Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blue Shift – Ghost Singers 3 [Breaking World]/Pak – Pak [Breaking World]

A couple more jams from George Myers's phenomenal Breaking World Records label.
Ghost Singers 3 is an odd little tape. I hadn’t heard Blue Shift before this but it turns it’s Providence’s Cybele Collins's solo violin mistreatment project. The first time through I wasn’t sure what to think of this tape but after having listened a number of more times I’ve gotten into it. The tape runs through 12 tracks in 25 minutes and things blur together a bit so fingers crossed I match the right names to the right piece of music. Beginning with “Whistle Run” Collins is doing, I guess, what would be standard playing with a bow and such but the result is a kind of wispy sound with as many overtones, incidental noises, and percussive strikes as there are recognizable violin sounds. “Bored Gun” sounds denser; there’s some layering/looping including what I think is reversed violin. I dig the layered effect because the violin fulfills many purposes filling out the sound, contributing a rhythmic element, general clatter and fleeting melodic touches in the track’s too $hort 30 seconds. “Having a Conversation” has weird multi-tracked manipulated vocals with stuttering violin accompaniment. I certainly wouldn’t call the track “melodic” but there are flashes of melody in the warble and scrape affair that add an odd beauty to the piece. The title-track reminds me of Carter Burwell’s score of Fargo a bit with some eastern (European) influence maybe? It’s a rather pleasant, too-brief piece. “Feather Duster” returns to some vicious sawing and scraping getting some really sharp edged squealing tones from the violin. “Belonging Pit” is similar but much less frantic and features a breakdown of sorts with 3 or 4 tracks of violin all moving in seriously different directions. It’s a really interesting listen, especially with head phones, and I have fun attempting the probably impossible task of following one of the tangled tendrils through the course of the song. “I Want an Accident” closes the first side with a legitimately groovy (jeez do I need a new adjective for that sort of thing) backwards loop and violin overlaid. Actually scratch that. Cause another track just came on, so I fucked up the track names somewhere in there. Sorry about that, but I’m not about to go back through and figure it out right now. I’m having too much fun listening. The second side starts off with my favorite track, and probably the most “normal”, “Pin Dance”. The song is pretty coherent and knowingly pretty. Despite tying up most the of loose ends she lets hang in the other tracks, Collins doesn’t sacrifice interesting texture in the least. I’d actually be curious to hear her arrange (and/or write) a traditional classical piece because she has unique skill for forming melodies in unexpected ways. “Warnings” follows with strange skronk more akin to stuff that comes out of Chris Cooper’s guitar than a violin. The track even wraps with a short eastern jig. “Long Underwear” is pretty mellow by comparison marked by a constant bubbling of lower notes with no noticeable hi-end skree. “Ravaged Plains” is another violent sawing exhibit and the finale “Sandpaper Walls” features a lone voice caught in a web of violin clacks and runs before slipping off a reversed violin line. While, admittedly, it didn’t click immediately, Ghost Singers 3 is a unique tape that has rewarded me generously upon repeated listens.
I know next to nothing about Pak other than he’s from the Netherlands apparently. This 3inch CDr is a 15plus minute track of an unrelentingly noisy assault. Not harsh but pretty damn noisy still. Amidst all the static and squeezed/stretched tones, there is a vocal sample that pops occasionally which is one of my favorite parts of track. At least I'm pretty sure it’s a vocal sample, it’s an ecstatic yelp but there’s something about it that feels a bit inhuman as well. Pak keeps the track briskly paced with oscillator whine broken by powerful blasts of hot white noise. There actually may be more vocal samples in here cause the sounds being manipulated have a bizarre vocal quality to my ears. A bit later it definitely sounds like some distorted screams sliced up by the barrage of noise, but who knows what the source actually is. Just when the squealing oscillator stuff is wearing thin Pak breaks it up with a block noise which definitely had some almost chorale sounding vocals. The bummer is that lasts for like 8 seconds and we’re back to the squealing oscillator stuff. I like this but it could certainly stand to be a few minutes shorter and probably a bit more varied. And I’m sure that squealing oscillator thing will have a penchant to drive some people out of their minds, though maybe that's the whole idea.
George Myers made some fantastic artwork for this Blue Shift tape with a melancholy, melting lizard monster on the front cover and a colorful illustration of some weird hippie prayer ritual on the inside. The Pak CD-r comes with a white card board cover with a crooked row of smiling teeth imprinted on it, a little bit creepy. I couldn't get that to scan so I scanned the back cover FYI. The Blue Shift tape is still in print not sure about the Pak cd-r since it came out quite a while ago. I’d email George if yr interested.

