Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fossils – Fly By Night [Ley Line Magnetic Tapes]/Fossils – All the Homicides [JK Tapes]

Here are a couple double-oh-seven tapes from Canadian junkyard thrash unit, Fossils. Fly By Night came out quite a while back on the impeccably mindblowing Bread & Animals imprint, billed here as Ley Line Magnetic Tapes, and the other dates back to late summer on the auspicious JK Tapes label.
For as much as stuff as these Fo$$il$ dudes put out (A LOT) I’ve only heard a wee bit of it. I remember hearing their Cut Hands CD-r a while back and I just heard their split tape on Pendu Sound with Ghost Moth but, in general, I’m not too accustomed to ‘em. Anyhow, I don’t know what that has to do anything but you know I’m a straight shooter, even when it don’t really matter. The one-sided 30plus minute monster, Fly By Night, is certainly my favorite of the few I’ve heard. There’s no info about it but it sounds like there’s four “tracks” on the tape and the first is longest. The first few minutes bring some odd clanging sounds randomly detonated and run through a delay pedal. It kinda has a cut-up type effect though I’m pretty sure it’s recorded live. Fuzzy lows creep into mix and things start to ramp up a bit everything cuts out and there’s a return to the minimal odd sound thing. This time though there is a lot effects and old computer sounds and they do a better job spreading the sounds out. Again after a while things drop out and AM radio guitar clank takes over. Sounds like there’s maybe two dudes on guitar and one guy processing. Out of nowhere, the track turns into a catchy little ditty. Weird but rad. A subsequent, mild feedback-laden vox/effects session and dogs barking end the track. A short, livelier track follows with scrambled effects and scrambled contact mic-ery as well (I think). Near the end some vocal transmissions break in too. The piece is real jagged and scuzzy but not harsh, which I kinda like. The third “track” sounds to me like a Fossils rendition of a soundscape type track. At least at first. There’s some mellow pulsing and slummy atmospherics with interjections of noisy electronic bleats and on occasion a lucid de-tuned guitar. The fourth track sees the group all sticking to one idea for a little while with a simple rhythmic loop and mounting layers of fuzz. Sharp toothed, stuttering loops compete through a good portion of the track before some heavy delay manipulation swoops and smears. The thing I dig the most about this track is the use of short loops, which gives the madness a hint of structure and, at times, even a little melody. At one point some dude gags on the mic and it sounds like it gets sampled and fucked with as things get pretty intense and wind down as dogs bark to the beat. Perhaps Fossils’ biggest strength is how hard they are to pin down. They’re like those sharks that are always on the move. The greatest strength of Fly By Night is that Fossils manages to make sense out of their nonsensical attack. Only problem with the tape is it’s a one-sided c90, which doesn’t really make sense to me cause there’s a little over a half hour of material, split pretty cleanly down the middle into two segments. Maybe there was a sale on c90s or something.
While I’m being a little complainer I’ll say this too; even though All the Homicides is billed as a c30 there is about 17 minutes of music on it. 13 minutes on the A-side and three and a half on the B-side. I’m confused how there wasn’t enough material to fill up the second side, especially when Fossils is putting out a thousand plus releases a year. Side A has a distant, reverberating sound. There are a bunch of short stretches of repetitive sounds that eventually putter out. Just when things start to squelch and thump, appearing to get going they come to a sputtering conclusion. Around a third of the way through the group maintain some semblance of forward motion and things sound pretty good. The side has a pretty muffled, unthreatening tone which is a nice contrast to the jumpy thrash of Fly By Night. There’s some really great, even sort of pretty, moments on the side. Though Fossils never really sustain those moments for very long, always moving forward to silence and constructing a new set of sounds. The final bit brings some coherent guitar along in the fuzzy, pulsing feedback muck. Overall, a pretty cool track despite a few points that drag a bit. Side B again has the same muffled lo-fi vibe. The track is dominated by crackling scratching sounds that don’t really do much for me. There’s some cool static-y stuff going on in the background, but it’s pretty hard to discern.
Art-wise, the tapes are class acts. Bread & Animals packaging pretty much always rules and Fly By Night is no exception. It has an awesome tropical wraparound cover and a teal/mango splatter job on the tape. All the Homicides, features the best artwork I’ve seen yet from JK. A totally epic history book collage on a fold-out insert with grey sprayed and labeled tapes. Each tape is sold out at source but, I’ve seen them around distros pretty recently so have a look there.

