Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Medroxy Progesterone Acetate – Something in the Weeds [Midwest Death Cult]

When Darren Bauler a.k.a Medroxy Progesterone Acetate asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his new release, the excellently titled Something in the Weeds, on his vanity label, Midwest Death Cult; I obviously said “Of course!”. He said he’d send me a ‘promo’ copy soon and that was that. So, anyway, I assumed promo copy meant a sharpied cd-r or something (which would have been totally fine) but to Darren, I guess it means something else. I opened up his package last weekend, and holy shit, he sent me the real mccoy, which includes a folded up apx. 13” piece of paper with a black & white design printed on it and cryptic writings (poem? lyrics??) written in silver marker, literally a couple hundred snippets of text with more cryptic writings about invisible hearses and stealing suits off scarecrows (I wonder if you assemble them correctly they will make a cohesive narrative?), a blurry Polaroid photo, and oh yeah, the actual cd-r which is housed in a slim case with a printed cardstock cover/insert and more cryptic writings in white and silver marker on the insert, the cd and the case. The whole thing is bound together by a nice ribbon and sealed with wax. Whew. I feel a lot of pressure to do a good job writing this review now. I’ll give it my best, but I make no guarantees.
Something in the Weeds opens with trebly frequencies and a voice whispering the title of the track “It Is Later Than You Think”. Soon the hi frequencies are joined by some muscular oscillator/synth work and I think some bass guitar (probably coming from C. Gray, who is credited along with Darren on this recording). All the various soundwaves take turns fluctuating before they coalesce for a brief moment at the very end of the track. That track is the most aggressive the album gets, the rest of the album focuses more on building soundscapes, which is fine by me. The next two are both standouts. “Organ Reversal” features a minimal percussion loop and some dark but airy synth work as well as a scratchy, almost octafuzz type tone being manipulated. There is also some wind type of sound, I don’t know if that is coming from the electronics or if is maybe a field recording or something but it adds a eerie spaciousness to the proceedings. The best part of this track is that everything gels so well, it unfolds totally naturally and sounds very organic, which very few can do, especially in an electronic noise environment. “Hang Down Your Noose and Cry” follows and gets a tad bit noisier than it’s predecessor. It, however, still maintains the cohesiveness. Oscillating frequencies get a bit more active and there are some miniature rise & fall movements happening throughout. Very nice.
The 12 minute, and winner of the best title blue ribbon, “I Hope You Realize That You’re Not Really Native Americans” comes next. Amongst droning loops, there are some really odd percussive electronic noises, lowdown rumbles and cut up sine waves that are all woven together nicely giving the track a steady momentum. The effect is really hypnotic and almost soothing in a really strange way. This segues into “Waterloo Mushroom Monastery”. I can really feel this track in my stomach for some reason, it gives me a real uneasy feeling—and without any shitty Xeroxes of s&m or using lines like “Does our death turn you on?” (thanks for that one John). No, the track gets to you the old fashioned, effective way. It’s a very gradual but tremendous slowbuild causing immense amounts of anticipation and never really pays off (in a good way). I play right into its hands everytime too. Plus, there is a loop of what sounds like wind chimes in the background, that I enjoy digging through the other murk for. “Apparitionist” takes over from there, again Darren does a nice job crafting a dark synthosphere but there are also creepy scratchy vocals that kind of move through it as well. They don’t really mar the surroundings too much but I don’t really dig creepy scratchy vocals, so the track doesn’t captivate me quite as much as the others. However if you do dig those, this might be yr favorite on the album.
Speaking of favorites on the album, the best is saved for last, “The Pig That Stood Upright” (is anyone else flashing back to Animal Farm?). Over a bed of synths comes a fucking beautiful degraded piano/keyboard melody. Maybe it’s because it’s the first real explicit dealing with melody on the album but the track is utterly transcendent. The loop keeps cycling through whilst synth and other noises rise and fall and flutter and swell around it. Seriously man, it almost brings me to tears. It’s an incredible ten minutes, but I’m a sucker for beauty, so what can I say.
