Thursday, July 23, 2009

Handglops – Ronk Ng Rool [Gulcher]

Debut CD from Pat Kolodgy’s Ohio-based project Handglops.
I really dig Kolodgy’s songs particularly cause they’re almost always about playing music and they’re always buried in copious amounts of fuzz. To my knowledge, the term “noise pop” has never been so specifically (or literally) realized than on this album.
“The Weekend” rolls along on a crunchy Casio drum loop and distorted guitar chords while Kolodgy sings, as one might expect, about the weekend and seeing friends and listening to “your favorite music.” The arrangement is pretty minimal and mostly relies on the vocals for melody but Kolodgy totally pulls it off. “The Show” is one of my favorites, an 88 second stomper. It's chock full of energy and everything but the great guitar line is slurred beyond recognition. “The First Party” is similar to “The Weekend,” singing about picking friends up and having a good time. It gives off just a little bit of a Jesus & Mary Chain vibe to me with a thundering drum machine and slippery keyboard both drenched in distortion that just glides along in its lethargic splendor. “The Meadow” flits along on a hollow skeletal melody that sounds more percussive than anything else. “The City” is similarly rhythmically focused with an unruly 8-bit drum machine and keyboard going a little haywire. “Throwing a Party” gets the blood pumping a bit more, with an uptempo drum beat and even a guitar solo wedged in there. “Start a Band” is another favorite. The lyrics are basically 2nd person instructions on how to make a band (“Play what you want to play/Don’t care how it sounds/Just do it”) which prompts me to suggest this be mandatory listening in all public schools. Kolodgy dials down the distortion a bit and it has probably the prettiest melody on the album so it’s a really, really great listen. “Playing a Show” is another great one with waves of keyboard continually cascading. “Something Fun” and “The Same but Better” make a great one-two punch in the twilight of the record. “Something Fun” is short, fizzy and surely something fun. “The Same but Better” is the flat-out best track on here. It’s a smeary mid-tempo number with a beautiful, whirring, wooly keyboard melody and solo that clinches it. Just a beautiful, unassuming track all around. The fitting finale “The Last Party” sounds like the grown up version of “The Weekend.” The bleeping drum loop is still intact but the vibe and the melody is more mature and features one of the best choruses on the album.
The record is pretty strong throughout cause there are no weak songs to be found. It has its standouts but each track pulls its weight. The record has a very singular sound——there’s not much variation between the songs——but it’s a unique sound. Furthermore, the production (if you can even call it that) is what makes the album such a strong unified statement as opposed to a collection of great songs. Definitely worth checking out, the best rock album I’ve heard this year.
CD available from Gulcher.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Arnau Sala - La Joia D'agredir [Circuit Torçat]

The second tape from brand new Barcelona label, Circuit Torçat, run by Juan Matos Capote. Arnau Sala, Barcelona’s main man in experimental music and operator of the Ozonokids label, made this tape and having been wanting to hear his stuff for a while now I was psyched to listen. I’m pleased to report that it’s good, it’s real good.
Four tracks comprise the first side. “Blasfèmia Primitive” begins with a strong electronic pulse that Sala modulates rhythmically creating an air of anticipation. The track teeters on combusting into total sonic fury but manages to hold itself together. “Triple Morro” is a quirky track of free drumming paired with a wigged out oscillator; some kind of futuristic jazz when people no longer use their lungs for music. The oscillator does a surprisingly agile job playing the role of a sax or cornet. I like the track more and more each time I listen. “Viure per Punxar (i no Punxar per Viure)” has a homemade techno vibe, little skittering circuitry beats and electronic creaks, grinds and pulsations. “Obstacles Coherents” changes things up again with a manipulated speech sample and loose improv on guitar (I think.) The focus on rhythm is deemphasized compared to the previous tracks. Instead of drums or loops at the forefront, rhythm is derived from the speech and fragments of guitar and oscillator that waft in and out of the composition. It’s a nice track to end the side on because the music just kind of floats away beyond reach and disappears.
The second side features my favorite piece on the tape, “Voluntad D'agressió Pura,” which is a collaboration with Juan Matos Capote. I hope these guys start playing with each other in a more permanent fashion cause they work really well together. The piece is heavy on the oscillations and there are some great, metallic rhythmic shards (maybe samples?) that get the piece moving in a really interesting, asymmetrical way. The sounds bounce off each other with little seeming purpose but all the movements in the piece are so self-assured that there has to be a grand scheme I’m just not tapping into. By the end of the piece Sala and Capote have probably crossed so many wires and scrambled so many circuits that things get blistering and noisy. The piece takes up a good chunk of the side but its energy never fails, it keeps clawing forth like some ravenous, wounded beast. Just an awesome track all around. The finale “La Força” is a bit more tempered. Acoustic instruments, wood flute and cymbal, are paired with a crunchy, minimal electronic beat and flakes of vocals. The piece trudges along in a relatively hypnotic manner but gets a tad unruly near the end.
I also have to say this is one the nicest looking tapes I’ve come across this year. Sala did the rad artwork and Capote decked the whole thing out in yellow; yellow tapes, yellow labels, yellow cases. It looks reeeeeally nice. Check it out.
Still available; limited to 50.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bird Names – Sings the Browns [Really Coastal]

