Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fossils From the Sun – The Living Mixer [Peasant Magik]/Transcendental Manship Highway – Lord of the Trees [Carbon]

Continuing to make my way through the stack, I got these two releases Ray Hare (Century Plants, Burnt Hills) sent awhile back.
The Living Mixer is a thirty minute tape of super minimal electronics under Hare’s solo moniker, Fossils From the Sun. The thing that’s amazing about it is that guitar looks like the only sound source. The first side consists of five tracks ranging from one to six minutes. “A Livication” is the shortest and introduces the listener to the pulsing pallet of the tape. “Rockers” is louder and crunchier, where frequencies are molded and manipulated over a pseudo-rhythmic juddering. The track covers quite a lot of ground for clocking in under two minutes actually. “Sun Selector” is my favorite here. Hare gives the track plenty of room to stretch its legs, focusing on a repeating swell and dissipation of a tone more akin to a didgeridoo than a guitar. There are little prickles of quiet, metallic feedback that form, very slowly, a vague rhythmic counterpoint to the central loop. There really isn’t a lot going on to be quite honest, but there is something incredibly hypnotic about it and an attractive strength in its subtlety. That main loop is like the donging of a church bell almost. A super hard track to pull off, especially communicating to someone with a short attention span like myself, but Hare does it with style——though style seems like the absolutely wrong word to use there. I suppose “concentration” would be a bit more accurate. “A Damaging Air” is another short piece, this time of echoing percussive contact noise. “Not Waving” finishes the side with more of those metallic, hi-frequency feedback tones. Hare expands the sound spectrum deliberately over the course of the track, leaving the initial sounds the same by the end but swollen somehow.
Side B starts off with “The Living Mixer (a Sound Clash)” which clocks in at nearly 12 minutes dwarfing all the other songs on the tape——at least, lengthwise. The track works with a round, lightly pulsating drone for a while. That tone casts a constant, whirring fog across the track which experiences slight ripples in its static fabric by various sounds, some of which are actually somewhat identifiable as guitar. It’s a hard piece to describe really. The last two tracks are both just over a minute. “A Simple Star Vibrating Slowly” is quite nice and develops an intuitive melody amidst the pulsing electronic signals. “A Livication (version)” actually features of some straight-up guitar playing (though still heavily effected.) It works as a nice coda/transition back to the world outside the tape. This tape is certainly way different than any other of Hare’s projects, even quite a bit different than the FFtS 3” I reviewed in the fall. While it’s not necessarily something I put on a lot, I don’t have anything else in my collection that covers this ground. Hare does a pretty great job creating a world of his own on tape and really altering your consciousness in a way. He’s sculpting some deep meditations here but stripped of any put on “psychedelia.”
The awesomely christened Transcendental Manship Highway is an upstate NY “supergroup” featuring Hare, Eric Hardiman (Century Plants, Burnt Hills, Rambutan,) Cory Card (Stone Baby) and Joe Tunis (Joe+N). This CD-r is a single half hour bludgeoning and damn fine one at that. Beginning rather quietly with a lone drum and indecipherable speech, guitar tones drift in along with a vocal sample submerged in a effects. Tension is built up gradually with some frantic, slicing wah-wah work before the tempo picks and the full crew gets moving. It’s actually nearly relaxing at first. Shuffling mid-tempo drums and 2 or 3 blurry guitars combining with ease, but there’s always a suggestion of something a bit more evil on the horizon. Around the 7 minute mark, TMH shifts to sinister. A lot of cymbal smashing and wah freak outs and general disarray. The drums drop out a bit revealing a pretty solid chunk of noise being kicked out by the other dudes. I think there’s someone shouting an arena rock chant but it’s completely buried by grimy feedback. About halfway through the drummer picks up a fast groovy pattern and the track takes off. All of sudden the psychedelic feedback bath becomes a foot stomper with the return of a (still buried) lead vocalist. It’s all pretty ruling, especially an aborted guitar solo during a breakdown. Whoever was watching this gig was treated to quite a show. Things slow way down and get a little heavier and there’s a killer repeated synth swoop coming from somewhere that adds a second point of rhythmic orientation. All guitars take this as a cue to go to town, some go wild but one keeps things steady with a nice melody. If this was completely improv’d then, damn, these guys know to write great songs on the spot. The track actually fits somewhere between a long jam and already worked out songs. No one ever gets lost either which is always good in long jams like this because it can be a bit of a bummer when some dudes are roaring but another isn’t sure what he’s doing. An amazingly protracted drum pummeling ensues against more feedback and wah-wah excursions. There’s a come down which actually a total fake out before the four horsemen lay waste to the room and everything in it in the final minute. Pretty rad set, I’m looking forward to seeing more of this combo; so hopefully this wasn’t a one-off performance cause, you know, if it is that would suuuuck.
The TMH CD-r is still available from Tunis’s Carbon label but the tape was dreadfully limited to a mere 39 copies and thus is long out of print. So if you are remotely interested in the sounds and you see a copy floating around somewhere you should pick it up cause this baby is practically a collector’s item.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Antique Brothers – Hot Shit [Really Coastal]/Antique Brothers – Sons of Winter [Abandon Ship]

