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.