A neat a little tape by Chicago band Bird Names on Malibu’s Really Coastal imprint.
This tape is incredibly jaunty and that is established quite immediately with the first song “Nature’s Over.” Scrappy guitar riffs, clusters of casio and a twee choir of voices. “Living Longer” gets twisty with a vaguely eastern melody line, pseudo-sitar and galloping percussion. In classic style, “Defined Stijls” cools things down for third track. The slower tempo allows for a more intricately zonked arrangement around the middle of the piece. A number of instruments push the limits of being discordant while still remaining pop. One of the early highlights. Elsewhere on the side, “Natural Weeds” ups the jauntiness even further with a march-like chorus. “Oh, Narcotopic Fantasy” begins, as its name implies, rather fantastically with keyboards, violin and glockenspiel. The track is notable for its complete absence of percussion; it just kinda drifts along ending in supremely euphoric style with a few brass instruments flowing freely. “I Had a Girl” by contrast focuses pretty strictly on percussiveness, though still creates one of the sweetest melodies of the side.
In my opinion, the second side is where things really congeal. “Days Elevated” is off to a good start with a crunchy Velvets-esque guitar riff. The track just barely hangs together during its two ramshackle minutes. “People Should Get More Aware” reminds me a lot of Deerhoof back when they were putting out good records 6 or 7 years ago. Noisy and driven but still full of kinetic pop touches. The Deerhoof similarity really comes out on “Production” as well. There’s a repeated circular melody for a while, before a breakdown into a lovely little march that grows in humble bombast before reverting back to the original melody. One of my favorite songs on here, for sure. The second to last song, listed as “Baggage Garbe” on the tape and “Garbage Barge” on the j-card, is one of the most straightforwardly peppy things on here, even with a wood flute in tow. The song is anchored by a fantastic keyboard part near the end. Finale “Taxicabs and Bicycles” is my favorite song on here. Its sugary chorus goes furiously for the pop jugular. Bird Names even tries to make the song a bit difficult beginning with an extended dissonant breakdown and then throwing another one in the middle of the song but, damn, you can’t that chorus. It’s too sweetly melodic to be ignored and it has a nice lilt to it too. Overall it's a cool pop album, with plenty of hooks to spare.
Sings the Browns is available on LP and CD too so I have a ton of respect for Bird Names for putting out a cassette edition as well.
By the way, Bird Names has a brand new tape on Really Coastal too

Monday, July 20, 2009

Robert Millis - 120 [Etude]

