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.