Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ear-Conditioned Slump

Quick word on the recent hiatus review-wise. Closed out the school year with a crawl to the finish and now off to Europe for three weeks but I have a ton of stuff waiting for the return from the likes of old standbys such as Stunned, Holy Cheever, Existential Cloth, Anarchymoon, 905 Tapes and even the first Holy Cheever vinyl (no review necessary (though one will surely come). just go grip it...) Hang tight for more but just putting in a good word. Sorry for the deeeeeeelaaaaaaaay...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mortuus Auris & The Black Hand - Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden (Stunned Records CS)

Latest batch from Stunned is, as always with that glorious operation, sold out completely. Seems they've got a healthy enough following by now that they've been eeking the production runs up ever so slightly, which is great news always for the world. This batch is amazing as always, so it's no surprise either, though a sad day did arrive in the form of the label's last CD-R edition (an incredible disc by Sparkling Wide Pressure). The CD is dead and the tape is back? What is this world coming to?! (Something good)...

Anyhoo, speaking of strange operations, Mortuus Auris whips one out here in a big way. A full hour long offering, the album starts with a blast of screwed screams and chopped noises before tapering out into blooping oscillations and wooden rotary blades tapping ping-pong balls rapidly against a mare's back. Apparently the whole thing incorporates patterns found in spider webs, fishing nets and tantric sex as it's organizing principle, which might explain the sensuous quality of each little snippet that's together here. There's a warmth to it all, but also a hollow shell, an empty space outlined by defining principles. Geometric it may be, but it exudes a more organic loose feel than that, despite it all appearing fairly closely composed and restrained. Hold it together with a silk thread and maybe you'll achieve enlightenment. In a strictly post-industrialist, pre-arachnid way of course.

Always seemed to me like people just took their releases on Stunned more seriously than usual. These things are always well conceived, always carefully concocted, always well recorded, etc. etc. Each little world on this label has got to be met head on, and whether you like it or not you've gotta give props for that kind of commitment. This work isn't drone, but it's got elements of it. It doesn't read as composition either, but that's there. And it's not noise at all, but it's playing it's part here too. More like a soundtrack to some tropical noir film, two worlds clashing up against one another and finding a new space. Good stuff, and lovingly treated as it always is. Sleeper status on it, so have a zonk.

Simeon Abbott + Chris Dadge - A Menu Isn't a Meal (Bug Incision Records CD-R)

On the Riggs tip I just mentioned, it's great to see established dudes taking new blood under the wings and giving them some exposure. Riggs certainly deserves it, and so does Chris Dadge, Bug Incision head honcho and percussion maestro deluxe. Fresh off a trip playing with dudes like Eugene Chadbourne (a personal favorite...) Mats Gustafsson, Dadge met up with electric guitarist Simeon Abbott for these two jams, and he sounds stronger than ever. Maybe it's that special Chadbourne punch, but me thinks it's just Dadge doing what Dadge do best, collaborating in super loose improv sessions that dangle ideas around like fireflies over a pond.

First track moves through some wild territory real quick. The percussion is always drawn out and glommed up, like splashing a bag of nickels on a diamond back skull and letting it rust over for a few millennia before picking it up with a contact mic. Abbott's jangling guitar cycles around itself with a hollow reverberation that's often prettier than your usual extended technique go-to's, chiming along like some undersea buoy signal. WIld stuff that convulses out once in a while before settling into a groove, nodding it's head down for a snooze before waking with a snap just as soon as the REM sets in. And hwen it wakes it wakes, fritzing about like a Carl Stalling score played on a kitchen sink next to the refrigerator box. Maniacally quick discussions that change topics speedy as a binge drinking flea frat. But more fun than that. Come to think of it, what could be less fun than that?!

Second track opens with some Atari style electronic mulch which, by the way, they've been incorporating in various forms throughout the proceedings. Sounds like a straight up Speak & Spell glitched over, and while that usually leaves me cold as ice and willing to sacrifice, this time around Dadge jumps on board for a duet with the thing, laying all his spoons out in disarray for some real illogical motivational speaking. Orator: Spell CAREEN. Kid: Z-O-N-K-E-D L-O-G-I-C. Or something like that. Sometimes you get straight up moments of hoe-down hijinks, but mostly it's sans hoe-down and pro high-jinx, Dick Dale gone awry. Killer sets both, and grabable where grabables are had.

Gino Robair / Christopher Riggs - Punishment Allows the Evolution of Cooperation (Holy Cheever Church Records CS)

Riggs dropped his latest batch yesterday, which got me thinking about this little number again. I've been spinning it on near repeat for nigh a month now, but as so often happens with these kinds of tapes it gets stuck in my deck and without a review. Well here's a review, damn it.

Gino Robair is, I believe, the drummer for Schnuffler, whose tape on Holy Cheever got the review treatment a ways back. Beyond that though, dude's played with the likes of Anthony Braxton and Tom Waits, so right off the bat you know he's a heavy hitter. So this one really fits the bill as a meeting of the minds, cross pollination, generation Q merger of sorts, Riggs repping the new style hard while Robair brings a taste of class and history to the proceedings. Not that it matters at all of course once it gets down to the sounds... whole thing begins like some malnourished farmyard get down, chain link fence and corn huskers rattling away over the rooster caws. Really strange stuff that opens up into a slinky of textural gratings and percussive mishaps. Incredible how on the same tip these two are right from the jump off... not a single move sounds out of place. Robair even pulls of some Tietchens bloops and plops on his kit while Riggs saws gentle nocturnes into your cranium from behind. Restless stuff that sounds as process oriented as it does improvisational. Where are we in the continuum?!!

Halfway between the AMM types and Mimaroglu, that's where. Skittered acoustic textures that sound like circuitry gone wild in a basement gamelan setup while some throat singing yak herder thaws out his skins and sings a little tune. Just as gone as it is there, just as rich as it is bare. So great to see Robair and guys like Morris trading jabs with the younger crowd, as it signifies the life of what is too often considered a dying breed of improv. The whole beauty of it, it seems to me, is that there's an infinite variety of combinations due to the internal logic of the best's playing. So just mash em up and see where it goes. Thick bass dub over string cries? You got it. Droned out hyperbolic Himalayan artifacts? Sure. These tapes are going to be classics by the time Riggs is done with it, so if you're not on the bandwagon you best get there now. Get your kids through college easy... hell, if you're nice to him I bet he'll even sign it for you: To Johnny. Scriiiiiiiittttttttzzzzzzzzccccccchhhh. Best Wishes, Chris. Now there's an artifact...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gii / Cruudeuces - S/T (Ghetto Naturalist Series CS)

Whoa whoa whoa. A lot of stuff to cover from the front here (Bug Incision, Holy Cheever, Stunned, Anarchymoon, etc. etc.) but I had to start with this little guy from local yokel Nathaniel Brennan's spanking new (well, officially anyway...) label Ghetto Naturalist Series. Brennan's been at it a long time under the Cruudeuces moniker, always releasing killer little oddities from the backside of his brain but now he's taken on new screwballs too in the name of dispersal of his twisted aesthetic. This one finds the label kingpin matching minds with Gii, who is Joe Hydoski who is, well, who knows actually?! Perfect introduction to the label of course.

First side kicks off with the Hydoski mystery man himself, , whose "Meth Rage Wore Off, Maybe Not" is a totally glommed and bombed bit of funky distorto crunch that lurches around in true crud fashion. Couldn't be a more perfect name for a label that houses something like this. Dirty stuff that grinds and splices its way through itself, barely holding on by a thread as it wraps around and in on itself. Hangover cure galore before "Lost Extremities" cuts the hands off the first track and torches them back onto some broken tree legs. Skin meets bark, heart meets trunk, synth meets scuzz, buzz meets hush. Real nowhere goings here, weird buzz beamed episodes of bugged out melodrama. Melodic though, real pretty and twangy. Almost like Duane Eddy's gone and jammed over some Small Cruel Party or Yeast Culture track but with a real direction forward. Undulate restless vibes, undulate. Blown to bits too, for the too-drowned-to-function crowd. Holler.

Brennan's side offers up two tracks as well, untitled both and straight from some illogical foreign terrain. Lung fish meet Saturn squish stuff that's rudderless enough to warrant some real zoned vibes, but with a thoughtful (as always) treatment of mood and feel. Explorations of the strange atmospheres created by strange atmospheres, where mind meets ribcage. Brennan's sense of shape and internal logic has expanded so much over a pretty short period here, and the rate that he's moving at is outrageously exciting. Tea kettle whistles and a thick drone line delayed to nowhere are all the man needs for his tactile traipsing about. Then the clarinet comes in and it's like a whole Heath Moerland thing, only still and dark and without the elastic gyrations of Sick Llama's stuff. Just straight weirdo haven't-a-clue pops and fizzes here. Beautiful stuff in the vein of other beautiful stuff (you fill in the blank). Grab it at label headquarters: limited to 30, and you gotta catch em all!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Torture Corpse - Stop the Mind (Stunned Records CS)

Latest Stunned batch came in recently, which is always good news in my book. And it's a fat batch at that, filled to the brim with slow burners and stunners alike including a disc by Sparkling Wide Pressure that represents the last CD-R to be released by the label. Don't know whether that means they're growing up into real deal CDs and vinyl or sticking with the tape rundown, but changes are afoot it seems. Changes are afoot.