This is a new solo CD by Robert Millis of Seattle weirdo mainstays Climax Golden Twins and also their current collaboration with A-Frames, the unholy wrecking crew AFCGT.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Millis’s solo work but each of the four tracks on this CD works similarly with a usually extended (and hilarious) pastiche of music and dialogue samples leading into mellow, relaxing (but sometimes unnerving) sounds of a synthesizer. The first track “1 (40s is not good)” features some transistor radio static, a great old timey piano sample and one side of a pretty funny phone conversation, probably snatched from an old movie. From here the track descends into semi-rhythmic clangs in a metal room of some kind before doing a complete 180 to impeccably blissful synthesizer about halfway through the track. There are heaps of smooth sheets of synth, save for one that keeps flickering like an old light bulb. “2 (all balled up)” more than doubles the previous track length to 20 minutes. It kicks off with an either incomprehensible or foreign language voice sample before an awesome recording of some kind of traditional African music and some American samples about using a telephone. Some of the glistening synth from the last piece glides in over sparse field recordings of maybe a campsite or something akin to it. The piece has a really natural feel where it’s close to silent for a while until a train crossing alarm, and the train itself, fill the track with noise. There’s an abrupt transition to tranquil synthesizer from the locomotive clatter. There may be something going on here other than synth but everything is so washed out with reverb its tough to get specific, though I hear some cymbal-esque resonations buried in the track. The tranquility eventually turns meaner, uncomfortably swollen and dissonant. Another abrupt cut reveals a sloshing sea and a muted string instrument of some sort. The third track “0 ( suspended)” begins atypically for the record because instead of samples, you're first hit with trebly, rapidly growing synth. Underneath it there’s a string sample or maybe just another keyboard, but there’s something pushing against the synthesizer creating an almost seasick feel. It’s a really strange but totally captivating effect; it’s difficult to get a good grasp on the piece, it just kinda slips through your fingers in a way. The piece is among the best, most effective compositions I’ve heard during this recent ambient synth revival. “(charcoal twins)” returns to the beginning, transistor static and two men arguing, hilariously, over revolution and monkeys. Rather than synth though, guitars emerge from the fog of the samples. A simple acoustic guitar strumming and electric one playing lead; it’s incredibly warm, mellow and melodic and ending on this note changes the vibe of the album radically.
The album takes you on a strange little journey, between the warmth of the various samples and the final guitar piece and the chilliness of the synthesizer. Millis manages to make lots of disparate pieces seem coherent in the context of an album, which is a pretty tricky thing to do.
The CD is available from Etude records out of Toronto.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Julian Lynch - Born 2 Run [Buffalo Songs]/Universal Studios Florida - Universal Studios Florida [Little Fury Things]

Pair of breezy CD-rs here destined to be summer listening. One by Julian Lynch from Madison, Wisconsin and another by Universal Studios Florida from Seattle, WA.
Lynch’s work seems to usually consist of guitar and keyboards and the first track (they’re all untitled far as I can tell) gets things movin’ in that mode. The track lays out an amazing rhythmic arrangement without any percussion, save for shakers. He pushes the rhythmic capabilities of guitar and keyboards while pushing their melodic sensibilities as well. The track changes effortlessly, never moving too far from its humble beginning but still pulling generous amounts of tricks from its sleeve. A great piece. The second track glides in easily on smooth guitar strums and a beautiful theremin(-esque) melody. Lynch also adds some soft vocals which work pretty well smeared in with their surroundings. After the short interlude of the third track, comes the finest of the bunch. Everything I’ve talked about so far is really great but the fourth still manages to tower above them for me. There’s a long build up of synth and a faraway drum before a melodic arpeggio leads to glistening, lingering fields of synthesizer before a guitar wraps her all up. It reminds me of some of the best, most tasteful Vangelis stuff. Utterly gorgeous and transcends its electronic origins in creating pure organic, affecting sound. Numbers 5 and 6 have a 60’s revivalist vibe, the former going for psych-pop stuff and the latter with a blurry Beatles by way of Elliott Smith ballad. The next piece begins surprisingly ominously with a single, heavy note plodding away before cartoonish sound manipulation starts up sounding like a drunken E.T./R2D2 fuckfest. Definitely an odd left turn considering the surrounding songs. The eighth track is a winsome, lilting bit of boardwalk carnival pop. The finale is similar but live drumming and a buoyant guitar riff add a bit of oomph. The whole album has a really cool sound; Lynch takes scraps from a number of genres: pop, surf rock, loners-with-guitars, dreamy synth music etc. assembling something fresh and inviting.
So first things first, a brief (and probably unnecessary) disclaimer: the two guys in USF are good friends of mine though I assure you I will maintain my journalistic integrity. Besides I’m only just now getting around to reviewing this, their debut CDr, after the blog world has already discovered them, so I’m probably not that good of a friend anyway. The two guys in the band Jason and Kyle are more digitally-inclined than I am so their music features a fair amount of IDM influence or whatever it’s being called these days. I don’t usually go for stuff like that but damn if the melodies on this thing don’t get under my skin. On the opener “New Cub” the guys debut their blend of guitar/synth/vocal melodies and laptoppery. Despite the cuddly name, “New Cub” ends up being fairly rugged, chugging along relentlessly like that one Panda Bear record was apt to do. “An Elm Skeye” bustles along with a crunchy drum pattern and at certain points the piece gets flooded with lush guitar and synthesizer before a really beautiful bit of acoustic guitar before the track wraps up. The Dark Knight repping, “Harvey Dent” carries over the acoustic guitar while brittle noises rustle about eventually amounting to a drum pattern and a pretty and too brief sea of synthesizer near the end. My favorite is “Gorilla Munch” (which is Jason’s favorite cereal—isn’t it neat I can fill in all these auto-biographical bits of info?) which pulls together all the elements they’ve been working with the most sound construction anywhere on the album. There’s a heavy dose of Timbaland synth lines dropped in there too which is a surefire way to win me to your side. There’s just a lot of great melodies here flitting in and out causing you to replay the track again and again. There’s some BBC jungle field recordings in there too which legitimizes the title. The solo piano in “Space Heater Custody” sounds like something outta Eternal Sunshine for a while before winding synths take over. “Villains” is gentle and spacey with a faraway tinkling of the ivories which is intruded on by fragments of sharper sounds until those sounds ultimately usurp power. “Autobahn Periques” finishes things off, and as the name implies it’s the most straight ahead electro. The best aspect of this record is the way so many great melodies fly by you constantly, I can personally do without so much drum machinery but I can’t deny how catchy so much of this record is.
Born 2 Run is still available but has been released on tape on Wild Animal Kingdom and on CDr by Future Sounds. Universal Studios Florida is sold-out but USF just had a new album come out on tape by Animal Image Research and also on CD-r by Little Fury Things so check that out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Abolicao – Flowering Judas [Cabin Floor Esoterica]/Xiphiidae – Transresonance Formation [Stunned]