Brave Priest – Precious Summers [Stunned]/Predator Vision – II [Abandon Ship]

I never really cared much about Cream but it looks like psych power trio thing is still going strong and maybe, just maybe, I should have been paying more attention all these years to see what lead up to these tapes. Both these acts are much different than Cream though and (obviously) much much better. Funny enough, each group features a Matt I recognize, Portland-based Brave Priest features Matt McDowell on drums while on the east coast Matt Mondanile (Ducktails, Traum Ecke) plays in Predator Vision. Ehhh, enough of this aimless introduction already…
This Brave Priest tape comes on Long Beach’s Stunned imprint. The tape begins with “No Blood”, mellow wah’d guitar notes materializing in the misty tape hiss before a lethargic bass groove starts up along with minimal drumming. One of the three is singing but it’s not credited so can’t say who the voice belongs to. The song maintains a loose leisurely vibe for most of it’s duration but a drum-led rave ensues near the end of the track with some sinister bass notes before dropping back into the original groove and ending on dry, sparse percussive hits. “Vampire Canyon” follows and kicks the tempo up a couple notches. The band plays strictly as a unit here all following the same rhythmic pattern until they slip into separate suits, the guitar contributing a wah-fried lead, the bass creates a heavy-as-shit presence with only one note and the drumming keeps the whole thing afloat. Things get a bit faster and sludgy which you know I like. Probably my favorite song on the tape “Give You Bone” closes out side A. This one forgoes the guitar for a heavy bass/drums groove and barking vocals, a tad like the Jesus Lizard but with a jammy elasticity instead of “Gladiator”-style pummel. The guitar is used sparely and perfectly, providing an occasional bleating exclamation point. Great song, three to four minutes of bad vibes. Flip the tape for the side long jam “Yellow Revolution”. The piece features all three members going full throttle. Some really excellent guitar skree here and a thunderous thrashing from the rhythm section. Really dig McDowell’s detailed stickwork too (is stickwork even a term??). It sounds like there’s a little keyboard trill in there somewhere but maybe it’s just the guitar, the brief melodic glimmers provided by the guitar and bass are key to the track’s success. That the jam stays vicious, never getting boring, is a testament to the power of the groove and the group’s performance. Brave Priest quiets down near the end bringing in the first appearance of vocals on the side before bludgeoning the jam home.
II is receiving the reissue treatment from Abandon Ship after an initial release on Future Sound. The A-side contains “Eyes of the Demon” which is a groovy, good-natured psychedelic workout. There isn’t any info on who plays what but it sounds to me like drums and two guitars. Even when the drummer speeds the track up Predator Vision retains the buoyancy of the initial moments. There’s an effortless fluidity present here which is kinda rare in “rock” ensembles, at least in my experience. The guitarists use their wahwahs to great effect, sometimes with long strung out notes and sometimes with quick melodic riffs. The drummer must be given his due as well, who keeps things interesting rhythmically while always propelling the track forward. That isn’t to say the guitars don’t contribute anything rhythmically; their constant, precise interplay is possibly the strongest element of the tape. “This City’s a Jungle” fills out the second side. The track fades in rather gradually with a bubbly arpeggio and occasional space ship landing type sounds. Predator Vision (such a great name) lets the casual groove simmer as it shuffles along unhurried. A guitar produces some nice drawn-out synth-like passages as drums thump along methodically. Anchored by the drumming, more airy arpeggios give way to distortion and cymbal crashes. There’s a great, compact riff near the end that sticks around for maybe twenty seconds, I can’t really describe it but you’ll know it when you hear it. The jam winds down very slowly before an abrupt end.
Stunned did an excellent job packaging this Brave Priest tape as they always seem to do. Fantastic double-sided, beardo weirdo artwork by Cameron Stallones and pro-dubbed yellow tapes with an awesome logo imprinted on both sides. Abandon Ship adapted the previous artwork of II to a more pristine look with black tapes and cool printed label with Predator on it. Brave Priest is sold out at source but the Predator Vision tape is still available.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sudden Oak – Sudden Oak [Bezoar Formations]/Radiant Husk – Beyond an Endless Swale [Bezoar Formations]

