastly distributed sonic material into a hovering hum that really takes off.
"For Who Has it Been Just a Thought" finds a similar approach yet again. While Mohanna certainly exhibits a real control and a full ability to "get there" with everything he does, it always seems a bit like a similar pace. Of course I'm gonna go ahead and bite my tongue now that the blissful synth zones have said track have faded out after a measly minute and a half... so much for similar pacings... not to mention the crunching sci-fi sounds that quickly follow on "Labyrinthula." Yowzers, space wars abound. The closing "The Drifter" is a long fuzzed journey down the waterfall, slow-mo sparks of yellow light and white water fumbling about. It's a lovely end to a disc that sees Mohanna continuing to subtly push the envelop, balancing sound and mood in careful, oppositional equilibrium. Lovely as always, and a nice package that continues with the body part overdoses of late.
So here's another one Jeff sent me in that last package, and so far I haven't seen this bad boy up on the website at all, so who knows where this number is, though I do have the 45th of 50 copies, so safe to say they were all made at least. Still, never saw this one posted anywhere, maybe it'll be included in the next update or something, though I'm pretty sure it is available.
Adding to the mystery, I have no idea who this project's participants are, nor really anything else. There might be one dude, or maybe four, but safe to say it's on the lower end considering the minimal slant of the sound here. Two sides of gently shaken psych drift here that's super nicely paced and drifting. Word has it that there are four tracks here, but for my money it's better to just take the whole thing as one long zoner. They all more or less present a similar angle on the same sound, with plenty of loping, lazy river lounging rhythms, meandering flute loops and rest easy synth stuff. Not so much new new age though, more new jungle age. Second track almost reads like a Monopoly Child jam slowed down a tad and stripped to its essentials, which can't possibly be a bad thing if you're reading this blog regularly at all.
The other nice thing here is the sheer quantity of music. Maybe it's the mood, but this tape feels like it sets the cruise control to 50 and just rides on and on. Like J.D. Emmanuel jamming with Don Cherry circa Brown Rice and Damo Suzuki (who showed up just to set the mood). Really nice, and two-sided for maximum pleasure cruising. Summer's arrived at last, and these last two Housecraft offerings set the tone magnificently. Adorned with more typically rad Astin artwork as well.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Alright, another one from that latest Roll Over Rover batch, and this time another split, a format the label seems to have a real fondness for, which is nice when you can get a full side to each contributor. It's enough space for both units to contribute enough to fully represent themselves, suit and tie style, but it also creates a relationship between dudes who otherwise don't necessarily get to inhabit the same magnetic strip. Yeah yeah, I go on about this a lot, but a good match-up is never to be over estimated.
This one is actually a reunion of sorts, and it's a fitting melding of minds, as McCann's "I Frown on Sorrow, Cool and Safe" perfectly interacts with Mike Jantz's untitled side. McCann's synth opener is, as has been the case for a while with this dude, next level. Synth burbblings and string glides that get into some of the more fried realms yet explored by McCann, with a real dense and compositional approach as always. Sean recently told me he's trying to move into denser material, and I'm not sure if this is what he meant but it sure could be. Moves from space to space at a moments notice without ever slipping apart or sounding ill-conceived. Just laser decays atop bowed orchestrations that pull the eastern and western hemispheres together in time, space, and mental conscious with one fell swoop. Delta, gagaku, kraut, you name it. Layered endlessly and beautious no doubt. And, as usual with Sean, a real sense of emotive melodicism that he somehow pulls off without ever sounding contrived. Moves you with nary a nudge required, and the end reads like the soundtrack to some time-lapse footage of a cartoon garden in bloom. Wild.
McCann's is a tough one to top, but to his credit Jantz's side is no disappointment whatsoever. The peanut butter to Sean's jelly if you will. And I deem it P.B. not so much because it's any stickier, but it is a bit firmer, less squishy. Whoa, watching way too much Food Network lately... but it's about right, I suppose... slowed down and intranslatable vocal ramblings with light drones backing them before Jantz's delicate finger-picked guitar work enters to take the thing off into Fahey wanderlust zones of real beauty, bird chirps and all. Nice one to accompany your PB&J picnic, while we're on the topic... A lot of dudes can pull off the finger-picking into oblivion thing, but few do it with as much direction and odd, off-the-cuff detailings as Jantz. Take the occasional entrance of fuzz on the guitar, which comes, leaves, comes back... sounds like a mistake the first time but the repetitions just make it feel weird. Which is nice. Definitely a certain Edenic quality here, and not just due to the Messianic admiration for bird calls. Eventually the thing really starts to meander, and the difference between the stream you're laying by and the stream of consciousness you're inhabiting starts to get a bit confused. Super rounded at the edges, and it just keeps getting hazier until it turns into a super blistering zone. Another nice one from all parties involved. No surprises there.
Ye-haw cowboy! New tape batch just rolled in from this new-to-me label out of Maine called Existential Cloth. Nice little package with some pretty choice presentations, but obviously this one caught my eye first. Beautiful little package with the mesh holdster, leather info sheet and an ultra-grimy print of some dude in a wild get-up. Feels really homemade, which I always appreciate, nice and tactile-like. Not to mention that it's a North Sea tape, solo project of my own "employer," Brad Rose, head of Foxy Digitalis. Guess this review better be good...
The tape presents two side long tracks, opening with the ambiguously titled "More to More." Name might imply a pretty cacophonous trajectory here but actually this piece is totally slow and burned around the edges. Dense organ like single note drones hover around before some winds whip around like air sneaking in through the cracks of the car window on the freeway. Just can't get the temperature right, y'know? Whole thing just drifts on and on, always numb and way downer style, with nothing left un-deaded. Nice to finally get to hear this project, though bummer to realize what I've been missing...
