Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stone Baby / Entente Cordiale - Our Lungs are Bleeding, but We Keep Breathing (Carbon Records 2X3" CD-R)

Rochester's Carbon Records have been dropping weirdness from the north for a while now, and this double 3" is a killer format for showing off two like-minded wranglers of mind-fuckery in a concise and effective format.

Stone Baby is a group that, I believe, includes Cory Card, though I'm not sure of or if there are any other members. The "Silicosis Suite" presented here in three parts, maintains the spooky, sterile vibes that both the track and the band name conjure. For those who don't know, a stone baby is the name given to some crazy process whereby a baby gets lodged in the wrong spot of a woman's body and essentially calcifies so as not to cause infection. Sometimes these things aren't found for forty years, which is definitely the kind of grueling, creepy, body invading spinal discomfort that Stone Baby bring to mind here. Really crisp metallic expanses here, with radio babble and guitar tinklings riding atop some deeply buried brain dead mumbles. Eventually the darkness overwhelms and you enter the howling monstrosity of the second movement, which manages to be as dense while still maintaining a kind of oxygenated undertow. The last movement culls more scraping metal with warped vocal bellows while guitar and endless echo trail along in gloomy desolation. Not exactly a finger snapper, which means a pretty complete realization of its own aesthetic.

Entente Cordiale is another mystery group who lead down a similar path as Stone Baby does. A trio consisting of (if I'm reading it right...) Chris Reeg, Will Veeder and Joe Tunis, it sounds like a three guitar attack going on, though the restraint would suggest otherwise. Patiently ringing melodic fragments and textural billows, about forty percent of the sound they wrangle is each others feedback meshing and melting inward. Despite the apparent chilliness of the disposition on "96/89," there is actually quite a lot of warmth in these subtle interactions. Sudden changes are few, but they build themselves a sort of tactile sound world to bathe about in. Sometimes it gets bleaker, sometimes more muddied, and sometimes it is quite harsh, but the overall approach is one that favors interaction and listening to mental degeneration via guitar splaying. Even so, some pretty fucked levels of weird are apparent.

Weird little package in one of those Michael's arts and crafts boxes with packaging fuzz and a nice pro-printed card. The twine (not pictured) really seals the deal on a wild split.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pipeline Alpha - Darking Lights of Mazil (DNT Records CS)

Whoa doggie! Yet ANOTHER DNT series is out already, and this time the suddenly prolific Tynan unloads one of his murkiest runs yet.

Thought I'd start with this one from Pipeline Alpha. Had to go over seas for this one, enlisting Germany's Marcel Seeck, who apparently has had some stuff put out on Ruralfaune and also does stuff on his own Amid the Waves label. Hadn't heard/heard of his stuff before now, so here goes.

Side one opens with "Nagelfar in an Icier Lull," which sort of scoots along with some weird, icy drones and odd gobbley-gook cauldron bubble. A serious Phantom of the Opera castle vibe here, only fed through some Vodka Soap/Dolphins into the Future approach. Slips right into the hushing"shhhs" of "Seth in Deserts," where some weird chant is said all shroud like. Could just be that I don't speak German, but this whole thing has that same Halloween vibe that Heath Moreland put out on that "Shrieks and Creaks" cassette a while back. Nice and airy instrumentation here, fog horns, slipping electronic gagunks, electronic neo-space/undersea urchin material. Some sax line quietly reverberating around, real simple and not jazzy at all. Just plain spaced out, with only the tiniest little rhythm pushing things into more mantra-like, head-nod/kneading grounds. Some real fertile ground here. Third and last track on the side, "Anubis Cures Aschmodaii," continues in this aesthetic realm; lots of dark greens mingling around, with some bass heavy droning beneath the metallic stutters.

Side two only has two tracks, which lets the whole thing sit a bit more uneasily. "Zusa" starts things in similar fashion, with long horn-like drones shot through some mountain pass. There's evil in the air style. Never really arrives though, maintaining a nice, ominous vibe that rests easy in stagnant discomfort. It's where the worry resides. Under the drones there are some truly glitched out, warm gook, not unlike the sticky-icky harnessings of Sam Goldberg's material. "Dark City" is even more ambient, with a nice pseudo industrial, muddled radio transmissions vibe.