Now I don’t claim to be an MPA scholar, but Something in the Weeds is, from a personal standpoint at least, the best I’ve heard from the project. The thing that separates Medroxy Progesterone Acetate from rest of the 900,000 noise projects out there is its compositional aspects. Darren knows how to really compose music whether it’s unnerving or beautiful and not just fuck around with an oscillator. It’s hard to find really accurate comparisons, I’d say maybe zen-noise acts like Yellow Swans and Hototogisu, but those are kind of lazy comparisons cause they don’t sound particularly like MPA. I’d say maybe other contemporaries like Family Underground and, especially on the closing track, Bonecloud; but again, not really that great of comparisons. So, I’m just gonna give up on that and tell you to listen to it yrself and you can tell me. Something in the Weeds has already sold out of it’s initial run of 25 copies, but yr in luck cause there is a second run of 25 cd-rs and 25 c-60 tapes available now. There is also potentially a re-release on another label later in the year. But I wouldn’t wait for that, I recommend picking it up now with all the dressings. It should be noted that Something in the Weeds is not available for sale, only for trade. So drop Darren a line, I’m sure you guys can work something out. If you don’t end up being part of the lucky 50 though, there is a new MPA cd-r set to drop anyday now on Australia’s rad Music Your Mind Will Love You imprint, so keep an eye out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fantastic Sleep – New Master [Phantom Limb Recordings]

New Master is the debut release by L.A.’s Fantastic Sleep. It’s a duo of Grant Capes and Ged Gengras, both whom you’ve probably heard before either in their main gigs ((VxPxC) and Antique Brothers, respectively) or their solo guises (Sleepwalkers Local 242 and Fantastic Ego, gee I wonder where “Fantastic Sleep” came from…) or their other band Thousands. Also New Master is the first tape to come from Grant’s label Phantom Limb Recordings. Wow, that was a lot of name dropping, hope you stuck with me through it. Anyway, you could probably boil that little info intro into “These guys got skillz” and this cassette sees ‘em using those skillz in whole new ways.
The first side of the tape has a nice bit of symmetry, two 10 minute tracks sandwiched by two 3 minute ones. The first of the shorter ones, “Liquid Breathing System”, leads off with what sounds like guitar drones, manipulated vocals and various bits of percussive clatter. It’s a brief but pretty dense smog cloud. The most reminiscent of the guys other projects is “Dead Reckoning”. It features more recognizable guitar ramblings with many droning frequencies swelling in the background marrying the psychedelic drone of the first track with dual psych-ambient guitar improv. The approach produces pretty swirling results though whole thing doesn’t quite cohere as well as the rest of the songs do. My personal favorite, “Deep Core”, heads straight for the drone jugular, I’d say maybe a little bit like Family Underground does. Grant and Ged do a real nice job here, overall the track feels pretty massive and monolithic but there are lots of little things going on as well, odd melodies drifting through and so forth. A real excellently composed and thick ten minutes. The side closer, “Temporary Apothesis” is quite a capable follower. It’s shorter and a bit more ramshackle/active than the previous track, but there are still plenty of heavy and pretty drones to be had.
Side B holds the 27 minute monsterfest “Well Received by the Under Priests”. It starts out like it’s got something to prove, lots of sustaining and lots of quaking and lots shadows looming, and all at the same time (is that surprising?). There is a part that I swear has to be a sample of someone saying “wake up” repeated a bunch of times, but I’m not 100% sure if it is or not. It may just be some electronics fuckery but, man, it creeps the hell out of me every time I hear it. Makes me wonder what kind of non-musical sorcery G + G were practicing during the session. The track carries a steady momentum through its majority despite there being many sounds that come and go rather quickly. At one point there is a weird breakdown of sorts where a bunch of electronic percussion and other sounds all start going haywire and interrupt the proceedings. Then live(?) percussion enters and the track starts being pulled back together, though in a different, almost (ar)rhythmic manner. There is a pretty little casio-type refrain that emerges as well before the whole thing is engulfed in a sonic airplane flying overhead.