Got two Jeff Astin (Tricorn & Queue, the Housecraft label) solo projects here. One from his more famous Xiphiidae solo moniker and another is his first release under the Abolicao name.
I’m starting with the Abolicao tape cause I’m fucking excited about it. This is probably the best work I’ve heard from Astin. When the tape begins to roll its just guitar as far as I can tell. What I like so much is there are only a couple things going on but they’re all so important. That, and the tape as a whole exudes atmosphere. Not in the lush, “atmospheric” sense but Flowering Judas produces a direct, isolated sense of space. The first side has a couple of sections pasted together and the second section is quite nice with a hollow guitar melody and incidental noises providing tactile sensations. It approaches drone, but the music breathes a bit more than drone does cause it doesn’t stack tons of sounds on top of each to achieve a singular sound. The tape takes pleasure in split seconds of silence and miniscule but constant and vital dynamic shifts. Towards the end of Side A finds Astin building a beautiful breeze of melodic fragments before a shift to the eerier end of things just before the side’s close. The second side has more warbling tape/strings and some of the best music of the tape comes right at the beginning of this side. The bulk of the side is this one long piece as far as I can tell so, needless to say, the side’s really stunning. There’s a lovely looped resonating of bass frequencies against various forms of palpable, physical percussive techniques applied to the guitar. It’s just stirring and gorgeous——and, as I mentioned before, always alive and evolving. Seamlessly from that previous skin comes a more rhythmic incarnation. I can’t quite a tell if it is or not (I lean towards “no”) but this sounds like field recordings of a forest or something. There’s an organic nature to the sounds and their organization. This fades leaving a guitar imitating wind chimes continuing the “natural” aesthetic. Cabin Floor Esoterica is the perfect label for this to be on cause that descriptor fits the tape so well and the camping themed artwork and brown painted tape complement the sounds perfectly. Really fantastic piece of work, particularly the second side.
The CD-r is split pretty cleanly down the middle with two 12ish minute tracks. Transresonance Formation sounds denser than the Bronze Hut tape I have from last year. It’s mostly airy groans piled on top of one another but it’s possible to pick out bits of guitar and field recordings/samples in the mix. Either that or my mind is playing tricks on me. The piece moves at a nice pace, slowly but constantly. It’s almost a river ride at a theme park or something where you bob around leisurely in swampy waters but all the while there’s a mechanism keeping everything tightly together. That idea carries over into the texture of the track as well because it sounds wet but not in the submerged sense that a lot of things are. I think there has to just be recordings of flowing water at work here, because that is one of strongest flavors the piece has and I’m scratching my head how someone could pull that off without using recordings directly of water. A sprinkle of hollow chimes at the end is a nice touch as well. The second untitled track is quite straightforwardly melodic. It enters with creaking metal and a looped keyboard melody with effected guitar augmenting the track too. The piece continues to glimmer for a good five minutes but backs off a little to reveal active bass frequencies chugging along underneath. With about 4 minutes to go, the sounds fade completely and a new section starts. It creeps slows through a swampy sunrise, eventually laying down subtle but creepy drones making my bedroom feel not quite right. A misty morning dawn for sure, but a poisonous one.
The Abolicao tape is still available and it obviously comes highly recommended. Transresonance Formation is gone from Stunned as you'd expect but plenty of distros still have copies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