This one comes by way of Torture Corpse aka Robert Kroos, whose grim moniker pretty much sums up his approach. The album's title track gets the ball rolling with a suitably foreboding speech wose pulsing death march beat takes over and leads the thing down a pathway to the vents themselves. Twists and turns of steam and earth merge together, crushing one another and forming new elements in the process. Gnarly go that peters off and in and blows off steam. A real reverberated voyage that feels like a guided tour given on the sickest IMAX ride of your life. "Voyage to the Core of Earth's Crust: Demonic Fires Aligned," narrated by Sigourney Fuckin' Weaver. Love the part where the theater seats rumble and sway as you move through rubble and magma alike. Super heated vibes to be had here for sure, strips itself back, writhes itself forward, zones itself out.

Flip side offers a few more takes on this sound, with "Rock 'N' Rally" opening with a quick quote about the Nuremberg Rallies as rock concert before diffusing into a haze of salt and silt. Washes of texture amount to few phrases but plenty of phases, left to right and back to night. As gloomy as this stuff is--and it is gloomy--it maintains such a high level of sonic richness that it never feels overbearing or destructive. And it ain't really just drone either. More in the dark maximal ambient vein, but hardly so pretentious as such a title might infer either. "Full Responsibility" re-soups the thing with nice ebbs of shattered tone and moans from beneath. Bubbles of bromide that move somewhere between the space echo hollows of Robert Beatty and the field recorded worlds of Douglas Quinn. Lovely. Any safety zones found though are quickly ripped apart on the closing "Manjushri," whose warbling guffaws of blather move as gently as a hammer in a house of glass. The continued entry of vocal speeches is alarming and while I usually find this sort of thing pretentious and a bit of an over working, the careful placement and generally grizzly atmosphere lets it come and go with little detriment to the overall feel. A fine one from the Stunned camp, packaged fantastically as always.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Uphill Gardeners - S/T (olFactory Records / Kill Shaman 12")

Managed to leave a bunch of reviewables in my girlfriend's car this weekend, including some Stunned / Holy Cheever / ECR / Bug Incision etc. so I've finally got a moment to dig back intot he final I've been sent along the way. This one comes courtesy of mid-90s No-Wave outfit Uphill Gardeners, a trio consisting of Jarrett Silberman, Nigel Lundemo and Bobb Bruno. All these dudes have gone on to big things, but this EP shows how on top of it they've been all along. Killer stuff fully deserving of issue (finally) here.

What we've got is a series of tracks that weren't used for their sole full length CD, but if these are the outtakes they sure don't read as such. Guitar, bass and drums as mobile as you get, full instrumental togetherness. Artsy to be sure, but with enough cajones to get the ball rolling wonderfully. Starting off with the excellently titled "Boner Music," the group displays right off the bat it's penchant for switching modes mid-go, crashing along before turning on a dime into some strange country twine balls that read far more like a Butthole Surfers track than a Mars one. Great mix of those two worlds though. "Goldenrod Sunrise" pulls off the same action, creaming its Gun Club style guitar lines with super nowhere glad-to-be-gone pummeling before "I've Got to Stop Getting Pregnant" slows it down a tad, rollicking in darker and dirtier waters as a two-note bass line and steady drum thud guides the guitar shreds and bellows atop. Electronics and synth are apparently involved here too, but it's tough to define them against the guitar (hell, maybe it's not guitar, who knows?). Slow and steady wins the mace till "Sounds" culls their inner AMM meets Ash Ra Tempel. A weirdo one to initiate flippage to be sure.

Flip side features only two monster tracks, "He is Master" being the first and representing a real rubber band band brawl. Brush it off quick, this one buzzes like bees before changing chords on a pin top and moving into discordant stunners and bummers. Real inner workings stuff that relies solely on its self made logic to guide the way. Slow burn ravaging with hums and strums and crumbs abounding. Gonzo for sure before drums come in and move it into nearly Zappa-esque absurdities that skitter outward with a humor and resilience you can't quite land your thumb down on. Perfect pulse offered from Lundemo on this one. "Diet Experiment" closes it all out with some rib cage bending bass twirps while Silberman's Arto impression pieces itself together atop some skitters and shimmies. Real lovely sounding to my ear, anti-rock with a firm grip on how to navigate such territory with cohesion, balance, and an ear for subtle frames of referential outlooks. Glad to grab, killer killer material. Seek it from the labels and see if they've got em.

Ättestupa - 1867 (DNT Records 12")

Another one from the vaults, this time hearkening from the DNT camp a ways back via Sweden. A little out of left field for the DNT label, this EP is by a mystery unit that in some way features (recently reviewed here) Sewer Election's Dan Johansson. Apparently titled after a year of brutal starvation in Sweden, this offering is a soundtrack of sorts, produced to ultra dismal effect in homage to staggering suffering and desperation.

Thing kicks off in brutal fashion on "Missväxt," whose clashing drum lines and guitar meld with deeply drowned vocals for a graveside call to arms. Total thrashing punk/goth/motorik material here that grinds on before dwindling out to wheezes and windz that blubber on long enough to drown it out. The following "Halshuggarnatten" goes heavy on the crud lurch with a nice funereal organ line mingling over top. Sounds like a morgue service next to a construction site, and the dichotomy is too good to ignore. Like kids playing hopscotch at the cemetery using headstones for humdingers while ghastly vocals dig dirges in the draperies. Real killer sound that's super dismal and down and out, the organ line just right above it all while the vocals are backstage screaming through an aquarium full of cyanide.

Flip side features the lone "Storsvagåret," which starts out nice and meddling as chairs are dragged over linoleum tiling and the hum of stench looms outward slow and steady. Really reads like a playground full of poltergeists taking over in the name of decay. Super steady slow mo degradation here. Industrial meets circuit twisting meets grind meets slime. Rusty as hell and going nowhere fast before it opens up with a hunkered down, face to the floor organ and drum line that wiggles itself free from the mulch. Sick, head banging and dilapidated stuff, ultra mechanic in its stuttered organics. Heavy ride all around, mastered by Yellow Swans own Pete Swanson and well worth the price of admission. Dig the stripped back presentation here too, with the typed up Swedish liners (I'm assuming) detailing the event in all its ugliness. Grab it before it turns to ash.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Various Artists - Serge Modular Users 2009 (Resipiscent CD)

This one's been waiting in the wings I good while, but it's turn has come. Was psyched when I got this disc, and not only cause the Serge is one of my favorite knob-twiddlers around (Richard Teitelbaum had one over at the Bard labs for us to tamper with) but because this is a hell of way to organize a disc. For all the synth-mayhem going around these days, it makes perfect sense to pick one and track it right proper under the hand of slew of fists. Haven't heard of half these guys either, which only adds to the allure.

Spanning fifteen tracks and a FULL disc's worth of sound, this thing is as packed with Serge sounds as you could hope, demonstrating over and over the endless array of possibilities from this thing as well as it's diverse potential depending on who's manning the controls. Thing starts off with Jan-Hinnerk Helms cordially welcoming you via a Serge created voice, friendly as all hell with its sing-song greeting before things dip into circuit mania on M/N/M/L's "Breath," which takes some oscillations and splays them into party cracklers and simmering timber. Super into CRAY (Ross Healy's project) and its "STRK," which bounces around like rubber bands shot through laser beams. Super kinetic and spasmodic for the frenzied fans. John Duval uses it to dip into some early 8-s basement synth material on "Distress Call," which reverberates like a sinking mine sending info to spy subs before self-detonating. Benge's "1972 Serge Modular" (apparently an excerpt from "Twenty Systems") is super minimal and glitchy, little cracks and runs writhing over one another with insect rhythm pulses. Quite grooving really, like some 70s cicada orgy scene soundtrack.

Could keep running straight through really, there're so many zones it's impossible to summarize; kkonkkrete's "Untitled I" lays out under the sun for a tad, charring over in dronesville while cebec culls a veritable techtonic Mutranium disaster on "Transformer Substation." Love the Hans Grusel sound too on "Quarantimes," which is as zoned and burned out as they come. Just rhythms and crashes and march band kitchen sink stuff. Killer. Electronic Waste Product's "Picket Fences" reads like a mid-60s Mimaroglu experiment while Carlos Giffoni's "All the Mistakes I made During the Caribbean Winter" blasts a whole straight through the walls with drenches of sewage before the roaches come crawling out 8-bit style. Maniacal as hell. And of course the rest of them are great too, but I'll let you dig it up for yourself. Hell of an instrument and far removed from any hypnagogic nostalgia sound--far cooler and more electronically motivated. The new sounds played on the old instruments, which were the new sounds then too. Go figure. Killer and likely still available.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Towering Heroic Dudes - Bad Old Daze (Obsolete Units CD-R)

Good news in from Foxy Digitalis:

Call it what you will, but Towering Heroic Dudes has managed to create quite a stirring little piece with this, the follow up to their invincibly titled “My Morning Jackoff” off on Abandon Ship. And with a title like that, who could argue? This release, on stellar label Obsolete Units, features three separate live sets, each about 20 minutes long, featuring the combined degradation of members Neil Vendrick, Nate Rulli, Paul Haney, Andrew Posey and Mick Merszaros. And while the group members might make this appear to be some mid 80s English mod-revival group, the sonic results speak to something quite oppositional to that sort of assumption.

