Friday, June 29, 2007

Not Not Fun Bored Fortress 7” Series: 2007

2007 saw the arrival of many great things, but of course, the greatest of them all was the Bored Fortress split 7” series on Not Not Fun records in L.A. town. Not Not Fun is basically the greatest label in, I don’t know, history. Go here and look at their wall of rad releases and then give them some money, you won’t regret it. Not Not Fun is run by Britt and Manda of such legendary bands Robedoor, Pocahaunted, Quintana Roo, Barrabarracuda, Knit Witch and others, and they have surpassed the already incredibly high standards they have created for themselves with this series. First of all the selection of artists they picked is impeccable: Yellow Swans, The Goslings, Hototogisu, GHQ, Blues Control, Heavy Winged, Dreamcatcher, Birds of Delay, Deep Jew, Ex-Cocaine, Mindflayer and Hive Mind. They also got some great visual artists to design the sleeves: Mat Brinkman, Jeremy Earl, Jelle Crama, George Myers, Shawn Reed, and future hall-of-famer Devon Varmega. As far as I know the 500 subscriptions that were available are all gone, but if you keep an eye out you may be able to spot some of these 7inchs individually in various distros. If you missed the almighty Bored Fort this year, there is another coming next year. So learn your lesson and don’t sleep on the sure-to-be-hot-as-hellfire Bored Fortress ’08! On to the records.

Yellow Swans/The Goslings


Alright so here it comes, Bored Fortress ’07 numero uno, the reason why 97% of people lost their minds when they first got whiff of the Bored Fortress series: the best noise band on the planet, Yellow Swans and the best heavy (is that a genre?) band on the planet, The Goslings on one single solitary piece of wax. It would be a face-off for the ages, totally barbaric American Gladiator-style except everyone in noise is all about the peace and love (and rightfully so). So anyway, I’ll say it outright Yellow Swans win the whole she-bang, they take the first turn and its game over. The entire rest of the series comes in second place, which is unthinkable because as you can see it’s a hell of a line up. But, what can I say Yellow Swans bring their A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++ game, that’s right, their game is so tight I had to add an extra 27 plus signs to “A game” to attempt to communicate to what degree the tightness is at. This is best thing the Swans have done in a long while and they do some good shit; this is easily the best thing they’ve done since they gave up the drum machine. It rules like the Pharaoh ruled the Israelites except instead of losing to Moses and God, it beats both of them. This track—which is untitled, by the way—is like black lightning or some inconceivable happening that defies the laws of physics. Probably the closest musical example I can compare it to is a Matt Bower project, mainly Hototogisu and the stuff Skullflower is doing now. Massively dense, harsh, impossibly layered noise with a melody drowning just below the surface; like Hototogisu, and unlike a lot of other noise artists, it’s a totally transcendent five minutes. I have never, in my life, been more excited to hear more from Yellow Swans and I love those guys to death (I’m going to see them for my birthday soon too, hooray!). Their recent Descension Yellow Swans LP [Three Lobed] rules as well (though not quite as hard as this track). So my advice, buy up all the stock you can in Yellow Swans this year. My fingers are crossed that they’re gonna speed up production and put out 47 releases this year, just like the olden days but we’ll see how that goes.
The Goslings show up on the B-side in fine form as well. Hot off one of last year’s contenders for album of the year, Grandeur of Hair, comes “Saw-Horse”. I’m not exactly sure when this was recorded or how it relates to the stuff off of GoH. The track doesn’t quite match the speaker maiming density of that full-length but it comes pretty damn close. Despite the track being rather stripped down, Max Soren still smothers us in heavy as dark matter (?) guitar sludge while his special lady Leslie lets out a few siren wails. Rather than a buddy who plays drums on the track (as usually happens) there is an electronic buddy i.e. a Casio or old drum machine of some sort who backs them up with a mega minimal beat. And that’s about it, voice, guitar and drum machine loping along nicely, yet it’s still a huge monolithic piece, much weightier than a mere 7inch would lead you to believe. Word from Britt is there is a Goslings/Knit Witch split LP in the works being co-released by Not Not Fun and the folks over at Night People, so keep yr eyes peeled for that one cause it should be a doozy.
Also, though I’ve never seen any of his other stuff, I’m digging the “acid burn out’s idea of Noah’s ark” artwork by George Myers of Breaking World records. I don’t really know the label that well either. I’ve got some homework to do.