A couple of fairly recent releases from LA’s Antique Brothers. The Hot Shit tape is from late last year while Sons of Winter came out early on in ’09. The former represents the jammier side of Antique Bros. with two side long tracks and the latter occupies the song-based realm.
SoCal’s Really Coastal label is one of the few tape labels dealing predominantly in song-based cassettes, thus, I was surprised to find a tape of two awesome live jams. “Hot Side” (I’ll get this out of the way, I really don’t get the whole Hot Shit/“Hot Side”/”Shit Side” naming thing, explain it to me if you can) begins with some free-plucks of banjo and a droning pump organ or something or other. Layers of mellow but still soaring electric guitar seep in. There’s a bit of super sparse percussion providing accents in a really effective way. It almost just sounds like incidental sounds of a hand hitting a guitar while playing. A steady hand drum pulse starts up and the track just swelllllllllls with sound. The overall vibe is super mellow and melodic but there’s some inconspicuously noisy guitar eruptions taking place a bit further back in the field sounds. I really like a portion with a clean, round-toned slide guitar mashed up against a few bits of squealing feedback. This tape is full of tasteful, well-put together contrasts. That this is a live track makes it all the more impressive because everyone playing shows a bit of restraint and makes every sound count. There’s some great percussion clatter reminiscent of that Albero Rovesciato tape I reviewed awhile back, where the percussionist(s) really starts cutting everything up and somehow maintains continuity with the track’s easygoing vibes through all the metallic clangs. After a passage of sustained guitar (there’s gotta be an ebow at work here somewhere I think) and chimes, a few jungle animal-esque shrieks and cries poke through just as the track fades from sight before a drum outro closes everything down for good. It’s a real effortless listen, and it at least sounds like an effortless jam with everyone grooving on the same frequency.
The shambling, smooth vibe of the first side is replaced with a bit more tension on “Shit Side.” For the first two minutes or so there’s a great organ/guitar match-up with an over-so-slight touch of dissonance putting an odd but pleasurable strain on the music. It’s really fantastically pulled off and that concept is built on and reworked throughout. The track doesn’t quite match the fluidity of the previous side and I think the drums are a little out of place in this less rhythm-intensive context but there are some excellently unsettling bits of cymbal noise and so forth. It really is the guitar that anchors the piece, which returns to a repeated arpeggio that calls back to early Godspeed You! Black Emperor stuff. About a third of the ways through, things cohere wonderfully, getting noisy and very un-soothing in a magnificent manner and unfortunately cuts out a bit too early for my taste. Not too worry though, it’s followed up by another noisy, but this time free jazz-ish, bleating before changing, yet again, to an almost pseudo tropical type passage. The piece floats along in dronier waters for awhile before another excellent guitar/organ bit——they are certainly the stars of the show here. Just when you think it’s all gonna be a quiet come down, the band gets free jazz on everyone’s ass for the last two minutes. A pretty great tape overall, sometimes long improv jams can get boring and this tape is anything but that. Worth checking out for sure.
The Sons of Winter CD-r is quite a bit different, though similarities are certainly evident. The differences being mainly: not made in a live environment and pretty much all the tracks are built around older acoustic guitar recordings if my memory serves. Opener “An Early Frost” features acoustic guitar plus layers of keyboards before distortion and drums are laid on pretty thick in the last bit. “The Woods” picks up where “Frost” left off, acoustic and dirty electric guitars and drums with scattered notes of harmonica. The drums seem a little unnecessary here because all the layers of guitars are so locked in rhythmically that drums end up resting on top so to speak rather than forming the core of the track. It’s quite a cool song nonetheless, augmented by some froggy, effected vocals creating an intended (I’m assuming) doom-folk vibe. “Smog Blankets” actually sounds quite a lot like its moniker. A pretty sprawling track of drones and dispersed guitar runs, percussive hits and synth noise. “LA December” is a pleasant, all-too-$hort track with a charming, loopy, almost seasick melody. “Fields of White Stretch Eternal” is probably my favorite here. All the elements congeal so beautifully; quickly paced acoustic playing, drums and a lovely bed of sounds of various sources. An unassumingly stunning piece and heavily reverbed vocals are an excellent touch near the end. “Father Winter” pushes acoustic guitar front and center and then fills every crevice of silence with sound until around halfway through they re-evoke the doom-folk vibes again. “Crowning” takes a minute to get where it’s going but ultimately amounts to a rather beautiful piece of guitar, banjo and piano with distortion and drums added in later, as the Bros. are fond of doing. “Climbing the Glacier” pits acoustic and electric guitars against each other and finale “March On, Dire Wolves” features some absolutely killer electric guitar leads.
These two releases are interesting companion pieces because you definitely hear trademarks of Antique Brothers’ style in both but they are the fruits of much different creative processes. I prefer Hot Shit if only because these guys are just so good live (and because tapes rule,) but I could see some going the other direction as well.
The CD-r has some neat/cute art (especially on the back side) and an insert while the tape is pro-dubbed and comes in the awful/awesome offwhite colored shells that I thought they stopped making in the 80’s. Both releases are still available last I checked, and the tape is in a sizable edition of 125 and the CD-r is 100.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Boy+Girl/Sunken Landscapes – Split [Closet Sorcery]