Second side, "Remnant," is one of the more on point title's I've heard this side of "Yellow Submarine." If anything even slower and more unmoving than the previous number, though not without a certain jam sense. Hushed hum keeps things in place while whisked walls of tone move real slowly on top. Great little pitch modulations too that really give this a spaced out, neo-Jetsons lift off vibe. Ironic thing of course is that once you've undergone liftoff you're just stuck out in space, and there's not much out there. So many folks keep their eyes on the horizon, but don't they know that's a hell of a long ways away? Better to just come to terms with the nothing in front of you and wade about in it. Straight into the quasar, baby, float on. Way spare and just plain weird, making for a really nice tape for those last minutes of the day, right before the Kool Aid kicks in. Ultra limited according to discogs (only 25) and not available from the label anymore but if you see one, grab it. More to come from this label soon.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Oh man, here we go again... Stunned seems to have a knack for digging up these dirty, sludgy psych rock acts that have never been heard from in these waters before. I'm thinking Brave Priest, Kabyzdoh Obtruhamchi, etc. Phil's got a real ear for this kind of stuff, and this one is for sure no exception. Uncovered by fellow Super Mineral William Giacchi on a cross-Atlantic sojourn to Sicily, this unit is, to say the least, a real find. Presenting 11 tracks here, the tape is a complete zoner, EU style, touching on so many different facets and ceaselessly grooving into oblivion.
The tape opens with the steady pulse of "Monday Morning in Ragusa," whose timpanic drum beat and shattered shell rhythms lope along while melodica, guitar, and who knows what else rides the wave behind them. Like if Augustus Pablo met Parson Sound in a firehouse, if you catch my drift. And that's just the beginning."Flight from Babylon" almost reads like an Angus MacLise work played on some repetitive, manic-inducing loop before it slips away into the slow burning cruiser of "Black Leaf," which elicits much the same mentality (aka "get loose") as Sabbath's own leaf homage. Clearly referencing a different plant here, but the effects sure sound similar. Giacchi's production really stands out here too, allowing everything to slip into itself, creating a warm central stew whose edges are adorned with jangling rhythmic punctuations, guitar arpeggiations and whatever else makes its way out that far. Totally effective for the unit's sound, leaving a hot and sticky enough center to really take you to where the band's head seems to be at.
Covering every tune here is actually way too daunting, every one being a winner and all. But I can say that, whereas I tend to think that less is more in terms of numbers of songs in this kind of musical setting (generally indicating extended time slots for each workout) this one moves along super nicely, each diddy sliding into the next, fading in, fading out, like some endless beach party barn burner. And it's not even THAT out there, making it all the more disappointing that there will never be a day where I'll turn on the radio and hear some Silver Bullets accompanying my summer travels. "Il Punto," the second side's opener, emerges out of the fog with fists raised, finding some odd space between 80s new wave synth and total Ratt style metal stomper, plus a whole bunch else mixed in for good measure... really tough to get a grasp on the full effect here, but it's certainly got its eye towards the sky--careful not to burn the retinas though, you'll need those to oggle the airplane crash instruction-style cover art with faces mixed together ad infinitum. Which is how many times you should jam this tape. "Shiva," "74 Dream," the closing "Ascent." Each is an example of just how good it can get, riding every riff on into its heated core. Is it fate that these two institutions got hooked up with one another, or just downright proper? Both, I suppose. Sold out from the label (understandably) but do seek elsewhere. Ultra win.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Here's a label I've been trying to get to for a while now. Way back in the day, Cloud Valley offered to put out a Herons tape--our first request!--and, though we have not as yet returned the release (hope the offer's still available...) it's a label I've been keeping an eye on ever since I managed to pick up Sean McCann's Phase Pools. Lost the disc of course, so whoa is me and whoa is the blog, no review and, more sadly, no jams. Saw this one up on Housecraft's site though and snagged it, figuring I'd restart my Cloud Valley (now, it seems, Maggot Valley--what a change of pace that name switch is...) relationship.
Of course I was plentifully rewarded for my purchase with this one. Hadn't heard of Thoughts on Air, but Xiphiidae's stuff is damn near untouchable in my book, so what the hey?! Turns out the whole thing is a total burner of course, with Thoughts on Air's side opening with some weird little vocal chanty thing for a hot minute, nice and canvas-like, before sprawling its materials out across the floor and letting them mingle as they see fit. Definite undercurrent of hostility here despite what is essentially a drift onward attitude, with synth stuff intermingling with a slowly encroaching guitar line whose interest no sooner signals the end of the track before taking off on its own circuitously meandering route. Especially nice example of this sound here, totally untethered and allowed to bounce about with some heavy delay throwing things off kilter. For sure a lay on your floatie in the pool feel here, though the weirdness factor might start getting to you in combination with all that sun. Wild and, soon as you've settled in without getting your shorts wet, another little miniature pops in. Blown out whispers are the signifier here, with a definite Amon Duul Wolf City era feel, kind of a basement folk thing but way more adventurous and alone than most of that stuff. Truth be told I wish some of these little things would go on longer, but that's hardly a complaint now is it?