Sorry about the unannounced holiday break. I'm buried in a bunch of great records and I'm gonna start digging my way out with a couple of excellent tapes from San Francisco's Bezoar Formations label, which if I’m not mistaken, has roots in Western Massachusetts.
I was excited when I found out both these tapes are heavy on the sax. I’m a big saxophone fan, though a fair amount of the time when I hear underground sax-based stuff I’m disappointed. Not so here, the sounds are just tremendous. Sudden Oak is a duo of guitar and amplified sax. Beginning with sounds that don’t sound super guitar-like or saxophone-like the tape rolls to a start. The thing I like most about this tape is how the two vastly different instruments sound so unified. That isn’t to say they’re indistinguishable, the first piece on Side A features a number of moments when one member will briefly go off on his own but they always find their way back to a singular sound. The sound itself is distorted and blurry, not quite scorching, but not a mellow droner either. The second piece features a repeated two-note sax figure for a while with a relentless, pervasive hi-end guitar drone. Things continue in a just barely stable way before breaking apart into a strange cacophony of sustain and squelch before ratcheting the intensity down gradually to an almost whispering buzz. Side B sounds foggier with what sounds like a rhythmic loop of super distant hand drumming. Who knows what it really is. Guitar and sax both start in with simultaneous whines. Again, the duo cultivates an uneasy stasis where the sounds teeter on becoming melodic or becoming violent but are instead caught kinda wavering in between those two poles. It’s an interesting balancing act. Towards the end there’s a great honking flutter emanating from the saxophone giving the track a momentary rhythmic kick that’s matched by a siren-like guitar part. This idea is developed further with both instruments moving in bizarre seesawing patterns. The guitar dials down the distortion a bit and starts grooving in percussive fashion—which is a style certainly worth exploring further. That guitar part continues into a shriek out that ends the tape. I think this might be the first Sudden Oak release, in which case, these guys should be an exciting act to watch develop.
Radiant Husk is a solo project by Matthew Erickson who I’m pretty sure is the same Matt that played on the Sudden Oak tape. According to the liner notes the palette at work here is saxophone, drum, electronics and keyboards. The approach is pretty immediately different than Sudden Oak’s (though there are definitely some similarities in sound). The Sudden Oak tape is pretty raw and this tape certainly isn’t pristine but it has a hypnotic, entering-a-temple effect. The tape is fantastically layered with slowly unfolding sax melodies over a strangely feathery, hovering bed of sounds. Erickson makes excellent use of looping; every once in a while a rhythmic loop (often of sax) starts up and it pushes the whole craft further into greatness. There is a quick segue into another part/track that is a glistening, twisting, beautiful piece of sax mangling. A lower register sax part pops in briefly near its finish. There’s a short rustling interlude leading to a really beautiful bit of uneffected sax playing over an unobtrusive bed of keyboards. The keyboards drop out and Erickson creates a wonderful architecture of looped saxophone. That part ends all too quickly but it’s replaced with another more confrontational sax construction that ebbs and flows to the end of the side. On the second side, there’s a shamanic, ritualistic type thing going on at first. I must complement Erickson’s ability to make his saxophone sound otherworldly without burying it effects or making it not sound like a saxophone. I’m trying to go back through my sax experiences and I don’t think I’ve really heard one used quite like this. This is really effortless gorgeous stuff; just wave after wave of sound. The only bummer is it ends abruptly and too soon. The next part is more minimal and I can’t really tell if what I’m hearing is sax or synth. I’m leaning toward the latter but I could very well be getting tricked. This leads to another minimal arrangement, this time assembled out of sparse keyboard hits and quiet wandering saxophone. Closing out the tape, Erickson generates another beautiful (sorry for all these instances of “beautiful” but I swear they’re warranted) section based around a looping keyboard melody and screeching but tempered saxophone before a shiny drone grows bigger and bigger enveloping them both.
Both tapes are very nice looking. The Sudden Oak one has green screenprinting on a double-side fold-out J-card with info and a root formation or brain synapses or whatever it is printed on the front cover. Beyond an Endless Swale features an extra long fold-out j-card with x-ray visioned hot air balloons on one-side. The other side is even cooler with a weirdly psychedelic collage of dozens of colorful fish. If I had to pick between the two I’d probably go with the Radiant Husk one but Bezoar is selling these for so cheap I recommend you just pick up both.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

U.S. Girls – Kankakee Memories [Cherry Burger]

