Monday, July 27, 2009
A new label out of Gainesville, formed in the wake of Housecraft frontman Jeff Astin's departure as a means of continuing the seemingly fertile action down there I suppose, Vanishing Hour Revival is headed by Evan, whose first batch features this, a tape of him and David Toro's unit Antigua Ibis. Gotta say when Evan got in touch with me I knew from the get-go I'd be into it, what with the gorgeous cover art on all three releases in the first batch and the general atmosphere of goodness surrounding all things Xiphiidae. Bold move to have catalog numero uno a vinyl too, but they did such a beautiful job on that one, seriously, go pick it up. That'll get the review soon too for shiz.
For now though I though I'd stick with this little one, a stripped down affair far more concerned with sway and bend then plug and grind modes of mystery. First side kind of slips in and out of focus, crystal bowl loops and keyboard twinkles blowing out in hums of iridescent light hung from white fixtures dangling effortlessly from fishing line. Periodically drifts from subtle winds too, letting the warm glow find all corners of the empty space it inhabits, fueling the growth of the weeds coming in through the cracks. Not so much concerned with totally losing it, the tape lets its understatement lead the noggin into far off realms of dreamy conga lines and ecstatic gestures of relief made lackadaisical by their distance in time. Voices come and go, lines like spikes through the canvas of time before switching off and entering another space entirely, replete with bird chirps and hog grunts while streams fuel forests of insect activity. Interesting stuff for sure, and strange/alien enough that the new agey elements serve a purpose and don't become plodding.
Flip side is a bit more blustery in nature, with meandering keys dabbling among wind strewn dunes and elderberries. Nice sand piper vibe here that's totally content traipsing about in search of microscopic crustaceans, all the while the clouds darkening and the waves frothing whiter and whiter. Starts to bring in a real eerie stance over its course, giving a full tidal go of it that exudes abandonment and small natural moments looked at with utter fascination. Very little necessary here, and they stick with it wisely. Like some lonely young brunette nestled in the sand and watching the very waters that Dolphins into the Future inhabits. A nice flip too, gives the tape an edge of melancholy that adds a lot of depth to the material as a whole, contributing to these being a real winner of a first batch. Basking stuff.
Another nice split from the House of Alchemy label, presented like Rambutan/Chapels number in a super stripped down and ultra classy cover. This time around it's the label leader himself in cohoots with Gown, whose exploits are well known and always glowing. A brief number--only 10 minutes a side--means that both efforts have to be even more focused. Neither falters of course, and these two sides burn with a real glory.
First side belongs to Gown, aka Andrew MacGregor, member of Bark Haze, whose "Early Morning Missing" finds intertwining, molten lines meshing into a string twanging call to arms. Steady and smoldering stuff, it's pure guitar catharsis here, gliding rumbles buried under ringing smatters that coalesce into polygons of gray crisscrossing over flattened landscapes. Parts sound like they were unleashed from some underground vault, prehistoric and new. Some unwary scientist having hit the wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it I suppose) chasm with his shovel blade and suddenly the skies were filled with primordial squall. Really lovely, and so brief as to just get your feet off the ground before dropping you back down for maximum effect. Rejoice!
Whereas the Gown side lifts its head toward the rising sun, the Chapels offering, "Ran Past 10 Dark Houses," shields its eyes from the celestial rays, instead seeking its own inner heat source by burying downward into the dark. Not that this is all nasty business, it's just a tad less open to the world at large, forming jabs in the dirt just below the decaying leaf matter and three floors above the mole men. Simmers too though, warmed by the channels of heated air blowing through these subterranean caverns. Digs its head up and smells the logs and the mulch when the moment's right too, humming its crackling melodies through the hollowed cavities until they've intercepted one another and turned themselves inside out, skewed but not entirely indecipherable. Another awesome split from the label, and one with plenty to be found in the folds. Time constraints are certainly no obstruction here, as all those ideas in such a small area makes it burn twice as hot.
Soooo many beautiful items in of late, so I'll just hit the ground running with this representative from the new Roll Over Rover batch, all of which is beautiful. This one presents the solo work of one of the ROR lads' high school friends, proudly presented as the first east coast title in the label's catalog. Being an east coast boy myself it's comforting to know that we're not excluded from the magic happening over there in Sun Land--I was beginning to feel left out.
Anyway--and wouldn't ya know it?--this lad is super capable as well, finding a nice crevice of mush to slink into that's just as blissed and blown as anything else on the label, substituting the folk/Appalachian hints of the Westies for bubbly pounding and momentous bathing. Whole thing gives off the vibe of one gigantic group bathhouse, with everyone feeling wild and soapy and totally cleansed. "Geometric Hangover (((one more likwid knight)))" sorta gargles its way forward into some leviathan stomachs, nice and warm and intestinal but also loose enough to warrant the general excitement associated with said devouring. "Constant Comet///////and the view from Istanbeach" is, somehow, a real a song, even claiming lyrical content with lines such as "One by One, Who Won?," though the whole thing slips away soon as it arrives and you could just as well decipher a word of it as you could try and screw your skull back on once its over and done with. Real pulsing noggin brainwashing undergone here. HeaV/Dy stuff.
Blackout rain coming in over here, which according to the maestro's words means that I've somehow positioned myself in the ideal listening conditions--whole thing was made during June when it rained nigh every day in New York and, being an East coaster and having some pride at stake in the matter here, I suppose that gives me a bit of a leg up here on the narrative. Or not though. The second side is just as warped, opening with "Pelican Praises it's Prey," whose looped cackle actually does resemble the lightning it's supposed to, though it sure feels a bit more super heated than anything I've seen in these summer months. Nice trickling lines drift under though, splotching the beats into submission and making it damn pretty in the process; a real cruiser if you will. "Circle Round the Son" has an equally punny (yuk yuk...) title as "Possibleye Gone Wrong," but it's a bit more grooving. I do declare, the whole second side is damn near club worthy if I do say so myself. Neon night style, only without the over indulgent drug vision--just pure, good old fashioned fun with a pitstop off at some reservoir-hidden rave. A good bit stoned maybe, but a relatively clean crowd after little more than a hot night in the Big Apple. Great. "Try Angles & Bees" drips about nicely too, caressing jagged brick-lined window panes with its muted punctuation and hazy recognition. A nice closer to a real good time. Real good. Time. Thanks to Karl Bauer aka Axolotl in there too, so you know the dude's in good company.