Xiphiidae's side is, as per the usual, lovely and strange and removed in its own, in touch way. Opens with some thick guitar swells that layer about while contact mic'd little stirrup sounds come and go without much care. Always something cosmically grounded about this moniker's stuff, though safe to say this one keeps its head up a bit higher than usual. Cause birds are as wonderous as earth worms I suppose. Whereas the first side of the split couldn't stop moving, this one can't seem to budge, setting up its locale and sticking with it. Odd motor hums come and all sorts of field recorded moments, but the overall effect is one of a deeper submersion into the thing first presented. It's just that as the details become clearer the reality reveals a certain level of brutality. Eventual hum and sizzle meet in some factory just on the outskirts of the town we started on, with clouds of smoke and kiln rumbles galore. Heavy stuff, slow and steady. This one's a real winner, great split for both acts--Xiphiidae's tells a real story while Thoughts on Air is a minor revelation, with hopefully plenty more to come from that source. Nice.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Another one from Frank Baugh's Kimberly Dawn label, this time from someone working under the name Old Rig. Had a tape out on Digitalis, but other than that I know nothing about the dude, except that this is one gnarly little platter. Gnarly good and just plain old gnarly really. Two cuts here, each running about ten minutes, but way more zones touched upon then that. Super weird and spaced.
First track opens super ruggedly, with electronic babble and odd, nauseating undulations bending all over the map. Totally wiley and way off balance, it's really quite the opener for the thing, especially considering the dry suburban sameness on the cover. Definitely a trapped kind of scene here until this gentle humming gets laid atop, appearing to stretch the tape jumps out into a kind of ambience before ttoally submerging intot he dream atmospherics. Keeps moving further into bliss land for a bit, droning on before crumbling again, swaying back toward the white hum and ultimately just sort of fizzling out. Wiley.
Next track starts from the wreckage of the first, presenting some white noise loops that sizzle patiently for a bit before synth meanderings lead it out of the dust and into the gust, lazily spilling over and letting all that silt drag itself across the landscape while an easy little whistling meanders about, eventually growing into full on genie-style dementia. Like a swarm of people-faced bugs singing tiny melodies to you while you sit on the porch and let it all calm itself. Nice tunage, hope there's more out there from this dude.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The duo of Sindre Bjerga and Jan-Morten Iversen have been at it for a few years now, constantly touring and releasing their own brand of sizzled noisescapes as they further hone their distinct version of fried. Here, the duo team up with Stunned, laying down one half hour-plus track originally performed at La Generale in paris by Radio WNE. Meaning that this is not only a major performance from the two, but an excellently sounding one, perfect for sound artists engaging in this level of detail.
Of course the detail is not without its more obvious moments either. Always intricate, Bjerga/Iversen never get so minute with their work as to render it unaffective. Rather, they seem to work within the realms afforded them by thick electronic blitzes of sound. Starting slowly, the duo move toward a static, grating run that sounds like a wireless radio signal in a blizzard, totally warped stuff. Lately the National Geographic channel at my house has been layered with noise, so you get these broad sweeping shots of safari accompanied by disrupted signal. Reminds me of this a little, like the source material is totally straight forward but the result is whacked out a good ways. Eventually the thing gains some momentum, using a repeating bassy mutter to give some guidance to the sparkling hiss below. But still, the piece is always firmly grounded in the weird, more concerned with wrenching varieties out of their seemingly limited set-up than moving toward some horizontally situated goal line.
Taking tea-kettle hiss and dirtied scrape and blending it into a kind of hypnotizing mantra works fine, but the duo are equally adept at totally losing it, allowing the static lines to slither about. real disconnected, let the machines do the talking stuff here, right up my alley in terms of fried levels. Pretty unrelenting really, just keeps peetering along, sometimes with weird melodies buried six feet beneath the fuzz and sometimes leaving you out on a limb totally, letting you dabble in sudden pitch shifts and hollow hums. Really a signature sound from these two, and they have such a grasp on it it's pretty tough to argue with. Another stunner from Stunned, fittingly.
An expanded version of the amorphous Bent Spoon lineup, this disc features mainstays Chris Dadge and Scott Monro alongside frequent associate David Laing (that's the Bent Spoon Trio lineup) PLUS bassist Thom Golub, guitar/electronics dude Jay Crocker, and tenor saxophonist Daniel Meichel (Golub on the last two tracks and the whole sextet on the last track only). The change in lineup means that this disc has some extrmeely different dimensions on it, moving from the trio tracks to a quartet and finally to a sextet. Nice to hear the consistency in approach and the broad variety of sounds culled from it, making this one feel more like some Archie Shepp Impulse! record in terms of approach.
Soundwise though, this is all Bent Spoon. The opener gets into some pretty grooving free jazz pockets from the start, eventually pittering out into some scrape and drape sound exploration that sees Munro's electronics taking center stage while fluttering reeds and Laing's alto sputter atop like some grandfatherly cartoon engine trying to turn over. Cool beans. When everyone gets back on it, Munro's trombone lazily drawling about atop Dadge's fluttering percussion, it really comes together as its own unique improvisational sound. Same goes for track two, which finds viola, percussion, electronics and a whole mess of other scapegoats coaxing some pretty weird and wired zones out of their instruments. Remember Dadge telling me that Holy Cheever tape they did was a weird one, and given this material it's true. Much less groggy sounding stuff here. Instead, this material is super vibrant and clearly produced.
Third track sees Golub enter into the mix, though it remains unclear whether the brief raptor cry in the beginning belongs to him. A lot of this stuff enters into some weird sort of ultra-stripped down, off post-bop realms. Like an even more abstracted Monk tune or a remix of some small Mingus unit. Bass keeps things nice and lazy but really holds it down, giving the muttered trombone spelunkings real context. Dadge's drums stay just behind, playing constant catch up and keeping things just off balance. Really smart drumwork actually, never takes hold and leads the band. Stays just off to the side.