GHQ/Ex-Cocaine


The sequel to the YS/Goslings split pairs the raga-fried trio (now quartet) GHQ with Montana stoner renegades Ex-Cocaine. GHQ is of course the all star group featuring Marcia Bassett of Double Leopards, Hototogisu etc., Pete Nolan of Magik Markers, Vanishing Voice, things that start with Spectre etc. and Steve Gunn of Moongang and Steve Gunn. Shawn Reed of the Night People label does the artwork. Side A shows the group in top form, the track was recorded live in Seattle and is justifiably titled “Live in Seattle”. Oh man, what a night it would have been to actually witness this sorcery. There must of have been some sort of portal that opened up in the venue or some shit cause I bet the all the concertgoers got a one-way ticket to dreamland or somewhere else even trippier. The craziest thing is this is probably partially if not wholly improvised! You can’t even really call it improvised because there are obviously some spirits guiding their fingers and voices. The trio is totally unified in one collective “om”. It’s just an all encompassing drone making 7 minutes into 2 minutes, guitars into smoke, a gross, sweaty room into a euphoric ritual experience. I don’t know man, it’s just something you have to hear or if yr a lucky one you already experienced it, because I don’t know if I mentioned it yet but this shit was recorded live!! Again, you just have to hear it, it’s like painkillers as music or praying as music or faith healing as music or any sort of thing that gives your body and mind that weightless feeling as music. Hear it, wear that shit out! (also while we’re on the subject of hearing, hear the Crystal Healing LP by GHQ on the Three Lobed label, their best full-length yet.)
On the flip comes Ex-Cocaine that totally go in the opposite direction as side A. The track is called “The Weather” which may or may not have some conceptual significance. This formation of Ex-Cocaine has the duo both bangin’ on bongos. I’m still kinda on the fence about drums-only songs. Didn’t everyone already agree that Nervous Cop was kinda a bad idea? Now I don’t want to imply that “The Weather” is bad cause it’s not. It’s got a few nice moments in its four minutes, and there are certainly a few cool not-traditionally drum sounds going on—at least I assume their coming from drums—with the regular bongo banging, it’s just that the track doesn’t leave much of an impression on me. It’s a bit of an intriguing style but as soon as its over its kinda just outta my head. But who knows, there are probably plenty of things wrong with my head. “The Weather” is an interesting direction for the Ex-Cocaine boys to go in but I personally prefer their guitar/bongos and double fuzz guitar set-ups.