Overall, it’s a real solid first outing from these guys (well, for this project anyway). I imagine they will only get better and more refined with each release, and whaddya know? they got some more coming on rad L.A. labels like Not Not Fun and Buried Valley so I’ll definitely keep my ears pricked. Speaking of rad L.A. labels it’s worth noting that Phantom Limb Recordings keeps looking tastier with every passing day. A recent batch was just dropped, including cdrs by Quetzolcoatl, Changeling, Century Plants, 6majik9 and Stone Baby, and they all look pretty awesome. Grant did a nice job packaging this cassette by the way, the beguiling cover photo is printed on heavy photo paper and the clear tape is stamped. There are still copies of New Master at the Phantom Limb HQ too, available for cheap but limited to 90 copies so don’t wait.
(My apologies for how many times I used the word 'drone')

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bonecloud – XI:XI [Buried Valley]

Over the course of 12 releases, Buried Valley has become one of the most quietly consistent labels around. It seems like every three months or so BV will put out a pair of awesome tapes and rock everyone’s world. Earlier in the year saw the release of one by labelhead Roy Tatum’s Changeling project and a dreamy cassette by Siren (a.k.a. Bethany of Pocahaunted). Anyway, my point is Buried Valley is one hell of a label and way way too modest for its own good. Each release is limited to only 50 copies, give or take a few, which is a total shame considering the great talents of all parties involved. I guess it just means you really gotta be on the ball to grab one; sonic darwinism I tells ya. Anyway, this specific release features Irish gods of sound, Bonecloud. The tape is titled XI:XI though I’m not exactly sure why. There is 9 minutes on each side so maybe they were originally thinking of titling it “IX:IX” and then looked at it upside down and liked “XI:XI” better. Who knows, Roman numerals are weird. Anyway, I have a standing order to snatch up anything Bonecloud do because it is guaranteed to be brilliant and XI:XI is no exception.
In the words of a friend “short tapes always bum me out”. I really wish this tape was a lot longer (Bonecloud c20? Nah, gimme a Bonecloud c120), but wishing never did anyone any good. The good news about this tape is the music is top notch and very much not a bummer outer and if yr player has a auto-reverse/repeat function then you can easily turn this sucker into a c60 or c100 or c[as long as you want]. There are two pieces here, but split into three. There is a short two minute track that opens up the tape and a 17ish minute jam split onto both sides. The first is lead by a flute sounding instrument over an uneasy loop of low frequencies and as it strolls along it somehow it gets ten-times more menacing without really changing a whole lot from when it started. I don’t know man, it’s playing tricks on my mind or something. The second jam is classic Bonecloud, and by classic Bonecloud, I mean it sounds like field recordings of ancient civilizations resonating in an underwater cavern. I’m not one for hyperboles—okay, I kind of am—but that is exactly what they sound like to me. I don’t really know what these two guys use to make the sounds they do, their voices and probably a few other things shot through a gazillion reverb pedals. (Seeing them live would be quite a landmark human experience I bet.) What I do know is that this track is teeming with life. Millions of tiny audio microbes splitting and reproducing and moving and dying. It’s a constant whirlpool of lovely echoes and beautiful, brief melodic flutters causing you to lose track of time and yr thoughts. A direct line from the heavens to yr conscious. Instant sonic/mental bliss that takes place somewhere just outside of space and time. A sunbeam shining on yr face in the dead of winter. Bonecloud is probably the cure for cancer just nobody has tried it yet. (What did I tell you about them hyperboles?) This is absolute ecstasy on a compact cassette.