In from Brainwashed:
A 47-minute elegy to his daughter, who passed away two years before work began on the record, this disc offers a slow and meditative take on electronic composition. Combining field recordings with metallic vibrations, static hum and pure noise elements, Kahn is able to do a lot with what appears to be very little, conducting his own orchestra of sound in a piece whose emotional impact is garnered from its barren makeup.
When I say barren though, I certainly mean barren. The work is so slow to evolve in fact that many moments are only decipherable as different upon clicking through the piece's timetable. With this kind of cautious construction, layering the equivalent of vacuum cleaner air drawing upon airplane cabin engine noise, the work evolves slowly enough so as to take its virtually its entire length to entangling itself of each distinct moment. When distant scratches come through amidst the hiss around minute 13 it is nearly revelatory, being the most distinguishable sound yet presented. A soft hum around the 17 minute mark grounds it somewhat, imbuing it with a distinct direction for the first time, though that direction is surely a circuitous one not so much bent on arriving anywhere so much as one settling in to the old mental garden.
Yet the changes do happen, and the patience with which they do so rewards a concerted listening effort. Metal-on-metal clatter subsides in the mix almost half of the way through the work's length, sounding like a mini Gamelan orchestra playing from inside a wind turbine. Volumes are delicately adjusted, allowing details to come to the fore that, whether always present back there or not, feel to be coming from the same organism, drawing itself out through the most minute adjustments in color.
There is a sense of urgency in the latter half of the work, if only in contrast to the first half. It becomes less static and busier, with sounds rebounding around the space and jumping out from the singular static that started the work. Still, the consistency of sounds being as they are, the result is not so much busily seeking anything as it is teeming beneath its own weight, its super-heated molecules bouncing together without losing the general forms they inhabit.
It isn't until about half an hour into the piece that snippets of a discreet melody appear, though these too are so fractured as to become part of the general landscape, tickling the outer reaches of the hum with brief splashes of color. These flurries of notes not only tie the piece inward, setting the outer boundaries of the hiss buildup, but they also signal the piece's movement toward a more mechanistic and gestural sound for a time, one that has momentary flashes of a daily movement removed from the ethereal space of the work as a whole.
The final ten minutes find the work slipping back to its origins, decomposing until it is only the crackle of burning wax and a gentle airy breath of tone. Dense though it may be, the work is quite well situated and wisely done, uncompromising in its enactment without lacking beauty or finesse. There is likely no knowing just how this recording relates to its subject matter—certainly it is not in any linear manner representative of it—but there can be no doubt that this is a highly personal and well phrased statement from a musician with his ears on a singular form of sound composition.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Here's a disc I got a ways back but never got around to for whatever reason (i.e. general chaos) but that surely deserves some words. Sent to me by the group, this one is another fine example of the Bloodlust! imprint doing what they do best: long and languid affairs that tend toward the doom and gloom but always offer more in the way of general depth. Think Locrian, Prurient, Bloodyminded, etc. Well this one's no different, if even a bit more toward the light end of the spectrum, offering a nice sparkling drone work that's as well constructed as it is immersive.
"Double Gyres" opens the disc on a shimmering note, offering some real cross-current glides with some heavy electronic atmospherics thrown in for good measure. Every line is treated with real care here, always moving if ultimately stagnent. Rather than just laying all the cards down and letting them get oggled though, the duo really constructs some fine and careful stuff. Steve Fors and Chris Miller really dabble on the edges of so many mediums with this piece alone, gliding along on a chasm, the darkness below and the sun above, and a hilltop meadow right beside.
The whole disc is this good though, as the unit uses cheapo keyboards, synths, guitar (even lap steel), etc to create a sound that draws on hi and low fidelity. The Casio burnout opening "The Awful Rowing Toward God" turns into a total scorcher before charring itself out while "Klonopin" looms along some electric wire ariel currents. "We'll Wield Fire," another scorcher, sits on the crackling drones of cheapo keyboards while ultra crisp stutterings pulse ahead--the mix, recorded as well as it is here, really works to fill out the entire sound, allowing it to avoid the trappings of both aesthetics while pulling on each strength. This one really cooks too, occupying some Indiana Jones trudge ahead, grind your teeth and deal heroism. Following that with "Ondine" makes sense too, as it expands way out in a real lofty, halo fuzz that serves as a nice come down before the closing "A Vision" fades in only to scrape itself down some flood pipe with electric razors as handles. Beautiful, but a hell of a way to go out. Just sharp all around, real top notch stuff, and it looks to have been produced in some real numbers. Killer. And how bout that entangled sheep adorning the cover?
Here's the other one I got from the Bezoar folks, this time in the form of a beautifully packaged split. Combining the label house band with a project I haven't heard from, the split presents a nice document of what was surely a hell of a night. All recorded by Sean McCann too, to speak of the audience.
The first track is Sudden Oak's, and they present what is likely one of their tightest and clearest goes at it yet. Maybe it's the lack of tape hiss, but you can really pick out the sounds here, and the result is an even airier sounding grind that veers between finger-picked guitar eeriness and hollow dredges of saxophone billow. Actually, given the opening it's amazing these dude's manage to get as murky as they do--nice to know that's actually their sound and not just the recording method at work. Some reed grind makes itself clear though, and the general fidelity allows for bird calls and whale songs to find their way out of the river basin these guys dwell in. What's further, these dudes know when to pull it back down, always progressing clearly by building and, when they've gotten somewhere, cutting it off and having another go. This time it's ship bellows style with huge pumps spewing any water in the cargo area back out to sea. Totally weird and mobile, the thing goes through more realms than you can count but it always sounds distinctly Sudden Oak.