This tape arrived unannounced awhile back, actually sent to my old address but thanks to the miracle of mail forwarding the sounds still met my ears (USPS doesn’t suck all the time after all!) Know nothing about this label other than its based in Florida and it seems like they’re into the noisier side of life.
Boy+Girl’s side is an exceedingly hyper freak noise affair. Kicking off with oddly shifting/sauntering keyboard/guitar melodies and without warning it morphs into a glitched out rager, with screaming dude and all. There’s a push and pull between mellower, melodic-ish passages and breakcore-like noise assaults, at least until it changes into a folk tune with cool ephemeral tape manipulation laid on top. Shifting back to a lurching, crunchy percussive loop for a bit that gets bent and repurposed into another rhythm before getting straightened back out. Totally cool effect. Aggressive, pulsing synth lasers begin firing in all directions and we’re driven back into intense, incensed glitched vocal noise territory. I like that Boy+Girl doesn’t move full force through the whole track but explores interesting, calmer areas within the context of manic noise which keeps me interested to see where the track goes next.
On the flip side Sunken Landscapes takes control of the ship. This side is a nice foil for B+G’s side, it has the same lo-fi noise vibe but takes its time and moves with broader strokes. The track is built on really short stuttering loops and the fragments of guitar and molten feedback loops rise and fall throughout the duration until about halfway through when everything drops out leaving a squeaking oscillation. Things get heavier after this, piling on layers of distortion and engaging in plenty of signal manipulation before returning to the short percussive loop from earlier in the piece. A new piece starts up with a barely audible drone and a loop of a single guitar note. The volume is inflated and the noise gets squiggly with some vocal stuff buried in there somewhere—could be live or a sample, I can’t tell. Not quite as thoroughly exhilarating as the previous side, but it’s a good side nonetheless.
The edition of 22 tapes is surprisingly sold-out. It looks like Closet Sorcery rolls that way, only putting out editions of 20ish tapes and selling them for super cheap. So if this stuff sounds interesting you better watch this label/these artists pretty closely to be one of the lucky 20. Maybe there’s a stray copy in a distro somewhere though that seems doubtful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #40 (3/15/09)