Sweet cover too, but limited to 55 so snaggeth quick.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Corsican Paintbrush - Fascinators (Housecraft CS)

When he's not heading the Digitalis and Foxglove labels, or playing in Ajilvsja with Nathan Young or the North Sea by his lonesome, Brad Rose is making music with wife Eden as Corsican Paintbrush, a space synth folk project that generally mucks around in clearer waters than some of Brad's other projects.

This new cassette on Housecraft presents three tracks spread over its two sides. The first side, one epic 19-minute zoner called "My Trinidad Ecstasy Rocket," starts off in some pretty glum locales, burbling along with some electronic babble and strange synth rumblings. Pretty zonked out and nicely paced, the whole thing stretches into itself, evoking some of the same vibes that I get from Demons, only with more organic, less electronic vibe. When pipes come in, chugging along to some odd reverberated pulse, it almost descends into a Vodka Soap vibe, albeit one that replaces the rhythmic structures of the latter's work for a more sprawling, early Cluster feel. Voices pop in and out, careening around as sounds present and re-present themselves. It's pretty go nowhere, only with enough of a sense of structure to maintain its interest throughout, pulling out when it needs to return to the basic drone structures it started on and then enriching itself once more with more delayed skitters and a kind of gently ominous patience that displays great depth here.

The second side starts off with "Sunrise Year," which basically starts where the first side left off. More crinkling atmospherics and spooky, ethereal beauty. Some real night time jungle qualities here, although way more cavernous without any of the obvious connotations that that may have. Just gurgling, what the hell was that sound situations. Not unlike some way stripped-down Fag Tapes release, really. The final track, "We're Wringing Trouble," replaces the low-end murmur with some high end vocal work that sprawls itself out and wavers about with some beautifully synthesized cirrus layers. A nice way to end on a high note, clearing the old noggin and laying down the veer off into infinity approach. Lovely.

It's another killer via both the Rose crew and the Housecraft label. Fits right in with the cold-as-ice, cozy melancholy of this time of year, at least up here. Here's hoping this tandem does it again, as both the sounds and the label fit each other wonderfully.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black Pus / Foot Village - Split (DNT Records / Deathbomb Arc LP)

Just received word about four new (killer looking) DNT releases, which reminded me that I hadn't gotten around to this Black Pus/Foot Village split co-released by Deathbomb Arc. But before we talk about the delicious ear delights, allow me to direct you toward that beautiful cover designed by Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale. I've seen a bunch of different animals used (mine's a llama, which is sick if you catch my drift) but I figured the label stock photo was enough to wet the appetite. It's actually a reissue of a Deathbomb Arc CS from last year sometime, only with two bonus tracks from Black Pus and one from Foot Village.

The first of the unlabeled sides is Brian Chippendale's Black Pus. Considering that Chippendale is the drummer for Lightning Bolt, it's not difficult to see how this stuff fits right in with that aesthetic. Chippendale's drums are crushing, pummeling along beneath walls of static, glitched out electronics and near indecipherable vocals that take electronic thrash to its most extreme conclusion. Using a variety of overdubbed electronic scribbles, Chippendale has a kinetic propulsion rarely matched, and his scrawling gestures and blown out gusto find some odd meeting ground between Rashied Ali and Merzbow. Really beautiful, cathartic stuff, as active and physical as it comes.

The Foot Village side opens with some weird, crazed spoken word stuff about me being "hungy" and how we'll all do whatever we have to for food. Some starved stuff that really puts the ass in ass-backwards. When everyone is properly ready to race for food, the whole thing opens up into a total crushing onslaught of percussive mayhem. Just fucking manic distopia here. Full frontal assault that delves into way more chaotic territory than Friendship Nation ever did. Nice and muddy and, like the flip side, as crazed as can be. Mellows out a bit later on, with more synchronized chanting and the like, but the message is clear. Drumming and screaming are fun. I suppose the chants of "420!" suggest other things are fun as well...

