Every so often I collect a bunch of examples of my favorite digital format to make one big party review. And it's that time again.
First up from the Netherlands is Dead Neanderthals - Dead Neanderthals [No Label]. When this little disc showed up I thought I was in for some black metal or something of a similar ilk. I was immediately inundated with plenty skull (and bone) imagery and titles like "Cannibal Ambush," "Rat on a Stick" and "Napalm Death Trap." Anyhow, do you remember Ettrick from a couple years back? I know that's ancient history in small-press land but that's probably the closest comparison I can make to the Neaderthals even though neither really sounds that much like the other. The key is that Ettrick was a black metal duo on saxophone and drums. There's no personnel listing on the Dead Neanderthals CD-r, and the first couple listens left me in such a perplexed state, I had a hell of time trying to figure out how many people were in the band, sometimes it sounded like two, sometimes four, sometimes in between (3.5??). I checked myspace, the keeper of all secrets, and it turns out its a saxophone/drums "grind-core" duo with the ominious monikers of O and R. Whereas Ettrick indulged in 15 or 20 minute single pieces on their 3inches, Dead Neanderthals tear through 10 tracks in as many minutes, rattling your skull harder and harder each time through and giving you no time to collect yourself. "Idiot Runt" pelts you with squealing baritone sax and thud-thud-thud drumming as if you're the idiot runt in question with these two neanderthals pounding you into a pulp. "Fire From the Sky" uses a lot of effects on the sax making it sound like an otherworldly synth while overdubbed deep bass sax parts drive the piece. "Rat on a Stick" is all machine gun drumming against a killer(!!) solo evoking all sorts of apocalyptic urban decay. "Bloodied Knees" is "Rat"'s song-like counterpart that continues the vibe but with a more melodically-minded approach. "Cubic Aesthetics" is the longest at 1:48. It features a number of overdubbed, interplaying sax-lines that O twists and mangles until out of breath while R huffs and puffs relentlessly on his drumkit. "Sneak Attack" stands out as the most "jazzy" in a spastic Zorn way. There's even a touch of blown-out Wasteland Jazz sax at the end too. "Demonic" rips a screaming solo (that sounds a lot like trumpet even) over a juggernaut bari-arpeggio. "Cannibal Ambush" begins with a scream and then turns into what I'd say is the most fun track on the disc, very boisterous and with a big grin plastered across its face. The finale, "Metal Totem" totally rules, as its basically one long decrescendo as the band splinters apart leaving a brief but excellent solo sax moment at the end. This thing is a lot of fun and it hasn't gotten any less fun after a bunch of listens. I also dig that the band doesn't really sound too much like jazz or metal or this, that and the other. They aren't doing something completely unheard of but they definitely synthesize all their influences into something with their own vibe. Can't wait to hear more from this crew, now just get working on something for an analog format, ok guys? It's a self-released disc so check the myspace if your interested. It comes with a sticker too.
Fossils From the Sun - Lights [Kimberly Dawn]
I've been totally out of the loop on Ray Hare's Fossils From the Sun project. Last time I heard him he was making minimal electronics experiments with his guitar. Now hearing this disc, he has totally revamped his sound into a bleak, post-Suicide world. One that removes any of the few pop elements Suicide had. Over a repeating arpeggio (sounds like a synth, could be a guitar) Hare gets into Frankie Teardrop-mode muttering and snarling about flashlights, greenlights, stoplights and "everybody's dead" in a dubby, mental patient haze while the machines occasionally malfunction around him. Super-minimal and ten minutes long, the song is still entirely captivating. It's lack of "progression" actually works in its favor as you sort of enter into this black hole where the beginning sounds like the end and when you exit you wonder where the hell your mind has just been these last 10 minutes. The 3" sort sort of works like an extended cassingle or 12" single as it gives you the "b-side" a longer, louder, less minimal live rendition of "Lights." It is interesting as the track is a basic approximation of previous track but I think the melody is only similar and not the same. Hare shrieks a bit more here and he's got an extra instrument around providing both squalls and a surprising and rather pretty mid-section of swelling tones. This lulls you into a false sense of security before Hare burns the place down in crazed, ring-modulated fury. Despite ending on whispers of "don't be afraid," I remain uncomforted, Ray, thanks anyway. Totally chilling and great. We need more people de-constructing song-forms into... well, this. Check out Baronic Wall for similarly excellent, paranoid vehemence. Sold-out at source. Check distros or with the artist.
