Everyone knows Stunned Records out of Long Beach is an outstanding label, but it is my opinion that Stunned is at its absolute top when it goes international. These two tapes make my case real easy. The first is by Albero Rovesciato a two man percussive crew out of Berlin by way of Italy and the second is the Russian psych homebrew Kabyzdoh Obtruhamchi.
Ancient Shining Drums of the Covered City begins with a startling vocal yelp and an absolutely clattering downpour of metallic objects. The second piece features a bit more space and the slightest (seriously slight) hints of melody possible from a thumb piano and possibly an organ. The j-card is of some help both guys take on “bells, gong, objects” and each one takes on either bass drum or snare drum. Objects is intentionally vague but is an important piece of the sound. Anyway, now you have an idea of the palette these boys are working with let me say what they do with it is incredible. The second piece is pretty epic though crazily difficult to write about (the tape in general is). This is the most wild chunk of sound on the side and it covers a pretty wide spectrum of sound which doesn’t always happen with percussion only groups. It’s pretty amazing that Albero Rovesciato can capture the sound of things falling apart and the sounds of totally groovy percussive jams simultaneously. The third piece features an organ upfront but it too is used as a percussive instrument. It isn’t played amelodically, but the melody is skeletal, sketched out with curt stabs at the keys. The fourth piece is brief and returns to agressively drenched sound of heavy metallic rain. The fifth piece is a wondrous gamelan-type ordeal. Metallic tones are in constant resonance; it’s soothing but a little unsettling as well. Voices begin speaking briefly during the piece and the effect is surreal. No. 6 actually has a steady, almost 4/4 beat. I feel like these guys have to be using loops to be creating sounds this dense, cause there’s only four arms between them. But whether there are loops or not, this all sounds live. It is interesting because a lot the sounds here sound like dropping a pan on your kitchen floor or someone tapping their glass to make a toast but these guys mold all those sounds into a strictly musical context. It’s a fascinating listen.
Flip it over and there’s even more great stuff. It’s hard to find an analog for these guys but the closest I can think of is Bromp Treb minus the tape machine doohickery. This stuff is totally liberated from imposed rhythmic constraints and finds a true, natural flow of rhythms. That isn’t to say they’re above relentless, authoritative pounding as on the second piece but as that part fades a thicket of clicks, clacks, clinks clanks, thrums, dings, dongs etc. materializes against a super sparse minor key organ melody. Resolving the percussive in a (somewhat) more coherent way against a pulsing organ loop beware going nuts in the final 15 seconds. A brilliant piece. The last two pieces are also great. The first is shorter and has a droning presence along with percussive rattle that starts out friendly before getting real complex real quick. The last piece initially sounds like marbles and silverware slung down a bar through a labyrinth of beer glasses. It’s somewhat disorienting but appealingly tactile and immediate. I don’t even really hear drums anywhere in the piece, and it doesn’t matter, the two guys manage to create a rich, exciting piece out of these incidental sounds that people usually ignore in their everyday life. There's some squeaking towards the end that sounds like saxophone almost, but I’m pretty sure it’s just coming from the friction of someone rubbing a glass. Not only is this tape just a flat out brilliant and enjoyable percussive brouhaha, these guys are creating something really distinctive, complex and enthralling.
Kabyzdoh Obtruhamchi is the project of one man psych machine Sergey Kozlov and, damn, this is also some really brilliant stuff. The first piece is called “Intro” but don’t let that fool you it’s a great smoky psych jam on its own. Kozlov ramps things up with “YebashilNepopodja”. I’m not sure how Kozlov does it but his stuff has a very distinct sound that separates it from the leagues of basement wah pedal psych dudes. The intro almost has a shambling Ignatz quality to it but this “YebashilNepopodja” is blistering. Multiple tracks of saturated guitar, the voices of dead spirits ever present but just beyond reach, and seriously catchy rhythms. There is this one cowbell/percussion part that crops up turning everything from feedback mind tunnel to dance party. The great hand percussion continues in “Pan Shamanic” as shades of voice and electric guitar are applied over a repeated acoustic figure. It’s an unassumingly pretty piece that swells and expands throughout its duration. The guitars at work here unwind and mingle and digress over the constantly moving rhythmic bed. This tape side is sensational because at a fairly long 25 minutes it never slows. It is paced amazingly well. I don’t know the last time I could truly say that about a psych rock jam. There’s a beautiful changeup where things get so unabashedly groovy and fun it brings a smile to my face. This cut has to be the feel good hit of the winter; I never want it to end. It almost doesn’t, it just rides the groove off into the sunset. It’s a beautiful thing. I’d be satisfied with just this A-side but Koslov has four cuts on the back which is just icing on the cake.
“Joey Jewey” starts things off on side B sweetly. Wandering layers of mellow guitar simmer, bathed in sunlight and the percussion slides in after a minute. The tempo picks up a bit just before the track calls it quits. A lovely piece all around, probably directly transmitted from the heavens. Koslov is a master of everything he plays it seems cause every note of this tape is perfect. “Anepoe Khamunado” is fuzzy guitar and a flute fragment. The percussion is very minimal and deliberate compared to the other stuff on the tape and the crawling tempo is a nice, literal change of pace. The track wraps up with some odd, fractured melodies pieced together. “Danunahza Epalcea” continues the slower, minimal sound with sloshed vocals to go with it. The track trudges along to an eerie melody with a brittle keyboard providing a counterpoint melody. The track is too short in my estimation but I’ll take what I can get. “Extra” closes the tape surprisingly without percussion, consisting of some heavily effected, mild-mannered shredding and gently yelping keyboards fading into an old timey piano rag and a sample of Black Francis saying “You fuckin’ die!” from Surfer Rosa which gets serious bonus points from me cause I'm Pixies to the death. An unexpectedly great outro to a great tape.
Each cassette looks plenty beautiful. The Albero Rovesciato one features a double-sided fold-out j-card with a little double-sided cardboard insert and imprinted, deep red tapes. The Kabyzdoh tape features a double-sided fold-out j-card and opulent themed imprinting on clear tapes with snazzy gold foil inlays. Like just about everything worth owning these two are sold out at source but I’d try hard to track them down. Both are highly recommended.