Heavy Winged/Blues Control


Bored Fort no. 3 is beamed down to us from planet Heavy Winged and the moon of Blues Control to make yr brain all orbit-y and it’s outfitted with some suitably bitchin’ artwork from Jeremy Earl of Fuck It Tapes. Um, awkward nonsensical astronomical references aside, I’d say this is the most evenly matched pair in the whole Bored Kingdom, save for the Yellow Swans/Goslings split (but to be fair they are in their own universes altogether). Both of these groups made their debuts last year (as far as I know) and now both have been making a big splash this year. HW with the heavy, spaced We Grow LP on none other than, Not Not Fun as well as CD-Rs on Cut Hands and Whistle Along and a 3 way splitter with Ashtray Navigations and Cold Solemn Rites of the Sun on the Ruralfaune label. They are also planning to continue their rampage with more releases on aRCHIVE, Three Lobed, and, once again, Not Not Fun. Anyhow they’re set to take over the galaxy, despite their drummer moving across the nation to live with me (not literally) here in Portland, which is quite impressive.
And hey! Whaddya know, their track here called “Dark Spring” is pretty impressive too. It is an early recording, I believe, and though it isn’t particularly heavy, I would venture to say it’s a banger. One of Heavy Winged’s catchier, more melodic outings, propulsive drumming+lotsa crash cymbals and some relentless riffing. It doesn’t have the sheer force of say, Hunting the Moon, but it’s real strong anyway. Originally, I wasn’t as keen on it as some other H-Wing stuff (wasn’t that a craft in Star Wars? Good god all these space references are out of control!), but now after listening to it tons of times (cause that’s the only way to listen something) that track has definitely grown on me quite a bit. Maybe that’s what that We Grow title was all about. Perhaps the best part is when the guys take a break from the riffing and the tinge of spaciness the track carries comes to fruition with an echoey, jammin’ outro. Which now that I think about it kinda sounds a bit their peers on the other side of the record, hmm…
So yeah, if you found yr way to this site (probably through the almighty Google or something like that) you’ve probably heard of Blues Control by now so I’ll keep it brief. They put out maybe the best cassette of ’06, the righteously groovy Riverboat Styx on Fuck It Tapes. Then 2007 came with Puff on Woodsist and a self-titled CD on Holy Mountain and all of a sudden their international supastars. “Mashpotato”, their track here, is FDIC insured to make yr mind float and yr skeleton into one big skeleton shaped jellybean. What does that mean? I have no idea, but I do have some idea to what extent this track rules. A lot. I’ll come clean and say that I’m still kind of disappointed with Puff (I really want to hear the album of the year that everyone else does but it’s just not happening L ) and anyhow “Mashpotato” reaffirmed my belief that the big bad Blues Control can still kick out the jams like they did on the aforementioned cassette. That Heavy Winged track was a tad bit spacey but this shit is positively lunar! I’ve been trying to decipher the Blues Control equation for sometime now and I’m pretty sure that it’s something like this: (traditional instruments + Michael Jordan) x reverb pedal = Space Jamz!! By that I mean that Russ and Lea are actually Michael Jordan communicating with loony space aliens who only respond to the most stoned stunners around, “Mashpotato” is an interstellar transmission and a slam dunk! Do you see the power of this jam? It has infected my mind with the crazies; I am utterly unable to form a coherent, sufficient description and can only make statements involving self-referential rhetorical questions. But I’ll give it a (brief) shot anyway, “Mashpotato” is anchored by some sweet keyboard grooves and a disco/march pattern dialed into a vintage drum machine and drizzled on top is a real nice slo-mo buzz saw guitar that kinda leads the mood of the track from jammin’ to JAMMIN’. There, I hope I satisfied everyone’s penchant for reading things that sorta make sense.

Birds of Delay/Dreamcatcher


The fourth installment goes foreign with the UK’s Birds of Delay and Dreamcatcher from the Montreal area. Birds of Delay takes Side A with a track called “Sun Pillars 2”. Now I don’t know what happened to the first of the Sun Pillars but this track sounds pretty alright. I am not super acquainted with the Birds’ work but from what I have heard some is pretty noisy while other stuff is pretty placid. “Sun Pillars 2” seems to fall between to the two; there is nasty bit of filtered feedback that crawls through the track but there is a real warbly, watery not-quite-new-age keyboard that is persistent in the mix, giving the track a nice off kilter rhythm. The track teeters in and out of stasis through its 6ish minutes. It sounds as though someone is actually holding the keys cause occasionally there is a fracture where the keyboard drops out or some other keys are hit before returning to the homebase keyboard chord. I might be wrong though, it could easily be a loop and the occasional breaks are just someone manipulating the loop. It doesn’t really matter either way I suppose, but I kinda like the idea of the guy standing there playing the keyboard live. All together, the track is pretty good and has been growing on me more with each listen, although I wouldn’t call it a mindblower.
Next up to bat is Dreamcatcher with “A Team Come True”, again, like Birds of Delay, I have heard some of duo’s output though probably not the majority. About half of the Dreamcatcher stuff I’ve heard completely rules and I’d say it sounds somewhat like early Yellow Swans but way more into ghettobeats. Some of their other stuff not so ruled, though I can’t really remember why (which is probably my fault). Enough about history, lets get on to the future (cause haven’t you heard? Not Not Fun is the future). “A Team Come True” starts up with a little fuzzbot bee-boo-boppery before it coalesces into a steady rhythm. The track snowballs from there, piling on more furious beats and some demented shrieks and howls. The duo do a good job keeping the beat constantly moving forward yet diversifying the drum patterns so things don’t get monotonous. Soon enough, everything drops out and a sample of some European (?) folk song pops up and then a pounding synthed up bass drum drives the track home. I dig this track though it could probably benefit from a bit more samples or others sorts of tones to augment the rhythm section. It’s a solid outing by DC and I’m eager to hear more of what they got in store.
Highly regarded Belgian artist Jelle Crama did the art for this release and I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed cause he’s done some cool work (czech out the Egyptian Conscription tape by Treetops) but the front cover of this comes off to me as a little weak. Now, I’m no art scholar and I don’t fully understand all (or any of) the intricate tenets of minimalism but it looks like Jelle opened up Microsoft Paint and three minutes later he had a cover. I enjoyed the back cover with the weird blob man and bright colors quite a bit though. Anyway, just one man’s opinion.