The closing track is a real burner. Finally a sextet, the thing uses its ten minutes wisely, starting with a slow groove that meanders its way about, Crocker's guitar laying down some clean and tasty licks atop the increasingly kinetic percussion. Everyone stays quite careful throughout, slowly building together, each voice finding its route until it turns into some weird Marion Brown meets John Tchicai kind of thing. Long notes and winter coats. Super nice and a great ending to another Bug Incision winner.
Here's another one from the Roll Over Rover camp. This disc presents some live material that finds Sean McCann and Old Softy/fellow Roll Over Rover head Dave McPeters in cohoots on some pretty dreamy and gentle stuff. Not sure what renders this as part of the Encyclopedia series (perhaps it's the live thing?), but placement aside, it's a swell disc for sure.
The whole thing presents three tracks, opening with a nice and lengthy drift work that sways nice and easy like, with hushed choruses and guitar sifting out across long stretches of dunes. Sounds like the soundtrack to some extended open ocean shot, or maybe a Himalayan fly-by. Real austere and lovely, and it never really changes pace either which is swell in my book. Just continues further into the wee hours of some endless night.
If anything, the second track is even sparer. Reads almost like Loren Connors accompanyiing 1/2 on Music for Airports or something, only without any of the overtly vocal elements of 1/2 or any of the folk referencing of Connors. So really not much like either I guess... still, the feel is there, with this beautiful hollowed out sound that pushes a lot of air around between gusts, allowing the dust to settle between each draft. Still as they come, like hearing the echoes of some lonely church organist playing into the night.
The final track is the longest here at over twenty minutes, and given the time allotment it ends up being the busiest as well. Though in comparison, that's not really saying much. Nice gasps of blown out synth tone and warm shuddering guitar work that builds into a pretty deep set of reverberating pockets that reflect any light shown on them. Lovely new new age style stuff, though far hazier than a lot of those dudes get. Actually kind of has a similar feel to Xiphiidae or something despite a pretty different sound than that. Nice one and another scorcher--midnight style this time--from this latest ROR batch. Souled out from the label, but check the usual spots.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Was just settling down to write a review for that Riggs tape on Unverified Records, Amazed Nova, when I realized it's not even out yet, so I'll wait on that one till it's good to go I guess. Good opportunity for me to sink my teeth into this new batch I got from Sparkling Wide Pressure's Frank Baugh and his young label, Kimberly Dawn. Actually didn't realize Frank was who he was till I got the batch, but I was thrilled to figure it out if only because that Stunned tape he put out not too long ago really won me over.
Nice to know there's plenty more where that came from. This little 3" is broken into three tracks that apparently are based on a melody Baugh's been singing to himself since childhood. Opener starts with some rambling guitar folk stuff with blissed vocal melody lines that definitely exert a certain hazy summer sound before they slip back in favor of crunchy hiss and hollow synth drone. Slowly building it back up, the whole thing drifts out into some pretty zoned spaces, somewhere between the pitfalls of brethren past and the forest of brethren future. Nice stuff that carves out some pretty insular and engaging zones.
The second track's odd pitch-shifting twangs squirm about pretty wiley-like, almost like a prettier and more restrained Riggs line actually--same sense of playful experimentation. The shining hum above it keeps it all pretty grounded though, nice and simple, and wholly effective in that, even as guitar swallows it up, redirecting it toward the sun. The last track, with odd echoing vocals emerging from some deep crevice, further pushes things into the weird. An oscillating high end drone decentralizes the thing while it builds, closing in on straight compositional post-rock without ever getting close enough to lose the strengths it has. Nice disc, and a 3" that manages to explore some disparate material even given the time constraints. More to come from this outfit for sure.
Here's another disc from Chris Dadge's Bug Incision label, and this time around it's Chris in a duet with baritone saxophone/bass clarinetist Shane Krause. With Dadge on percussion, violin and amplified objects, the sound treads toward the starker side usually, never straying too far from what seems to be more or less the signature Bug Incision sound. Sort of a meeting between AACM and AMM I guess...
Broken into eight tracks, the disc actually reads like a series of demos in a lot of ways, showcasing one outtake from a given session before moving on to the next. Which isn't to say that there's not room for the two to expand here; many of the tracks are over five minutes long. Just that the duo play with such conviction that they are able to sustain a given locale long enough to fill those five minutes without losing their grasp.
Take the opening "Dearce," whose clattering percussion and restrained baritone play--sometimes honking, sometimes shimmying across Dadge's violin strums--fill the 7-minutes easily before the following "Dierce" (I suppose another spelling of the same pronunciation of the first track, a theme which runs throughout) gets a tad heavier, Krause's sax now billowing runs of notes behind pitter-pattering kitchen sink percussion. The sound is certainly mobile, but also refreshingly unpretentious or precious. Instead the play is filled with excitement, reading as fun alongside its clearly well conceived and realized ideas. Same goes for "Deirce," (there's that title thing again) which falls into an extremely hushed, albeit active, sonic realm. Nothing here stands out so much despite quite a lot of activity, Krause's horn squeaking above grating violin runs that all sound like they're being played from beneath some giant weighted blanket. Strange and super effective.