Paper Leg is the solo moniker of one Trevor Healy but man, it could just easily be two or three dudes having away at it. Muddied electronic work grinds along beneath deep saxophone breaths that really cry out from concrete padded walls. Almost an Uneven Universe/Handicapper Horns thing here but not quite. More focused and less purposefully nauseating it seems, but still a real trek into the outer reaches with hiss and piss combining into a real ball of super heated steam that gets tossed around with nary a caution. Thick stuff too, hardly any room to breath in there while this little percussive tap drives it into a frenzy that could raise mountains. Last bit is all eyes on the prize, serving as one big escalator to the sun--hot as hell up there though, and there's some unpleasant company to boot. Killer sound, damaged and unapologetically immense. Apparently this project is now a duo actually... can't imagine how big that sound is... killer split, brief but great tracks from both. The projects belong right there with one another too, and the package, again, is more than meets the eye. A lot to look at, a lot to hear.
Quick correction here which actually explains a good bit... Matt just let me know that these two pieces are actually both with all three participants playing together. Explains why that last track sounded so much a bigger band. Go figure.
After a long journey across, through and around the ol' U.S. of A. the Bezoar Formations folks returned and laid a couple of their tour items on me for review's sake. Great to see that these guys are back at it and not only that but that they seem to have continued refining their sound. I only wish I had gotten a chance to see them live with jams this good.
To be honest, I've given this one a listen a few too many times to keep track of which side is which but their both being untitled I figure I can get away with it. Whichever it is, the first side I'm listening to right now opens with some drum and thump clatter before slipping right into some alien spa realms with lurking guitar drawl and creepy atmospherics for exfoliations' sake. Real warm bath water material, with algae gripping at the sides of the spring and thriving for real. Picks up a bit actually, with some vocal/saxophone/who knows what murmur and increased tempo, but it always remains heavily soiled and mud-caked. The duo has a way of keeping things brief too, moving from locale to locale without dropping any of the mood but definitely inspecting it from a different angle. Sax air gets thrown around in some cloud constricted forest, weaving through the trees and the moss as small creatures with big eyes sprint over vines in search of prey. By the end it moves to a rocky ledge where you just lie and watch as three-toed sloths descend into the water for a slow and lugubrious wade, claws drawing their way through the water. Seriously, though, this is straight field recording it seems, lovely.
Somehow that closing makes me think that the side just reviewed is actually part deux, but I'll just go with it and move on to the next (first?) side. This one starts off in similar territory, really working the tape hiss to create a damaged and wet sound where everything collides together into a hum under which there's so much activity it's tough to keep track of. Little details emerge and dissolve from behind the buzz, giving it a feel not quite of a drone track but more of a kind of deep listening thing, maybe some La Monte Young sax and guitar duet. Just slow and steady drift that really makes for a sound I can get behind. At times the thing is so blown out it turns into cross-tundra Mastodon calls that foreshadow the massive extinctions to come. Bleak, but too blurry to be gloomy. More dream-like, one step removed from fairy hallucinations but you can still see the remnants of glittering pixie dust trickling around you from invisible flybys. It's funny, in a lot of ways the group reminds me a bit of Skaters though they're going for totally different things. But the crude tape sound creates the same kind of ambiguity, focusing on changes in the fold rather than changes of the fold. Nice one for sure. One more to come from these guys shortly.
Just in from Foxy Digitalis:
The follow-up full length to their amazing “Puff” release from a couple years back, “Local Flavor” sees the duo of Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse teaming up with the happily resuscitated Siltbreeze imprint, about as fitting a meeting as ever there was. Continuing their unique take on post-rock uniqueness, the album sees an even further refined demonstration of Blues Control’s sound, which continues to grow without losing any sense of identity.
Opening with the aptly titled “Good Morning” the album lifts right off from the starting line, shunning the meandering groove of the band’s last effort in favor of squealing guitar and pounding, Jerry Lee Lewis piano pyrotechnics that pull from so many corners of the musical spectrum it’s tough to keep count; King Crimson, Amon Duul II, aforementioned early rockers and even Fats Waller, and all this before the saxophone comes in. Of course it’s all enmeshed in a basic blues structure, but the proggy drum machine backbeat and general dimensions of the work draw this far beyond the property of mere nostalgic congealing. Rather it is a group firmly in control of their distinct sound, always playing in the present by allowing their influences to flow naturally.
“Rest on Water” follows the opener, presenting a drifting regrouping of sorts as it meanders about with a feel not far removed from Jon Hassell’s Fourth World experiments, yet still delaying off into lands wholly their own. “Tangier” finds a series of loops, vocal and synthesized, building a rhythm that, when fully formed, leads right into some Kraftwerk style synth work circa “Autobahn.” Its sense of the horizon engenders it with the kind of hopeful optimism afforded by setting its sights on the future, snaking keyboard lines and thudding, Mustang rhythms scorching towards an endless sunset for its entire eight minutes.
The closer is where things really congeal though. “On Through the Night,” the longest piece by twofold here, opens with a static and distant rhythm overlaid by organ drift and tough to pin down vocal atmospherics. Eight minutes of this often detuning, almost sickening psychedelically, which rises and drops in pitch like the sun over water, is soon met with a patient rhythmic pulse that drives the latter half deep into space, a synth melody pushing forward in tandem with guitar before slipping deep into a jungle trance. The whole thing moves from place to place so effortlessly and distinctly, it is tough to deny the clear vision of this duo’s approach.
The real genius here however is in the album’s construction. Only four tracks long, each piece is longer than the last, meaning that the final track takes up nearly half the album’s length with its sixteen-plus minute buildup. This gives the album the same subtle sense of expansion as each track individually does, broadening the disc as it eases the listener into it. Being eased in continuously throughout necessarily means that the end requires another go at it, and there is plenty to be found upon reentry.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Just in from Brainwashed:
It's no secret that Jandek is the oxymoronic title holder for most prominent musical recluse. With over 50 albums to his name in about 30 years of work, the musician has been as prolific as he has hidden. Only recently did he reveal himself to live audiences, beginning a welcome tour schedule that nevertheless has done little to diminish the mysteries buried beneath a quarter century under wraps. This, a reissue of his second album from 1981, presents for the first time since its initial pressing a vinyl copy of the album, which finds Jandek further refining his distinctly unrefined take on blues drift.
