Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ultra Bonbon/Grand Lungs – Bad Breath (halitosis) [Bonbon Bruises]/Sean McCann – Mirage Warehouse [Sound Holes]

These two releases don’t have a whole lot in common other than they’re both released by foreign labels and they both are short and splattered with a bit of paint.
The first comes from Canadian label Bonbon Bruises. Contrary to the billing, Grand Lungs is on the A-side. Never heard of Grand Lungs before this but it looks like they’re from the UK according to the insert. The Lungs’ side is split into 3 untitled tracks that fly by fast enough to give you whiplash. Terraced dynamic shifts and malfunctioning electronics create a pretty damn explosive and immediate sound which gives you little chance to catch your breath. The second piece actually has a melody for a whole two seconds before crumbling into storming static and some typewriter-esque clacking that modulates its shrill feedback backing. The last piece is the bulk of the side and is much heavier on the low end. I think there are some super slurred vocals in there too but I can’t be sure. This piece moves at a slightly more tempered pace but still manages to freak the fuck out. After a brief feedback respite (if you can even call it that) ray gun sounds start blubbering all over before the prompt end of the side. These guys offer some noise I can really dig: harsh, heavy and hyper (that sounds like something Rolling Stone would print… how lame am I?) On the flip side, Ultra Bonbon takes over. UB is a husband/wife crew that also runs the Bonbon Bruises label. They offer one piece called “Noticeably Unpleasant” which I find to be rather pleasant myself. It’s less harsh than Grand Lungs but plenty noisy. The track is constructed somewhat skeletally where you are only hearing a few sounds at a time that get swapped out and mix-and-matched. The whole ordeal maintains a mellow pulse, which is surprising and impressive considering how much they hopscotch around between different samples of feedback, distorted voice and synths or whatever else they’re using. If the last side was harsh and hyper, this side is mellow noise. Not in a drone way, the sounds don’t sustain for too long, but it has a real easygoing vibe that belies harshness of their palette. It’s a real interesting sound that works for them.
Moving on, Sound Holes is a great label outta the UK (Scotland, I think) and they put out an excellent Dull Knife tape about a year ago (which to my dismay is not yet sold-out. Pick it up; emptiness never sounded so killer.) Sean McCann is, of course, from San Francisco and his releases amount to roughly 3% of SF’s annual exported product—seriously, check out his past/present/future discography, this dude will have released something on every label ever by 2011. I wish I had that much great music to release. This tape finds McCann in a more minimal mood with some watery keys and a pitchshifted undercurrent before settling into a gentle guitar strumming. At least I’m guessing it’s guitar, it actually sounds like guitar overtones with the guitar filtered out. Things then switch to a sitar 'n percussion jam. Real easyflowing and gentle on the ears. McCann knows exactly how to make the listener feel at home. That jam slips into an ethereal quartet of voice loops before a radical shift into a Caribbean video game soundtrack that is odd at first but turns out to be real sunny and pleasant with nice vocal accompaniment. The flip holds a cloudy synth and voice piece for its duration. Real blurry and billowy. McCann gives the track time to stretch its legs and slowly piles on more melodies. A pretty gorgeous piece of music overall.
I like this tape; it gives you a nice 20 minute overview of McCann’s style, so it might be a good intro to his stuff. Speaking of which, I have to say this guy’s stuff is always quality and worth checking out, particularly the tapes in my opinion, they suit his sound perfectly.
Bonbon Bruises did a neat job packaging the tape in a little manila envelope done up with hockey tape and an insert. Mirage Warehouse has classy, minimal art on a fold-out j-card. Both tapes are still available but be warned Bad Breath is limited to a scant 35 and the McCann is limited to 69.

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