Interstates Etc. - Sanctuary of Memories [Kimberly Dawn]
Another one from Frank Baugh's (a.k.a. Sparkling Wide Pressure) Kimberly Dawn 3" CD-r label, which is one of the big players in keeping 3inchers (and consequently these round-ups) in business. This one is by Brandon Greter who runs the Dream Root label and also operates this great new project. I think this release might be better than the tape I reviewed a few months ago. The phenomenal first track "Inescapable Rain in Yoshiwara" sets things off down the right track as Greter rustles all sorts of junk and clatter together over a brooding, infectious barely-there melody that twinges of Twin Peaks to me. It's a really unified track despite lots of bizarre sounds constantly smacking you in the face. That Greter maintains the uneasy, mournful mood over the seven minutes is a feat in itself. "Fog at Toluca Lake" changes things up with a coventional-sounding guitar starting things off. It takes a few slowly plucked notes and twists them a little with various effects, never deviating too far from the original melody. Greter keeps things pretty minimal save for some more guitar fuzz near the end. "White Claudia" is a fuzzy guitar piece that Greter fucks with a whole bunch, I'm guessing in post-production. Unless its a loop and all the fuckery is live. Anyway, it's a nice wandering melody and Greter balls it up and uncrumples it with all sorts of stutters, bloops and spoonfuls of saturated fuzz circuits. Around halfway through a beat picks up in the back which helps complete the arrangement. It amounts to some kind of sleepy, guitar-fuzz-laden two-step, which, hey, that's perfectly fine by me. Dude's all over the place but definitely does it with his own style, it'll probably be a good move to keep your eye on this guy. Sold-out at source. Check distros or with the artist.
Extra Sexes - Muted Collar [412Recordings]
AG Davis is back with his heavily fucked up, garbled electronics/objects/tape+software edit creepjunksplattercrunchmayhem. The last Extra Sexes tape had some weirdo basement dance grooves mixed in with the brain assaults. Not so, here. This 16 minute beast, in two parts, goes for the psychic jugular. The sound sources Davis is drawing on around this time seem to range far wider than anything else I heard from him. Furthermore, he picks and chooses his times to pummel you rather than just making it an all out gorefest. There's a new sense of restraint and thoughtful use and embrace of patchs of silence. Though the first minute of "Part 2" may give you whiplash it morphs into a weird spaced out siren/bell tower passage. After which, Davis pulls out all the stops with a great, spluttering battle-ram of a showdown. Culling bits and pieces of too many machines on the verge of breakdown to name, its a well-played card before receding into silence, bell tolls and trickling creeks punctuated by severe spikes of distortion. Going out in a blaze of gore, Davis presses detonate and launches a decimating, harsh breakcore explosion. Dare I call this Davis's most mature and detailed slice & splice freak out yet? I hope this disc is a taste of what's to come on his upcoming LP. Still available.
Mesa Ritual - Voltaic Processions [SickSickSick]
Like the Extra Sexes disc, this 3inch comes in an oversized (i.e. regular sized) jewel case but does it one better with invisible artwork I don't get to see often enough. Mesa Ritual is SickSickSick head honcho Raven Chacon and William Fowler Collins, and they offer a 20 minute slab of thick ass, mastered-by-Pete-Swanson noise. The track isn't especially aggressive, it's just grimey. Seriously grimey. It's pure caked-on grit, you can't see what's what. I don't know what was at Chacon's and Collins's disposal here so I'm gonna go with the age-old catch all: electronics. What sounds like a hefty stack of machines sputter and crumble and whistle and stumble as the piece gradually gets louder and louder. Definitely an exercise in "monolithicism." Oh! But wait! Out of nowhere in the middle of the piece, still caked in dirt mind you, is a beautiful, heavily buried melody. Is there a way out of this bog after all? The melody vanishes after moments so I'm guessing the answere is no. It's back to slogging through the dense, disease-laden terrain. Mosquitos keep buzzing in my ears and chewing up my flesh and I can feel the earth shifting and lurching under my feet. Something that sounds like electronic windchimes creeps up behind me before turning to a swarm of angry wasps. There's an end in sight, but I'm already a swollen, malaria-infected, and utterly broken man by the time it arrives so who cares. Sold-out at source. Check distros.