To call Jandek's sophomore effort a major step forward from Ready for the House—whose repeated guitar line carries throughout every song—would be a mistake. Indeed, the nine songs presented here all feature similar guitar ruminations as well, but with three years of work the album is slightly more dexterous in its interplay, even if the result is equally catatonic and harrowing.
The layout of the album is apparent from the opening, "Feathered Drums," which sees Jandek's detuned guitar abstracting the blues into a lonesome and highly individual interpretation. With his hollow vocals finding crevices in the guitar lines through which to sing his empty and cold poetry, Jandek's power is at once distinguishable, walking the cliched line between genius and insanity effortlessly and, better yet, genuinely. This is after all, like all of Jandek's albums, about as claustrophobically personal a music as anyone is likely to hear.
"I Knew You Would Leave" is the longest song on the album as well as its centerpiece, presenting over ten minutes of some of Jandek's most chilling and isolated dirges put to tape. Drawing out every line while his guitar punctuates certain statements with high-end twangs, the piece is utterly singular while still drawing on the emotional weight of so many other musical styles, like some twisted and dark Gospel sermon.
"Wild Strawberries" distorts the guitar line even more, proving a fine demonstration not only of how tight Jandek constrains himself in his forms, but also how much he manages to pull out of such similar material. With an almost raga-like quality, the piece glides and shifts instrumentally for an extended period before "Forgive Me" slows it down in favor of a solemn ballad. "You're the Best One" pulls as much from Gagaku and gamelan as it does folk.
Surely not an album that will win over any detractors, Six and Six is an impressive demonstration of Jandek's controlled vision. Utterly alone both in song and sound, the album is rich with depth that deserves deep and committed listening.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Here's a bomb. After what felt like an ample hiatus--just starting to mourn the loss in the form of frequent checks to the website--DNT has returned not with a fully loaded batch but with one ultra focused and fondly constructed LP from Dewey Mahood's Plankton Wat project. Probably better known as a member of Eternal Tapestry, Mahood's solo ventures have actually already been captured on the DNT imprint via a cassette from a ways back.
While that one was an ultra-serene pleasure cruise though, this one pushes against the shores a bit more. Opening with the flanging guitar of the "The Magic Citadel," a kind of paired down Burnt Hills psych number with real focus and drive, the piece is a call to arms for the rest of the album, which presents nine semi-miniatures in which one idea is essentially worked out and through and over. The title track, whose clattering free drums and guitar drift splay themselves out like the arched arms of illuminated cacti, segues beautifully into the Delta sproing and pan flute pitterings of "Song of Winter Death," whose Fahey allusions extend far beyond mere use of finger-picking. He somehow conjures the underlying weirdness as well, the uncertainties. "Shrouded Path of Enchantment Occult Blues" is a solo guitar venture that allows Mahood's spare caution to flower into a raga Renaissance blues style whose patient sense of time and restraint display a maturity far beyond the usual in this field, evolving incrementally as each successive leaf drifts to the floor. Closing out the side, "The Exiled Wanderer" finds parallel vocal and banjo lines sliding effortlessly into a sacred netherworld of Tibetan Appalachia, closing the side out with an emptiness immediately filled upon the flip.
"Sphere Within the Lotus," like the opener of the album, harkens in the side with gusto never again reached on the side. Splashes of guitars and frolicking drums mix with bells, vocals and Harper Mahood's flute for a brief cleansing of the palette before "While the Clouds Gather" takes delayed guitar into meditative drone worlds ripe with atmospherics and tender thematic painting via harp-like gracings over the strings. Resonating hairs strum by fingers as it meanders into warm winded vocal glides over the tundra on "Other Realms," building a humble cathedral of its resonant rainfall guitar before teetering inward for a bask in the light projected on the floor. Closing it out is "Voyage of the Night Pavilion," a drone and guitar piece firmly pointing toward the eternal beginning. A beautiful one from DNT and company, and a real accomplishment for Mahood. Killer package all around, glad to have DNT back.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Also in from Foxy Digitalis:
An Ontario based duo, Sunshine System Sometimes presents their debut offering, as well as their label’s maiden voyage, in the form of this mammoth hour-long offering. Initially opening with some lazy guitar drift, heavily leaning on the deckchair headboard, the sound soon takes a turn toward a more surprising hiss replete with ricocheting psych lines beneath. The deeper the guitar gets buried the more distant the back porch vibe becomes, but it does lay there in the background, creating a strong contrast between care free summer celebration and grating buzz and fuzz factory accompaniment. By side’s end any warmth is a distant memory until a bass heavy, tape-hiss infused bass jammer closes it out with slightly less arthritic intensions.
The second side’s looming opening is hardly a call to arms, but its foreboding character points toward the pursuits of the next half-hour. Slipping away though, the work becomes something of a musique concrete excursion, if not in makeup then in approach. Sounds come and present themselves behind a vast expanse of emptiness, then slip away again briefly. Soon the sounds turn into a veritable brass section of carousing, divisive horn lines billowing out and again, slipping away—of course it likely is all guitar, which makes it all the more intriguing. It’s an impressive vision, if not totally complete in realization. Still, an interesting listen whose surprises far outnumber what one might guess from the outset. Spaced stuff that travels many zones.
Just in from Foxy Digitalis:
Suddenly highly visible, especially after their winning full length “Drenched Lands,” Locrian present herein a far briefer expression of their sound. With as constrained a timetable as a 45 presents, and as expansive an approach as the duo typically partake in, it is perhaps a bit surprising that the group pulls this off so well. Yet rather than approach the format with miniaturized versions of their melancholy buildups they wisely try an entirely different approach. “Plague Journal” presents a bounding guitar line that writhes continuously, slightly changing in texture but not in build, before a haunting close with high end choral effects humming amidst buzzing electronics and oscillator runs draws things back down toward silence.