The first set, performed at the legendary Cake Shop on 11/4/08, finds some discombobulated zones and shifts them around to make even less sense. Thick clatter and drone and feedback ring around one another with garbled glee and not a magic bus in sight. The clan sure knows how to raise a ruckus, allowing everything to build and create its own patterns in the grain. To this end, the members are merely physically allowing the billows to happen, erupting outward in torrential shards. Must have been a hell of a show... The following number occurred at Tommy’s Tavern about four months later, and this two grows viciously, albeit in a far steadier, more deadened fashion. No sudden blasts here, just dirt infused simmering till the frog turns to putty. The unit seems to have properly internalized a lot of the L.A.F.M.S. catalogue (namely Airway and Le Forte Four) and reconstructed it to suit their own expansive needs. The last track, recorded at Lil Lounge on 9/17/08, is a buried battering of fuzz and crumble, hushed and mushed and steadily crushed into some phased bandwidths of lowly radio samples and synth statements and hiss scuzz hiss aesthetics. It’s all washed out real nice, so the last 30 second track can blast you straight to Deliriumton. Nice stuff, lots of energy and movement and destroyed right proper as a document.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Luminance Ratio - Like Little Garrisons Besieged (Boring Machines / Fratto9 Under The Sky CD)

First one of April, and it's already shaping up to be a hot month. We've already had a couple good scorchers now, which I'd say bodes well after the winter dumping we got this year. Bring it on. Thought I'd ring in the new month/seasonal feel with a release I got a ways back from Italian-based labels Boring Machines and Fratto9 Under the Sky. Nice little operations here, both focusing on electroacoustic/improv stuff but going a ways broader than that--dig the recent Digitalis feature on Boring Machines for a more thorough run through of their agenda if you care to. If not, proceed per usual.

Hadn't heard from this group before, but from the look/sound of it the trio has a different take on electroacoustics. The trio, made up of (WARNING--great porn name approacheth) Andrea ics Ferraris (guitars, cymbals, electronics, field recordings, brushes, contact mics, pedals), Eugenio Maggi (drones, electronics, turntables, field recordings) and Gianmaria Aprile (objects, editing, mix and mastering) may have a lineup that reads like your standard drone/psych unit, but these guys follow much more in the vein of classic electroacousticians, with real live play on their selected sources that has a slow and tender, compositional vibe. In addition, Paul Bradley steps in to have his way with it after the fact, so the whole live/improv thing gets thrown off a bit. Just see the opening title track, whose clattering digital glitch slips right into the moist burrows created by various drops and bends and crackles. Ultra lowly environs captured in the finest hi-fidelity. Lovely stuff that lets a lazy guitar line slip right over before expanding patiently into some spaced control of spare parts ruminations. Glick gluck glack.

The album moves nicely as a whole, drifting from precious gnome home obtrusions to ominous belly of the lake glides (see "Sullespalledellepietre"). "Sunday is Grey" is even more shifting and conniving. Lay low while the fog creeps past style stuff. "Armada" approaches the wind vent hollows of Graveyards from a more droney slant, laying down canvases of texture over which delicate motions are offered. Enter the monastery and step proper, you hear? The last track, epically 20 minutes long and epically titled "Paul Bradley Remix" (well, there's his part I suppose) seems to take a lot of the stuff from parts of the album and stretch it all out on itself. Sounds very much like the group sans remix, but he's clearly lacing some stuff together quite carefully here. Beautiful duel release here on both label's parts, so keep your eyes peeled there.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Street Drinkers / Källarbarnen / White / Attestupa - Utmarken (Release the Bats 10")

Hot off the presses at Foxy Digitalis:

Here's a nice offering. Release the Bats have been going at it for a ways now, and this 10” compilation represents their 50th release, a milestone for anyone but one that is especially noteworthy considering the consistantly high level of material the label's associated itself with. This one's no different, presenting four acts residing in Gothenburg, Sweden and claiming the Utmarken storefront / performance space as home. With sounds like this, let's cheer for the venue's continued success (as well as the label's, who I believe just released their last CD... end of an era?).

The first track belongs to Street Drinkers' (the solo moniker of Viktor Ottasson) “Daily Bread,” a splashing synth tune with reverberated vocals splayed out over the pointing skyward tones. Finds it's voice somewhere between Peaking Lights and the Gel Tapes material, I suppose, but without sounding like a mimicry of either. Highly charged stuff here. Källarbarnen, a duo consisting of Sofie Herner and Matthias Andersson, offer “Trängd,” following up Ottasson's drift with a more industrial take on the mood. Guitar slaps and minimal beats lay out the kind of waste zone that the Swedes have always done so well, and while it's winter material to be sure, the number's never without a certain heady internalization of No Wave motion sickness.

The flip side opens with the insect buzzing of White's “Defiance of Good.” The solo work of Dan Johansson, the track reads like crossbreed of Suicide sneer and stripped back kosmiche stretches, defying all but its own slow pace and buzzing logic. It reads like the soundtrack to accompany the most desheveled, leather-clad gangs in the area. Amazing. Attestupa, a quartet consisting of the aforementioned Johansson and Ottasson as well as David Eng and Jesper Canell, offer up the monstrous “Änglamakerskan,” whose heavy keyboard vibes and focused slop deliver a crushing search party line that must destroy live. Grooving like an assassin with a limp, the track is well worthy of closing out this impressive document. Another winner from Release the Bats to be sure, and one that opens some much needed doors to an oft neglected outpost across the pond.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Afternoon Penis / Eskimo King - Split (Abandon Ship Records LP)

Wowsers bowsers, this one's been resting easy for WAY too long. Came in a while back from Abandon Ship and so much of my vinyl has been tucked away in my apartment while I've been on the move that it just ain't as easily get-at-able as I'd hope for reviewing purposes. Necessarily takes a long enough sit down at the home nest, which means a moment's needed, so sorry for the delay on it. Not a moment too soon though, thar she blows.

So what is this whale of a platter? Why, it's the two members of Mouthus, legendary band who I need not discuss, splitting their efforts across two sides. Love this approach, opens things way up when it's done right, and here it's done so super right, as Nate Nelson opens things up with his "...Jack of Hearts" number. I remember seeing Nelson do his Afternoon Penis thing way back at No Fun Fest '08, which was totally bomb and way different than the presentation here, much more textural percussion exploration style stuff. Here, the dog opts for about the most feel-good little number you're likely to hear this side of Mercury. And it's still fully percussive to be sure, but the accordion takes center stage on this three chord ditty with a great vocal melody snippet about, you guessed it, the jack of hearts, thrown in to keep things moving. Side long excursion here that bristles about, adding and removing and grooving and bruising all the way home. Tough to discuss really, but suffice it to say it's so littered with Skittles it's likely to make the rainbow nauseating for a while, AKA it's a totally killer dance party glom prom go of it. Really a special zone here.

And there's a flip to boot. Brian Sullivan (the Eskimo King himself) hammers one home on his opening "Gjoa," a glitched out morsel that sways nice and easy, its smudged smearings of colorful lines gliding out and about behind pointillist poindexterous moves nestled somewhere in between Tomutonttu, Skaters, etc., but with a real comic book, dancey vibe going. Whole thing takes a turn for the jungle eventually though, heading into the ferns for a jostle in the thistle to explore the crud in the mud on "Born Again" (I think, it's tough to decipher the plot points in these chapters). No dud, for sure though. Gets bare enough even that the thing all but stops, delivering this little psych melody with nary a blitter about it, real spaced out, recuperation stuff that sounds like it's right out of the asylum, even more so when the vocals lay out their sorrowed and sullied outlooks. Tough to believe it started out so rosy, this is straight zoner loner material. Never one to stay still though, the thing yanks itself up by the collar and moves into Progsville (blackout era) without a hitch before settling into guitar splicing jammer epicness for a tad. Next stop = Amazonia again, or rather Saharan globules of oasis huddled gliders on "Dry Strike." Seriously, there are so many zones here it's tough to find that Jack of Hearts' mug in the mix, so let's call a spade a spade and just say it rules.

med.Hammer - Stepping Back from Two Halves (Existential Cloth Recordings CD-R)

New batch from Existential Cloth Recordings in and ECR on ECN is always SIK (sick/so incredibly killer) in my book that I had to get right down to it. Given that my tape deck's on the fritz--I might make it back over to the apartment today, where the fully functioning one always waits--and given that my Mac computer doesn't have a tray that supports 3" CDs (blasted set-up there) I had no choice but to go for the straight up, full sized discs, of which neither artist I'd heard from before and on who I can find barely a scrap of info. Not that this here blog's known for divulging much info of any kind, so I guess it'll keep me right where I usually find myself. Uselessly helpful? Helplessly useful? Neither? Right then.