The whole LP represents the onslaught that DNT has been harvesting from time to time of late, and though it may not be for the feint of heart, it does serve its purpose well. Why punch pillows when you can thrash your body about in contorted mayhem? Sounds way more fun to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Loosers / Owl Xounds - S/T (Release the Bats 7")

Got this 7" over at Other Music last time I was in the city, and just now finally getting around to reviewing it. Seems to be the way things are going these days. Ah well, on with the show.

Been hearing a lot about Os Loosers lately, though this is my first direct contact with the Portuguese unit. And sure, it's not the new double LP on Qbico, or even the single LP on Troglosound, but the all-too-brief "At the Foot of the Sphinx" presented here is a rather tasty chunk of sound. A trio whose instrumentation consists of no more than your standard fare voice, bass, guitar and percussion set up, the group bobs their way along little forest paths on this one, the simple two-note bass line chugging along while the guitar line strays toward some Dead territory only far more, well, dead--nice and meandery stuff. The vocals are highly effected, serving up some warm background layers over which the minimal percussive jingle jangles can flounder about nice and steady like.

The Owl Xounds side, called "Translucent Neon Hexagram (Imagined)," features a more jazz-oriented angle, with La Otracina's Adam Kriney handling skins while Gene Janas's upright bass and Mario Rechtern's effected sax squalls do their thing. I had heard their earlier double 3" Stoned and Zoned, but this is a bit more erratic and less all-out blowing. Nice post-post fire music here, and a bit more together--even, dare I say, traditional--than that earlier material. Still a real chaotic treat though, with saxophone/bass duets quibbling about before Kriney's drums come in to drive the whole idea home. Could be some stripped down Center of the World thing, more high-energy than Graveyards but with the same kind of appreciation for the medium. Some real high level interaction here.

It's a strange split, with both groups presenting the same side of two very different coins. It's all improvised greatness though, and where people may tend toward one over the other, it's the dialogue between them which fuels the release's momentum while also fostering general appreciation of the improvised form. Limited to, you guessed it, 420 copies with a nice stripped down aesthetic and two cut outs giving personnel info. Cool stuff.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

C. Spencer Yeh / Sick Llama - Split (Arbor 7")

Grabbed a copy of that new C. Spencer Yeh / Sick Llama split on Arbor, and it's a doozy. Love this 7" style, as it allows these guys to let rip with no concern for pacing or album formulation. Just quick fat slabs of sonic gunk from the leading purveyors of sticky sounds.

Sides are unlabeled, but we'll start with the Sick Llama action. Can't believe I haven't posted anything on Heath Moreland yet come to think of it, especially considering what a mammoth masterwork his label, the estimable Fag Tapes, is as a whole, and more particularly that killer 12 CS boxset commemorating the 200th release was. Couldn't exactly bring myself to tackle that for the review treatment though... maybe some day. Anyway, Moreland offers up a nice crunchy side here, really murky and glitched out with bellows of vocal weirdness drowning out the static electronic psycho babble. No one sounds like Heath--almost feel like he's managed to grab that whole basement aesthetic and take it into some twisted, psyched out land, welcome to the stone zone style.

The following side features Burning Star Core hauncho C. Spencer Yeh, but if you're expecting anything like the rich drone melodies of BSC's recent Challenger think again. Rather, "Solo Violin 11" is all nervous kineticism, sounding far more like a violin being tormented in various ways: scraping of strings, machine gun fire on that fine wooden body, high end tear-me-up squeals, pitter patter bow one string style.Even water like plunks make their way in the mix, all with the most disruptive, skull-gnashing underbelly though. Finds the meeting point somewhere between AMM and Prick Decay, if you can dig that. Totally warped, but in that thoughtful, avant-garde thoughtful chaos kind of way. Dude can play.

It's limited to 500, but still available from the label for a small sum. Good purchase as both sides represent some highly focused and fine representations of their sounds. A masters' sampler if you will.

More Shameless Self Promotion!

Hey, alright, I know, I've been name-dropping my band Herons' first cassette for a while now but it's finally out for real. Put out over on Housecraft Records, "Walk Upright" pulls from some recent material as well as some stuff that's nearly a year old now. SO yeah, snag a copy if you want, it's a mind melter if you ask me. But who am I to say? Surely I'm just a bit biased?