The following cut, “Apocryphal City, Portents Fallen,” with its blustery opening, is a far grimier and more bombed out atmosphere. Here the group’s typical patience is exercised, if consolidated, and the twisting guitar arpeggios lay the groundwork for a mineshaft of debris and concrete. There’s a song buried in their somewhere interestingly, but it also all feels very meditative in its repetition, though in a pretty destitute way. Never doom-y for doom’s sake, Locrian always manages to fill their work with real feeling, a kind of deep blues sadness that is far more frightening and lonely than mere blackness. This little offering only broadens the group’s potential as something far more than another Earth copyist, expounding on minimalist structures, electronics, drone and psych in the name of a forgotten future. Another piece of the puzzle, and an important one at that.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Just in from Brainwashed:
Former Black Dice member Eric Copeland has set out on his own off late, forging a highly unique sound that draws lines between pop, hip-hop, experimental and dance modes into an entrancing discourse on contemporary music culture. This, his second solo outing, further traces this at once nostalgic and futuristic musical approach ever deeper into the spaceways.
From the opening it is clear that this is not a sampling album of the usual order. Hardly as poppy as Animal Collective has become in recent outings, "King Tit's Womb" starts things with a pitch-bent vocal loop loping along atop a slowed down, street meandering beat before a bass line's funk restrains the work from being overwhelmed by the snaking fits and starts. More in line aesthetically with James Ferraro (of the Skaters) and his Lamborghini Crystal or Edward Flex projects, the piece has the same Ray Ban adorned dimentia of Ferraro's work, if a tad more giddy.
Yet the overwhelming nature of the pieces do retain this feel, pulling from seemingly any source that holds appeal in the name of a congested and highly immediate sound whose basis could only lie in the overloaded information age of today. The title track moves from short rap samplings, sprawled amongst a thick mass of bass garbble and flow, to trotting techno rhythms being manipulated to whatever sickening means are necessary.
Where many in this realm have a difficult time avoiding the trappings of a certain sound, Copeland's abilities extend themselves in his manner of treating each track as its own, forming worlds evocative of a highly varying number of moods.The celebratory chorus of pumping rhythms and crowded mumblings on "Osni" has a summer time trajectory that is highly contrasting to the go-nowhere pop malfunctioning of "Muchas Gracias." "Al Anon" is perhaps an even better of the pop album at the heart of this record, with nearly decipherable lyrics splayed over a bounding, spring-like rhythm with a chorus and everything.
At its heart the disc—actually a combination of two previously released EPs—is a party record, but one conscious of its role within that setting. Never a copyist and, conversely, a theft at heart, Copeland has fun with his material to such a degree that it becomes a distinct vision all his own, as twisted and convoluted as any contemporary head space. There's a poetry to the method it seems, but one buried far beneath the laughter accompanying it.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Last one from that new batch of Holy Cheevers, this time with the maestro in tandem with fellow acoustic destruction meister Mike Khoury. This is a duo that makes a ton of sense to me, much like the Matt Endahl or Chris Dadge tag teams, as they all come at the music from a similar stance, classically based perhaps, but far more concerned with the noises themselves than any defining mode of play.
Of course the same goes here, with the first side seeing Khoury laying down some long violin lines while Riggs' electric sort of blubbers about, mumbling down the street, increasingly, until it all just turns to spastic mouth gestures mimicking 40s motorcycle engines. Khoury responds with a nice high pitched fizz, giving a real space between the two of them while Riggs moves some furniture around from corner to corner. Pretty spare material that'll drop out on you right quick before swinging back in with some new contraption or movement spurring the action. Even some two chord repetition from Khoury--Fiddler on the Loose or something. Real dramatics here, but all ground down to dust so the remnants are all that's left. Spooky even, taking on a kind of itching melodicism equal parts Godard's Weekends and fucking Close Encounters of the Third Kind.Like being trapped in a dark box in the middle of some empty desert with only four holes to look out, one on each side, just so you can truly take in the nowhereness. Better take the finger nails to the wood and start wearing it down before the sun comes up...
Second side is more or less of a similar mind, if a bit trillier and more spaced out. Like side one as the soundtrack to deep space exploration, where purple planets reveal bat-like creatures whose propensity for flowers is only rivaled by their thirst for blood--but not Earth blood, it seems. It's all very thrown against a wall stuff, ground into the siding and revealed for its essence. Beautiful and light, but no less guttural than their other stuff. Just weaving lines of glycerin-flushed strings see-sawing over one another. Great Beetlejuice-ish tape stripes too. A swell time all around.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Got the new batch of Housecraft tapes in recently and it's a real doozy, though I gotta say it's a shame that the Jeffry Astin/Josh Burke split is as limited as it is--only 33 copies I think. It's a lovely little guy. And all the artwork on these new ones is NEXT LEVEL--especially that four-way split. Up and out on all of them. Was gonna cover the Astin/Burke split but I couldn't find any pictures of it online and the camera's back home, so I opted to go with this one, which of course is no disappointment either.
Actually a mail collabo between Astin and Dan of Excitebike/Uneven Universe/Body Morph, etc. fame, this number seems to veer toward the Excitebike side of things in terms of sheer basement cruise control zonkers. Real down and out, the first side presents "Exiter," which I assume references a total exodus of mind, body and soul. Pretty eerie scrapy, drone noise stuff that actually does a nice job of swaying between the two styles, one minute going deep into Michigan sub-aquatics and the next riding on the Xiphiidae train toward lower earth. Hope on the ganjala my friend, and trust me, you can see all the tops of the gates from way down here. Crunched and churned, singed just enough that the hairs start to smell while the razor glitches out from water damage. Nice air traffic control worshiping material, radio waves on the out and rain-drenched cloud beasts on the in.
The second side, "Flat Earth Variation," meshes the two styles even better than the first I'd say, finding a nice balance between the off kilter crustacean evocations of Jeff's stuff with the spurted brick and coat hanger chiseling of Dan. Dentist drills running on high and shoved, drill bit down, into the soil, clearing out any worms or aphids that might be a hindrance to its downward journey. Round the bend and the tape, bent toward disaster, peels itself apart in the name of crumbled cloisters of distress. Sounds like some sorrowful cow about to be sent through the hacker, the metallics not so much representing the shredding mechanism itself but the internal workings of the meat as it processes these alien soundscapes. Some beautiful bowed saxophone notes or something too, gives a kind of minor melody distress call, beached whale fever. It's a real creeper and perhaps even more together than the first side in its singular and empty outlook. A super interesting mash-up, and one that will hopefully continue as the two both bring such different elements into the mix, not so much meeting halfway as laying it all out and watching how they interact. And boy do they.