When I first threw this on the turntable I played it at 33rpm, in my defense it’s not labeled, and all the low fuzz sounded real good to my ears. It wasn’t until a little while later I figured out I’m an idiot and it’s at 45 (the big hole in the center should of tipped me off.) Anyway, it was a happy mistake cause I figured out this thing is like two records in one, one by U.S. Girls and one by U.S. Creepy Older Males. Enough of the tomfoolery; the review starts now.
Of the U.S. Girls stuff I’ve heard, this 7inch Kankakee Memories immediately strikes me as their best material so far. Each of the four songs, here, is interesting in its own way, as well as containing plenty of replay value.
The leadoff track “So Ladder Strong” is a minimalist garage anthem; pounding drums, indecipherable vocals and plenty of fuzz and feedback to go around. Other than a bit of pitchshifting, that I can make out pretty much only when the drums drop out during a brief breakdown, the only elements here are drums and vocals. It’s impressive that they can pull off pop hooks with such a limited. seemingly amelodic palette. “Come See Lightly” finishes up the first side. The minimalism continues here switching up the drums for a simple descending guitar melody. I really love the dual vocals here, which create a beautiful cascading chorus. So brief but so good.
On the flipside, things get changed up again. After some reversed babbling baby talk, there’s a lilting piano line backed by sparse percussive hits and vocal note drenched in cavernous reverb. Though epic, this is only an intro, leading to a great roughhewn, abstracted 50’s/early 60’s piano-pop ditty. I’m pretty sure, excluding vocals, that this is the first time there are two instruments playing simultaneously on the record. This makes the track, “O What a Nite”, sound absolutely lush in comparison to the first side. In the grand tradition of the Beach Boys and Freddie Mercury, the U.S. Girls cover The Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music” for their last track of the record. Coming full circle, it’s a drums and vocal affair. The drums have probably the raddest “drum sound” I’ve ever heard, fat but hollow and strangely melodic. The vocals do a great job carrying the song along as they do throughout the record; it’s actually a pretty risky style that the U.S. Girls work in because if only one of the elements is off point the track would probably collapse. To recycle an earlier comment, this 45 is so brief but so good.
This is the first release from Cherry Burger records and they’ve done a fine job here with black and white artwork (which strangely looks like a goth version of my girlfriend when she was young) and an insert with plenty of info.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

AFCGT – AFCGT [Dirty Knobby]/Slicing Grandpa – Big Monster Canadian Coat [Goaty Tapes]

I had so much fun repping Seattle in my Dull Hexen Knife review last week I figured I do a little bit more.
A pretty epic supergroup, AFCGT is A Frames, an excellent act I guess you might call noise rock but that label seems woefully inaccurate, and local experimental weirdo mainstays Climax Golden Twins. A Frames Climax Golden Twins  AFCGT, make sense? Anyway, I saw these guys play a few weeks back and it was one of the most pummeling shows I’ve ever seen. Totally raw face melting triple guitar + drums and bass onslaught. This ten inch (which happens to be the first time I’ve ever owned one, weird; thanks to my friend Jeremy for the present) isn’t as monolithic as the live show. Instead it splashes in a number of puddles. The first side embarks with a fast fuzz workout anchored by a grooving gypsy-ish guitar in between traffic jams of noise. Things changeup, delving into psych freak out territory featuring some slamming, heavy drum playing while the rest of the band gets lost in stuttering wah-wah wilderness. The third track “Submarine Gun” has an utterly awesome, stomping groove while a couple of the guitarists spit out ray gun noises and skronk-with-a-plan. It’s a raucous, crushing number. “Lost” closes the side based around a hypnotic detuned acoustic guitar figure. All the instruments are playing various rhythmic-oriented lines which create a fuckin’ cool polyrhythmic effect. The first side is real good, but the flip is my favorite of the two. “New Punk 4” is just that, great punk shit with sludgy bass and feedback riddled guitar leads until it hits a pseudo locked groove and “3 New Punk” starts up. It’s a pretty blistering chunk of hot white noise/fury. “2 Legged Dog” has a killer not-quite-lethargic groove supplied by the rhythm section. Really great guitarwork here too, all the soloing stays melodic and relevant, turning out some really great lines. “Return of the Leper” ends things on a weird note. The three previous fuzzbombs are matched with a weird sort of back alley jazz vibe. I half-expect Tom Waits to hop on the mic and start barking and crooning. Again, great guitar interplay here. The guitars play parts in unison occasionally which works real nicely placed next to their individual adventures in various directions. Things get pretty rockin’ by the end, with a blissfully intense bassline and sensational drumwork before ending with a relaxed eastern-influenced guitar melody before a full band assault. A great record that tiptoes between sludge punk, psych meltdowns, free folk type stuff and the aforementioned back alley jazz vibes; if you like any of those things this record is worth hearing.
The only other Slicing Grandpa release I’d heard prior to this was a real weird ten inch I don’t remember all that well. So when I popped in this cassette from New England label Goaty Tapes, I was prepared for some more weird shit. And for longest time I read the title of this tape as “Big Monster Canadian Goat” (until I realized that the “C” in “Canadian” looked the same as the supposed “G” in “goat”) which added to the bizarreness. What I got was tremendously thick, mid tempo fist pumping metal vibes with echoing kraut jabber and guitar mangling over top. The thing that piques my interest the most about this, or I should say that I respect most about it, is that this tape is about 48 minutes long and both sides are full on 24 minute metal groove attacks. Totally unrelentless, moreso in a fun way than an intense way. It’s like if you saw a band and they hook you with powerful, triumphant riff and then they just drive that riff into the ground for 24 minutes. That isn’t to say this stuff gets boring or something, because it stays dynamic and engaging and awesome for its entire duration. Props to whoever’s playing drums because they stay concise and thunderous way past the breaking point of most dudes. There’s a great unhinged, whammy bar heavy guitar solo, if I can call it that, in the second half of the side too. On the second side, they pull the same trick. It could be an alternate take of the song on the first side for all I know. Actually, I’m pretty sure it is. Or is it the exact same version even? It somehow seems more spacey and loose than the other side. though I may be projecting that on it. I’m not sure what to really say about this stuff, other than it’d be a great soundtrack to something fun and intense you have to do, not really sure what that’d be, maybe hang gliding or killing aliens. It’s actually a bit like that Burnt Hills CD I reviewed earlier in the week but more rabid and foaming at the mouth.
The ten inch comes on clear red-magenta vinyl with a small insert and the Slicing Grandpa tape comes with creeptastic dental-obsessed artwork (with an infinite amount of chicken carcasses on the inside of the j-card) in the typical classy Goaty tapes style (pro dubbed, imprinted tapes, insert, pro-printed j-card cut in a weird shape). Check both out and bath in the sludgy sounds of Seattle. Both are available as far as I know so hit up the labels.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yellow Crystal Star & Redbird – Pre-eminent Dissolution of States of US [No Label]