Mindflayer/Deep Jew


The 7incher next up sees Providence psychoscillator jamfest duo, Mindflayer, featuring psychoscillator operatorman/guy who does cool art Mat Brinkman and a guy who plays drums in another Providence band and hangs out with Bjork, paired up with Deep Jew who is from some L.A.ish area and Roy Tatum of Changeling/Quintana Roo/Buried Valley cassette label plays drums in it I think. That is the extent of what I tentatively call ‘my knowledge of Deep Jew’. I had no idea what they were even supposed to sound like but Britt and Manda changed that right quick. Anyhow enough of this introduction business, on to the tunes.
Going alphabetically (that is according to the sides) here is the rundown. Side A is the Mindflayer folks banging a track entitled “Frizzle Fry 2” Huh? Wasn’t “Frizzle Fry” a Primus song or album or something? Is this a cover/reworking/tribute/sequel? I was never too keen on Primus so I can’t answer those questions, maybe you can. The actual “Frizzle Fry 2” track is pretty synth dominated, lotsa wacky jumps between frequencies laid overtop of sorta free jazz/sorta 70’s rock solo drums. It’s a decent showing but is too brief for its own good and, unlike Mindflayers best material fails to establish a real groove. Not to say it’s without its merits or anything, the mic-in-the-mouth vocals that pop up towards the end are always welcome and as always the duo exudes plenty of neon sweat.
Ahhhh yeah! There are TWO tracks on the Deep Jew side! Score! That is like getting something that is awesome (like an order of Kung Pao chicken) but twice as much of it (two orders of Kung Pao chicken). Well that Kung Pao thing is kinda off the mark but just like the KP, DJ is pungent, messy and a tad bit spicy. But anyway food is no substitute for music, because of course, unlike food, music is essential to our survival. That’s what that whole “a man cannot live on bread alone” thing was about. Anyway, sorry for all that meaningless drivel, I’m sticking with the tunes for the rest of the paragraph I swear. First track (cause in case you forgot, there is two!) is called “Night Eyes 2”—hmm, what’s with all 2 of these “_______ 2” trax? Is “night eyes” a Primus reference too? Anyway, just the tunes… So yeah, I dropped the needle and my first thought is “this shit is visceral!” Lotsa feedback and bashing of drums and moaning of moans, towards the end there is a real nice part where the drums kinda go half time while the rest of the band just keeps spazzing away. Very nice. Second comes “Cops Wet Pussy” (is ‘Cops’ a noun or a verb there?) and it’s the stronger of the two(!) tracks, it starts out much like the previous but locks into a real nice lurch ‘n roll, like the grimiest of all Jesus Lizard devotees. Though, I don’t know if there is something necessarily distinct about what Deep Jew brews in their noise rock cauldron; they do do their noise rock brew real well, which, I guess, is quite distinctive nowadays it seems. So if you like yr grime on time (what in the fuck does that mean?) check out this Deep Jew band, I occasionally see their name around the net so I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen the last of them. At least I hope not.
It should be mentioned that Devon Varmega did the artwork for this release and the reason it should be mentioned is it blows my mind! That is colored pencil on graph paper. Colored pencil and graph paper? Are you fucking kidding me? Apparently it’s a young kid in the Pacific Northwest (w00t PacNW). I need to track him down and just study him or something cause he obviously knows how to manipulate mundane earthly objects into something extraordinarily brilliant, something we could all stand to learn. Man, oh man. I need to lie down, his art is ruling my brain so hard.