So one of the discs that Matt unloaded on me was from Siddhi, whose lineup and myspace I can at least resort to. But this one was a bit more interesting to me at first, and the lack of info out there on this group is astounding, especially in this internet age of availability. Far as I know these guys have two releases, both on ECR, and that's it. That's all I know. Recorded in New Britain, Connecticut. Welcome to New B, I guess.

So what the hell is it you ask? Well it's one fucking mammoth slab of drenched and damaged drone goodness, I answer. One track, over 50 minutes, and as billowing as you could ask for. It's a soupy set here, but there's some real focus, and whether or not there's one or six members of this group, they work in close conjunction throughout, no one ever shooting past the others in strong armed flexing moves. Rather little moments come and go, with tinkling bells entering to change the landscape, or vocals, or guitar lines, or monk rituals laced with rutabaga and and sent off toward Neptune. Lots of looping to be sure, but it never reads like an architecture class, foundation on. Things come, things go, things speed up and slow. Dr. Seuss style, you know? They bubble and flubber and mutter and glow. Always switching directions but maintaining the generally controlled feel, as lines intermingle and bend across each other in lapses of memory/judgement that feed right into the experience. Forces you to get in their head space, which is always a nice form of fascism--"just sit back, cause I'm taking you there" stuff. Deep sounds, still can't tell who's in it--might be just one now that I think about it. But how many are in one anyway? Oh boy. TOO DEEP. Ends on a Monopoly Child babble out too. Grab it quick, only 25 copies and I've got 4% of em.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Padna - There are so many fish in heaven, Pt. IV (Tape Drift CD-R)

Nat Hawks' releases on Stunned this past year have been super swell, so I was psyched to see that Eric had managed to corral a Padna release for the Tape Drift imprint. This little disc contains only one track, but at 45 minutes it's a real opus of sorts, moving through zones in a totally insular, cryogenic defreezing logic.

The setup is basically this: a few years back, Hawks recorded the first "There are so many fish in heaven" track which, apparently, was little more than a guitar/e-bow number. Found a scratched copy later that he dug so he reworked it and released it is numero dos. Next thing you know the guy's so scratch happy (who does he think he is, Flava Flav?!) that he went ahead and cratched that one, reworked it, released it, and then dood it again for this one. So basically this is a reworking of a reworking of a reworking of an original, which means by now he pretty much has this tactic down pat. Whew.

So what's it sound like? Well, there certainly are scratches, but the thing moves so many spheres that it's tough to pin down any real angle here. It opens with a vocal thing that splatters about as it's diced into pieces, but that soon diverges for lusher, more atmospheric areas. I'm not sure exactly how he's getting these scratches but they work wonderfully, taking each sound and splitting it from its source and destination moment by moment, a tactic which has the effect of placing things quickly in the foreground, background, and foreground again, like some prismatic mind warp of sonic inversion. In this way, each sound is coerced to reveal previously deciphered lines that Hawks manages with a deft and tender touch. Never sounds nearly as glitched out as it could really, but rather sways to and fro in psychedelic glimmerings. Real beautiful stuff that goes and goes, guided by little other than the snap, crackle, pop of the scratches. Amazing how these scratches manage to reveal new things about the piece, sometimes cutting it into fantastically spare blurts and bristles while sometimes playing vibrato and just humming about atop. When it ends, escaping with a blathered drum beat and vocal, its absence is all to clear. A real neat one for sure, and likely still available.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Zanzibar Snails - Vitiligo (Tape Drift CD-R)

Got a batch a bit back from these dudes and haven't gotten around to it yet, but Eric sent me one from his own label and I figured I'd at least cover this one before I get around to the others. Gotta mention as well that Eric's got another new batch out (what a pace...) that looks totally KILLER, so that's surely one to scope. Anyhoo.

Zanzibar Snails are a unit from Texas who serve up a strange brew of improv/drone/experimentalism that finds some nice pockets of madness in their realm. Pretty destroyed stuff from the get-go, with spaced out drones writhing beneath kitchen cleanings and shower songs hummed by people living domestically around the corner. Halfway between a field recording and an Emeralds track at first, but soon veering more toward the drone side of the tracks. Odd though, celeste popping in and out, unexpected little details... like a zoned out Caroliner record maybe? Knaw. Not defunct enough. Like a dream played backwards over a nightmare played sideways? Sure. Track two sounds like a bunch of howler monkeys in a whale kingdom thirty-two leagues deep. Strange string strangles and hums abound before the winds pick up and the waters part. Weirdo stuff.

More or less it's this vibe throughout. The strange mixture of drone and off-the-cuff cram-it-down-your-throat mayhem is a nice one that's surprisingly a rarely employed tactic. Keeps things from getting stale/sounding the same all the time, and apparently even keeps it lively enough for the crowd over at J&J's Pizza, where about two thirds of this disc was laid down. Seems like they like their pizza fried in Denton. Good stuff, and beautiful artwork to boot--layer on layer on layer of screen print so it's thick as ox tail. More to come from the act and of course the label as well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthy Animal - S/T (Lazy Roar CS)

Here's one that's been clogging the feeder for a while now, and undeservedly so. Actually, since I've received this I actually got another tape from the label, a little comp by the title of Discovery that's got a nice mix of sun-shiny song stuff on it, but said tape's back home and this one made the trek so here we go.

A relatively recent operation, Lazy Roar's got a number of morsels out already, including an Al Qaeda/Spreaders split that looks delish. They keep em cheap to, only charging about $3 a tape, so where can you go wrong? Skip out on that five duller foot long and you've almost got half the catalog. This number represents the inaugural release on the label, and finds an anonymous laddie making some scrape psych out of Hey You, Pikachu! mics (groundbreaking!) and a trusty pedal or two. Lyricless, the sound veers somewhere between the guitar drift of a Black Eagle Child and the crunch of Andrew Coltrane, if that makes sense--see "Heavy Sleep" if it doesn't. Really though, when the dude gets going there's a pretty serious level of battering goig on, washes coming in and spritzing all over the place before slinking into little pseudo-jams that move with the consistency of late night traffic, drifting along with a real sound of their own. Everything sounds a bit like the tail end of some 60s psychosis-induced coming of age movie. Last scene at the end always has the dude stumbling over himself before regrouping just enough to make it off set.

Switch sides and the Animal rolls in on a cloud of Doors-style drums and vortex level winds that soon demolishes itself into tin-based alchemy. "Dirt Road" almost moves into epic Manga-level territory here, rumble and reins galore as it builds energy for its Mondo-Glam-Power-Punch. It's all heavy and groovy and good here, and to bring the point home Mr. Healthy has even included a zoo animal as part of the package. Nothing wrong with a free zoo critter to add to the collection of "things potentially useful to accompany music dabbling." Word. A label to keep your eyes on and your ears in.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Michael Northam & Jatin Vidyarthi - Golden Shadows (Semperflorens CD)

Got a batch in recently from (I believe) the relatively newly christened Russian-based label Semperflorens. Thought they'd sent me this Jeph Jerman disc, but when I opened it up I realized there were two others thrown in there to. And when battery power wanes, the more discs the better! So rather than do a go over of the Jerman, whose work I know well enough, I figured I'd give this one a go. Seems like the label's definitely pointing itself in the minimal acousmatic improv direction with the first three releases here though, so one to watch if you're on that train.

Apparently these recordings happened during a Khoj residency session in New Delhi. Not really sure what that is, but it's manifested here as a combination of improv sessions and field recordings, along with some other strange sound stuff that has a heavy grey area vibe between sounds of life and life of sounds outlooks. "Shade Walking" opens with various concrete patters and electro scrape, like some guy running his nails over a circuit and letting it resonate deep into the walls. "When They Came In" reads a bit more like Waves (the Olson project, not the band) covering some raga in ultra hi-fidelity. Street sounds enter and leave and the whole thing swings right on over itself with loping kinetics. Heady stuff to be sure, and perhaps a tad academic, but not without the grit necessary to keep it relevant.