Yellow Crystal Star hails from Portland, OR. Don’t know too much (read: anything) about Redbird though. This CD-r is the fruit of a collaborative recording session between the two way back in 2006.
The first track “Initiation” begins with a fervent hi-mid drone that sinks into bassier territory momentarily. There’s a lot of delay and fuzz here and also some really pretty movements as well. A relatively clean-toned guitar appears a little way in, giving the drones a focus point to creep around. Even a moderately violent feedback tantrum maintains the friendly haze about the piece. The next minutes bring on heavy, oozing drones and unintelligible vocals. Things sound like there are two guitars which you know I love, but it’s possible it’s guitar and effects/keyboard or something. There’s some loop/sample that sounds like factory machinery that crops up, and though it’s totally buried it still has a piercing effect. Underneath all the relentless murk there’s a really beautiful bit of guitar strumming, I think it’s just one chord but man, what a chord. The sound splinters and freaks, entropy-style, until an “attempt” at a nice outro melody goes awry and then eventually succeeds. I’m a little biased here cause I go crazy for all kinds of noisy guitar drone, but this is great shit. Great title too, I feel totally initiated after that fire bath.
If you thought the album title was convoluted, check this out. The CD-r case has 3 things on its track listing (numbered: 1, 2, 1. FYI) but the CD-r has 10 tracks. So anyway, I did some snoopwork (i.e. asked YCS) and how things work out is the second piece “Dissolve(wemadeit)” is actually spread over 8 tracks, 7 of them short tracks under the name “Dissolve” and then a longer track called “We Made It”. No idea, why I just went through that with you, but I did, so just deal man. The “Dissolve” tracks are all weird groans and cavernous loops with multi-tracked female vocals speaking no discernible sense whatsoever. If you guys set out to creep me the hell out, congratulations, you succeeded. Ambivalent feelings about all the dissolving, but “We Made It” is a real rad track. After a hollow, spacious intro there’s hardpanned guitar played alternating channels. The distant, reverbiness is retained but the guitar and more prominent vocalizing comes back. There’s a breakdown with a repeated guitar figure that seriously reminds me of the opening chords of “Take My Breath Away” but good. The piece rambles along on crunchy, rhythmic loops with electronics scribbling and vowel-like vocals drifting about. Two more “Dissolve” tracks come afterward, bringing the female vocals back over a ringing, repetitive loop that if listened to for too long could surely make someone go nuts. The epic 20 minute closer “Regressoftheegressofouregret” begins with clean guitar chords, resonating in their unadulterated loveliness. The track gradually builds in intensity piling on more and more layers of distorted, slashing guitar. The track is dynamic enough to maintain interest while still logically developing one idea, which over twenty minutes, is impressive enough. I think one of the keys is that the artists at work here are constantly supplying new melodic ideas throughout, so the track doesn’t collapse due to the same-drone-for-way-too-long syndrome that others sometimes do. Around three quarters in there’s a heavy, metal-influenced riff played with reckless abandon. I’m all for more of that. The last four minutes get a bit weird cause a skronk attack is interrupted with a real loud siren-esque loop, that cuts in and out a number of times for the remainder of the track with different recordings of guitar inserted in between. Some of the playing is pretty phenomenal, wish they had a bit more room to stretch out.
For those of you into molten guitar drone (there should be plenty of you) this disc would be a good one to add to your collection, especially since the two acts involved seem to be flying under the radar a little bit (my radar at least). The CD-r comes in a slim-line DVD case with two inserts. It's self-released so hit up the Yellow Crystal Star website if you’re interested.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fossils From the Sun – Somebody’s Gotta Lose [Abandon Ship]/Rambutan – Fallen Smoke [Abandon Ship]