Following that up is "Pearse," "Pearce" and, you guessed it, "Peirce." The first keeps things fairly subdued, slipping into some odd metallic grunts before the second begins quietly before unwrapping itself a tad. Krause's bass clarinet play on the last track is warm though removed, a strange and effective space for the instrument to reside in atop the ruffled percussion of Dadge. "Traice" and "Traese" close the disc with some of the more cohesive material here, really displaying the duo's chops at something resembling straight free jazz, though certainly a bare and explorative example of that genre. Super great, alongside everything else I've heard from the label so far. Limited to 75 too, so grab it quick.
Also in from Brainwashed:
A basement pioneer in his own right, J.D. Emmanuel has had a resurgence of sorts in recent years, making his a real synth Cinderella story. Spurred by a record collector who suggested he post his work on the internet, Emmanuel's 1982 Wizards was soon reissued by Bread and Animals' Lieven Martens, whose own Dolphins into the Future project is among many currently drawing inspiration from the meditative arpeggiations practiced by Emmanuel over 25 years ago.
This collection draws on a number of unreleased tracks from Emmanuel's most fertile period, offering an array of examples of his distinctive stylistic mastery. Ordered more or less sequentially, the disc offers a fine demonstration of the artist's trajectory. Opening with the placid and gentle drones of "Movement into Lightspeed," played on an organ with an Echoplex and reel deck, the work soon grows in complexity until the closing 22-minute track, "Changeling," featuring four synths at work. In between lies a body of work whose importance is far greater than its notoriety.
Emmanuel's main cue and most obvious influences lie in the minimalist composers. Much of his work has the distinct feel of greats like Steve Reich and Philip Glass as arpeggiated tones are gently modified through the consistent warmth of his synth tones. Yet it is likely Terry Riley's shadow which looms largest here, as Emmanuel displays a penchant for conjuring the spiritual strength in repetition. Swaying effortlessly, "Sunrise Over Galveston Bay" has synth lines drifting atop field recordings of waves, a tactic whose overuse is rendered obsolete here due to the piece's humble simplicity.
"7 Note Trance" is, as suspected, a pulsing body of arpeggiated tones (seven of them, I would believe...) that ebb and flow ceaselessly forward while the aptly titled "Grandioso" finds a medium tempo urging along a regal space age procession. Each use a highly different in approach but the feel is of a fully realized and unified musical voice. The stoned pitch modulations of "Through Inner Planes" may well be the least tangible work here, but it still manages to fit comfortably into the bigger picture presented here.
While some of Emmanuel's earliest experiments are present on Solid Dawn, they sound right at home next to more constructed works like "March of the Colossus," a patient and brooding space filled with austere lines that would find themselves fitting snuggly between Reich's "Four Organs" and Paul Bley's electronic keyboard work. "Whirlwind" takes off even further, pulsing outward in continuous lines of sensual colors.
Emmanuel's recent rediscovery has proved to be an important factor in the emergence of a burgeoning New Age aesthetic practiced by units such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Steve Hauschildt and countless others. His influence may yet reach its height and works such as these serve as important reminders of the links between much basement drone and minimalist composition. Emmanuel himself may well come to resurface as one of the most important bridges between them if albums of this quality continue to emerge.
Humorous though their name may be, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer actually sounds like anything but. Primarily the duo of wm.Rage and Stan Reed, this collection pulls from several out of print releases while also adding two unreleased tracks. Call this fine collection a "best of" if you want, but be warned: this is some brutal material. Perhaps "best of the worst" would be more apt.
Let it be known though that these two do what they do extremely well. The seven tracks presented here each see the duo expanding the definition of blackness, seeking out its various manifestations and finding new examples lying between the cacophonic blood-boiling noise found on the first untitled track and the brooding and spare scrape soundscapes found on the second track, also untitled.
More or less everything else here falls somewhere in the middle of these two approaches, the duo always finding new ways to intermingle their gutteral vocals, oscillators, tapes, guitar and bass. "Genocide" finds a vocal bellow on par with some dinosaurs while high-end oscillators ring about in richly textured pools of mud. It may be harsh but the layers intermingle fabulously, and even the noise newcomer could find elements of interest to lose themselves in here. It is one of the finest demonstrations of the group's sound presented on the disc. "Maggot" crackles like coals sizzling in some lava pit in Sumatra while avalanches roll about above. The sound is certainly an ugly one, but ambient elements are present, and the sheer level of action keeps the piece on its toes throughout.
Whereas many of the tracks here feel like a compactor squishing various noise tactics into one another, the fifth untitled track is truly a dark ambient work, gliding along menacingly while wagon wheels and feedback shoot shards of color into the piece, if only momentarily. The patient control exhibited is one of the group's strengths, as they exhibit their interest in unified works rather than all out blow-you-away noise.
The centerpiece of the disc is no doubt found in the 17-plus minute "Borre Fen/Untitled." Beginning in a drifting netherworld of screeching tapes, the piece builds from musique concrete openings into a bleak post-apocalyptic portrait before descending into complete bone-sucking mayhem. The work moves through so many spaces that it is difficult to touch on all of them, though it does take the shape of a mini score of sorts, each scene represented with fine dexterity and finesse. The closing untitled track is a harsh high end palette cleanser, securing the group's position as dark noise practitioners of the highest degree, far more closely aligned to artists such as Cousins of Reggae or Spykes than Sunn 0))) or even Robedoor.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Alright, last review of the day. Got a couple bonuses in the mail from Jeff when I made a recent purchase of some Housecraft related items, and I dug them both so much I figured I'd give em the write-up. I'd never heard of either group--the Tuluum being the other--but this tape is a real jangly situation, which come summer time is right where I want to be generally.