"Gold Walking" sets itself up as one of the main acts here at over ten minutes, but it strays more toward the aimless drone walk of life. Rather, it's tracks like "Digressing" that feel less like digressions for me, despite it's being half the length of the former. Here you get shell-style percussion jangled in an elevator shaft to eternity, way more odd and unexpected and atmospheric. "That Was" poises itself as a centerpiece as well at almost fifteen minutes, but here you get a lone ascending drone line over go nowhere horn action that's muted and restrained but playful and weird enough for a good zone sesh. "Chandni Chowk," a killer field recording of radio spewed in the streets, nearly beats it all for me though. Total immersion for two minutes and you're out. Killer before the closing "Lotus Contacting," which uses the same strength of field recordings to garner its power. This is where it's best and though the disc moves around like a bear in a bomb brigade (what is with that analogy?! seriously...), they hit the hot spots often enough to warrant this a major win in my book. Nice label to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides - All Cows are Sacred (House of Alchemy CD-R)

Pretty much managed to drain the girlfriend's remote batteries of juice powering up my tape player for reviews so it's back to CDs till I get a moment to run out. Not that that's all bad when you've got offerings such as the following. I've already covered Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides here before with the Bug Incision disc they did recently, and this new one from House of Alchemy is its equal on all fronts. Same sound, same vibe, killer package, the works.

Kelly Jones and Pascal Nichols receive plenty of props from the press for their free gagaku-style explorations, but it's a worthy press for sure; these guys aren't lightweights, they're featherweights, as nimble on their collective toes as their influences were. And further, the group goes a long way in refusing to respond to their counterparts with brash futurisms, instead opting for the inside/out approach of tackling the material from the material's standpoint. None of that "well it's like Feldman but NOISIER" or "it's Rashied Ali only we removed the drums and replaced them with the sound of shrapnel being shot into a tub of churning butter." It's just flute, electronics and drums playing the shit out of flute, electronics and drums. Their own vibe, their own language, and their own sensibilities shaping the music rather than the means doing so. Props.

The first cut is "Baby Armour," which moves from some Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style flute and percussion blather into more streaky and pointed remarks on drone discourse. Shards of electro/flute tone rattle up against the able on/off drum groove, never reaching a point where the two sound like they're staring across the room and asking themselves where to go from here. Just cruising it up, back down, around the corner, total jammer style. Could almost be some lost Theater of Eternal Music track by ship's landing. Follow up track, "Milky Days," starts right up in the chasm left off in the other, with smeared weird traipsing about behind lone flute divergences. Like Popol Vuh really. And usually this kind of psych + flute equation = nothing for me but the playing here is patient and airy and controlled, with little of the lift off swirling that caused the downfall of so many hip free flutists of generations past. Focused stuff, totally honed-in spontaneity that's constantly busting at the seams like a hats off bear brigade. And when they let rip they let rip, snakes orgies abounding. Sold out at source but soon to be available elsewhere I would assume. Nice heavy wood paste on job too, felt and all. The works.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thresholders - Protective Instincts (Tape Drift CD-R)

New Tape Drift batch in--they always seem to slide in between the cracks, don't they?--with some killer new offerings from old steadies Zanzibar Snails and Padna. Have to be most excited about this one though, as Eric's been flapping air and getting me all riled about this collab-o for a while in relation to a possible Wet Merchants tape, so it was good to get to finally hear what the dealio was.

And basically, the dealio is this: Eric, in a momentary split from Century Plants mate Ray, has teamed up with Derek Rogers. If those two names don't sound nice next to each other then this town ain't big enough for the both of us, hombre, so saddle up and get your jowls back over yonder. Unless of course you just need a handle on grabbing the material, in which case stay and have a seat. Three tracks, each about fifteen minutes long and presenting one zoned take after another. Deep stuff that has a similar westward-ho feel to Rambutan's Rusted Prayers Converge tape from a ways back. First self-titled song starts with some soaring searing smearing before Rogers drum pulse takes things a bit left, like some psychedelic, cosmo-drenched Dead C go. A righteous beauty and a fine breed.

Follow-up track, "Rubber Hammer," (is it Thor's?!) starts with some bird chirp that nestled nicely in with the morning sounds outside anyway but quickly a big gaping hole of sorrow bares its cavernous soul in yawns of brain-melting delight. A way more stripped down take on the duo's sound, this one hems and haws about like some electric fence dwelling banshee, traipsing about before sitting down for a zap every once in a while. Only time the creature's fractal energy is revealed, and frankly it feels rather naughty I would guess. Like Janet's nip-slip at the Super Bowl, only lonely ghoul style. Oh wait, no clarification necessary... Last track, "Fracture Removal," takes the energy of the first and the melancholy of the second and turns into one searing scorcher of a throwdown. Barn removal for sure. Whole thing just grows and grows and belches and burns, letting out all its fakakta turmoil in moves that'll find you recouping in the corner once its said and done. Killer debut, and available still from label HQ. Gots to.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Emuul - The Ghostwood Estates (Blackest Rainbow CS)

It's a bit grey out today, scattered t-storms etc., so I figured I'd give this more melancholy glow a go. Kyle sent me a little batch of Emuul releases lately, and this one represents the beginning of the project, which has been delivering some lovelies of late. A reissue of the project's first release, the tape presents a nice little synth-y go of it that's way more fully formed than most demos go. Slow and low for sure, but with enough shimmer that it calls to mind a built-up version of that Imaginary Softwoods triple cassette from way back (recently reissued as well, on vinyl I believe = quick plug).

Lots of folks work in those mold to be sure, taking the ambient Eno approach and filling it in with enough psychedelic features to keep it squirming in the forefront, but Emuul is willing to let things sit. These little miniatures, starting off with the bobbing "Major Briggs (Enter the Light)" and feeding right into "The White Lodge," glide on right nice, taking one or two ideas and allowing them to sieve out the sunlight in the name of pure photosynthesis-based dialysis. Floating stuff, but with enough in-the-instrument incoherences to keep it relevant to the by and by.

Flip side's got a similar feel, with the back-to-nature pornographically titled "Sparkwood and 21" edging in from the blue for a good glide across the tundra. Blue stuff for sure, hardly quivering enough to reach your lobes. Not nearly as pretty as it would have you thinking at first glance, the stuff has a way of digging deep into its innards to find its own definition of decay. Turn it down and slide around or turn it up and cram on into the envelope for instant mailing to Planet Squeegie. "The Black Lodge" follows in the short line of lodge-related titles that have emerged of late (see previous song on this album, Pine Smoke Lodge, etc.) with a spatial claustrophibia that takes you into the forests of Evil Dead when there's still light to be had. Lovely stuff, limited to 80 and still available.

Megan Schubert / Christopher Riggs - Rueful Irony About the Limits of Human Agency (Holy Cheever Church Records CS)

Jammed that Lifetones tape the other night as slow as I could make it go while Asher and I burned the midnight oil, which got me in the mood for spring right quick. Time to sit back and just wait, enjoy every excruciating moment as if it were the most important one yet come upon. The blossoms are coming, by god. Take them in. Any-hoo, said listening sesh got me back in the Riggs State of Mind (...we've only just begun!...) so I figured I'd wrap my noggin around the latest received articles from the Holy Cheever catalogue.

This one's got Riggs matching tactics with a classical singer of all people. Apparently Schubert's back from yonder centuries and wanting to collab with the most forward thinking guitarist of our generation. Got around to the Detroit scene and it was all too clear Riggs was the man for the job, so ol' Schubs sent Riggs a demo tape of some extended vocal techniques she'd (things change after 150 years six feet down) recorded. Riggs took these and applied the Cage ritual on em, splicing em up and playing live to their chance happenings. Pretty tough to discern the vocals in there, though you do get hte occasional clattered hollow of ringing delirium, which speaks to both the quality of Megan's seekings and to Riggs' ability to let em come and go as they seeketh to. A weird one for sure, even by Riggs' standard, but a nice use of the process in the name of some burnt sounds.

Flip actually manages to lighten things up a bit, sputtering forward like a bubble making machine at the National Typewriters' Festival of Acquiescence Festival that happened earlier this year down in Bolivia. Gamelan style clatter tha goes nowhere nice and quickly but that actually could fall into the chasms between Dilloway and Lou Harrison or something. A little like those Raymond Scott baby-soothing soundtracks, great for turning your child's brain to mush before they ever have to know the desire themselves. Apparently this is left over from some supposed mail collabo, but it never happened so it's happening now. Killer tape again, and with one of the best titles Riggs has come up with yet. Spring is here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wasteland Jazz Unit - Shivering Reflections (House of Alchemy CD-R)

Just rolled back from schlepping all 85 students and 15 faculty down to Nicaragua and back, so it was a pleasure to find a couple packages in the mailbox that could accompany my frazzled reentry into the land of fully stocked supermarkets and mass media mind-numbery. Perhaps most surprising was a new batch from the long out-of-action House of Alchemy, a label whose done a swell job in the past but whose consistency has waned recently. Of course this new batch is stellar, including recent offerings from personal favorites Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides as well as this one, by the hyper-awesome Wasteland Jazz Unit.