“Untitled” Julian Lynch Born 2 Run (CD-r) [Buffalo Songs 2009]

“Noticeably Unpleasant” Ultra Bonbon Bad Breath (halitosis) (CS) [Bonbon Bruises 2009]

“Ghost Repeater” Locrian Drenched Lands (CD) [At War With False Noise/Small Doses 2009]

“Dog/Happiness” Cheveu Cheveu (LP) [S-S 2008]

“Power Ballad” Child Pornography She’s Got Legs (CD) [Deathbomb Arc 2008]

“The Same but Better” Handglops Ronk Ng Rool (CD) [Gulcher 2009]

“Got No Life” Fag Cop Complete Shit Vol. 1 (7”) [Eat 2008]

“Thousand Hearted” KRGA Thousands (2x3” CD-r) [Debacle 2008]

“Cross Cattle Queen” Maths Balance Volumes Lower Forms (LP) [No Label 2008]

“Untitled” Grand Lungs Bad Breath (halitosis) (CS) [Bonbon Bruises 2009]

“Untitled” Xiphiidae Transresonance Formation (CD-r) [Stunned 2009]

“Another Day, Another Beer” CJA/Smokehouse Whiskey & Freedom (CS) [Abandon Ship 2007]

“Carpool Lane” The Hollywood Squaretet Nice Tets (CD) [Roulade 2009]

“Untitled” Heat Wilson Shamrock (CS) [Faux-Pas/OSR Tapes 2009]

“Toshiba #2” Caldera Lakes Caldera Lakes (CS) [Blackest Rainbow 2008]

“Side A” Greyskull Greyskull (CS) [Tanzprocesz 2007]

“Lonely Magic” Burnout Warcry White Noise Vol. 2 (CD-r) [Dynamo! 2008]

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hairmaiden of the Totem Robe – Lured to the Ground [Housecraft]

I apologize for the egregious lack of reviews lately. Life has been too hectic to fit in much writing. However, I’ve been making the necessary preparations to catch up on all the stacks of great stuff I have to review during my stint in London. I’m not sure if I’ll have a steady internet connection but I will least update the site sporadically with (hopefully) large lumps of reviews. Anyhow, this is not the point of this review.
Hairmaiden of the Totem Robe is one the Housecraft house bands of Jeffry Astin and this c20 finds them in particularly awesome fashion. Heavy on guitar, possibly only guitars, which you know I love to hear. I can’t tell if this was done live or overdubbed but the first side sounds thick and tangled. Stringy, sinewy guitar chimes and clanks tie themselves in knots with a subtle low end buzz whipping up an unassuming undertow. The track covertly builds in intensity—usually when one guitar gets aggressive the other backs off. There is a fantastic push/pull dynamic between the two guitars which is augmented by the choice to pan each either hard left or hard right. After a short slip into silence halfway through, sounds slowly come into focus again. The artwork fits this well cause there is a vague aquatic vibe cast upon the sounds, though it doesn’t ever indulge in spacious, liquid drone style. When the duo does approach “drone” towards the end of the side, the results are claustrophobic and unsettling rather than peaceful. The side runs a strange trajectory from clustered guitar dissonance to oppressive, festering drones and they pull it off with amazingly subtle skill.
The B side kicks off with a more skronky mindset. There are all sorts of atonal jingle jangle, possibly looped, and I’m so sure I’m hearing a flute in there somewhere but maybe it’s a keyboard disguised as a flute. The track stays surprisingly rhythmic augmented by some electronic contact crackle and scraping. All the sounds find a unity in a strange tumbling cycle that ultimately ends up as a relatively full drone that subsides after the passage of time leaving a loop of percussive electronic noises and a soft, eerie cooing mixed with splatters of guitar notes.
A fantastic, fascinating tape on the whole, well worth checking out. My only criticism of Housecraft is their editions are always too small and I think this masterpiece of c20-dom only had an edition of 50 copies give or take. Thus, it’s long sold out. Though Hairmaiden is pretty prolific it seems so there should be plenty more releases in the pipeline.