Ajilvsga – Thorazine to Infinity [Peasant Magik]/Ajilvsga – Sacred Arrow [Arbor]

Ajilvsga is a project of Mr. Foxy Digitalis himself, Brad Rose, and Nathan Young. Just so we’re clear, Nathan Young is not Nate Young, at least as far as I can tell. In conference with a few close friends we’ve decided this new Ajilvsga stuff (these two and the double cassette on Not Not Fun) is the best Mr. Rose has put his name on. Is it a coincidence they are all on tapes? I think not. Furthermore, I’ve heard rumors that his upcoming label is gonna be doing a few tapes. Is it that the proclaimed hater of cassettes, Mr. Rose, has finally seen the light? Let’s hope so, both for his sake and our own, cause these little suckers—released on Peasant Magik and Arbor—are total domination 2 tha maxx.
Thorazine to Infinity begins with the hum of electricity, certainly a fitting beginning. There’s some thick dirty guitar (bass?) going down and maybe a bit of synth or effects too. It kinda has a drone-doom thing but you know, not mind-numbingly boring. I tend to be a fan of low frequencies so I wish they were mixed a bit louder for full on quaking effect but they still do a damn good job as is. It is tapes like these that make me wish I was one of those dudes whose hobby is his stereo; you know so I could play this way too loud on huge fucking speakers and go deaf and get kicked out of my apartment. It’s a good thing I’m not one of those dudes though cause I wouldn’t want to be deaf and homeless. I don’t have the balls for that. “I am Your Charred Remains” is easily my favorite piece on the tape. It’s more actively droney/noisy than the mildly lethargic opener. Again, the Ajilvsga dudes are playing with raging thickness/sickness. It sounds like there are lots of loops/tracks stacked on top of each other, shuddering under the wait of it all. Short repetitive loops are contrasted with the protracted fuzz giving the mass a good dose of rhythm/momentum and ending with some dude cackling. Total daze of thunder.
The twelve minute tremor, “Asphixiation”, starts slow with an insistent revving and loopy synthtones. Almost halfway through a weird percussion type thing starts going down. I think it’s a handdrum of some sort and it comes out of nowhere. Somehow the bizarreness of the hand-drum-on-tremulous-electronics action works, don’t ask me how though. The piece takes on a strange, sauntering psych vibe. Man, what a peculiar ordeal that was. The short closer, “Lex Talions”, goes even further into psych territory with more drums and other percussion, a bowed/blown instrument, guitar feedback and a thumbpiano/musicbox device of some sort. These guys sure turn the tables with style.
Sacred Arrow isn’t as colossally crushing. “Salt Plains” sounds like might just be two guitars a-droning. Well it’s not necessarily droning cause there’s definitely some strumming going on, yet it still has that effect. It’s a nice simple track that doesn’t get old despite a relatively small amount of change. There’s some theremin-esque sounds at the end too. Strong but subtle (it’s oxymoron day!) sense of melodic structure too, so it sounds real nice on the ears without being obvious. My only complaint is one guitar has too much of a transparent flanger thing going on. “Wolves Standing in Water” brings back the rumble; well I guess for the first time on this particular tape. There’s an elusive melodic loop buried underneath the murk that’s pretty fun to chase. It’s a pretty solid wall of low-end too, which I like, consuming everything like a black hole or the blob. The final minute sees the blob get briefly upturned by a couple pulsing rhythmic loops before blasting them away and everything ending in Armageddon. “Fire Builder” takes the entirety of the B-side and, soundwise, it fits somewhere between the two on the previous side. It’s also the most straight “drone” to my ears. Woven in between the long heavy layers are different bits of manipulation, originally, I thought a field recording of some sort but now I’m not so sure. More eerie theremin sounds pop up too. Yeah, eerie is a pretty good way to describe to the track. It reminds of the more sluggish (not in a bad way) work of Family Underground and other acts. Though perhaps a bit too protracted for its own good, “Fire Builder” is excellent way to, as that one Oscar-winning m&m guy put it, lose yourself in the music.
Each label has done a fine, classy job packaging their respective cassettes. Thorazine to Infinity comes with a textured slip cover, printed j card and the whole deal. Sacred Arrow comes with a double-sided full color printed/screenprinted j card and sprayed case. Both are still available but limited. 100 copies of Sacred Arrow and only 75 of Thorazine to Infinity.

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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kevin Shields – Cavity Fever [Arbor]/Kevin Shields – Human Wider Experience [Tanzprocesz]