The thing opens with lots of weird little quasi-free jazz flute action buried among some bending string lines and broken mirror drones. Nice vibe here, hovers just out of reach like some bright orange object in the sky. Still as can be really, considering the amount of movement going on in it. Actually, the whole tape is only 20-minutes, so it reminds me a bit of that last Josh Burke I got from Housecraft. Ten minutes a side works surprisingly nicely, giving the group enough time to pace themselves without losing one's ability to pay attention to it. Though I suppose often times that's the point... still though, here there's enough to pay attention to that getting lost seems less ideal than simply coexisting in intrigue. Eventually slipping into a more hollowed out portion of the valley, the piece is full of lush opacity and gentle body sways. Funny little piano closer too, fits right in and serves to really make the ten minutes feel full.
The following side is, if anything, even lighter fare, sounding almost like some way slowed down "Pharaoh's Dance" or something. Really soft and easy, this is some rest by the gardens of antiquity and sip of the nectar of the gods shit. Just as effective as the first side, the thing rolls along with ease, never skipping a step or missing a cue. Just lazy river accompaniment. That is until, surprise of surprises, this steady pulse comes out of nowhere, like some hyper techno bass drum beat just sliding about among variations on itself. Spaces the thing way out and turns it into a super weirdo basement sound in about a second flat, the thing just gesticulates about for a bit before receding back to where it came from, soft as before. It's a surprise for sure, but one that really makes the brief stay within the album unique. Some of the nicest stuff I've heard this year and limited as hell (to 50 that is) so grab one.
Ah yes, the new Stunned batch already descendeth and it's (as per usual) a scorcher to the nth degree. Figured I'd start off with this one, whose package is a fine representative of this new, gestural depiction theme. Have a few things by this guy as well slated for review, including a split from Roll Over Rover with Sean McCann.
Whereas most of the stuff I've heard from the project is quite twinkly and light, this sounds out with some darker guitar work on "The Last Day of Spring." Bouncing punctuations drift out among a haze of tone that's right there with a lot of the earthier drone stuff coming out now a days. For this stuff with me, the proof is always in how the artist uses the elongated time structures to create a whole greater than the sum of its distinct parts, and Black Eagle Child's Michael Jantz has a way with sitting on his palette and subtly shifting its contents. Nothing feels forced whatsoever here which is always a nice way to go, just drifting outward in shrouds of purple mist whose warm contents sinuously weave themselves into quite the etherworld. There's a certain dementia here, with delayed beats seeping into one another atop a lazy keyboard line that sounds dead as leaves crunching underfoot. Real spaced out stuff here, great for hammock hangouts and no-noggin activities. "Invented Lives" encroaches slowly from behind the blanket to present some finger-picked guitar that flows delicately and with nary a care in the world.
The B-side is split between three tracks, opening with the super eerie "Outside the House Behind the Sky," a nice title considering the sense of dangerous wonder conjured here. Jangling guitar and feedback mix with ominous, clouds rolling over the hills feel. Some real depth presented here in terms of mood, subtle and emotive without being stodgy. Even some bowed strings here too me thinks, which only increases the Appalachian cloud beast vibe here. "Made-Up Name" gets even more hollow, though Jantz akways manages to keep things a bit delicate and unpronounced. Still, some pretty empty drone work here that brings about the demise of the album's total placidity, humming along with righteous continuity before "Grass Swaddle" etches out its own version of an oasis, glittering oil slicks over hot yellow sands. Totally beautiful stuff, total winner yet again from Stunned.
Emeralds are, at this point, about as well established as any band from this scene has gotten, and given their sound that's no surprise. But equally well respected are the various members' solo works, and perhaps none of them has been more prolific of late than guitarist Mark McGuire. Had the pleasure of booking him down at school for my last show this spring (along with a bunch of other slayers!) and then ran into him at No Fun Fest on Sunday where I picked this up. Special mention should actually be made: fellow Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt's entire set-up got jacked from a van at said festival along with Raglani's, so if you know anything or want to help out these deserving dudes click here.
But anyway, on to more positive matters. This disc, split into three extended solo improvisations, features McGuire's signature post-rock build-ups while minimizing the proggy leanings that so much of his output has. While a lot of McGuire's stuff reads like the guitar part to an Emeralds song before inevitably building into some heavy momentum stuff, this one starts with a fuzzed out opener on "Dream Team 1." Almost Sonic Youth-y sound here, though much less constructed as distorted riffs intermingle and loop around one another before McGuire's vocals slip in to infuse some melody into the mirage. Quite lovely and unapologetically pretty stuff. "Different Light" follows up with a gloomier take, as thick oscillating drones move through some dense circuitry on their way toward the skies. Reminds me a bit of McGuire's playing on that Skyramps disc, totally epic wash whose parts are spread far outward before tiny little steel pan melodies formulate themselves sin the background like little dust mites congregating into an army. Whole thing clears itself eventually too, which only makes it more exquisite a journey.
The final track, "Dream Team 2," opens sounding more like much of the other McGuire stuff I've heard as fractured pieces with plenty of space are pieced together into a kind of post-minimalist, post-Cluster sound (yeah yeah, same associations everyone makes but you gotta admit that it's right on target...) that somehow ebbs its way into some celestial worlds all its own. I have to say, watching McGuire construct his set at Bard really makes all of this that much more interesting to listen to--his control is absurd, but never sterile, and his playing touches on so many realms that it enters itself into some next level areas. Drifting and lovingly constructed work that continues to build upon this already impressive dude's output. Super nice dude too, if you ever get a chance his shows are not to be missed. Put out on Emeralds' own Wagon label too, always a winning combo.