A duo consisting of Jon Lorenz and John Rich, Wasteland's begun to earn some much deserved respect of late. With saxophones and clarinets in hand, the pair tie themselves together right quick here, blasting a hole through the underbrush on "Origin of Silence." Suppose they're suggesting it's sound with this statement, as there's not a gap in sight--just screams of reed radness shattering over one another like an egg in a lava pit. Starts to drip down before the whole thing hardens up and turns into chalk. Super stunning.

"Snow Burnt Air" follows in the same vein, upping the clatter if anything. Probably the best thing about these guys is their ability to still sound like they're playing the shit out of their material through the haze, and here you catch these glimmers of repeated phases, as if Ayler put that thing down, flipped it, and reversed it till it turned in on itself and imploded. Shattered sax everywhere son, watch your toesies. And while everyone's been getting on the horn/electronics wagon of late (and really, how could you resist?), these guys are picking up their horns so they can throw em right back down. Waves on waves of sound that sound less smashed than slathered together into gooey fuzz substance that's totally debilitatingly cruddily ecstatically lovely. Same goes for "Humming Creek," whose pastoral pen name is merely a front for lurched beserker motives. A jazz unit in the truest sense, total insider improv language developed from the organs to the skin for your listening pleasure. Beautiful stuff, and a welcome howdie-do from ol' House of Alchemy. Good to be home.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Caethua / Ancestral Diet - Split (Goaty Tapes CS)

Goaty Tapes is such a classy operation it's tough to figure out where to go with these releases. I got this one from Zully a bit back with the Banana Head tape and have been giving it a go recently, but everytime I throw it on I end up going back through the artwork for another looksie. Beautiful cut-out springtime feel to the cover, with this great die cut information thing and a paper bag "C" house print as well. Outrageous. Of course the tunes are tight too, with this one representing a split between Caethua (who is Clare Adrienne and sometimes Andy Neubauer) and Ancestral Diet, which is just Neubauer. I like a good split of course, and when they're as intimately linked as this it can make for a real nice flow, revealing things about both if only due to their proximity to one another.

Caethua gets side one, with "Surface Waters and Underground Seas" sounding more or less as it's title suggests. Loping little key lines pulsate onward here, while Klaus Schulze swirls enter and retreat like guppies to the yolk. A small feel here to be sure, and one that's undeniably cutesy as well, especially once the super quaint vocals come in. I usually don't care for this style, and it is by no means my favorite element here, but that's just me. She does a fine job of keeping it interesting and loose despite the words, with a hazy sort of feel that would fit well on your latest new folk songstress mix. The instrumental stuff is what I'm going back to though, especially when it redissolves into grit toward the end of the side.

Ancestral Diet's side, "Coming Back in Trace Amounts," is even grittier, though still with that hazy summer feel. Opening like distant cicadas over the mountain tops, string motions nauseate each other here with a tastefully sea-sick feel. Very slow, the side sits right still for a good stretch before slowly building into, you guessed it, an honest to god song! Weird. The thing is pretty compelling actually, with airy organ lines and bells buried in tape hiss and slight of hand fuzzies. The girl/boy duet is halfway to "I Got You Babe," but again, it never shows all of its cards at anyone point, remaining unexpected within its framework. Nice stuff, eerie and dark and cut off, like some hippie Gregorian miniature played in icy foothills. Sold out at the label, but check the usual places.

Connector - STEEL/RUST (Stunned Records CS)

Another one from way back when on Stunned (jeez, a whole 11 releases away now) but better late than never and better pulley than lever right? Plus, the cover's riddled with skulls so it's not as if the "time's up" ideal isn't inherent to the release itself you know? I'm saying more by doing it late. Yeah, that's it...

Truth be told though, this one should have come way earlier as it's gone now and that's a shame. Connector is Bryce Loy and Peter Lamons and the concept here is ultra righteous in my book. Basically, the two sides represent two acoustic pieces played inside of Richard Serra's (of "Spiral Jetty" fame) "Connector," a sixty-four foot tall monument of steel whose five plates create a hollow space through which one can walk, talk, and jam their way to heart's content. Kinda shocked that the powers that be were game for this recording to happen here actually, as these guys really go nuts on the thing. Starting off subtle, with carvings and scratches and traffic and crickets, the thing quickly develops into all out smashes and pummeling procedures. Real riotous really, but I guess it would be tough not to get caught up in the insular environs of the locale.

Importantly though is that the thing never turns into a wonk fest. These guys are really getting a lot of sounds out of this space, and the hexagon whole at the top lets enough starlight in that there's hope of light and escape, an important element to the sound here. Thus it always gets insular once more, content in itself before erupting toward the heavens. This tension/release/tension effect is very nicely paced and the whole thing has the feel of a genuine locational piece despite it's clearly improvised nature. Love the pictures on the inside too, which show in fine color the sculpture and a super bloody arm. Rugged. Best of all is that you've got to assume Serra would approve. His stuff's always meant to be used, degraded, changed, and this work inside a work feeds off of all of that. Groovy stuff here. Maybe Tomentosa's got one?

Xiphiidae - Sewn Within a Circle (Housecraft 2XCS)

Housecraft man. Way back when, like a year ago, Housecraft was cranking out more shit than an Elephant at Thanksgiving, but things have slowed a bit for the label. Lucky for us though, the stuff keeps sneaking out, with the last two releases being highly constructed, multi-tiered beauties. This one celebrates Housecraft's 100th release, and it goes right back to the beginning for the label, serving as an exhibition of head honcho Jeffry Astin's Xiphiidae project and including tracks from older releases plus new material. Apparently some of this stuff dates back to 2002, which is quite a ways in the world of tape output really, so you get a full range on this number for sure.

Consisting of two hour-long tapes, it's pretty tough to know where to start with this one. There's a ton of music here, all of seeping in and out of itself in the earthy electronic manner that Astin's so good at. The guy really sounds like no one else, walking a fine line between New Age throwback, tape loop crud and shimmering ambient stuff without really wading a toe into the nostalgia fair grounds. His stuff is always packed high to low, with delicacy and rugged laid over one another like bed mates after a brawl. Sometimes opposites do attract, and pork string stutters feel right at home in guitar and synth slight of hand vibrations. Even vocal tape finds of the preacher/discourse realm manage to be used musically enough so that they feel comfortably aligned and new. Making something alert from the tired pieces of promise.

Great stuff for cozying up really, if you feel like soundtracking. It's rainy here, so I can't help but feel right at home with the fireside feel of this stuff, but it's fireside feel with balls enough to crackle erratically. Don't curl up next to the flames, put your head right on them and feel their warmth softly whisp by your ear. Sure, it'll hurt at first, but soon you'll be melting right in and home is where the heat is ain't it? Ride on Housecraft, and take me there every time. Or at least let me visit.

Jay Crocker - Joachim on Eggshells (Bug Incision Records CD-R)

Whoa, what have we here? Bug Incision's been a bit under represented here considering the amount I've been jamming on Chris Dadge's label, but justice is served by the weak so I'll try and represent a bit harder here. Let's be clear: the label's putting out some of the best experimental improv around, period. Canada man, what a holy land. This one comes from usual guitarist Jay Crocker (who plays on a sometime soon-to-be-released Dadge tape we're doing over at Wet Merchants, by the way) who has here decided to forego the axe in favor of single take cassette mash ups that read more like some brain damaged Zoviet France output or something. Total melt your mind material here.

The album starts off in some pretty crude modes but the intricacy of the stuff soon makes itself visible as high end electro waves are laid over by demo beats and empty space. I know the word "beats" has certain connotations but these cause little to no groove, fear not. More just clacking pulses that intermingle with the head space for maximum insanity-inducing effect. Zonked stuff for sure, blips and low end electronic glitches combining into something like Analog Concept meets A.M. Shiner meets solo percussion for satellite stuff. Dead as a doornail but with enough bite in it, and an almost ADD willingness to switch gears that your brain'll swell to the size of bowling bowl and roll right down the lane.

There's gotta be more like this out there. This Calgary scene has got something special going on with a real move to develop there own language, which to me is always the most exciting stuff to emerge. Modern folk music stuff. Plus they have free health care?! What else do you need? Endless realms on this one, and well worthy of repeated listens to watch the eccentricities present themselves anew. Try it out, support Bug Incision, etc. These guys are on fire, and the lite bright cover puts it up over the top.

Christopher Riggs - Long Self-Trained in Taking Despair Sitting Down (Holy Cheever Church CS)

Another day, another Riggs. This guy's got his hand in everything it seems, and the more he partakes the more we benefit far as I'm concerned. Just started a new label in cooperation with Ben Hall called You Are Your Only Machine, first release of which consists of Hall and Riggs going at it with guitar beat down legend Joe Morris. More to come on that upon arrival...

Group aside, Riggs' solo work shines plenty. I swear the more this guy cranks out, the more honed his systems of delirium become. This one in particular finds Riggs playing two homemade stereo guitars (a guitar 4-track, really) as if they were mechanical orchestras, whirling about under some wah-wah'd coils that sproing like Carl Stalling on a sugar binge. Practically a timpanic poof beat at the beginning while the squiggles squiggle and the slithers slither. Wormy and winding, but also sensitive as can be, with real shapes being drawn across the factory belt as it slinks by.