So after I discovered the greatness of Eva Aguila’s Kevin Shields project in the lovely summer of ’07 with the massive mind ripper/contender for album of the year The Death of Patience, I had snapped up some current (at the time) Kevin Shields frequencies right away. So now it’s almost the end of the year and I’m finally getting around to reviewing them, but hey, it’s rare when something I buy gets reviewed at all.
Starting with the Cavity Fever tape first, cause haven’t you heard? Tapes rule! This cassette is a bit more sedate than some other Kevin Shields work, but keep in mind that term is relative. The first track “Homely Straw” is a couple bass tones pulsing at various speeds and a slowed down alarm bell. There is some delayed contact mic’d stuff going on as well, almost chiming as the bass pulse gets more sinister. The track to me, actually occupies more of the drone realm than noise. “Lovely Day is a Hike Day”, however, gets noisy. There are plenty of high pitched sine tones against roughly manipulated waves of feedback. The thing then dissolves into to a strange keyboard part. Not a ditty, but close. The last track on side A, “Coarse Truth”, sounds like an extension of the previous track. The keyboard part is still present but jagged shards of fuzz being worked and kneaded dominate the track. On the second side, “Gaming Ritual” brings back the keyboard slowly adding layers of distortion. Eventually the keyboard is phased out leaving a vast shitstorm of electronics washing over me like the plague. For the all the noise, it’s a pretty moderately paced piece that builds to a great sputtering, spitting climax of charred circuitry and gnashing teeth. The oh so truthfully titled “Because I Know You Can’t Get Enough” closes out the tape, operating like everything heard previously condensed into three and a half minutes. The noise, the keyboard, the scrambled rhythms; they’re all there.
The magnificently titled half-hour of power Human Wider Experience is coarser and more forceful. After the one minute opener “Catalyst”, “Covenant Grunt” takes the stage. With a sustained bass note with actually some really sick beats. Well it’s not “beats” so much as just the way Aguila cuts up the tone but it works and little by little succumbs to a barrage of flames. After the frayed, 91 second inferno “Frecke Wrist”, comes the most interesting and best track “Children’s Court”. I’m not sure what the sound source here is but it sounds like a brittle clanking toy guitar or something. It sounds like there are also some soft vocals in the background which add an interesting “human” counterpoint to the ear piercingness of the other noises. Out of nowhere the whole thing coheres into relatively solid brick of sound (for a moment anyway). There is a lot more manipulated filter/synth type sounds that actually work really well with the harshness, both opening up the sound and adding a bit roundness to the serrated static. Aguila’s knack for composition really comes into play here but because the track, lasting nearly 17 minutes, never gets tired. She constantly adds new sounds and ideas, whether she’s building on previous ones or growing a whole new garden of sound. One of the things I marvel at most about Aguila’s work is how well she controls the chaos. A lot of noise stuff I hear sounds like the gear is running the show not the artist, but with Aguila’s work the effortless construction and grace of her style is unmistakable. As much as I love The Death of Patience, “Children’s Court” may be her best work; that I’ve heard at least. Utterly amazing. The short fifth track, “Shat & Boney Enjoying a Little”, features some help from Amy of Yuma Nora. Though I’m not exactly sure what she’s operating in the track. It’s probably the most harsh and heavy piece on the record. Unrelenting torrents of feedback. “Slug Mouth” really did a number on me because of its sweetness. After 25 minutes of noise, I was thrown off by the extended, clean solo keyboard piece. I kept expecting to be lacerated by a brutal feedback squall, but was even more thrown off when it never came. Just five minutes of twee keyboard plinking. I’ve got to hand it to Eva; she knows how to keep me guessing.
While neither are as brain collapsing as The Death of Patience both are totally sweet in their own right. Cavity Fever is sold out at source but you can probably still get it at a few distros, Human Wider Experience is available however, though limited to a hundred. Both releases are aesthetically pleasing as well which is a trademark of both labels. Arbor did a classy job as always. Cavity Fever features killer artwork by George Myers (Breaking World Records), a double sided j-card and the most beautiful, blue-green sprayjob I’ve ever seen on a tape. French label, Tanzprocesz has been responsible for some of the most innovative packaging ideas I’ve come across. The packaging of Human Wider Experience, while not particularly ingenious, is certainly out of the ordinary. A recycled fold-out, sprayed LP cover with pasted on art and info and the CD-r is floating on of those little numbs. Definitely nice to see when most labels are just doing the standard CD-r-in-slipcase thing. Collect ‘em all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Medroxy Progesterone Acetate – We’re a Monotonous Band [MusicYourMindWillLoveYou]