For all my whining about its length I’ve already got more than enough mileage on this baby to deem it six bucks well spent, so please don’t let that deter you. Like I said earlier this tape is limited to 50 copies and is already sold out at source. So hurry and grab it elsewhere. If you don’t end up being part of the lucky 50, don’t fret, Bonecloud still has an upcoming tape on Twonicorn as well as a double album on Leaf Trail that I can barely contain my excitement about. Keep yr ears out for those, you won't want to miss 'em.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Apple Snails/The Mighty Acts of God – Split [DNT]

What we have here is an interesting case of “tape splitting”. It’s fronted by Apple Snails and The Mighty Acts of God brings up the rear and despite not really sounding a whole lot like each other they actually complement each other pretty well. I don’t know a whole lot about Apple Snails other than they had a nice track on Not Not Fun’s Free Beasts compilation and they have a recently released cd-r on Foxglove. I tried the internet but wading through all the real Apple Snails sites is kinda taking too long. Oh well. TMAoG is Vanessa Niwi Rossetto, Foxy Digitalis contributor, painter and, um, musician. She has put two other releases out this year, one on the excellent Music Your Mind Will Love You label and the other on the also excellent Ruralfaune label. I also spoke to her briefly on soulseek about a James Ferraro tape… I can tell this intro isn’t really going anywhere special, heh, so I’m gonna get to the music now.
The Snails go first as previously mentioned, and hit you with an odd amalgam of creepy drones and slide guitar and organ-type sounds. The track, “Wind Presses Against Stubborn Beams”, is kind of like sleepwalking through a haunted house. The atmosphere, though pretty placid and drowsy, is also that of unease. There is a real nice part at the end where the slide guitar becomes clearly revealed and takes the song out on a brief solo. “Blood Rain Falls No Matter” follows, indulging itself in the drone before it’s broken up by an electric guitar. The elements introduced in the previous tracks cohere in “Ten Mile Circle of Fog and Thundr”, guitar and drones are more seamlessly integrated in a peculiar but pretty piece of music. It moves at a nice steady pace, ambling along through eternity. I kinda wish it was a bit longer, though I suppose that's a good thing. Lastly we have the most Cormac McCarthyish titled “Death’s Seed Runs From Her Thighs”. It is the longest and features the broadest arrangement, organ and piano show up along with a host scattered sounds, including, what sounds like, a ‘voice’ patch on a keyboard. The track’s quiet chaos is actually really intricately woven. Like the soundtrack to some fucked up psychedelic western where the anti-hero is wandering through desert deliriously, hallucinating and probably high on mescaline and eventually curling up in the shadow of a craggy rock formation. I don’t know, that’s what it makes me think of anyway. I really like how each track gets better/more refined as the side rolls along.
Going second is The Mighty Acts of God, and it’s quite a change of pace. Where Apple Snails were really heavy on the drone dread, TMAoG is, well, not. The first track “Song of the South” is loops of various strummed and plucked instruments, it also sounds like there is some sort of chord organ/harmonium in there too but maybe it’s just a keyboard. While at first the elements sound pretty disparate by the end they coalesce into a lightly churning quilt. “Words are Spelled” follows much more minimally. Again it’s a stringed instrument(s?) of some sort. But there is only one track (perhaps two), so the result is a starkly beautiful bit of playing and nothing else to distract you from that. “Vegetable Lamb of Tartary” (hmm, wonder what that is) is the longest and builds very slowly. A good portion of it is mostly autoharp but with some casio-type sounds and whatnot in there too. At some point the track goes nuts with looped vocal babble and a flute and bells and new age keyboards and percussive loops. Definitely the weirdest most abstract track on the side, pretty interesting as well. “This Toiler in Light” is similar to “Words are Spelled” in that it is short and sounds like it’s coming from one instrument. Though, instead of the starkness, there is lots of looping and manipulating and so on, creating a real nicely cascading shimmer for the original instrument to work it’s magic against. Maybe my favorite track on the side.