Here's another offering from Madrid based For Noise's Sake, this time in the form of an eleven minute, ten track cruiser by a lad named Nicolash, who also plays in Pier. Stripping down his setup to only drums, mics and vocals, the thing is over before you get started, but it has a certain immediacy to it that's pretty hard to deny.
Talking about individual tracks feels a bit silly when the longest offering here is under two minutes and all of them are more or less constructed from the same material, but the whole romp has the kind of caveman, primitivist attitude and aesthetic of Foot Village or Black Pus, only with a tad looser, more cannibalistic, ballistic feel to it. All about total wreckage with this one, as wordless vocal utterances are huffed and puffed atop free rock/jazz drumming that glides between multi-angular African mishmash and complete numb-nuts brawl material. "Loueem Fv" might have a semblance of a beat for its minute, but its weirdly unconcerned in a kind of punk nihilist way that flies way beyond simplicity for simplicity's sake. Elsewhere the vocals are more central, as on "Neaneamem," where growls harken in clattering putters of cymbal tinkling and snare pulse while his hyper Jandek chants fuel a kind of sadomasochistic, hurts so bad it's good energy. Weird.
Like I said before though, the whole thing is eleven minutes long, and its brevity actually adds to the excitement--never stops moving at all. And the submerged, muffled production makes it sound even more like emissions from some deep cavernous wake, a small flame visible atop the bass drum. Surprisingly effective stuff.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
More from the Holy Cheever camp, this time in the form of a duet between Riggs and pianist Matt Endahl. Once again though, instrumentation seems nearly irrelevant in these proceedings as instead another alien landscape of fizz is extrapolated on--obviously this ain't no Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau number. What'd you expect?
Things start off in a sort of whimpering, tea kettle improv style, each instrument nearly indecipherable against the hum and lithe grinding, like the soundtrack to some dude sitting at a bus stop grinding his teeth in eager anticipation of the inevitable. The innards of the piano resonate out while single string bows turn into loose chortle the makeup of which consists of molten metal being hammered at like some forgotten blacksmith crafting the weapon by which he'll end it all. Take the electric drill to it, I say, so you have to give it a real push. Every angle here is degraded and rusty, but it sounds so right and in tune with itself. The whole aesthetic is as organic as it comes, nothing forced or coaxed here; just the sounds of things acting the way they act when you use them in this ruthless a manner. Sounds like crayons with brass tips being drawn out over windowpanes, covering their translucence in dappled streaks of brown while chipping off the smooth surface in the process. Totally nuts.
The flip side kicks it off in a higher, less monotonously grating strain with a total shred of disintegrated circuitry and whistle. Grind it on down to the bone. I'd be surprised if there was a piano left after all is said and done here. Almost sounds like Riggs is just playing some vinyl record by laying down a block of wood and grinding it underneath while the reverberations cause the highest string on his guitar to shriek with horror. When the debris is left on the floor the duo run over and pick it up, throwing it around with primordial glee. A whopper with flies, please. Thanks. But then you have to deal with the food poisoning, which settles in just as the flies are spawning in your digestive tract. Little flutters of piano just dancing around in there, having a swell time of it while the increasing clatter starts to awaken the horror.
Just had the TV turned on in front of me and the live Michael Jackson memorial is on which creates a nice contrast in terms of total over-the-top spectacle worship of something chaotic and unknown. Wild. Another winner from the realm of Riggs.
Seeing as its taken me nigh forever to finish up this recent Stunned batch, I suppose it's fitting that, at last, I close it off with this MASSIVE double whammy of spaced out jammies. Call it the carrot, though I'm not sure anyone else has been drooling in eager anticipation of the juicy words I've chosen to accompany this piece other than me, and then only because I write em and that's an enjoyable activity in itself. Regardless, this release is a monster presenting four sides, four bands, and four unique zones. Where to start? How bout the beginning...
The first side belongs to Brad and Eden Rose (of Digitalis fame) and their brand new ALTAR EAGLE project, presenting here a single piece called "Pennies Masquerading as Dimes." Having dropped the Corsican Paintbrush model after that last Housecraft tape, they've continued moving on into new realms, and this project seems to represent a kind of space age song thing whereby glitched and fuzzed noise is met with mountainous synth drones and Eden's transient vocal sways. Whole worlds of sound evolve here, but there's a forward momentum driven by discreet chord progressions that keeps it all feeling much more like they're jamming on a pre-conceived riff than letting it all hang out. Static, feedback, Mario mushroom sounds, all intertwine, babbling about like some crazed set of street talkers below the voluminous weight of the gray city, looming overhead in the form of synth lines representing the good Word itself. Guitar lines shine through, rays of light, and everyone looks up shielding their eyes as the buildings around them crumble, turned inward by the encroaching vines. And all bred from the harmonic resonance of creation spewed by Eden's long and narrow billows of air. Don't look too long though, or the yellow rays will turn orange and the pupils will widen out past the eye ball, past the head, and finally past the toes till all that's left is a big black hole, a receptacle of light.
Flipping it over presents a far tamer world in the form of Sal Giorgi's Pillars of Heaven project, here presenting "The Singing of Makalaure." Giorgi runs the always impressive Peasant Magik label, whose attention to detail carries over into this solo project as well. Softly emerging primordial ooze leaks out from slovenly synth lines in a far more Godless, organic take on the birth of time than the former act presented. Here the silt is allowed to wash up against the shells, grinding gently and shaping, carving the dunes into stables for seaweed to lay, drying in the sun. Millenia pass and the seaweed survives, morphing its shape into low lying moss on which dragonflies rest. This is a quiet, almost precious location, concerned little with the skies and far more with the matter at hand--and we're not talking "concerns" matter, but matter matter, atoms and electrons and quarks and their quiet buzzing, doing all that they know to do and keeping the very world in rotation as they perform their mindless interactions. Eventually the bustling subsides, frozen and preserved in thick sheets of glass, shielded for a time from the grip of decay.