Australia’s MusicYourMindWillLoveYou label has been diversifying their roster a bit as of late, adding noisier brethren The Holy See and Darren Bauler’s Iowa-based Medroxy Progesterone Acetate to the fold. Haven’t heard that particular Holy See release yet but I did get a hold of the latest Medroxy album which I was pretty excited about.
Back in the summer, I reviewed Something in the Weeds, a killer CD-r of droney noise or noisy drone depending on yr predilection. Anyhow, at the time I said it was the best I’d heard from the MPA project but, I don’t know, that throne may have a new successor with We’re a Monotonous Band.
In somewhat typical MPA style, the record kicks off with its longest track, “The Yoke”. After a short spoken intro (“They threw the yoke upon me, all of the days my life”, I think), electronics start a-buzzing. One of Bauler’s strongest traits is his ear for electronic textures. It seems like almost every track of his features every waveform imaginable. There’s stuttering, creaking, pulsing, shining, scraping, rumbling, rustling, spitting, crumbling and any other adjectives you can think of. His other strength lies in that he can stack all those sounds on top of each other and make cohesive batholiths of heaving frequencies. “The Yoke” is relentless. It just keeps coming at you with more and more sounds. Though, it sounds like there are a couple key loops coursing through the whole thing, particularly the glistening, wavering sine wave that’s exposed at the end. “Paleyellowpurple” matches airy drones with a synthetic tone being slightly pitch-shifted and modulated. A woman’s voice begins speaking though it’s pretty unintelligible, due mostly to the answering machine quality of the recording. She sounds very distressed and that comes through despite her unknown words. Interesting pairing of anguished humanity and placid synthetic-ness. “Circle of Salt” within the opening moments already sounds classic. Again there is a vocal recording, this time male, and buried underneath a ton of electronic debris. The thing that makes the track so killer is the ghostly sense of melody Bauler imbues the piece with. Sure there’s nothing “melodic” about jutting shards of noise or the crackling/rumbling dropping in and out, but the piece sounds meticulously structured and arranged, so even during the attack of the machines there’s a vague underlying warmth. At the end, as the piece breaks down the man’s voice becomes slightly clearer and says something about “hearing things”, which is what I feel like whenever I hear this track. I mean, of course I’m hearing things but you know, I not sure if I’m hearing what I’m actually hearing. Anyway, not describing that well at all so I’m moving on to the Smog referencing(?) “Teenage Basement Spaceship”. After a brief a pitch manipulation of another voice sample, the track gets going with a continual astral ascent. “Spaceship” has more open space than the previous track. Particularly at the end. There’s actually a great bit for the last 15 seconds where a heavy, bassy sound periodically thuds over a smooth sine wave, really wish it carried on a bit longer. “Slaughterhouse Champs” is more active with noisy synth manipulation against a beautiful mellow/melancholy backdrop. Reaching a great, subtle build until someone pulls the power. “How Does the Skin Man Get His Skin?” it’s a brief, unsettling piece with a bunch of electronic sounds resembling bird noises, a gong, a violin and voice.
“The Story of the Solehn Sisters, Who Were in Love with Each Other” features a bit prettier arrangement with echoing pulsating synthstreams. There is also a man (Bauler?) telling the eponymous story, saying things to the effect of “since no one would write stories about women who aren’t beautiful, she was beautiful” and the sisters, at one point, kill “all the trust fund princes”. Interesting story to say the least. The thing is a lot of time the voice/story over music seems gimmicky to me but Bauler pulls it off somehow, maybe it’s the incredibly bizarre tone of the delivery. The finale, the even more unwieldy titled “The Necropsych Snowblind Blues Band Presents Overdriven Liturgical Dirges For Lotte Reiniger” is somewhat similar to the amazing closer, “The Pig Who Stood Upright”, on Something in the Weeds; though it’s a less straightforwardly melodic piece. There are two main layers of sound going at it, a pretty synth wash and an uncouth bit of stammering noise augmented by squirming filter sounds and effect vocal clips. The piece actually lasts for 9 and a half minutes, though you’d never be able to tell. It’s easy to get lost in the façade; that is until it’s broken up rather abruptly and the album is over.
The CD-r comes packaged with black and white art on fold over cardstock with velvety redness lining the inside. Real sweet. It comes with an insert too. Copies are still available from the label but if you can, it’s always better get a copy from Darren himself. He elaborately packages his releases to the nines and his bundle for We’re A Monotonous Band is no different. First and foremost, the album comes with a bonus CD-r entitled Vons Serin Exchanging Frequencies With Cicadas. It features an excellent 39 minute opus of the same name as well as “Unrequited” a placid, 27 minute live set from last year. It comes with a classy looking double-sided, fold-out cover and a bunch of scraps of text crammed inside; it also reads at the bottom “MPA ’08: we’re coming to your town, we’re gonna burn it down”. That better be a promise, nay, a guarantee. The whole thing comes tied with a ribbon and sealed with wax, with a lensless Polaroid and an old ‘Lesson Picture Card’ slipped between the two discs. So whichever way you can, definitely pick this one up.

Slasher Risk – Triple Jesus [Kass/Jamps]