DNT did a pretty nice job putting the release together (except the tape was dubbed pretty quietly). There is some really rad psychedelic b-ball hoop artwork on a foldout paper insert by Jeremy Earl of the Fuck It Tapes crew (how many are in that crew anyway? 1?). The music comes on red cassettes with neat, though sloppily applied, graph labels too. So pats on the back all around. The tape is sold out at source but plenty of distros still got a handle on ‘em. Try here or here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pillars of Heaven – Silver Tusks Vol. 1 [Peasant Magik]/Pink Desert – Black Lung Ode Music [Peasant Magik]

These two are my first releases from Philadelphia’s Peasant Magik label, and judging by them, it looks like a cool little label. Both of these are from a little while back and since they came out PM has put out a handful releases by the likes of Bjerga/Iversen, CJA and others. Silver Tusks Vol. 1 is from earlier in the year while Black Lung Ode Music is from last year, in case you wanted to know. Starting reverse chronologically (or alphabetically, yr pick) we have Silver Tusks Vol. 1 by labelhead and Big Trouble in Little China enthusiast Salvatore Giorgi’s Pillars of Heaven moniker. It’s one-sided, which is kind of a bummer, but it’s still 30 minutes long so I guess that’s as good as any c-30. Sal has done a real nice job packaging it too. There is a double J card set-up with a clear plastic insert with the info and spine title printed on it and an insert of that neat, sparkly wallpaper-type cover. Oh yeah, there is a matching label on the white tape too. Overall a real classy job. Even better is the music.”Drifter” is the first to emerge from the tape hiss and it’s a clear favorite. It’s driven by fast echoing piano chords, a nice bassy melody and some lightly applied though effective vocalizations (at least I think it’s voice). Where is it driving to, you ask? Straight to your brain’s pleasure center, that’s where. Sal does a great job creating subtle changes and movement throughout the track but still allowing you to bask in the rich hypnotic shimmer of the opening notes that carry on throughout the track. “Winter is Coming” employs a similar, albeit much chillier (heh), approach. The track is anchored by a loop (I think piano again?) that rolls through the whole song. It is a series of drones that enter and exit at various points that fill out the track. There are a bunch of points where the wandering drones congeal into brief but striking melodic phrases. I sure do like it when those happen. “Angels Ablaze” is the 14 minute closer. It’s a really spacious piece with many long loops cycling throughout. The track is nice but in my estimation it carries on a bit too long without much change. However, the last third sees the arrival of fuzz; which sounds like it would be out of place in a serene soundscape such as this but it actually works marvelously in conjunction with the other elements adding some weight and new texture to the proceedings without overpowering them. So even though the journey is a little long, the destination is quite breathtaking.
Pink Desert are a duo who apparently hail from Lehigh Valley, PA. I ain’t gonna front like I ever been there, but according to the wide web of the world, there’s a bit of a noise scene going on in those parts. The Peasant Magik website suggests PD might be the east coast’s answer to the Skaters, which is quite a hefty statement. While they do dwell in vocal drone territory, Pink Desert has a much cleaner sound than the muggy murk that the Skater’s are busy emanating. I’d say they sound a bit more like Double Leopards at their most minimal minus the instruments. Anyhow, there are two tracks making up this 3inch cdr. The first, “Swollen Tongue Choir”, is an eerie bit of eeriness. Lots of disembodied voices sounding like disembodied souls floating about. There is some heavy delay pedal usage here, which is fine by me, and all the various repeats actually add a nice bit rhythmicness (not a real word, but you catch my drift) to the smooth drones. Then “Debrider” comes along and kicks the whole thing up a notch. (I’ll be damned, I sound exactly like Emeril Lagasse). It still rocks the wafting drone robe but not quite so minimally. There is a scratchy loop that almost supplies a backbeat while the Pink Desert boys wax plenty of harmonious flowing verbal tones. The result is a seamlessly solidified drone and it’s always a great day when you hear one of those. The packaging, though a tad plain jane, is once again well done (in this case, nicely screenprinted). Overall, a nice effort.
If yr into mind floating arrangments (and who isn’t these days?) I suggest checking both these suckers out. There are still copies available dirt cheap direct from Peasant Magik but they are super limited, PoH is limited to 50 and PD to a measly 36! So, ya know, act fast. I’m not sure what Peasant Magik has next on tap but it’ll probably be smokin’. As for the artists, Pink Desert has some tapes and LPs on the way while Pillars of Heaven will be supplying Silver Tusks Vol. 2 courtesy of Epicene Sound Systems/Epicene Sound Replica sometime in the future, I’ll be keeping my eye out for that one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ghosting/Robedoor – Split [Not Not Fun], Robedoor/Yellow Swans – Split [Arbor], Yellow Swans/Warmth [DNT]

Alrighty, I guess it’s back to the split 7inchs again. This time we have a trio of them, and in a seamlessly transitioned Ghosting -> Robedoor -> Yellow Swans -> Warmth review no less. All sorts of incestuous connections here: Ghosting and Yellow Swans are from PDX area. Robedoor, Ghosting and Warmth all have had releases on Arbor. Yellow Swans had a split 7inch with the Goslings out on Not Not Fun earlier in the year. Robedoor, NNF and DNT are all buddies down in Los Angeles area. But who really cares about any of that, it’s about the music! And there are certainly some choice cuts here.