And now, tape two, opening with Caligine's "Inspirare ed Espiare: Sarad / A Ciascun Silenzio, Un Volto." This Roman weaver runs the Monstres par Excès label, from whom I know nada, but this folk drift cajoles me into thinking that's not for the better. Distant hums and guitar fluttering open it up, like curtains into some scenic field nestled inconspicuously between a grove of trees. Not rolling and vast but an enclave of butterflies and bees folk tales long since lost. The fumbling guitar strings speak of ships and ruffled shirts and perhaps even the single leaves adorning the bosom of some prehistoric teen rife with wanderlust. The entrance of electric guitar, sloshing about atop the distant ramblings of the acoustic, brings up broader, more looming tales, lifting it into a human frenzy of disturbed calm and lunging, quixotic fumblings of the mind. A small chime calls calm again, only this time it is a bustling calm inhabited by the busy bustling of a people collecting, selecting, dissecting in the name of the generations. The future is of a more metallic nature though, and though the construct is the same, basic actions resembling those from before, the silvers and blacks are far more unclean, wreaking of exhaustion.
The fourth and final side is the followup to High Wolf's Not Not Fun debut, and here we see the inverse of Caligine's side. Rather High Wolf draws us into the future with "Digital Heaven;" this is a land post-exhaustion, where a mechanized trajectory guides the motives of previously sentient beings. Behind the battered doors there does remain a hint of past forms, lives lived in light, dinners cooked and garnished with a holiness found only in the menial path of the everyday, but much of that seems gone now. A lone beating guides shadowless forms as they lunge steadily onward toward a new kind of jungle, devoid of commotion, everything in line. Somewhere beyond the borders there is a hint of stagnation, icy waters laid on faces in the sun, and that's here too, but more as a buried, instinctual memory. Close the doors though, and the memories come whirling back, swirling inside and out as dreams of garlic and pears minced and winged flit about. The dream is always better than the reality and boundless dreams seep in to distill the labor in favor of the luxury of necessity. Boundless and breathtaking indeed.
Wow. Long winded and superfluous though that writeup may have been this is one hell of a collection, necessary for anyone remotely into this stuff. Killer way to spend an hour and a half and beautifully sequenced so it all ties together as a whole. One of the best of the year no doubt, each offering is total bread and butter material. 100 copies out there somewhere (not at Stunned, I fear...) but surely Tomentosa has a few for now. Lovingly packaged as well. Again, wow.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Been hearing a bit about Pink Priest for a bit now, so it was a real pleasure to get this little 3" in the mail from Frank Baugh's new Kimberly Dawn batch. Wasn't disappointed either, as the four miniatures featured here present a nicely realized world of detached, chilly dronescapes that pull from a number of styles in their minimal, icicle conjurings.
The disc opens with the voluminous "Please Ma'am Pull That Door to," whose static scrapes have been emptied of all edge in the name of whispered caverns and echoed hints. Dripping rhythms percolate around, calling to mind a mix between Zoviet France concrete and airy droners. Slips right into "Wedding Cake," which is equally empty though with a bit of 80s new age keyboard sound fuming from beneath. Its quick and lonely, but quite beautiful, always just out of reach as it shimmies along into "It Melts my Heart," gaining momentum before cutting the chord. The following is the longest number here at 6 minutes, making it not only the most extended but also fullest number here. Swathes of air pushed around atop sterile hallway echoes and sci-fi twinklings of UFO radar sightings. Once it's off the blipping screen, its left to touch down in some fair field, lighting the dawn with its neon punctuations. Lovely. The closing "Gravel Kids" finds the ship traveling toward more aquatic realms, with the white waves hissing as they crash layer upon layer onto the beaches. Take another step in and it's a bit colder, the seaweed revealing lands yet unseen as mysterious black monoliths drift by. There's an intangibility on this that's tough to grab on to, making Pink Priest a true curator of patient revelation. Short and sweet as they say, with great Dark Side of the Moon/prog-style cover art by the musician himself. Another nice 3"-er from Kim Dawn, for whom this format seems preferred. Underused no longer, I say.
Continuing onward, this time delving a bit deeper into that Existential Cloth batch that arrived at my doorstep to my surprise. This one is a split between Pistil Cosmos (whose release on Stunned I was all over) and another unit I've never heard of called Aghori. Beautiful to have one side from consistent French dude Vincent Caylet (Monks of the Balhill) and a little surprise on the latter half.
Caylet's side is called "A Broken Gamelan," but what with all the Serengeti cries, rain sticks and time lapse cloud movements it all seems a bit more African safari or even Australian outback to me. Almost reads like the soundtrack to some I-Max fly over picture, super hollow and spacious and actually pretty unapologetic in the clarity of its sound. But this ain't no Pure Moods disc, so when it glides right into some metallic shutter; more Bladerunner than Lion King if Bladerunner featured katanas instead of handguns. Some pretty steep shards here, empty and alien with flute mishaps for good measure. Moves right along too, sliding into a steady rhythm and hollow flute echoes while jostling dub patters trickle around nice and stoned like. Totally relaxing and spare, but not without its own depth.
It's always a little irritating to me when the tape side ends long before the tape runs out, especially on the first half of it as it means either an extended wait or a quick fast forward just to get to the beginning of the next side, but hey, that's knit-picking. And besides, it's only to make room for the Aghori side, whose three numbers need plenty of space to stretch their collective limbs and glide. Opens with "Nouwhit," an easy little number that slides along teal streams, waves and tender drones woven into summer sunbaths. Far as I can tell, Aghori's only put stuff out on Existential Cloth, leading me to believe that Matt McKeever is the soothsayer behind the label. "Opal Naree" is thicker than the latter track, but with the same sense of open space and trajectory, humming along in expanding, boundless drone worlds before a chorus of vocals, hushed and suggesting of continuation, pushes it into the closing "Wound," an empty expanse of warm lean-to catering. Nice split all around, definitely one for the laid back crowd and another promising outing from this label.
Is it me, or is Holy Cheever fast becoming essential listening? Every release Chris puts out is as interesting/exciting/impressive as the next, and this latest trifecta is of course nothing no light fare either. Of course the heaviest thing is that nearly every one of the Holy Cheever releases features Chris himself, meaning that he is rapidly becoming a real force to be reckoned with.