As far as I'm concerned it's about as perfect as they come really; playful, genuinely experimental and a joy to sink into. So many people marvel at the fact that these are guitars but I'm not sure that's the point. Either way, they're sounds being masterfully treated, no matter the instrument, and the fact that he's not shredding some Santana groove isn't so much a shock as it is a relief. Come up with a body motion and place it on an object over and over and it turns into something, you know? Riggs moves from gesture to gesture so fluidly and consciously, intertwined in some convivial dance on six strings, that it's tough to disconnect the sounds from his body from his instrument etc. Some gasamptkunstwerk stuff you know? No conceptual holes, and still a total blast. Not dry, just fly. God bless Holy Cheever.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Julian Lynch - Orange You Glad (Olde English Spelling Bee LP)

Hot off the presses at Foxy Digitalis:

Julian Lynch is a name that's been flying around a lot recently in the hypnagogically obsessed blog-o-sphere with this record in many ways representing his introduction to the world beyond. And it's easy to understand why—Lynch has a knack for a hook and is just this side of scuzzy enough that even your freckled nephew could throw it on alongside his recently uncovered Pavement collection. The whole thing drifts along just right, with it's cautiously constructed naivety serving as the time machine on a revisit of your now-foggy fondnesses. It makes for lovely basking.

Yet with a lot of this stuff, it seems people are missing the point. Yes, Lynch's tunes are as billowing as they come, their melodies emerging as naturally as “Here Comes the Sun.” But beneath that, there is a sincerity that exudes distaste of the scene it has emerged out of. “Rancher” is halfway between “Before and After Science”-era Eno and the soundtrack to Twin Peaks and, while both of those things do happen to fall into the time period roughly alluded to by the beach crazed Maui/mall rat hubbub of late, it is far more than gazing from abroad. This stuff deals too closely with the sounds as they present themselves to do that. Each strum is treated fully, each bass line given its space and voice in the mix. This is as much about production as it is about songwriting, and Lynch is a master at the knobs. It's definitely lo-fi, but it's lo-fi in a 4-track kind of way; he's doing about as much as he can with the materials at hand. Dig the horn line on “Mercury” for further proof, it's lazy gestures floundering about on languid lines of drifting hydrangeas.

If anything the second side is even more lackadaisical and loping than the first. This is really Lynch at his best, especially on tracks like “Winterer Two,” where his mini orchestra sounds like everything it's pulling from but with enough of a sense of its own voice to thwart them all of connotation. Lynch avoids these connotations in his music by superseding them with an undeniable presence of his own voice as he pushes off from the mangled groupings of bloggers everywhere. And this is a most refreshing thing. Not to mention a damn good record.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pine Smoke Lodge - Haligdaeg (Stunned Records CD-R)

Back to back days of reviews? Unheard of... of course when you've got this much catching up to do, it's more than a bit unforgivable not to do that so two slaps on the wrist here and let's move on. This one is long overdue, harkening way back to the batch before the latest one on personal Eden, Stunned Records. They never miss a beat of course, and this one is just as solid as you would expect/hope.

Pine Smoke Lodge consists of Hillary and Matt, who runs Existential Cloth (swell label) over in Portland, Maine. Seems they've been spending plenty of time in Strange Maine of late, cause this tape takes the grim of that space, spruces it up a tad and gives it a nudge into daylight. Wipes it's charcoal eyes clean quick too, as these little acoustic iterations delay ad infinitum into the endless hollow landscape stretching beneath. "Overgrown White Hut" (wait, huts don't grow?!) shoots it nice and easy into the cosmos without getting too "drone/space/splooge"-y that it's rendered useless and laid to rest among the other cd-rs in the collection. Rather, this stuff has a crisp freshness to it--recorded well, it captures textural delicacies that too often render this type of music into sounding like itself over and over.

Keep mentioning over and over/ad infinitum, but really, whether it's positive or negative, that's the point here. Sheets slip into more sheets, shaping the work over long expanses of desert like some ambient work composed at high altitude. There's less oxygen up there, you see, so the focus is a bit hazy, but the sound carries as well as anywhere. Gotta give props too for the vocals which, though immediately identifiable upon entry, never shift this thing back down to lock down. Rather, they're matched with machine innards and shell bells that take you outward toward some less familiar dimensional territory. Fresh stuff, Stunned rules (still).

Monday, February 22, 2010

High Wolf - Supermodern Temple (Krayon Recordings CS)

I'm a big fan of yellow and, though due only to a very limited number of exposure opportunities, of High Wolf. This tape is yellow AND High Wolf, so it was all good in my book from the get go. Which is to say that I've been jamming this one for going on months now without ever plopping down and penning the item. Plopping's happening in a big way today though, so High Wolf's time is nigh.

First off, a word of warning on the text here. The tape's fonts are practically indecipherable, rendered more as negative image hieroglyphics more than the good ol' fashioned Roman layout I've grown so accustomed to in my time here. So the two sides are either titled "Aztec Fountain" and "Parallel Vision" or something exceptionally different. Pay no mind though, the feel is right. We all know there's a lot of Skaters copyists spanning the globe these days, and who's to blame them? Skaters rule. But High Wolf, despite working in a similar mode on a lot of this stuff, takes the high road (get it?) by keeping his jams in ultra hi (get it again?) fidelity, making for glistening New Age psychedelicisms that squish to the touch and bloom if you put enough pressure on them. Ultra glistening stuff here that takes what feels like a million cliched lines and lays them on one another, mirrors on mirrors on mirrors, until there are too many reflections to find yourself, let alone your karmic state. Gorgeous and aimless stuff here on both sides, with a similar oeuvre being elucidated the whole stretch of tape.

You know, there's a lot of talk about beach culture, 80s nostalgia, blah blah blah on the blog-o-sphere these days but High Wolf is a fine demonstration for me of why those niches are so regrettable. Sure, there's a chillers vibe here to be certain, but not at the expense of a unique voice and honest vision. To be fair, there's a lot of stuff that's much more so that thing than this, but the general feel is there: slow beats, gliding melodies, fragments of vocal-sounding Beach Boys buildup. But it's all nill if it cares more about being that than being itself. High Wolf could easily be thrown in the mix of hypnagogic hoopla and released with a Ninja Turtle thrown on the cover but it isn't. In fact, the cover's practically illegible, letting the sounds make the statement, just as they should.

And for the record, it's not so much the concepts that I take issue with. It's the deliberate pigeon holding of groups who deserve far more credit than to just be likened to one another. Anyway, tight album from the hitherto unknown to me Krayon Recordings. Seek it out and see what's cracking.

Terrors - Ceaseless Fall (Bathetic CS)

Double trouble in honor of the 22nd. This one's from Bathetic Records, which got sent to me a ways back and is run by he who is known as Pink Priest. This tape's cover, with staunch witnesses lining the skies, grabbed me hard by the jugular, so it was a whole other revelation to tap into the sounds here. I'd heard of Terrors before, but the sounds had never made it in my hands, so to tell the truth I know very little about the project. Suppose I could do a quick research run but faghettaboutit. It's the smatters that matters, right?

Truth be told, I was quite taken on first spin here. Expected some sort of crudded out noise stuff but instead I got some real gentle guitar picking and echoed out coos on "Locks Fall Pattern." Like some tiny Simon and Garfunkel moment stretched out from sea to shining sea till it's so big you can't tell Simon or Art from lemon tart. "Hit & Miss Iowa City" has some honest-to-god lyrical content (a real rarity for the material that swings through here most days) but it's well balanced with flicking glimmers of guitar strum and lope with some extra careful delay treatment that never sets the tone or guides the work so much as fleshes it out into its own microcosmic wunderworld. Super careful stuff, and refreshingly unapologetic in its gentility.

The flip's "Withdrawing" walks the line between reverb overdose and moist folk nocturnes, sneaking in the cracks between Astral Weeks and Dave Bixby. Glowing stuff that's bare bones enough to pack an emotional wallop without reverting to sleeze. Toy piano (or whatever it is...) is so blown out on entry it just glides right into the tremolo mix, disappearing like a drop of milk into water and exuding that most careful balance of sorrowful joy found only in the old Las Vegas crooner back on the drag singing staples for silver. Real lovely like. "Soft Proliferating Light" closes things out by murkifying and proselytizing towards the reflections out west. I hear that the San Andreas fault splits off faster every year. Does it take the sunset with it though? This should give you some sense. A real gem that fills all sorts of niches. Call it the winter blues, but this stuff's soft to the touch and boiling for the brain, which amounts to none other than the best recipe of the season.