OSR Tapes/Faux-Pas Recordings Round-up

This is my remaining stash of stuff from rad weirdo West Mass labels OSR Tapes and Faux-Pas recordings. There’s a tape and CD-r by OSR, a 3” from Faux-Pas and another tape that is a co-venture between the labels.
Having put out one of my favorite records of the year, the Horse Boys tape, I expect incredibly high quality from cassettes with the OSR brand. This tape by Sord, called Rebuking the Despoiler, does not disappoint in the least. Not sure who’s behind this tape but I’ll hazard a guess that OSR CEO Nals Goring is involved. There are seven tracks on the first side whose titles are scrawled and barely discernible on a small insert. The opening title track is basically just a 15 second intro of movie/TV dialogue samples, it’s pretty hilarious: “Handcuffs are a lot more comfortable than a casket, you know what I mean Pete?” “Thank You” is actually music though Sord often pushes the limits of the term as many in West Mass are apt to do. This track throws together a mellow piano workout with some sort of a wolverine vs. a trashcan noise. It’s a really clear track cause it has a lounge jazz feel while still sounding straight up home taper. “Kabuki of the Gods” is more samples, noise and strangled singing. “Jiggery Poker” is an odd concoction of looped noises with old horror movie organ. I can’t tell if the organ is sampled (could be) or they actually own a bitching organ like it. Continuing the haunted vibe there’s a few bit of whimpered shrieks. The track is a mess but totally great. The challenge, where Sord exceeds admirably, is that the track with all its randomness is constructed to be coherent and listenable. “Mommy Life” is another weird interlude of scratching contact mic’d whatnot. “Why this Court Keeps Rebuking” is extra warped with tape warble and sounds being made from mouths but that’s about as far as I can go to describe it. Totally fucked. “Defending the Realm” closes the side. It has an almost rock vibe to it which throws me for a loop after all the weird shit that precedes it. It sounds like it might be live or it was recorded on a Dictaphone in another room. It’s a great foggy, fuzzy haze of drums, guitar and someone freaking out on keyboards. The real jewel of the tape is the B side, a single pastiched piece called “Made in Ecuador 10-07.” It seems like its probably a mix of performed material and then material that was just recorded around Ecuador. One of my favorite parts is at the beginning which is a recording of some band combining traditional Ecuadorian music with jazz. It’s really brilliant. There bits of TV and radio spliced in as well as solo acoustic guitar work recorded in bustling places. It’s a fantastic side because a unique, lively vibe permeates the whole thing. The Ecuador tourist board should just start sending out this tape instead of brochure’s and people would start lining up to come. Another standout is a bitching solo accordion performance but there are so many awesome moments on here of all varieties you just gotta hear it. The whole side is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Worth picking up the tape for this side alone. Seriously.
Delving into even weirder territory is …Are Roan Stars (WTF is a “roan star”) by Nals vs. Nals. This CD-r as far as I can tell is a concept album, the concept being that Nals Goring and Nals Gorman are fighting through music. After the funny/creepy intro “We’re About Fight” where the two guys listen to a tape made by a girl named Bev. Contained on the tape is a long message that she is breaking with both of them. And then apparently they fight… So, what in the fuck is going on??! I have no idea but things only get weirder, some 8 year old kid talks indecipherably as Gorman has a conversation with him. I don’t know, it’s weird. As far as the musical content goes this album is pretty rad. It’s nutty and frantic and often extremely hard to wrap your head around but by the same token it’s full of great inventive shit. Probably hundreds source recordings are chopped splice with such a madcap frenzy that its nigh impossible to make sense of. The CD is surprisingly listenable such as the J Dilla/Ghostface referencing “Whip You with a Strap (Gorman).” “Suck My Kiss (Goring)” is the only track (of 20) to make it past 4 minutes. Its much more low key (though still plenty weird) than the rest of CD but there’s a nice passage that moves like a loping hip hop beat with looped drums and brass and a renegade piano before spiraling off in a static skronk direction. “Suck My Kiss (Gorman)” by contrast is a quarter of the length and is an acoustic strum and sing affair being eaten away by plunderphonic termites. Recommended for anyone that likes their music scrambled beyond recognition.