Scope out Housecraft's website if you want to get your mitts on one. Cheap cheap!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Xiphiidae - Used Parts Galaxy (Housecraft CS)

I believe Xiphiidae is the name of Jeff from Housecraft's solo project, though that's only through some potentially misguided research... whoever it is, it's another Housecraft winner that presents a bit of an airier vibe than so much of the drone out there these days. Where many bands opt for the thick as curry take, Xiphiidae ventures into thinner, more refractive waters.

Side one, "Paper Giant Blind with Age," opens in a kind of ultra stripped down take on modal, Paul Bleyish improvisations over ambient cut ups that create a whole world unto themselves. Almost sounds like a Hammond under there, weaving these slow and speculative riffs around one another. Specifically I think of this Muhal Richard Abrams solo on Marion Brown's Sweet Earth Flying (coincidentally, an album that also has Paul Bley sitting in at the keys...), but a more obvious touchstone would be Sun Ra's bare piano explorations, spaced out but not lacking in soul. Yet really it's none of these, and in fact couldn't be mistaken for jazz at all... just that that keyboard sound conjures some warm vibes while the background creates a sort of sputtering backdrop, though really more of a simultaneous sonic happening than that term might suggest.

Side two, "When Trees are Bare," starts with some sort of wagon wheel thing before more natural sounding wood and leaf sounds come through. A high end warbling of blissed out keys roll through, emanating like the negative space of the forests. Lulling stuff, with a distinct tide pool air about it, voices bouncing about in the backdrop, never infringing but, as in the previous track, entering to say their peace before receding into the heavily oxygenated murk.

It's only a C-20, but the tape makes its mark with such immersive material that it'll feel like an hour. Real slow paced drooling stuff, blown apart and then airbrushed back together again. Another one from Housecraft that has all of its shit together. And it ends pretty much right where it begins, chimes and all. And how bout the, again, delicious cover morsel? Eat up.

Do Tell - S/T (Housecraft 2XCS)

A stack of new Housecraft releases arrived recently, so I figured I'd start digging into them, especially as my band's tape is being released by the label this coming Thursday, the next full moon no less! So call it a plug if you will, but the material Jeff's been putting out more than warrants the review treatment; Housecraft's been in some spot on territory for a while now.

Do Tell is the pseudonym of Kyle Conklin, and as far as I can tell this double C-40 is his debut full length. Really don't know any more about the man behind the sounds, but I can say this: Do Tell is an epic collection on par with Super Minerals' mammoth Not Not Fun tape released a ways back, managing to present an extended look at the work of one person over what I suspect is a relatively substantial period of his musical development. This "best of" style presentation could lose some of its charm in its broad scope, but Do Tell works to provide more in its vastness. Instead we can see the vast depth of an already fully realized aesthetic, and it works beautifully. Of course maybe this is merely a long album and all of this "best of" stuff doesn't apply here at all.. can't really tell. Still worth ruminating on I suppose.

As for the tunes, the whole thing opens up with some nice and gentle drone, with thick textures of warm high end and undulating waves of bass that seep right in there and just bob around for a bit. When the waves of another track come in beneath rich chords of guitar gesturing, it manages to dissolve any misgivings I may have had about waves in music and the connotations of such "natural moods" style works. It's beautiful, and only further set off by the quickly arrived at state of the next track, which scraps along in some strange percussive netherworld before the guitar, again reverberative and warm, overtakes the clanging in favor of gorgeous flowing drawls while monkey calls and dog barks meddle around in the background.

Conklin explores darker territory too, but it's never without its sense of beauty and awe. The deep rumble on one track, mixed with the shooting star machinery of these high end, cross-town, synth slides, creates some dark matter blanket of cosmically inclined patchwork over which calls can be made, radio heard chattering, general moments of minute actions and gestures. Cavernous, like some love hole in your mind. The disc further delves into New Agey lands on the crystalline piano of the next track, whose arpeggios are slow and selective atop the higher drones of the synth. Walks the right side of a fine line, it does, and always makes sure to follow up with an extra weird one (try warbling saw lines and weird, folky drone vibes, like the folk music of druids only as rich and heartfelt as any true music of a land is, not some shitty fantasy creature soundtrack...).