Archers by the Sea / Kawrelia Soul Collective - Split (Cabin Floor Esoterica CS)

Yowzers, February's almost over already and we're fast approaching the end of winter. Got to actually walk around in just a long sleeved shirt today, a beautiful thing. Maybe it's the extra vitamin D, but I felt extra motivated today to get some long (long, long) overdue reviews done. Had to start here too, not only cause of general levels of overdue I.O.U. status, but also cause Vincent (of Archers by the Sea) is doing a tape for yours truly's Wet Merchants, so a little extra word serves both right proper.

This split comes from the aptly titled Cabin Floor Esoterica label, who always makes a special effort to gather as much extraneous junk and pack it into the package as possible. Always nice to have a bit to explore while the tapes are rolling, and this one's got real life rocks from some swimming hole out in Atlantis. Good looks for sure.

Of course the main course is the sounds, and this one, in the spirit of any well conceived split, flows right on through some zones that, while not necessarily obvious bunk buddies, definitely serve each other in their placement across from one another at the coloring table. The first side, Vincent's, is a lo-fi folk rambler that hits some pretty molten realms. Caylet's got so many guises, and each project takes on a voice of it's own. Monks of the Balhill, Pistil Cosmos, "V", it's all the same guy but never the same guise. This project moves toward some Xian folk style meanderings that are blown to bits by the in-the-red recording levels, which makes it sound rather a lot like Caylet had climbed to the top of Baldhead Mountain to play a nice one for some eagle chicks before the walls fell and buried his guitar under about three feet of pebbles. Turns out that's not such a bad place for him to be. Really lets each tune slink into the group while keeping it sonically devoid of anything un-downer. Stark and grave, kinda reminds me of that Miles Devens tape or something. More singular a vibe though, and even a tad more buried, plus he's willing to stretch on FOREVER.

The flip offer sup mystery Russian/Finnish unit Kawrelia Soul Collective, who more or less go the route of all things zonkered by gathering all the kitchen utensils they can, flipping on some delay and having a go of it college daze style. Little guitar and vocal nowhere lines definitely keep this one on the verge of total destruction/conversion, but it's all ceremoniously goofy and welcome after the drenched badlands trampled on yonder tape side. There is a touch of truly nowhere melancholy here (the first "Ruin Song," but it has a bit too tough a time avoiding sounding like exactly what it is. I hear Love Cult and Win in Willows are both band members, as is Noise Under My Pillow and Cycle Hiccups, but even "Meow, Kitties," as adorable they may be, just doesn't have the same delicate dilapidation of the Godz own feline flounderings (I hear kitties love flounder, actually). Not that this side doesn't get into some delirious realms--especially when they go electric they're able to conjure up some mean mantra mumbles. Grip the tape for Archers by the Sea, flip it for potential jam-fried accompaniment. Limited to 50 and still available if you can believe it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wet Merchants 4

Cruudeuces - "Bird Calling in the Ghetto" and "2 Live Crew Deuces" here.

$5 for "Bird Calling"
$7 for "2 Live Crew" -- comes in an over sized box with "Bird Calling" and bonus 3"

E-mail me with orders.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wet Merchants Ribbon Cutting

Big news folks: the first Wet Merchants release is done and ready for the shippings. Killer split from co-label master Nick and Emily's Speculator project with former Dana member Ryan Howe's Luke Perry operation on the flip. Get in touch with Nick (or me once I get them in... will keep notified) if you're interested. $5

Kane Pour - Cat on a Paisley Shawl (Housecraft CS)

Housecraft's a mainstay in this heart to be sure, but perhaps it's strongest attribute is its seeming inability to go the way of all things. When the original site went down I thought, well, there goes another one, but the resuscitation of the label on their blog site has left many hoping for more. Jeff was nice enough to shoot me a batch a while ago (you'll notice these latest ones are mostly from a ways back in the release schedules...) but I've gotta say, they're just as good as anything he's done. Guy's got a way of finding sounds that slip between spaces rather than fill them, and a hole's always better than a mound I say.

One of the best of these recent acts is Kane Pour who, along with Jeff, is the other half of Tricorn and Queue. His debut, Wand in the Beak of a Yellow Bird, was phenomenal, so getting this one in the mail was a joy. More or less expanding on the previous record's stuff, and certainly blessing us with an extra 12 minutes of material here, this stuff floats right in off some sunset shrouded cloud to settle right on the tip of an oak tree and nestle into its veins. Guitar based, the material's drenched with delay and off celestial backings that flit about haphazardly, everything soft enough so as to round out the edges until they are barely perceptible against the white wash of drift. Not drone, not tropy-jams, not nothin. Just fragile, lo-fi foraging. Balancing experimentation with listenability is no small task, but Kane Pour makes it look easy. It's the kind of thing your grandma might like to knit too. Throw it on and everything among it will immediately become softer, less agitated. Yet it ain't no new age numbery. Rather, it induces a kind of heightened sensitivity to vulnerabilities and beautiful details. Really lovely stuff that's always got a secret or two up it's sleeve to take it into another realm of disbelief. Immersion without conversion. Peace without fleece. Excitement without excrement. How'za bout that?

M. Geddes Gengras / A.M. Shiner - The Blue Push / The Red Kush (Stunned Records CS)

Last year, M. Geddes Gengras, mainstay of the L.A. scene, released one of my favorite albums of the year with Smoke Blower, while A.M. Shiner's Bananarchy fell squarely among my favorite zone out numbers of the ever. Well go figure that the two would now converge, and doubly go figure that it happens on Stunned, which sniffed out the two dudes and is now laying them across each other in a hazy communion. Nice concept for sure, but who knew it would work out with magnificence of a wunderkind huh?

Opening the big bag of goodies is Gengras, who here opts for a less gritty take on his approach than Smoke Blower ventured into. This number's far more psyched out, a broken conglomerate of post-Mesozoic delirium whose thick chordal background has cartoon hallucinations veering in and out of it fast as your mind's eye can grab on. Like the tortoise and the hare combined into one. Slow and steady wins the race, but high MPH's are so exhilarating while they last. And why shouldn't we have both at the same time huh? What especially boggles my mind about this stuff is how many sources there are--it sounds like Gengras is hiding in Klaus Schulze's bag of tricks, only he's brought his own toys along for the ride too. Expansive stuff that goes nowhere and everywhere at exactly the same time. Stretch your mind out and let it sproing back in with simultaneous motions. Bet you can't do it, can you? Well Gengras can.

No fear either, the flip is equally ganja-fied, if by a few different means. I mean it's called The Red Kush for chrissake's, and it's got that same crunched out oblivio vibe that said product may well induce. Crunch and whir abounds, but with little worry as to the outcome. Just let it roll off and land on you, find out what that does to your hearing. Switches channels, and you got the taste of cherry in your mouth. Whoa there... off the deep end right quick there. Much harsher stuff here, but with a compassion for its sounds that keeps it all rolling along quite heartily. My noggin hurt yesterday but today it tastes like stale bread and Nutella. Keep it there for a moment, Wonka, let it chide me for another moment. A banana split for the psychically (un)aware. Get with it.

Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides - Memoirs of a Secret Metal Cave (Bug Incision Records CD-R)

How bout that Mr. Doubty-Mustafa? More than two reviews in a week and rolling strong. This one's from a batch I got a ways back off Chris Dadge's Bug Incision imprint, as swell an operation as there is and north of the border at that. Chilliness aside, Dadge has a way of keeping things steaming on all fronts with his stuff. Guess booking the biggest thing in small music makes sense then, as he called upon Pascal Nichols and Kelly Jones for this one. Likely no need for an introduction of these two but for those who haven't heard the stuff, this British duo work a unique flute, drums and electronics setup that presents a real mastery of the kind of insular, homemade logic that I fall for like a fool for a fad.

On to the sounds. When you think PWHMBS, you gotta think flute, and the first track's full of it. This nowhere melody finds space between the lonesome hills, Renaissance fair crowd, Herbie Mann style wankery and pure tonal exploration in a way that somehow squeezes between the cracks and musters some evocative pastoral breaths. Usually can't stand the flute aside from when a scant few are rocking it--say R. Kirk, Dead Machines style Olson, and, uh, I'm sure there are others...--but this is some deep playing that uses the instrument's strongest qualities, namely it's ability to funnel bursts of air into parcels of barely there tone, to get to some real stuff. Second track drops the woodwind in favor of subtle electronic dialysis and highlighted percussive romps. Completely killer percussion here, that's on the beat and off it again as fast as a fare train to the skies.

By the time the second cut feeds into the third, you're knee deep in the duo's language, so the flute feels rightly placed into the smattering percussion world. Hums, bells, glimmers, it's all light stuff here, as soft as paisley, but with an urgency of form and vision that speaks far beyond the strict color palette present. This is, for lack of a better term, serious music; it takes itself seriously, and it expects to be taken seriously. Yet the =strength of the work lies in its very ability to not translate "seriously" as stale or even intellectual. It is only serious in its ability to be as it is, and to persist with refining the creation looming between the ample lines of the disc. Beautiful stuff that would make a whole lot of improv geeks drool if only they didn't have their heads so far up their own arses. Grad it if it's not gone already, it's beautiful stuff.