Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hobo Cubes - Timeless/Mindless [Debacle]/Summon Thrull - Spire Hell Heap [Debacle]

Well this year's Debacle Fest (here in lovely Seattle, WA) is set to tee off in less that 48 hours and it's looking like it'll be the best one yet. Check out that set list! The biggest names are Sean McCann, Mark McGuire, Brother Raven & Eternal Tapestry but that isn't to say they'll be the only sets worth seeing. Should be three days of killer sounds. Anyhow, I'm taking this opportunity to both promote the fest and review some releases from the Debacle label.
Watching Debacle grow over the last 5 years or so has been pretty incredible. Debacle CEO, Sam Melancon, started out pretty intensely focused on documenting the local Seattle scene (and that continues to be its lifeblood) but over the past couple years Melancon has diversified his "stable" to include artists from plenty of places outside Seattle. Montreal's Hobo Cubes is one example. This is actually my first time hearing these Hobo Cubes which I've heard people chatting up for a little while now. The first track "Reaching the Surface" has some of that Dolphins Into the Future-esque reverb-y Casio mist. "Enigmatic Fields" is much more upbeat and pulsing which I certainly dig. "The Seeking" plays it close to the vest for a while before unleashing some wild slo-mo keyboard runs. I'm pretty sure the dude's using that "mandolin" setting on his keyboard too making it weirdly jagged against airy drones. I dig "Afterbirth" which features a whole slew of keyboards stumbling all over, each with its own melody and direction it wants to take the song in. They all fall into an uneasy lockstep, repetition finally massaging the square peg into the round hole. "Pure Light Streams" is of a similar vein. Disoriented, wobbly keyboard phrases loop drunkenly. An agitated drone rises up intent to overtake them. That's kind of the feel of this record as a whole, it seems deceptively smooth and airy with all the keyboards but there's just a bit of a mean streak to this Hobo Cubes project. The one-minute closer, "Abstracted," feels like it found it's way on here from a Spare Death Icon tape. Deep, pulsing synth (sounding like those micro-recordings of grasshoppers) and a wonky almost vocal-like keyboard part. Perhaps it's a taste of sinister things to come. It's a really nice package overall, I love the collage-based cosmic beach art.
Moving to a local artist, Summon Thrull, who curiously isn't playing at the Debacle Fest this year. Dustin Kochel, the dude behind ST, also mastered the Hobo Cubes record above so there's some Seattle noise trivia to keep in your back pocket. Kochel dropped his first Summon Thrull CD-r back in 2009 and followed it up with last year's Debacle disc Spire Hell Heap (also released on cassette via Rainbow Bridge.) It's been a while since I've listened to Kochel's debut and I remember it being pretty good but I definitely think Spire Hell Heap is a more developed piece of work and it's pretty kickass to put it simply.
Kicking off with the introduction "Poison Arrow," it's a kind of audio molotov cocktail, 3 parts noise 1 part hip-hop. "Even the Horses are Cut in Half" never lets you settle for a second. Kochel tries to calm you down a little by spreading some keyboard plinks over of the top of arrhythmic thumps and dilapidated roars but a little keyboard shimmer only goes so far. I'm still feeling mighty uneasy. "Fang Venom Duct" cranks up the fuzz. There's a nice little hip-hop-style interlude before the thing just fuckin' erupts in nasty synths and crush 'em noise. The intro to "Illicium" sounds practically crunk, dude I love this shit! It's not as zonked as Yo-Yo Dieting and as far as I can tell Kochel isn't sampling rap songs but I sense a vague similarity. This is an icy club jam obliterated. "Skin Scrape" sounds like its title, creepy, rough and scabby. Some kind of hardware is being thrown around amongst spooky synth and whispers. The back half of the track gets scratchy as well with what sounds like layered field recordings of something trudging through the woods. "Rusted Pike Driver" brings back the beats while "Yellow Lab Blowjob" seethes and hisses with feedback. The title track is sort of a combination of those two, thudding beats but a shit ton of feedback caked on top. Kochel pulls the reigns just enough to momentarily reveal a song underneath before the electronic percussion starts pounding again. "Spider Mites" is much heavier on synths, they glide but, man, do they sting. There's no sort of aural relaxation going on here. The finale "Pregnant Leach Solution" (what is this pregnant leach problem?) begins with an aggressive chopper-blade synth and a bunch of bent bell tones. The kind of thing that might give you a concussion or a seizure or both. It fogs up your mind and not in that pleasant psychedelic way people speak about. People get institutionalized after listening to this kind of shit.
I think the disc could be trimmed down a little here or there, but in general I really love Kochel's vibe. He manages to be harsh without being "harsh," he does use distortion but he doesn't drown everything in it. It's more the volume, the mastering and the brute force of the sounds themselves and the off-kilter way Kochel attacks you with them. This isn't the kind of thing I like listening to everyday (or even every week) but every time I put this on I'm impressed by it's intensity and some of the unique pieces Kochel comes up with. I'm looking forward to seeing what Summon Thrull serves up next.
The Hobo Cubes disc is sold-out but the Summon Thrull jammer (the cooler of the two in my opinion) is still readily available from Debacle. Check 'em out! And also be sure to head out to Debacle Fest 2012 if you're in the Seattle-area this weekend.

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