And on to side two... actually, no, it's not necessary, the idea is there. The tape has enough carefully conceived gorgeosity that I could go on about it for some time. For those into the Emeralds/Sam Goldberg/Eno/Cluster realm of this world, this will be a must have. Every side is as varied and beautiful as the first, and with eighty minutes to explore it'll be most frequented. Sold out from the source, but check Tomentosa and the like. The package is as beautiful as it looks.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fantastic Magic - Witch Choir (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

There's a lot of talk about New Weird America these days, and while i don't necessarily prescribe to such broad strokes of band lumping (I prefer much narrower ones, I guess... what's a music fan to do!?), the genre has come to imply a certain aesthetic (here I go again...) or at least approach that is experimental and interesting but still steeped in form and, to some extent, rock/blues traditions, even if those traditions are as loosely rendered as Sunburned's psychedelic romps or No Neck's folk improv twang approach.

Fantastic Magic falls somewhere closer to the Sunburned side of things, with a wild psychedelic approach and seemingly anything goes attitude. Still, the trio also incorporate a far prettier, song/vocal technique, using richly harmonized lyrics on top of ornate instrumentation including various horns alongside scraping electronic commotion. The result is a sound perhaps closer to a Joanna Newsom or Devendra Banhart or some other freak-folk contemporary.

The album breezes through its ten tracks in just over twenty-two minutes, moving between the opening pastoralism of "Fox Wedding," complete with indecipherable Animal Collective vocal musings and pan flutes, to the pseudo-Sun Ra blurt sessions of "Balloons," whose electronic keys and saxophone reveal the group's unexpected depth. Still, Fantastic Magic's strengths are in their compositions, which all manage to sound as loose as a fire side jam while still remaining intricate enough to cipher them off from the legions trying to bring their own sound to "out" folk stuff. "I've Covered the Halls, with Glitter and Awe" might represent their best construction, richly orchestrated quirkiness that has enough interesting sounds mixed into to keep it off kilter enough to suggest a kind of LSD sing along. "Etains Whirlwind" is a heady dose of noisy dimensions while "Moat Island" is bedroom pop, just guitar and voice in some sun-lit grove. The closing "Jam & Yima" (speaking of which, did you hear about Yma Sumac passing away yesterday... I thought I'd heard she was a goddess...) is a cute and mellow closer that doesn't delve too deeply into its own adorable nature that it can't get out.

The Abandon Ship disc is a repress and it's still available, though sold out from the band itself. For those into this kind of stuff, it's a real find, and far more compelling than so many of their less adventurous (and often more famous) counterparts. It's an honest and fun record that pushes its song structures towards new bounds without closing themselves off to exploration outside of that realm. A nice one indeed.

Bobb Bruno - Clown's Castle (DNT Records CS)

Goliath Bird Eater member and frequent Pocahaunted, Robedoor and Upsilon Acrux collaborator, Bobb Bruno is clearly a regular man about town, albeit one adorned in some kind of easter bunny costume with over-sized head. Bruno brings his cartoonishly psychedelic visual approach to this DNT release, but be warned: it's not just cutesy fun on this cassette.

Opening with the slow synth jaunt "Snail's Pace," Bruno begins with dark chordal patterns working and reworking themselves underneath fuzzed out rhythmic bits. The piece stays fairly motionless for some time, brooding in a sort of spaced out, underbelly of the mind kind of way until drum machine enters and it takes a decidedly more industrial slant as fed through break beat weirdnesses. As soon as that beat drops out it's an endless tunnel descent, Alice in Wonderland style, before this plodding drum beat comes in that gives the whole thing a form all its own. Some soundtrack to neon induced LA life-binges or something, slow-mo as all hell, a real head nodder for the mind rotter. The synth work is layed on deep here, maintaining its dark, organ(ic) riffage--it's the Phantom of the Opera remix, he all hunched over in his castle weaving some crazy arpeggiation while Bruno and company are hunkered down behind him, bunny costume adorned, partying it out. The record's called "Clown's Castle" after all... When the beat drops out its all guitar fraying and synth rides. Super reverbed out stuff here, whose muddy bass runs and clearer, less blown out high synth runs do bring to mind something not totally un-Skaters like, albeit with a more formalized structure and slightly dancier take on the whole thing--given that dancey is defined as "potentially bringing to mind movement in a club setting" rather than some sort of beat oriented toe-tapper. This would be one dark club, and surely few would be shaking it.