Slasher Risk is a unit out of Brooklyn made up of Andy and Sara. I’d heard the name around the net but had never had privilege hearing them. They remedied that though with their first LP Triple Jesus.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the name Slasher Risk make you think violence? Anyway, I wasn’t sure what I was in for but figured it’d probably be pretty noisy. To my surprise however, the “helicopter” side of the LP is a wandering dual guitar jam. Excellent! I love noise and all but I really love dual guitar jams. This particular one is a warbly, glistening bout of clean toned tanglings. The best reference I can think of is, Tom Carter projects, Sarin Smoke and Spiderwebs. This Slasher Risk jam though is a bit more consonant than those. Despite the long track length the jam is never stuck spinning its wheels. There’s always a momentum pushing things forward mostly due to the well-employed rhythm/lead style. The guitars trade off playing more coherent/rhythmic parts and more free/textural parts. This track because of its length had to be improvised, which is amazing to me cause Andy and Sara ceaselessly turn out spectacular arpeggio/interplay/whatever after spectacular arpeggio/interplay/whatever. There are lots and lots of beautiful breaks where they’ll build rhythmically to some point where it all dissipates into a beautiful melody. Things get a bit rougher and more menacing towards the end without really changing their sound at all, which is always a thing for my ears to behold. This piece just keeps on ruling and ruling, never getting old never getting boring. So yeah, this jam is totally killer. Slasher Risk are occupying an interesting space in the guitar-duosphere because a) their guitars are totally meant to sound like guitars b) they use traditional tactics in an interesting way, marrying the long psych jam with good, compelling guitar playing and well composed melodic interaction. Well done.
The “security camera view” side sees a bit noisier confrontational side of the duo. I can’t tell if they are rolling in dual guitar format. There is one guitar definitely, but other person could be guitar or just effects or something. It’s an ominous sounding ride and difficult to pin down. Again, like the first side, Slasher Risk keeps forging ahead running through different portions of sound. At one point there’s a guitar strum and then noisy squiggles made from effects or synth or guitar maybe. At another there’s a pulsing guitar drone interrupted by flashes of static noise. While the movements don’t gel as well as they did on the first side, there’s still a good momentum to the proceedings. Not so for the last half of the side though. There’s a break and a new track begins. Unfortunately, the last piece is a bunch of random fumbling and never coheres into anything really meaningful, ending rather anti-climactically. Nonetheless, Triple Jesus is still three fourths of a great record.
The LP is limited to a hundred copies, which ain’t that much if you think about it. Other details: black vinyl, printed labels, screenprinted sleeves and a numbered insert. It’s released on the band’s Kass/Jamps label so check here for info.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Widening Horizon – Widening Horizon [Arbor/JK Tapes]/Laissez Faire – Asylum [Abandon Ship]

The subject(s) of this review could rightly be described as “the future”. Mike Pollard and [name removed by request] are two teenage kids from Illinois (how sick are they of reading that?) who run two killer labels Arbor and JK Tapes, respectively, and play under solo guises Treetops and Laissez Faire, also respectively. The bros collaborate as Widening Horizon as well. I reviewed a Treetops a tape a little while back and now I’ve come full circle (triangle?) with debut cassettes from Widening Horizon and Laissez Faire.
Popping in Widening Horizon my ears are met with a bright but murky mess which is what I like to hear. Mostly sloshed vocals, feedback, and keyboard drone. There is also flashes of drums and cymbals, probably the work of Mike. There’s a post-Skaters vibe about the whole thing, which I personally dig. I like how totally drenched the thing sounds too. It’s hard to adequately describe, but the tape is just drenched in sound. The heavy floating here is really rooted by the drums, which are played pretty tastefully never really dominating the overall sound, but making their presence felt amongst the oscillating tones. The phantom melody that flows through the whole thing is key. There’s no one element that’s providing it but somehow all the sounds cohere in one big blurred meditation.
The B(elligerent)-side comes out a lot a more aggressive. I’m not too sure what the dudes are playing here, lots of distortion (though not harsh), flute-like feedback, keyboard sounds, and whatever other shit was around for them to bang on. There’s not much to grab onto here. The thing that’s interesting is that even though it’s fragmented, there are so many fragments piled on top of each other that it sounds rather full, even as the sounds shoot past you. Towards the end of the first side there is some slightly discernible vocals and militant drumming which sounds real nice buried under all the delayed feedback. Overall, a real cool tape, especially for a debut. There’s supposed to be more on the way from Widening Horizon (a series or something?) and my ears are looking forward to that for sure.
It’s interesting listening to [name removed by request] solo debut on Abandon Ship and comparing it with previous Treetops knowledge because I can start discerning who brings what to the Widening Horizon jams… sort of. Mike appears to bring the drums, [name removed by request] brings the keyboard(?) and they both deal pretty heavily in feedback/vox/whatever. Anyhow, the first of the four tracks on Asylum is, if I’m reading it correctly, “Afgan”. Beginning with some looped organ/rumbling, it’s got a more meditative feel than the Widening Horizon stuff. Feedback is present but mostly kept at bay, leaving the beauty (relatively) un-obscured. There’s a constant activeness to the sounds (on the WH tape too) which I can’t really figure out. The sounds never stay in the samespot for long, though it’s not like they’re darting around everywhere. Possibly my favorite track on here is “Platypus”. It starts similarly to the previous track with billowing waves of reverbed fuzz. Things increase steadily until there’s a thick layer of fluctuating noise that would seem harsh if it weren’t for the mellow pretty rays dappled over everything. Everything drops out at the end leaving a brief but striking keyboard bit. “Pomegranate”, though a bit rougher, has the melodiousness consistent through the tape, for the most part at least. There’s an excellent moment, where against a droning keyboard loop [name removed by request] lashes out with measured brief bursts of harshness. Very nice. Maybe that one is my favorite actually, or maybe it was the first track. It’s hard to choose. Anyway, the tape ends somewhat anti-climactically with “One Wiseman” which is a slightly manipulated recording of some dude being interviewed/talking about an Asian woman’s sound exhibit at an art museum and Michael Jackson (“another interesting personality”) and “losing your edge”. I don’t know dude, it was weird.
Both tapes come packaged nicely. Widening Horizon comes in a double-sided, wrap-around card plastered with psychedelic geologic/ecologic collages and sealed with a sticker. Totally killer. The Laissez Faire tape comes with a fold out j-card with very blue artwork. It should also be noted that the colors used in the artwork is totally the color of the sounds. Widening Horizon was limited to 40 and all sold out at source, so if you see a copy, snag it. Asylum is still ready and available from Abandon Ship (though limited to 50) so check that one out before it’s too late.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Helvetica is the Perfume of the City – Swallowing Stars [La Belle Dame Sans Merci]