Shamrock (co-released by Faux-Pas and OSR) is a c-21 split between Stonedwall Jackson, credited as Rusty “Heroin” Spoons and Sam “Huffin’” Gas Can (the perpetrator of the Faux-Pas label) and Heat Wilson, which weirdly isn’t credited. My guess is that Nals Goring is part of this too cause its got the same kind of scrambled tape mash he’s usually up to. Heat Wilson’s track is on the first side. It begins rather nicely with an amazingly catchy looped acoustic guitar jam and some latin-ish sample before getting into slurred tape warble. It eventually finds it way out of that forest with a woman trying to wake up someone up (“It’s time to wake the fuck up now”) only to find its way right back in. There’s an almost gamelan pitched-down rubber band percussion thing. There’s garbled conversation and god knows what. Weird fuckin’ cartoonish Native American-styled drums and flute chants, kinda like the alternate path The Skaters could have taken 5 years ago. It ends with a lullaby of all things. The side is just all over the place.
Stonedwall Jackson’s side is less sample driven but still works with the sound collage style. Their side starts off with various guitars and bells and a flute. Before long, they’re a ramshackle family band with a nice little thrift store stomper reminding me a little of Seattle act Forrest Friends. A new guitar/harmonica jam sprouts from the ashes of the previous. A bit rudimentary but pleasant enough to listen to leading to the next section which is mostly percussive with chimes and such save for a sloshed voice slobbering all over the tape and gets really urgent all of a sudden. I think there might be an autoharp in there too. The next is a guitar and glockenspiel duet, some says something about corn chips and poof the tape is over.
The last release to get to is The Story of Artificial Peace, a solo work by Sam Gas Can. I guess Artificial Peace is some made up punk band from the 80s or something and there’s a bit of text telling the story of them with the 3” CD-r but as far as I can tell the CD-r doesn’t really have much to do with Artificial Peace. But maybe I’m missing something. Anyway the first of the five tracks is “Political Song” which begins slowly with chiming percussion and rattles along tactilely for a while. Before being rudely interrupted by a blaring keyboard and distorted voice which cuts out leading into a capella song about hating Christmas, being happy, impressing other people and “knocking on the door of suicide.” Bizarre in a whole different way than the other stuff in this review. “You are Not a Good Friend” is percussion rattle, backwards recordings and a muddled voice singing. This switches to an organ interlude, some whispering “You son of an asshole” and then another a capella thing but this time it’s a falsetto singing “Ooh, I love the baby” over and over and the speed of the tape is messed around with. “Cut the Shit (Out of my Fur)” sounds almost like The Microphones at first except everything is played backwards. Then there’s some backwards screaming and whatnot that gives me flashbacks of Twin Peaks. The first three seconds of “Oops! I’m at the Wrong College” are seriously amazing. Its just this brief beat but it sounds so rad I always hope its gonna pop up later in the track for longer than a couple seconds but sadly it never does. Though the ghost of it pops up during a minimal electronics workout during the rest of track. The track is pretty much straight up electronics the whole way through except for live drums that join up in the final minute. Things get really jammin’ when that happens. There’s a nice interplay with the live rhythm and the rigid rhythm the electronics are pumping out. “Hostility is like a Psychic Boomerang” is a short coda of weirdness compiling a lot of the previous styles of the CD.
I think that everything is available still save for the solo Gas Can release. Shamrock is available from both labels but you’re gonna have to hit up just OSR for the other two. I like the tapes best probably, particularly that Sord tape but whatever you get from this crew is sure to intrigue and befuddle.