The album titled second side starts off with some heavy metal Sunn O))) riffage, not far off from the sounds of Bruno's Goliath Bird Eater. Buzzing comes into play as the guitar slows itself down and rides it out. The beast keeps building as choral vocals sweep across and the beat drops, making the whole thing as heavy as concrete feet over San Francisco Bay. Really heavy duty stuff that just rides and glides, the beat dropping in and out as it emits itself toward eternity. It's a real soul crusher, so don't be fooled by the blue pig and the cute pines on the cover. Limited to 79 and sold out at the label, but I'm sure Tomentosa and other like-minded distributers will have it soon. Beautiful.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Steve Gunn - S/T (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

Here's another Abandon Ship outing, this time in the form of a solo outing from GHQ member(as well as sometime Zac Davis collaborator) Steve Gunn. A reissue from the Onomato label, the self titled disc is a collection largely comprised of solo guitar improvisations which, according to the label description, are based to some extent around travels to Morocco. It sounds it too.

The first track, "Young Subjects," is a nice drifting excursion that opens on some kind of string drone looped over and over before finger picked/frailed/sailed acoustic guitar leads the tour. What sounds like a mandolin enters next, acting as lead over the now looped guitar chordal pattern. Largely based in some modal, eastern-tinged chordal pattern, the whole thing floats along with the great delicacy and beauty, truly evoking not only that particular region of the world, but also a general sense of travel as art and narrative as travel. The closing electric guitar freak out only adds to the mystery.

Whereas "Young Subjects" consisted of a fair amount of layering on Gunn's part, "For Tyrone Hill" is all solo acoustic improvisation, though with the chops that Gunn has it would not be a stretch to assume there were others here. Opening with a series of ringing, open ended chords, the piece builds over it's nearly seven minutes into a work of real beauty--you can really hear the sounds of the strings against the wood here as he raps his hand over the metal, interweaving lines of delicate and careful runs. Comparisons to Fahey are inevitable--especially toward the middle--but Gunn takes an even more stripped down and overtly (at least harmonically) eastern approach as he builds finger picked waterfalls out of the near silent pools between them.

"Jerone and Jimi Chaplin" starts off with a distant hammering of the strings, allowing the guitar to reverberate and solidify its overtones against the rasping sound of the strings hammering against themselves. A small clicking cymbal comes in shortly before the acoustic solo enters, breathes, and expands. At under five minutes, it's the shortest work on the set, but it needs no more time than that to realize its fragile beauty.

"Two of Ammon" follows, closing the disc on a long fifteen minute suite of sorts. Heidi Diehl of Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice, as well as Time-Life, guest features on voice here, though the opening, with its horn solo and long, bowed string drones, wouldn't have you suspecting as much. Something like tabla drums come in to the construction, making for a distant drone effect that is soon disrupted by some of the most well crafted guitar work on the disc. It's a languid state, notes ricocheting off each other, furling and unfurling into some sort of back porch sailing venture. An electric guitar is soon layered over top, adding an epic touch that somehow fits right in to this otherwise less is more approach. When Diehl's voice comes in, it is only to summon tiny melodies of half-whispered lullabies hummed on a lonely sandy shore. The piece ends palindromically, returning to the strummed guitar and finally the horn solo over the strummed string. Quite a lovely structure for such an expansive musical gesture.

Gunn's guitar work is of great character--he never over plays, opting for carefully chosen and overtly melodic material that suggests both Moroccan traditionalism and an overtly experimental edge. That he can so obviously pull from such rich musical backgrounds without diffusing it into anything less his own statement is an accomplishment indeed.