This pair of 3inch CD-rs, from the Abandon Ship label, documents two solo efforts from the members of the Albany guitar duo Century Plants. Eric Hardiman (also of the Tape Drift label and Burnt Hills) is Rambutan and Ray Hare (also of Burnt Hills) is Fossils From the Sun.
Going by catalog number, I’ll start with Fossils From the Sun. Somebody’s Gotta Lose features some thick guitar playing. I don’t know if there are loops here or what (doesn’t necessarily sound like it) but Hare has a really expansive, robust fuzztone at his disposal here. And he uses it real well. A few minutes in there are some multi-tracked and/or looped layers of guitar. I like the sound Hare has created here where it feels pretty whole and unified but all the while he remains very active on his axe. He seems to have melodies going in every register; I particularly like the evocative, gliding tones he creates higher up on the neck—shimmering isn’t the right word, but I’d say they sound full of electricity. Later, Hare introduces some percussive vocal type sounds. Not beat boxing, just so we’re clear. Though that sure woulda thrown me for a loop. The vocals add an interesting, stammering dimension to the heavy sustain of the guitar. Roughly halfway through, the track takes a sharp left turn. The guitar drops out (vocals too), leaving a pulsing, crusty feedback loop. It seems like there are a number short repeating loops here all offset a little making for strange cross-pollinated rhythms. Vocal fragments and effect manipulation is introduced a bit later. It’s interesting that the project is called Fossils From the Sun, cause this moment reminds me vaguely of a milder hypno-junk noise session by Canada’s Fossils. It’s a head scratching but successful changeup going from full on fuzz riffs and drones to a freaky bit of basement squalor.
The Rambutan disc is called Fallen Smoke which I’m pretty sure doesn’t make any sense in physical contexts but it seems pretty spot on here. Hardiman offers no help as to what he was playing during this live performance so I’m gonna guess guitar, vocals and some other gadgets for right now. With the first disc I could see the Century Plants resemblance pretty easily; the opening of this took me a moment to place though. In a way, this sounds like the point when one of the Century Plants guitarists goes off and freaks out, but isolated and terribly more mysterious. There’s a few relatively steady drones here, which a number of strange percussive guitar(?) sounds encircle. It may be the live setting, but the piece as a very spacious, foggy sound—almost like you’d hear it creeping in the window or something. It slowly gathers steam, pushing the ethereal mist to all corners. Occasionally you can barely hear a short loop of guitar which is a nice touch. An invisible rhythmic push springs up around halfway through and man, the piece just starts to rule. Very subtly there is a spreading out of sound where a bunch more loops are piled on making for a really multi-dimensional drone. Like the FFTS disc, there’s a big left turn here. Everything drops out and, over a single droning loop, an acoustic instrument of some sort (dulcimer? mandolin? guitar?) is strummed. Unfortunately, this section is marred by a really transparent phaser pedal or something akin to that. The heavy use of that effect takes me out of the track, which is too bad cause I like what Hardiman is doing otherwise (going to town on whatever he’s playing). I guess it just doesn’t work for me in the context that he set out in the first 15 minutes. Despite my uneasy feelings towards the last bit, the first 3/4s are pretty phenomenal.
Both are cool discs, that in tandem may work as a little decoder ring to figure out who’s doing what in all those C-plantz jams. It was cool to see that these discs didn’t sound like “half of Century Plants” as duos sometime sound when they go solo. Both Hardiman and Hare brought something interesting to the table here. Both are still available, but each is only in an edition of 50. Hit up Abandon Ship for one (or two).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Burnt Hills - Tonite We Ride [Flipped Out]