Bipolar Bear/Talbot Tagora – Abstract Distractions [olFactory]

Hooray! A second 10” has entered my collection. This time it’s split between LA’s Bipolar Bear and local (Seattle) crew Talbot Tagora. Makes sense to put these two together; the bands are doppelgangers in a way, both are guitar/bass/drums trios and share a penchant for alliteration and straight up, no frills rock which I’m pretty much always in the mood for.
BB takes the first side, leading off with arpeggio driven “Cape Verde.” There’s a vaguely mathy quality to the guitar playing but it avoids the pitfalls of that particular style by being catchy, melodic and most importantly fun. I don’t even know if there’s a single chord in here yet it still manages to “rock” pretty hard. From what I gather listening to this record, the Bipolar Bear “sound” is the solid rhythm section keeping it pretty simple, while the guitarist/singer (billed here simply as Paul) goes wild, cramming in as many riffs as he can all while contributing distorted vocals as well. “Algiers” will instantly be your favorite from the side. Bipolar Bear rides a fantastically catchy chord progression, rearranging/reworking it a number of times before a pseudo-Indian-ish/mild mannered Dead Kennedys guitar lead starts in like a seizure. “Library” is more of the mathy style as “Cape Verde.” It isn’t successful to the degree that “Verde” was but it’s got a nice faux-Beach Boys chorus. “March of Mudmen” is fast paced with irreverent guitar lines flitting about until an unexpected, and frankly bizarre, breakdown and tempo shift. It has never not caught me off-guard which is respectable. And even though it’s literally dizzying, it has nice melodic touches as well. “Pixote” only lasts for about 80 seconds but it makes the most of its time. It runs through a number of different parts, always returning to the great central riff.
I was happy to see Talbot Tagora on this split cause I’ve never actually heard any of their recorded material (though I have seen a show at their house.) TT’s contrast to BB’s style is noticed instantaneously in “Internet Fixture.” There’s more strumminess present in Talbot Tagora’s music. Although, even as I’ve just written that; the second track is pretty much all riff driven. “We Live in sack” leads off with a great riff which moves into another great descending figure. The track has a nice easy going, head bobbing kinda vibe. Firmly rhythmic but not aggressively so. “Black Diamond” is lead by effected guitar slashing one chord over and over along with a nice vocal line. The repetitive strikes of that one chord manage to fill out the space which is really strange and cool and the melody is left solely on the vocalist’s shoulders. It sounds a bit iffy on paper but they pull it off and it totally works. “The Weather Man” is probably my favorite track of the record. There’s not too much to say about it another than it’s a great stripped down rock song. It’s catchy, upbeat and makes you want to listen to it over and over. Talbot Tagora mostly surf along on a great chord progression but they wrap up the track by laying into one chord over and over until the tape’s switched off. I should add that the Tagora side is really well sequenced cause each track one-ups the previous song.
Now that I’m thinking about it this is probably a good record for summer, something you can hangout and drink Ice Tea too. It’s upbeat but in a really relaxed way. Just a nice rock record to chill out with. If that sounds up your alley give this a look. Still available and comes with a digital download code.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dylan Nyoukis/Nackt Insecten – Split [Sick Head Tapes]/Astral Social Club/Wounded Knee – Split [Sick Head Tapes]

When I was in Glasgow I met Ruaraidh Sanachan a.k.a. Nackt Insecten and operator of the sick Sick Head Tapes label. I took full advantage of the situation and grabbed the latest four from his label. I’m gonna cover the splits today which make a hell of a case for the UK being the place to be for experimental music right now.
Surprisingly enough, I’ve never heard any of Dylan Nyoukis’s solo stuff but if this side is any indicator, he may be at his best alone and in the zone. "I'll Give You a Translation World in Which You're a Rotting Corpse of a Run-over Dog in Some Ditch" walks a bunch of fine lines: hypnotic/creepy, feral/mellow, and the list goes on. I’m not certain what Nyoukis is using here but I’ll hazard a guess its microphones and probably some tapes too creating a drifting, lethargic warble and klang. Could just be a keyboard too I suppose but that’s beside the point. The point is that this piece is sensational. I haven’t heard anything this good from the boombox evensong genre probably since when The Skaters were at their peak a few years back. The piece re-molds itself constantly but retains a select few elements making all the transitions fluid and seamless. Really, really fantastic stuff.
The only other Insecten stuff I’ve heard was a cool tape of vocal fuzz a while back on Beyond Repair. So, I was surprised to find that Ruaraidh’s side, “The Telepathic Jackal,” was all synth. There’s some squiggly oscillator but it’s mostly fat, dense grooves and melodic keyboard trills. It’s thick, pulsing and crunchy but still totally bright and grooving. I’ve read his stuff described as sci-fi but this sounds like the future more than anything else to me. It invests a really vibrant humanity into a bunch of synthetic sounds rather than being a mind number. This is as active and dynamic as music gets. When I listen to this I always have a big ol’ smile plastered on my face like an idiot. Really amazing split and way too short!
It’s good to see Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club back in the cassette saddle (when was the last time?) I am glad that this is on tape cause it softens ASC’s sound in a really lovely way. Anyhow, his side is cut in to three pieces; “King Speed Slush” lurches forth first with the mechanical space zombie grind of whatever sampler/synth/guitar palette Campbell employs. All manners of squelch, crunch and clicks before launching into “Morning Fog Vurt,” a toy keyboard demo-esque bass/drum machine thing—groovy with a slight cheese factor—before breaking down. The tracks blur together a bit but I think the start of the side’s centerpiece “Stacking Stacking” is signified by the mellow lull which builds to a massive roar over 15 plus minutes. To digress briefly, Spider Stacy from The Pogues helps out this track which I think is so goddamn cool! Never thought I’d be reviewing a tape with a Pogue on it. Anyway, back to the music. The piece initially works with a couple of glistening synth parts. Mechanical mist to get you primed for the crown jewel to follow. The piece keeps stacking, stacking swelling to Bower-esque proportions of raw distortion but always retains the melodic current that surges through it, peaking with a particularly beautiful and earth shaking crescendo with a looped bass part and even more searing layers of organ and feedback. The piece looms with a strange lethargic triumph, splintering and consuming each remaining particle of atmosphere in its vicinity. It feels like being steamrolled at 2 mph. An utterly incredible piece of work.
I’d never heard of Wounded Knee before but apparently it’s a dude from Edinburgh and his name is Drew just like me! (eerie…) Silliness aside, he serves up an epic half hour called “Lucier Rising” and it’s pretty damn great! It’s an all vocal thing but instead of using loops he uses delay pedals with really long decay times. The result is a brilliant piece in a constant state of flux. There is a strong sense of rhythm which is integral to its success, various styles of vocal melodies folding into the rhythmic framework so the initial section of sound evaporates but its essence is carried forth with new forms being created. I don’t mean to give the impression the piece has the same vibe throughout. Though, it moves in such an organic way that the transition from point A to B is almost imperceptible. It’s like a geological structure where over a length of time various minerals and so forth cement with each other forming a rich and often beautiful whole. Check this guy’s stuff out pronto.
Both these splits are highly, highly recommended. They each come in those thick, Disney-type cases with nice art by Ruaraidh. I especially love the psychedelic brain aneurysm/vomit on the DN/NI cover.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Extra Sexes – Gash Bulb [Skrot Up]