Rolling right along here, this time continuing with the Bug Incision batch I got from Bent Spoon's Chris Dadge a ways back. Chris actually sent me an album that Ben Hall had given me way back that I had intended to cover but had lost, so it's nice to have a second go at this. A duo comprised of violinist Mike Khoury and Hall himself, this is some real shit, and manages to fit right in with the Bug Incision sound that's beginning to emerge.
Broken into five extended tracks, the duets are super tight and carefully conceived. From the opener, Khoury's lines draw themselves outwards from Hall's colorful percussion, meeting somewhere between AMM style improv and strange other worldly alien sounds. The first track alone moves between these various realms, opening in some lowercase style action, each instrument taking full part in the proceedings before splaying apart and drifting into what sounds like vocal drones and violin lines refueling the piece at every turn. When Hall comes back in on drums the work closes itself out with a kind of restrained fire music, totally strange and really impressive stuff.
Every track here's a winner though. The second piece opens with some timpani style thuds and ricochets met with cymbal taps and slow violin stretches. Khoury's got a knack for exploring the more embittered sonic potential of his instrument without losing any mobility or expressive potential, and he keeps this on display throughout here, spreading out across the neck and loosely drawing the bow while Hall's always thoughtful punctuation ruminates before reverberating into alien sound waves. Third track starts super stark, but Khoury's violin line almost recalls some Eastern European folk melody or something while the fourth features some fine solo work from Hall, who never fully unleashes a torrent but rather paints a picture of some odd ritual, especially toward the track's end.
The final track is probably the sparest presented here, with little extending beyond a hushed stream of improv. The duo never really let rip like they can here, and instead seemed more focused on constructing a logical whole. When this is the case, especially with musicians of this ability, the results are marvelous. There's this hyper-tense strain running throughout as the two tightly interlock their styles and paly off one another. It doesn't get much more intimate than this. One of the best so far this year in my book.
Alright! I finally have a minute to hunker down and right some reviews for the blog rather than Foxy or elsewhere, and given the backlog of stuff that's accumulated I'm psyched to be back at it. Figured I'd start with this number, which Sean McCann sent me a ways back from the new batch of his own Roll Over Rover imprint. Truth is I've been listening to all of these on repeat for a couple weeks now, but, as this may just be the best of the bunch which, I might add, is really saying something.
Opening side belongs to Ugly Husbands, better known as co-Roll Over Rover head Stewart Adams, whose Faith of the Family debut was quite the intro some time ago. Total change of pace here though, as we enter from the get-go into some spaced out vocal and guitar riff dronery on "Daisy," which reads a bit like some more placid and parred down Skullflower sound, edges rounded off and everything. Tough to decipher much but the effect is wonderful and the cassette fidelity really adds to the mix, keeping everything raw without losing its warmth. "March of the Army of the Potomac" gets into some super weird toy detunings and warbling tape stuff that retains the weird factor without rehashing the same ideas. Nice acoustic guitar meanderings here as well including some lazy back porch banjo picking from McCann. Like Fahey playing to Dolphins into the Future or something? "The Living Sea" also keeps tings drifting, with nice vocal and guitar meshing that's hazy as hell. Extremely blissed and psychedelic stuff without being overtly druggie in any way, which I suppose is a nice change of pace. More like some weird loner basement psych disc where the vocals are just out of reach enough for them to become truly effective, y'know? Same goes for the closer, "Cake for Mr. Hudson Pt. I & II," which takes a good part of the side and really is more of a gigantic sound crevice than anything, with dark vocals and burned bass blowout taking off toward parts unknown. Nice.
Old Softy's side is entirely untitled, but also represents a new angle for Dave McPeters, whose Wrestling was a fine little tape indeed. Also opening with a drone side of vocal and guitar, McPeters' take on the opener is far gentler, a strange mix of whispered rainfall that goes far beyond the sum of its parts. I still think a lot of the strength here is in these dudes' willingness to record to tape, which really leaves all the cliches too far buried for them to be applicable. Instead everything oozes together, making for some truly zoned out and genuinely beautiful material. McPeters works out from it too, easing it down to settle in the tides before restarting with a bass billow and some hollow, voluminous realms. Real creepy stuff that reads a bit like if MV/EE slowed down and spaced out even more. Just serendipitous little meetings of ultra sluggish song structures. Really effective again.
And really the same goes throughout here. Each piece in the hour presented depicts a variation on these guys potential, serving as fine opportunity to slip into their unique sound. These three dudes (McPeters, Adams and McCann) all seem to be working in close cahoots, and the results are nothing short of radness. Only 100 of these put out, and as far as I can tell they're the only ones in the batch not yet sold out which blows my mind. Each one has a handmade collage for a cover, so they're all different and as near as I can tell super great. Posted the set of four depicted above cause it's got mine ("moo moo") on it. Totally stellar split outing, unified sound and enough versatility to keep things moving.
And one more from Foxy Digitalis. More on the way today as well.
A massive double LP offering, “Time Canvas” reissues a 2007 CD-R from Johan Gustavsson’s Tsukimono project to beautiful effect. Gustavvson’s spare dronescapes, often derived from loops of a single instrument, are given the treatment they deserve with four sides of rich vinyl housed in a dark heavy cardstock shell.