Here is the latest full hour of power from the Burnt Hills clan. Quick recap on Burnt Hills: an amorphous unit out in Albany, NY who’s membership ranges anywhere from 4-11 people (usually landing on the larger end of the scale) and is responsible for destroying everything in its path on numerous occasions.
Tonite We Ride is about the most badass, fitting title that anyone could give this CD. The line-up on this recording features drums, bass, xylophone and four guitars and altogether sounds pretty monstrous. As alluded to earlier, “Tonite We Ride” is a single, hour long unedited jam. The record eases to a start keeping things relatively loose but maintaining/creating a focus. The rhythmic section holds things together nicely; the drummer knows when to mix things up and when to strictly lay down the beat. Eric Hardiman (also known for his work in Century Plants and as Rambutan) offers some righteously gnarly and hypnotic bass lines while the guitar quartet acts like a unified hovering mass of fuzz. This is the thing that always boggles my mind about Burnt Hills, there are a lot of people playing here and it sounds like a lot of people playing but at the same time it sounds like there’s only a few people playing. Catch my drift? Probably not, I’ll try to phrase it more coherently. Here, these 7 folks play with the same focus/unity that a good trio has. Even with all the frayed wires here there is always a consistency to the jam. It’s interesting too because occasionally the Hills will drop into some long lost rock song where things aren’t even psychedelic anymore just catchy. I really like things around the 18 minute mark, everyone begins to freak out a bit with some nice free drumming and I can even hear Sick Llana hammering the xylophone amidst the feedback. There’s a yelp in the left speaker and everything slows to a devastating lope. After the flayed freak out, an almost militant blues rock riff is introduced and deconstructed. There’s some guitar in here with a vocal-like quality to it, I don’t know if it’s just some precision wah wah playing or what but it sounds choral and awesome. Maybe it’s actually vocals for all I know, but I don’t see it in the liner notes. This is probably the best sounding Burnt Hills release I’ve heard yet; aside from the xylophone getting buried a lot of the time, everything sounds pretty clear so you can hear the nuances of all the players. Probably the next best thing to being in the room during one of their jams. After a sonic pile-up and an extended comeback, everyone reconvenes with a chugging riff which they ride momentarily before whipping up more shitstorms of feedback. I have to complement the drumming once more, cause not only does this guy play the drums like a bastard for an hour straight, the dude is constantly spitting out new rhythms—my favorite one being a nice little rave up about 3/4s through the jam. Getting to the 50 minute marks, the sounds get stretched out and, I’d say, spacey if they weren’t so fiery and immediate. That gives me a good idea for a metaphor. Burnt Hills are the sun. Somehow all the feedback radiation and sonic mass ejections balance each other out, finding a collective stability in aggressive, unstable processes.
This is a pro-pressed CD with sweet, minimal artwork by Bill Nace, which makes me think, when are Nace and the BH gang gonna team up. I have name for it already, Bill Nace and the Burnt Hills Orchestra. Sounds classy, right? Get on it Northeasterners. Still available from Burnt Hills member Jackson Ziamaluch’s Flipped Out label, and worth snapping up if you’re down with the Burnt Hills manner. If yr unfamiliar, this is a great place to start too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #32 (12/7/08)

Last show of the year thanks to anyone who listened at some point throughout the year. The first part of the show through the Nobunny song, is business as usual. From the Ducktails side on, I just played selections from some of my favorite records of the past year. Hope you dig.

"Kutter" The Unholy Two Kutter (7") [Columbus Discount, 2007]

"Rural Moon Haze" Warmth Split with Medroxy Progesterone Acetate (7") [Phage Tapes/Small Doses, 2008]

"Pin Dance" Blue Shift Ghost Singers 3 (CS) [Breaking World, 2008]

"Fuck Jess Power" Embarker Untitled (LP) [Malleable/Send Help, 2008]

"Dawn of the Black Hearts" Yuko Chino Yuko Chino/Sasqrotch Split (CS) [DNT, 2008]

"Drift When You Have No Gravity" Medroxy Progesterone Acetate Split with Warmth (7") [Phage Tapes/Small Doses, 2008]

"Jan. 22, '08 Pittsburgh" Teeth Mountain Teeth Mountain (CS) [Night People, 2008]

"Birdie Flies" Bromp Treb Twins (7") [Breaking World/Yeay!/Apostasy, 2008]

"The Show" Handglops Handgold (CD) [Gulcher, 2009 (forthcoming)]

"Termite Prayer" Wasteland Jazz Unit Ecstatic Jazz Duos (LP) [Thor's Rubber Hammer, 2008]

"I am a Girlfriend" Nobunny Love Visions (LP) [Bubbledum, 2008]

"Beach Point Pleasant/Pizza Time" Ducktails Untitled (7") [Breaking World, 2008]

"Untitled" Angel Snake Split with Monopoly Child Star Searchers (CS) [New Age Cassettes/Pacific City, 2008]

"In a Web/They Said" Blank Dogs Untitled (7") [Daggerman, 2008]

"Godard vs. Truffaut/Caesar's Palace" Night of Pleasure Night of Pleasure (7") [Columbus Discount, 2007]

"Side A" Maths Balance Volumes Information is Pain (CS) [Taped Sounds/Zeikzak, 2008]

"Come Home" Mudboy MUDMUX Vol. 1 (7") [DNT, 2008]

"Snowstorm" Caldera Lakes Caldera Lakes (CD-r) [Sentient Recognition Archive, 2008]

"Dream Damage" The Hospitals Hairdryer Peace (LP) [No Label, 2008]

"Swinsons" Bulbs Light Ships (CD) [Freedom to Spend, 2008]

"The Black Whole" Black Pus Split with Foot Village (LP) [Deathbomb Arc/DNT, 2008]