Hototogisu/Hive Mind

For the final installment of this years Bored Fortress (so sad, why couldn’t it have been a year long thing, Britt and Manda?) it pairs up a couple tracks by “H” bands, UK/NY noisedrone guitar duo Hototogisu and Detroit’s synth throbber, Hive Mind (not really a band but a project by the lone Greh Holger), all held together by some savage sensory assaults courtesy of Mat Brinkman. It was an interesting pairing for me personally because I’m a pretty big fan of Hototogisu and have heard the majority of stuff they’ve put out, while, until this release, I had never heard Hive Mind before.
Hototogisu is of course the guitar duo (and a viola too I think, though I can’t tell if it’s on display here) of Marcia Bassett—of wicked dronesters Double Leopards, fellow Bored Fortressers GHQ and solo thang Zaïmph—and Matthew Bower of UK veteran noise outfit Skullflower, as well as of Sunroof!, Total, Pure and collaborations galore. Their track here, entitled “Full Prince Charles”, is a live track recorded a year and a half ago in Copenhagen. In traditional Hototogisu fashion, you are dropped, right along with the stylus, into a dense swamp of feedback. This track isn’t as heavy on the low frequencies giving it a bit more of a clattery, drilling-into-yr-skull sound than a thick fog of feedback. There are a lot of things going on here, various (slide?) guitar tricks and some vocalizing among the general badass riffing until the massive bummer of when an abrupt ending hits (some things just can’t last forever I guess). Like all Hototogisu releases, it gets better and better with each listen, more layers are picked out of the static and you eventually get to that zen spot (at least I do). “Full Prince Charles” is a strong outing by the group and another welcome edition to their much too scant 2007 discography.
Hive Mind’s track “Collapsed Shroud”, on the other hand, I can’t really get into. It’s a pretty minimal piece, composed entirely of synths (I think). There is a constant bass pulse and a sporadic flutter of high frequencies.is dappled over the top. And that’s kind of it. From what I’ve researched it seems that Hive Mind pretty commonly does longform or album length tracks, so maybe the 7” format doesn’t really suit him? Again, I have no frame of reference here, so I’m not sure if it’s this specific track that I’m not into or just Hive Mind’s sound in general. If yr a fan of Hive Mind though, czech the track out and tell me what you think so I can get learned and put my mind to rest on this issue.

So anyhow, that’s Bored Fortress 2007—my view of it anyway. To recap, my fav(e)s were Yellow Swans, GHQ, Blues Control, The Goslings, Hototogisu and Heavy Winged though the rest of the entries were still pretty rockin’. Thanks to all the bands and artists that did work on the releases and my immense respect and gratitude to Britt and Manda at Not Not Fun for putting together the finest subscription series the world has ever seen. Sign me up for ’08.




Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Auxiliary Out Inaugural Address

Hello, I have created this blog as a companion to a weekly experimental music program I'll be starting come fall on Rainydawg Radio, the University of Washington's student radio station. Eventually it will be used to post playlists, album artwork, links to artists and labels etc. but for now during these summer months before I go back to school, I will try to write about/review recent releases in the experimental underground as often as is possible. There are so many inspiring artists and labels out there doing really incredible and innovative things, that I want to do what I can to help share their work with those who aren't familiar with it, as well as, just create another place for enthusiasts to read about experimental music (or am I the only one who likes that?). At this point, a blog, a radio show and telling random people on trains about experimental music (true story) are about the only tools I have, so I am going to do what I can with those. Anyhow, that's that. Also, this will probably not sound too enticing to anyone but feel free to contact me to chat about music or whatever. I love it when music brings people together (what a great cliche that is). you can email me here: guitfiddler5000[at]gmail[dot]com
I wish a rad summer to you all
-Drew