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #39 (3/8/09)

Dull Knife came in for an interview and simply killed it with two jams, so thanks goes out to Adam and Garek for coming on the show. Check it out!

“Helium Rug” Family Underground Helium Rug (LP one-sided) [DNT 2008]

“Ocean Music” Ironing Nassau (CD-r) [Hymns 2009]

“I Talk With Telepathy Baby” Outer Spacist The Mind is as Outer Space (7”) [Columbus Discount 2009]

“I Often Dream I am Drowning” Anemone Lodge Anemone Lodge (CD-r) [Bezoar Formations 2008]

“Untitled” Pump Kinn & Don Virgin Passwords (LP) [Weird Forest 2007]

“Side A (excerpt)” Samara Lubelski Quartet (CS one-sided) [Sloow Tapes 2006]

“Baby Doll Shake” Arbitron New Arbitron Jeremy (CD-r) [No Label 2008]

“Untitled” Bearses The Prettiest Girl I Ever Saw (3” CD-r) [Hymns 2008]

"Rib of his God" Secret Abuse Bored Fortress Series Split (7") [Not Not Fun 2008]

“Mama, Wrap My Coffin in the A.I.D.S. Cuz It's Cold in Hell” Gay Beast Disrobics (LP) [DNT 2008]

mp3: part 1 part 2

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #38 (3/1/09)

“I Hear the Vibrations” Wooden Shjips Vampire Blues/I Hear the Vibrations (7”) [Sick Thirst 2008]

“More From the Mountain” Wooden Wand More From the Mountain (7”) [Woodsist 2007]

“Fields of White Stretch Eternal” Antique Brothers Sons of Winter (CD-r) [Abandon Ship 2009]

“Youth” Treetops Permission/When I was Younger (LP) [Arbor 2008]

“Old Spy” AFCGT AFCGT (LP) [Uzuaudio 2008]

“Gemini Harm” Droughter Young Harm (CS) [Abelian Groups 2008]

“What are Ants Like” Horse Boys Horse Boys (CS) [OSR Tapes 2008]

“Side B” Warmth Paradise Found in Dirt (CS) [Abandon Ship 2008]

“Horse” Love Tan Love Tan (7”) [Sweet Rot 2008]

“(charcoal twins)” Robert Millis 120 (CD) [Etude 2009]

“Untitled” Stonedwall Jackson Shamrock (CS) [Faux-Pas/OSR Tapes 2009]

“Last Holiday” The Instruments Last Winter We Didn’t Sing (CD) [Thor’s Rubber Hammer 2009]

“Silent Something” Caldera Lakes Caldera Lakes (CS) [Deathbomb Arc 2008]

“Untitled” Do Tell Sewn to the Current (2xCS) [Housecraft 2008]

“Trim Deep” Caboladies Earth Canal (CD-r) [Students of Decay 2008]

“I Don’t Deserve Dessert” LA Lungs LA Lungs (CD-r) [Debacle 2008]

“Death Has No Imperfections” Arklight Welcome to the NHK Wasteland (CD-r) [Little Fury Things 2008]

“Language & Movement (excerpt)” Blood on Tape Language & Movement (CD-r) [Reverb Worship 2009]

mp3: Part 1 Part 2