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.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Banana Head - In the Tubs (Goaty Tapes CS)

Goaty Heads is a label I've heard much from, but never had a chance to grab on account of low pocket change. Luckily though, Zully was nice enough to get in touch with me and lay a few sounds on me for the review treatment. the cat on the cover got me in this case due to its odd proximity to an equally blank real cat I once had. Plus, what's not to like about a project called Banana Head?

Was a tad surprised to throw this on and find out it was more or less a lo-fi pop record, stripped back and played with a melancholy that's super well suited to this kind of reverberant and insular sound. Cruising through nine tracks across the tape, we're equally met with broken down rock moves, like everything was slowed down till the idiosyncrasies in timing became apparent and then stretched a bit for best effect. If that's the case though, the originals here are about 30 seconds each... the material really moves here. "You're Mine" is as desperate and hostile as the title could be taken, while the opening "Desk Man" situates itself in a dark psychedelia that winces at itself in the mirror, too shy of its blemishes but still hopeful enough that they'll be seen through. "Eat to Death" almost ends the first side on a vacation getaway, but the lyrics are so muffled that it sounds like the party's already left and the house is quiet and dark again. Nice sound.

Flip side has some solo guitar fuzz out for "Gang Toughs," a fucked take on some 90s indie tune. The ever-present vocal wash out leaves the lyrics barely discernible enough that they remain heartfelt, meaning that ole Banana Head's got a grip on texture and sound as mood setting over content. Always stronger that way, no? There's an element of nostalgia too to this stuff, a naivety that's so distant and desired that it's morphed into a sickly sweet parenthetical. It's all lovely, and well worth a trip for those who are into songs teetering on the precipice. Nice first go of the Goaty style too with this package. Super nicely conceived look/sound/the works. Simultaneously cold and warm, dark and light, hop on pop and pop on cop. Play yo-yo to it, or read comics or something. Unless you just want to sit and drift. That works too.

Two in January? More on the near horizon.

Bill Corrigan - Noodlin' (Holy Cheever Church Records CS)

Alright, back on the band wagon so to speak. Or at least still got a hand on, even if my feet are dragging across the prairie like a roadrunner in heat. Spurred back to it by a few new packages though, one from Holy Cheever and the other from the new-to-here Goaty Tapes. Plus I've got a hankering for more Stunned stuff, so here goes. Got this package today from Riggs and I couldn't not throw on the dude I hadn't heard of, especially with that cover of the dapper looking crusty on the ivories. Had to be good, and so it is.

Turns out Bill Corrigan is another Michigan lad doing what Michiganers do best, aka redefining weirdo outsider music and playing stuff entirely removed from any scene to speak of. Seems the defining characteristic of Michigan's outsider output these days is simply that they don't sound like any of the other outsider output, which is really saying something in these days of Skaters rip-offs and drone after drone after done done done. Not that I'm not a sucker for all that, but the Big Mitten has a knack for fitting my lobes like a glove.

As far as I can tell, Corrigan's thing is to do more or less improvised pieces on acoustic piano; no effects, no preparations, no nothing. Just tinkly (and Corrigan hit the nail on the head here) noodlin'. Though that term doesn't quite get to the heart of this stuff, because rather than engaging in practiced groovology or over exerted wankery, Corrigan writhes about in a fairly limited space, allowing lines to build and mesh in a haphazard but rather restrained manner. It's a refined sort of internal logic that sounds completely controlled despite only snippets appearing to come from any compositional world we here on earth are accustomed to. Yet still, each brief diddy here has a bluesy, piano bar feel to it. Riggs gets right to the point in dropping Conlon Nancarrow here, but it seems to be equal parts stride pianist gone afield. Killer stuff, listenable and together as hell but baffling in its fresh, smattered approach to a well worn instrument. Let's see more, Bill. Killer stuff.