"Whoever Invents" Gang Wizard God-Time-Man Universal Continuum Calibration Disc (LP) [Green Tape/Lost Treasures of the Underworld/olfactory/Tanzprocesz, 2008]

mp3: part 1 part 2 The first track (The Unholy Two) was cut off again, sorry.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dull Knife – Untitled [Epicene Sound Replica]/Du Hexen Hase – Dark Slobby Cave [No Label]

Always happy to rep the sounds of Seattle. Here are a couple tapes by my two favorite local drone purveyors. The connection between the two attacks is a man by the name of Adam (awesome dude, meet him and be friends) who gave me this one-two punch we have here at a show a little while back. Time to jump in.
This untitled tape by Dull Knife is actually a bunch of recordings from a while back from when they were a four piece—they are currently melting minds as a two-piece, saw them a month ago and their set was like entering a temple; full body drone. I’d only heard the Knifers in the duo and trio format so I was psyched to complete my education and hear them as a four piece. One of the first things I’m struck with is how solid they sound. Solid in the sense that the four of them are totally unified. The first piece, whose title I can’t quite read but I’m gonna go with “Cog Bank Account”, features lots of low frequencies wandering purposefully if that makes any sense at all. For a while there’s a short bit of effected guitar or keys that gently nudges things along but for the most part the track is spotted with strategically placed transmissions from space. “Vespers”, my favorite track here, is HEAVY in probably the most mild-mannered way possible. There’s nothing harsh or even that loud here but the piece is robust and dripping with menace. One time I played this too loud and everything on my desk started vibrating. It was an intense experience. There’s a constant cross-pollination of sounds here coming probably from guitars and/or something with keys; the two seemed to be the weapons of choice for these guys. Each of the instruments at work offer very slight hints of melody throughout keeping the track totally engaging during the course of it boring holes through your eardrums and slowing boiling your brain in heavy audio plasma. Monolithic shit.
The other side holds two more tracks. “Morske Orgul…” begins with a lone organ, which gradually meets up with another organ or two. Or maybe it’s all on one organ. The piece is pretty minimal. There’s something like a flute in the background contributing a few muffled shrieks, all the while the track is slowly filled out with more sustained tones and slurred guitar swoops. There’s an odd rhythmic trickle buried way down low that I’m excited I just locked into. Stammering high pitch tones contribute a vague melody just before things switch over to “Squirrel Church” in the final stretch. “Squirrel Church” is a quick, pretty coda to the tape featuring an obscured but present and pleasant melody coming from an organ off in the distance. 30 minutes of blurry meditations does a soul good.
Dark Slobby Cave collects final jams from Du Hexen’s old practice space at the S.S. Marie Antoinette (r.i.p.) Luckily, Du Hexen Hase survived the demise of SSMA and gave the public this little beauty. The sound is much clearer than the late night murk of the Dull Knife tape. “Entrance” is the first track here and it features I think two or three fuzzy guitars all going to town, along with splatters of percussion and effect manipulation. With the two releases I’ve heard from these guys I’m always impressed how they find such a solid melodic center in every track. There aren’t any melodies really being played here far as I can tell but the way the guitars overlap and interact creates an interesting harmonic patchwork. “Entrance” rolls along relatively smoothly for the most part but by its end things get pretty unstable with a guitar barely maintaining a wobbly sustain while another indulges in a metallic freakout until the track’s end. “Obstacle” opens with the ding-dong of various chimes, a sign of the percussion oriented times to come. Distant tinkling bells, bass-guitar-as-a-drum playing, a few sporadic notes of piano and various rustling all make appearances at some point making it a righteously weird track. The flipside holds “Cave Animal Revolt”, my favorite piece of the tape, where Du Hex really gets their dark slobby cave dwellin’ on. A flurry of voices is set against a rhythmic bass loop. Total shamanic spirit ceremony. Lots of ephemeral sounds float through, particularly like this one brief vocal loop that sounds a little like a violin. There’s a real pleasant chorus of voices somewhere near the back but it gets overtaken by the angrier ghost howls. Between guitar and delay pedal feedback and a bunch more voices piled on, the track reaches its urgent breaking point and dies down.
The Dull Knife tape is still in print at Epicene but limited to a scant 30 copies (come on!). It features a drenched and dried J-card in honor of the jams being recording in the rainy season, though I live in the rainy season so it’s possible some the watermarks are from being in my pocket. Dark Slobby Cave is self-released (so check their myspace for one) and limited to 50 copies. I don’t know who did the artwork but it’s bitchin’—and there’s more on the other side of the J-card. It’s printed on cool red-orange cardstock but my scanner rejects that color for some reason so pay no attention to the image.
Also, for anyone reading this who resides around Seattle, Du Hexen Hase along with Wet Hair and Peaking Lights and some others are playing at the Josephine this Friday. Come by, say hi and live the jams. Should be a rad night.