This one is a solo offering by the head honcho himself, and it's another winner no doubt. I have to confess though, that I had a crazy experience with this when I first threw it on. The first side is a slow bowed electric number that, according to Chris, was played on a broken amp. So I was listening to it and at weird moments the sound kept fritzing out or slipping into these slow electronic screes and I thought shit, he's really pushing the envelope with this one. Eventually the sound dropped out entirely, making me think this was sort of a Bug Incision redux, but then I flip it over and it's still totally dead silent. Turns out the ol' walkmen was on the fritz, go figure. Still, it's a real testament to just how wild and foreign Chris' stuff is, if not also to my stupidity. Still, the thing is packed with weirdness, with super slow bowed geetar that meanders in long and fluid and richly textured loops raga style for a while. The drenched repetition here really splays out loosey-goosey style, unrelenting and almost classicist in its unbending commitment to the cause. One, two, one, two, Riggs drags the bow across like a scalpel over a fiberglass strung sitar before burying deep into some clouded fuzz buzz that, I dare say, really will have you thinking the tape deck's on the out were it not for the taut sonar blips that keep it unified in its writhing.
The second side is even less guitary, instead finding a playful sort of sproing rebound that calls to mind the harsh realities lying in wait beyond the pogo stick travels of our youth. Remember filming the kids out in the street, bounding along, harkening the end of days? It arrives too, in the form of metal power chords fed through so many dangling daggers that it gets spliced apart into a carnal wreck of dystopic smatterings before cutting off and heading toward high end hiss, so numb as to create worlds within its oneness. When the singular tone disengages with itself it goes into some seriously dark spaces, total schizophrenia slash and burn stuff. Always pushing the meter higher, Riggs' special breed of cerebral demolition is nigh unstoppable. A crazy one, again.
At last, back to the cherished blog reviews which have (disappointingly...) taken the back seat as of late in the name of epic bike trips--including a trip to the hospital--and subsequent multitudes of chillery on Great Island in Cape Cod despite less than ideal weather throughout. But surely no one's stopping by here for a vacation redux so I'll stick with my guns and talk tunage instead. Besides, some of these have been on the back burner far too long.
Pushing towards completing that last Stunned batch--the only one left, which will likely come later today, is the mammoth double cassette four-way split--I figured I'd jump right in with my man Eric and his Rambutan release. Always great to see good dudes released on good labels, and this release is the summation of goodage all around. Actually, this might well be my favorite Rambutan release since his debut on Tape Drift, presenting a fine full length of sprawling and moody guitar and electronics excursions whose effect is always greater than the sum of its parts. Hardiman has a way of conjuring some really mystical stuff, and tracks like the opening title number have that same sand-encrusted, desert stench that Rusted Prayers Converge did, reaching far along the tracks in hopes of that ever elusive solitude amidst the heat waves. "Middle Altar" starts with a murmur but is soon timidly reverberating microscopic columns of looped, raindrop enclosed wonders. Something new from the good doctor, and really a neat take on this kind of stuff, much more investigative and slight than a lot of those neu-Krautrock numbers.
Of course the followup lies in the aptly titled "Abandoned Night Cave," though I'd say this is more like an "Abandoned Night Abyss." The elevator don't stop at ground floor this ride, as sheets of hollow howls echo about in less than ideal conditions while the big demon himself wails his axe from beneath. Not sure if this is a concept album or what but "Returning to the Entrance" definitely coincides with the latter track, grinding back up toward the light (it's a long way to go) with every pull of the distorted rope and pulley system in hand. The closing "Cloudy Vision" definitely escapes the hot air vaults at last, though at this point your burned to such a fine crisp that you just evaporate into the air, carried across the mountains and rivers as pure energy. What an album, straight through. And of course, the beautiful cover art ain't nothing to scoff at.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Another in from Brainwashed. More coming tomorrow from Stunned, Holy Cheever, etc. (finally...)
Between his roles as both filmmaker and Fonal Records head, Sami Sanpakkila has somehow managed to find time to produce this, his fifth album of solo material under the Es moniker. Citing Pekka Streng's "Kesamaa" as its impetus makes sense considering the immediately nostalgic summer feel of the record, though Es' eyes are set on a much more distant and ethereal horizon than Streng's song-based structures.
The title of the record alone alludes to this intended effect, translating to "The Children of the Summerland." While this is certainly the case however, this is far from a naïve foray into elven territory. Indeed, much of the disc's strength lies in the ample inhabitance of less desirable realms, evoking a balance between tender forest traipsing and, simultaneously, a sense of the deeper mystery just behind the foliage.
The album opens on a glistening and undulatory note with "Ennen Oli Huonommin," whose backing drone grasps at the fluttering bussle of notes emitted atop. The track has the same toying playfulness of labelmate Tomutonttu's output, albeit with a real sense of direction. This forward thrust continues on the brief "Kesa Ja Hymyilevat Huulet," a mix of tinkertoy Casios and a lofty, folkloric vocal line, clarifying the album's role as a collection of songs, albeit highly abstracted, even distracted ones.
The centerpiece of the disc lies in the back-to-back efforts of "Sateet Sun Sielusta" and the album's title track, the most extended efforts here and the ones on which Sanpakkila's constructions are able to fully blossom. The former opens with a brief piano excursion whose increasing density mounts into a full blown meteor shower of trickling lines and hovering drones. Reaching far beyond the skies of many of his contemporaries, the piece is a truly momentous one whose forward thrust continues the consistent sense of trajectory runnning throughout the album.
Following in its wake is the 21-plus minute title track, whose opening vocal lines sway atop a writhing lullaby line before building into a veritable orchestra filling memories of sand castles past. The immense reach of the work is staggering, but never without a sense of intimacy or proximity; this is a series of small moments conjoined by their inherent connections, not a vast singularity too overpowering to remain relatable.
The album's closing track, "Haamut Sun Sydamesta," has a chorus of voices bounding between speakers, rendered foreign by their proximity to the psychedelic mash-up atop them, which I suppose is the idea here. A singer-songwriter album at heart, each piece takes its own path, unfolding without bounds to become a true achievement and one of the most beautiful records of summer.