I rarely get to start out my reviews with intro-anecdotes so I’m taking advantage of my opportunity here. French artist Florian Tositti, one of the nicest dudes around, sent me this release, his second for his new label La Belle Dame Sans Merci (the first was the massive triple cd-r Frannce compilation co-released with Ruralfaune). Anyhow, this release got to me fine, no hang-ups. But when Florian tried to send me his next three releases, they never came. He kept sending more packages which never came either, and neither did a package from Ruralfaune, and neither did a package from James Ferraro and maybe other’s that I don’t even know about. (keep in mind this shit was all mailed out in September) So I guess the moral of this story is fuck you central European postal services! Yeah yeah yeah, you guys were striking or something, whatever. I don’t care. I just want you to know that you have failed European people, American people, probably some Canadians too and, most importantly, you failed me. I hope yr enjoying my music… bastards. Anyhow, this term is over, just finished finals and ready to get back to my crammed-to-the-brim box of submissions. I’ve given up hope that this little guy will be reunited with his LBDSM siblings, but he’s pretty sweet on his own so he’ll just go it alone for this review.
Helvetica is the Perfume of the City is a super group of sorts featuring Phil Todd (Ashtray Navigations), Andy Jarvis (the First Person label), Ben Reynolds and David Hayword, which google tells me is a doctor on an American soap opera. So what happens when you throw three psych superstars and a fictional character on a cd-r? A rambling, clanging, soaring piece of greatness.
The first of the four tracks here (ranging from 6-11 minutes) is “A Perfect Explosion” which begins slowly with synth burbles and synth drones. Halfway through, this astral surfing is met by improv’d guitar and drums. The guitar playing isn’t totally my style, a bit too “solo-ey” at times but it’s got some nice moments. And otherwise the group has a real nice drifting vibe going on, making the title kinda ironic. “First Impression of the Master (Part I)” sees an electric and acoustic guitar rise from a bed of shakers and synth squiggles. Drums come in and things get going. The acoustic/electric interplay, which I’m usually a bit wary of, works really well here. My favorite part is the last minute, where somehow they totally transition into a different sounding “song” without being jarring or awkward or anything. Even after multiple listens I still can’t figure out how they do it, but damn, respect to those guys, it’s an incredible moment. “First Impression of the Master (Part II)” gets going a lot faster than the previous tracks. Based on some long repeated guitar figures, the guys mess around with dynamics, shifting tempo and so on—without sounding wanky though. This is my favorite showing for the guitar players, they lock in pretty well and turn out some cool guitar lines. Also whoever’s doing all the oscillator stuff in the background is a nice addition, keeping the background from remaining static. Things really get going around the 8 minute mark, first they get really jamming all of a sudden and just as quickly drift out into the syntho-stratosphere until the tracks end. My favorite piece here is the last, and excellently titled, “Cobweb Infinity”. Wow, I just listened to the track and totally zoned and got lost in it, forgetting to write anything. Listening again, things start out real chiming/rattling/jangling/clanging/whathaveyou with disembodied sounds floating around too. There’s a nice slow synth pulse keeping the track moving as the drummer goes nuts. All the droning/shaking comes to a head halfway through, leading to an amazingly great moment of intertwining guitar lines unwinding (say that ten times fast). The guitars unfurl until they fade. I really dig how each successive track one-ups the piece before it. And the group's strong sense of melody is a plus as well. Whoever mastered it did a good job making everything sound cohesive since the material was recorded at three different places in 2004/2005. Anyone down with psych-improv stuff or any of the artists involved should find plenty to love here.
The CD-r is limited to 80 copies but still available as far as I can tell. The lightly sprayed CD comes in a cardboard slipcase with art by Jaakko Pallasvuo and a hand numbered insert. Check it out and pray for my packages (JKJKJKJK).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #9 (12/9/07)

“Upon” Steven R. Smith Owl (CD) [Digitalis, 2007]