The strength of the outer package is made clear as soon as the needle touches down, as “Blown Away” opens with a subtly building drone marked by its cautious sensitivity and spacious outlook. Air-filled though it may be however, the piece hardly drifts along without weight, instead filling the skies like some giant zeppelin slowly cruising the spaceways. “Train Home, Home” has the same shimmering effect, lightly meshing soft rhythmic punctuations with clicks and string bends that don’t so much drone as drift.
The side-long “Cello,” made up of looped drones from--you guessed it!--cello serves more or less as the album’s centerpiece. At twenty minutes, it is not only the longest piece here but also the lushest, as the instrument’s full tones are splayed apart before recombining themselves in tonal lines of orchestral depth. I suppose the major reference point here is Feldman, but these are less precious than the composer’s dainty works. Though I suppose “Rothko Chapel” isn’t too bad a reference point, especially those choir lines.
“Growing Like a Cancer Within” uses a horn of some type, once more exhibiting Gustavsson’s knack for combining electronic techniques and acoustic instruments into a work that uses both sources’ inherent strengths; the electronics deal in an extension of time while the acoustics retain a sensitivity of expression often lacking in strictly electronic drone works. “When I Vibrate it Hard” and the bonus track, “Tiresome Tireless,” are a bit more restless than the rest of the album, but only internally. The same sense of still exudes everything here. An evening album if ever there was one, each piece here is as delicate and sensitive as the last, a perfect example of its approach. Even comes with a free digital download, which I guess is all the rage lately. Only 525 copies releases on this though, so count yourself lucky if you are one the chosen few.
Another from Foxy Digitalis:
Italian dream team Fabio Orsi and Valerio Cosi reconvene here for their second duo album, combining their significant talents on four extended excursions into drone/kraut/free form followings that reach toward the horizon with a similar tendency as many droners. The difference here lies in the compositional aspect of the structures laid out here, as the duo exhibit an understanding that no matter how far one look, the horizon is always further down the road.
The disc opens with the first part of the two-part “The Frozen Seasons of Lysergia,” whose glistening drone opening is soon met with Cosi’s loping drums and vocal utterances. The production keeps everything clear and contained, maintaining a politeness in the material that is far removed from the more addled take of many similarly minded musicians. Same goes for “Thoughts,” whose dense and ceaselessly shifting opening drone gains momentum with soft cymbal taps before disrupting itself entirely and slipping into the rapids themselves, wherever they may lead.
“Melt in the Air” has a similar slant, with hints of a chorus bent out of order blissfully bellowing beneath a breathy melody line whose intangible processes sway just out of focus. The whole thing moves on for quite some time before building itself into quite the toe-tapper for a minute, like some acid-drenched polka jig before receding back into its translucent origins.
The closer is the second part of “The Frozen Seasons of Lysergia,” and its radio sample beginnings soon drift apart into hums of glass house floor layers. Though everything’s right in front of you, it’s never easy to locate or grasp, ceaselessly evolving into piano tinklings, sax anti-melodies and a trance-like vibe more in line with Gas than Eno. Beautiful stuff, though almost too much to ingest in one bite.
One from Foxy Digitalis:
Billed as the 905 house band, Wether is the solo project of Mike Haley, whose penchant for dirt encrusted cement atmospheres places him squarely in the deepest trenches of squalor-inducing noise practitioners. Split into two sidelong tracks, the album is a perfectly decrepit example of unforgiving sound adventures.
The first side belongs to “In the Belly of a Mountain,” whose tar black opening recalls the bleak sound of the Michigan practitioners like Sick Llama or Body Morph, only with a severely damaged tendency toward continuous rupture. Black expanses careen outward with abandon, etching charcoal lines in various shades of grey before teetering high end scrapes its way above the minefield. Really mobile and active stuff, though not for the faint of heart.
The following side belongs to “Holy Smokes,” a fitting title given the billows of smog ingested throughout. Grim material that manages to navigate the grounds between “what the fuck is that air-conditioner sound?” weirdness and heaving, almost orchestral dramatics. Buried somewhere beneath the debris there’s a softness here, its shimmer always caught out of the corner of the eye. Like some crystal wedged far up your vacuum cleaner and the only way to get at it is to crank up the power and hope it gets sucked in to the bag. Tough to find once all that dust’s built up though. Another nice one from 905, really dark and immersive stuff.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Here's another Foxy Digitalis review. Sorry it's been so slow, just graduated and moved back home so the reviews will come shortly.
Maxime Primault’s Enfer Boreal project has been busy of late, proving itself to be a far-reaching aesthetic guise equally comfortable in slow and graceful drone drift and noisier excursions into fuzzier waters. This release follows in the former’s realm, presenting two sides of arpeggiated cosmic binocular soundtracking whose brooding underbelly retains the mystery that goes hand-in-hand with discovery.
The first side opens with a lulling back drone, over which a series of guitar and synth lines are patiently overlaid like sheets of color. There’s something quite visual about all of this, especially considering the depth achieved by the spacious emptiness that exudes from the background of the tape. There are a number of pieces presented here, each with its own feel, and actually the results are quite far reaching. The second track’s static hum and fan belt pulse gently swell into a numb stagnation that briefly counteracts the delayed naturalistic vibe of the following track.
The flip side’s first track features a low bellow recurring beneath a tinkling seashell clatter. Very patient and immobile atmosphere conjured here, that walks a fine line between relaxed drone discourse and a kind of proto-industrial field recording. It’s this line that keeps Enfer Boreal’s stuff so compelling and, though this isn’t my favorite Enfer Boreal release—with little time afforded to each piece, the works never reach their maximum effectiveness, it seems—it’s as good an introduction to the projects various sonic guises as any.