Friday, December 21, 2007

Peoples Parties – Peoples Parties [Cut Hands]/Tusco Terror – Mapping a Burial [Cut Hands]

Apparently there’s some serious shit going down in Ohio. I haven’t really been keeping up on the old Buckeye state but I guess Joris at Cut Hands has been keeping pretty close tabs. He’s brought us these recent CD-rs by new Ohio luminaries Tusco Terror and one of Emeralds’ solo divisions, Peoples Parties.
I’ve only heard a bit of Emeralds’ insanely large discography but I wasn’t really expecting the aesthetic of Peoples Parties. Steve McGuire is credited to guitar and tapes. “A Trivial Pursuit” has an extended intro of pervasive, digital sounding distortion and a loop kinda sounding like a seagull or something like that. After awhile the guitar is somewhat discernable though buried under the avalanche of fuzz. Long sustaining, synth-like drones emanate from the guitar giving Peoples Parties a sound-sculptor type vibe. It’s heavy on the drone, but, to me, painted with a Fennesz-style palette of grainy panned distortions. And it actually works real well. “Setting a Rat Trap” comes out of nowhere with an almost glitchy sequence of heavily auto-panned guitar notes. It has a cool effect at first, but plays out for much too long. After a certain point nothing more can really be added to the glitch thing so it feels a bit stagnant. It ends pretty nicely with a subtle drone and an auto-panned melody over top. Definitely some cool parts but at nearly 10 minutes it feels overlong. “Sand Bubbler” is half the length and does a better job integrating the auto-panned guitar with waves of crisp distortion. The former adding a rhythmic element and the latter providing the “melody”, driving the track. It ends with echoing Gown-style strums. The strongest track, “Peoples Parties” (who’s ever heard of a title track on a self-titled album?), is an excellent ten minute piece. McGuire is operating in the same aesthetic as the previous tracks but this one has a special something to it. It begins very ominous and apocalyptic sounding but transitions into the sounds of angels singing the song of sweet salvation i.e. a seriously catchy guitar strum/lead bit. The transitioning is outstanding; you don’t see it coming or even really detect it until yr foot is tapping and yr head is in the clouds. It’s a tremendous piece, one of those that just helps you keep your faith in the world. It ends with mechanized panning which seems a little out of place after the sweetness, but you gotta do what you gotta do. The last song “A Cousin a Ways Away” is an interesting, pretty piece. It’s relatively clean toned arpeggios accompanying clips of a couple being interviewed about an alcoholic someone, who I assume is a cousin, a cousin who lives a ways away. The speech recording over music thing doesn’t always work out but McGuire pulls it off. The recording and the music work with each other rather than one drawing attention away from the other. The voices drop out and a very synthy guitar shows up with a swelling counter-melody. The piece reaches an extended but radiant conclusion. And for the record, it also contains the gem, “For a birthday present, Brent, could you please shut up”. While the tracks are a bit samey, Peoples Parties is ultimately a cool record, and I definitely see lots of potential for the project to become totally rad.
Rather than stroking gleaming rays of light from their instruments, Tusco Terror plays in the same junknoise minefield as their Cut Hands “labelmates” Fossils. The pseudo title track “Map a Burial” begins with tape recordings of something but I’m not sure what. At one point it sounds like there’s a couple banjo notes. Halfway through there’s a break a slightly better quality recording comes in. There’s feedback, percussive rustling, tape manipulation, guitar beatings. The track is pretty unfocused and comes off as a random pastiche of old practice tapes or something. It gets slightly more coherent towards the end but I guess I’m not sure what the listener is supposed to get from the piece. “Beat a Dog” follows with slowly plucked detuned guitar notes. There’s garbled sounds of guitar, percussion probably some other stuff too but very lo-fi and distorted. It’s pretty impossible to distinguish what instruments are making what sounds cause they’re all smashed together in the limited-frequency muck. There’s a real great part towards the end where I’m pretty sure it’s guitar, but it’s a pretty slammin’ catchy riff and I wish it went on for a bit longer or more parts like it populated the rest of the track. “Smashed Psyche” is quite a bit more confrontational with cymbal/sheet metal pounding on some really great looming guitar drones. It also sounds like there’s a world of sounds going on that I can’t make out, though I’m pretty sure I’m hearing a vocal sample at one point. The piece ends with a vomiting voice/feedback duet. “Rags (Cut Hands Mix)” is the final track and, from what I can tell, the single. It kinda sounds like “Smashed Psyche” with primitive noise but given a tape manipulation makeover like “Map a Burial”. Other than that it doesn’t really cover any new ground or leave much of a mark. While Mapping a Burial has some great moments, I can’t help but feel the release is a bit slight. Not in the quantity of material, but, to my ears, it sounds like there’s a lot of filler mixed in with the good stuff. Though I should also mention, the junknoise thing isn’t my forte either, but if it’s yrs you’ll probably be down with Tusco Terror’s array of clicks and warbles.
Both CD-rs come packaged in slimline dvd-type cases with pasted on CD labels and insert and wraparound cool/weird artwork, Tusco Terror’s being particularly sweet. Both are limited to 75 copies and are still available from the Cut Hands mansion, so check ‘em out.

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