“The Last Song” Mudboy Hungry Ghosts! These Songs are Doors (CD) [Digitalis, 2007]

“Birds Fucking Outside My Window” K.P. Getting Rid of the Glue (LP) [Pendu Sound Recordings, 2006]

“Sanctuary” Deerstalker Split with Wether/Pillars of Heaven/Gallows (2xCS) [Peasant Magik/No Horse Shit, 2007]

“Golden Gate Blues” Grey Daturas Dead in the Woods (CD) [Crucial Blast, 2007]

“Untitled 5” Yes Collapse Final Diagnosis (CD-r) [Crucial Bliss, 2007]

“Spectral Transmissions” Luala Raelon Into the Void (CD-r) [Crucial Bliss, 2007]

“Talibam! Eat a Sound Soup” Talibam! Getting Rid of the Glue (LP) [Pendu Sound Recordings, 2006]

“Sonja” Excepter Getting Rid of the Glue (LP) [Pendu Sound Recordings, 2006]

“Untitled 4” Menstrual Chinese Dream Menstrual Chinese Dream (CD-r) [Nature Tape Limb, 2005]

mp3: Show 9

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ghost of an Octopus – Two [First Person]/Ys Trys – Cy Clo Path [First Person]/Culver – The Psychic [First Person]

This is the second half of UK label First Person’s latest batch of releases. In case you’re unfamiliar, First Person, run by Andy Jarvis, rolls exclusively with 3” CD-rs in printed clear acetate slipcases. I hadn’t heard any of the three artists featured here until these releases (though I’d heard of Culver). Anyhow, I’m gonna get right to ‘em.
First up is Ghost of an Octopus. The only info given is Stuart Octopus plays electric bass and Ghost of Joincey plays electric guitar. I don’t know if they both operate solo and this is a collabo or if this is actually a bonafide band. But you never hear about many guitar/bass duos so I’m always eager to listen if I come across one. Things start out slow and droney with hi-pitched guitar+fx scramblings turning up after a little bit. I like what the bass is doing here, low key sustained riffs and occasional feedback bends; I just wish it was a bit louder. The guitar I’m a little ambivalent about. It does some cool stuff but a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like it’s interacting with or aware of the bass at all. It’s too far off in skronk shred world for its own good. I guess the problem is just that the track is really lacking dynamics. Anything up until the 14th minute is pretty indiscernible from the first couple minutes. About 2/3rds through things get better, the two players lock with each other a bit more. There is a long sustained sound, sounding suspiciously like a cymbal, that I’m enjoying. There’s a winding comedown of protracted bass notes against stuttering guitar feedback. I hope I don’t come across as a jerk but the piece as a whole iss kinda underwhelming. While there are certainly interesting moments, on the whole the duo's meandering just kinda results in dullness. I don’t know, I’ve listened a few times and nothing has clicked yet, maybe next time…
Next is Ys Trys which apparently shares some relation to Stuckometer, who I haven’t heard yet but read good things. Judging by the first track “Cy”, this is a guitar/drums affair with someone yelling random shit occasionally as well. The drummer on this disc is a killer. Moving between quiet lulls and total free rock eruptions. The guitarist tastefully mixes in raygun sounds with his riffage. There is a good sense of communication between the two, they make each other better ya know? Synergy, that’s the term right? So sweet beats and monster riffage (though I could do without the monster voices). The second track “Clo” is six seconds long and not really worth mentioning. The final track “Path” features many strange pitched shifted music box type noises echoing back and forth until an ominous drum roll approaches. The piece slowly coheres with classy drum pyrotechnics and looped and panned guitar gathering intensity. While on “Cy” I was impressed with the drumming, I’m really loving the guitar playing here (though the drums are great). The guitarist knows when to take it easy and build complex patterns of delayed tones as well as when to get aggressive and disruptive, the drumming complements the guitarwork nicely—mostly playing it straight but giving a few key percussive outbursts. Overall, I really dig this disc. Sometimes free rock acts can get stuck in a rut but here Ys Trys show they have a variety of styles and approaches up their sleeves. Cy Clo Path has gotten better each time I’ve listened. Final entry from First Person is a twenty minute track by Culver. Culver is the project of Lee Stokoe who if I recall played on the awesome Skullflower CDr Abyssic Lowland Hiss. Save for that record, Stokoe’s work is new to my ears. The Psychic begins with a couple crackling layers of muffled, looping drones. This track is very hard to pick apart. It sounds like there are different things going on beneath the hissing murk but it’s impossible to tell for sure. For all I know these could all be closed loops and Stokoe is just tricking me into thinking differently. There is a semi-rhythmic bass pulse that carries throughout the length of the track, keeping things from getting too esoteric. If yr into radios with bad reception you’ll dig the aesthetic here. Around halfway through a few semblances of new sounds materialize, maybe keyboard or vocals. The piece gets noticeably more active as it nears its end. A few founds break through the bog but they're gone in a split second. This piece is reminiscent to me of Slow Listener’s stuff but with a bit darker demeanor and less melodic sensibilities. Sorry I can’t be more descriptive, but words for this piece are kind of eluding me. There’s a cool evil dormitory photo printed on the cover which can probably do a better job explaining the piece than I can.
As mentioned all these are packaged in First Person’s signature printed clear acetate slip cases and look awesome. The white CDrs are hand numbered and serialized. Each limited to 75.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #8 (12/2/07)