New tape by AG and Bryan Davis of Boy+Girl on the Danish label Skrot Up, whom my first encounter with was in my friend’s car when we blasted FNU Ronnies’ utterly bitching Golem Smoke EP on Skrot Up. This project is just a tad more relaxed than the furious freakfucks of their B+G moniker.
Gash Bulb is a mix of jacked samples and tumbling synth ditties. “Horn Rimmed Mind” is one of the latter and one of my favorites from the tape. Groovy, lurching drum machine and layered synth lines iced with manipulated vocal gibberish. Manages to hypnotize while getting your foot tapping. Sloshed bliss. The Davis boys could have put out a tape full of jams like this and I’d have been pleased as pie. However, those dudes are never content to just hang out and jam when there’s shit to be fucked up. “Gap/Solvent Bone Remorse” is a chopped up butt rock track. I don’t dig on cookie monster vocals (as previously mentioned elsewhere on this website) so this piece isn’t really up my alley. Although I’d rather hear this genre through Extra Sexes eyes than its own. The second of the piece, the “Solvent” part, is a sparse voice-like synth piece before glitching out at the end. “Front/Talk Some Sense” has cut up noise and samples before whipping out an outrageously rad (and zonked) hip hop/new wave mashup. Whatever this “ooh la la la” pop song they’re sampling is, I want it. “Languorous Pits” is a thudding drum machine and knob twiddling track that turns out nicely due to its rhythmic focus. “How Can We Stop/Suggestion” mashes more hip hop samples with and a 60s psych pop song. It has a great push/pull rhythmic tension before shifting gears to the lethargic homemade disco territory of the first track. There’s still a side to go and they’ve already covered so much ground.
Second side opener “Limited Virility with Classical Bitch” returns to the hip hop briefly (but to great effect) with scratchy electronics over top before launching into more glitched butt rock stuff leads to a loop of a slashin’ primal garage rock riff that Extra Sexes deconstruct a bit ultimately leading to a chopped up and rebuilt classical symphony. The last part is quite an interesting reimagining of classical music, ending with a ten second basement party rave up. “Positive Survey” is more crunchy synth/beats stuff. “8 Ways to Break It” is more hip hop stuff with the DJ playing fast and loose with the turn table speed. It’s scrambled stuff but finds a beat eventually. “Piano Gash” is among the most interesting pieces on the tape—an avant-garde piano piece composed from sampling one or many avant-garde piano pieces. As with the rest of the tape, the focus of “Piano Gash” is rhythm and repetition so the piece sounds strangled and sharply positioned/contorted which miraculously with works with the looseness of the source material. “Screaming Over Bulbs” is the unexpected finale, about twenty seconds of looped metalcore.
This is a cool tape, particularly if your into fucked samples. It’s been consistently engaging all the times I’ve listened to it and Extra Sexes is doing something different from a lot of people putting out tapes.
Comes with an uncomfortably frightening j-card and a proof of purchase!! I’m gonna start saving these up, I heard its only 50 proofs of purchase to get Skrot Up brand walkie talkies.