”City” Belly Boat Dear Robert Handy (CD) [Not Not Fun, 2007]

“Side A” x04 Lost Signals (LP) [Ultra Eczema, 2007]

“Lead Chorus (Nikki)” Jacob Smigel Eavesdrop: a Wealth of Found Sound (CD-r) [No Label, 2007]

“Ritual Terra Continuii” Mrtyu Ritual Terra Continuii (CS) [Tipped Bowler Tapes, 2007]

“The Drake” Sic Alps Strawberry Guillotine (7”) [Woodsist, 2007]

“Live At Permanent Records, Chicago, 3/17/07” Binges Return to Whatever (CD-r) [Arbor, 2007]

“Green Solaris Month” Social Junk Dirty Cloud (CD-r) [American Grizzly, 2007]

“A3” Family Thinkers Split with Bart Sloow (CS+Book) [Dreamtime Taped Sounds, 2007]

“A3” Monopoly Child Star Searchers Gitchii Manitou (12 Step Retrance Program For Troubled Dream Warriors) (CS) [Pacific City Studios, 2007]

“Platypus” Laissez Faire Asylum (CS one-sided) [Abandon Ship, 2007]

“Side B (excerpt)” Nirvana Malanyang Nirvana Safari (CS) [New Age Cassettes, 2007]

“Apparently” Kevin Shields The Death of Patience (CD) [Deathbomb Arc, 2007]

“Descending Form” Xenis Emputae Travelling Band Gamaaea (CS) [Beyond Repair, 2007]

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cones – Ice Skating Elephants [Ikuisuus]

Cones is a German duo of Datashock members Marcel Turkowsky and Ulf Schutte (who records solo as Diamond Lemonade and runs Tape Tektoniks). This CD-r is their debut for Finnish label Ikuisuus (who’s responsible for the early ’07 gem, Salt of the Sun by Family Underground) and their first release to meet my ears.
From the beginning, Ice Skating Elephants is heavy on the looping which is a good thing to me. The guys put their best foot forward with “Waber Bouncing with Dante Flavour”. Short hi-pitched glitchiness leads way to swirling but synthetic keyboards and a stuttering loop of something of electronic origins. You’re hearing a lot more things than you originally think which certainly engages me. After some close listening you can pick out subtle melodic phrases underneath the static, though their presence is felt with or without conscious recognition. That’s probably what I appreciate most about this track, the complexity of the arrangement. The track is constantly evolving though it’s particularly apparent. It’s hard to describe but every so often I’ll have a realization that “this sounds different than a minute ago” though I didn’t notice how the track got to its new place. As the track begins to wind down, Cones deconstructs the sound, ending similar to how it started with a glitching cacophony. It’s a real nice track, synthetic but with a soul. “Grusel on Ice” is the second piece. It reminds me a bit of some Non-Horse stuff but working from more digital sounding source material. Ikuisuus suggests that “Contact Mics, Tapeloops and Goes, Memorytapes, Fieldrecordings and Electronics” are in the mix, which makes sense because these guys seem to be more about processing sounds than the sounds themselves. This makes it tough on me to accurately describe because the track feels like its moving at light speed. Not that the tempo is fast, but most sounds appear/disappear in a flash, giving the listener little to grab onto. Which can be detrimental in some cases, but not really on this album. The pieces despite their heavily fractured nature are still satisfying to listen to. The shortest track at around 6 minutes is “Ran Style”. It’s a tad more minimal and structured than the previous “Grusel”. Half of it focusing on a looped keyboard line. After that drops out, garbled vocal samples and processed percussion hits takes its place. Though the track is wobbly it has a slow methodical pace. The epic finale semi-title track “Ice Skating Elephants of Frozen Morellas” rolls with a central see sawing keyboard melody as sounds spit, crackle, clink, swell, beep, and stumble around it until it fades. This track is similar to “Grusel” in that there are too many things going on to name but there’s a noticeable (and welcome) bit of lucidity and consonance that works as an excellent foil to the scattered, hyperactive aesthetic. There is a sustaining synth loop buried underneath everything that anchors the stammering squiggliness of the ordeal. This all results in the most pleasant, zen-like moments of the whole CD-r and I, for one, am loving it. A frantic amalgam of beauty and audio psychosis.
This CD-r comes in a slipcase with a cool two-color doublesided design and a cardstock insert. And the good news for everyone is it’s still in print and available from the label.