Portland, OR’s Ghosting take the A side with “Rivermouth”. Is “Rivermouth” a technical term? Like ‘mouth of a river’? Or just one of those neat image-phrases? Nevermind, there are more important things at work here. “Rivermouth” is a nice bout of electric metallo-drone. Lots of beautiful hissing tones lurk in the background, driving the track, while some sort of electrified muted banjo sounding thing jives at the forefront. (Quick internet research tells me it’s a ‘guitarsnare’; I don’t know what that is but it sure sounds cool). The best part of the track, hands down, is the ending where each of the layers are pulled back one by one revealing tons of sounds you didn’t even notice. It’s a cool effect. Ghosting generally works in long form pieces, 30-40 minutes it seems, so a 7inch cut is quite a change but they do so nicely, providing you with a quick Ghosting fix if yr on the go (well if yr on the go with a turntable at least). I’d like to see them experiment with more shorter form works, cause “Rivermouth” conjures up a real nice atmosphere akin to a year 3000 technologically engineered superswamp. Sorry that is probably about the best I can do to describe it. It’s real modern sounding and real prehistoric sounding. And, most importantly, it’s real fantastic sounding too.
L.A.’s Robedoor rock the B side with “Roving Shaman” which is a pretty spot-on title. Really they already wrote a perfect review by naming their song that. Oh well, now that my existence has been negated, I guess I’ll give it a shot. This is Robedoor at their most subtle (though they are definitely not taking it easy). Britt and Alex unwind eerie spools of vocals, chimes, and flute-y feedback (or maybe it just is a flute). It kind of reminds me of that piece of music in Boogie Nights when Dirk Diggler is getting the shit beat out of him. A real insistent, bone-chilling loop of a chiming bell with all sorts of creepfestery built up all around it. To continue the film comparisons, the track also brings to mind old black & white Japanese samurai films with a ronin wandering a hillside in solitude; it’s perfect mood music. Try watching Sword of Doom set to “Roving Shaman” sometime, I bet it rules. My favorite part is the way the vocals subtly creep out of the crevices and cohere around the main loops adding brief harmonic consonance to the otherwise steeped-in-dread track and then disappearing back into the mist .

Continuing on to the Arbor split with Yellow Swans, Robedoor comes with “Tremor Deliverance”. Sure, that last track was excellent and all, but this one is a certified banger. Featuring the modest palette of cello, keys, guitar and voice, Robedoor create a ballad of total uplift and euphoria. It’s like the roving shaman died and is going to heaven and meeting God and learning the universe’s secrets. Man, am I bummed turntables have no ‘repeat’ function cause this is achingly good set-your-mind-free music that would benefit from being played all day, all night, all day, all night and so on. A sea of warm, enveloping tones swelling (enswelloping?) all around you. Beautiful.
Yellow Swans bring the jam on side B and as 94% of everything they do, it ain’t got no title. Damn man, I don’t what kind of performance enhancing drugs the Swans have been taking lately but they should ease up because cause ruling this hard all the time has got to be bad for their health. I'm certainly not suffering though. This track features a bit more movement than their piece on the Goslings split with a short melodic loop driving the track with all sorts of distorted vocals, distorted guitar, distorted effects, distorted feedback and probably some distorted distortion in there too. It kind of sounds like a super slowed surf song but, you know, played by Yellow Swans. A real deadringer. And while I still give the track from the Goslings split top honors, this one made me seriously reconsider. Fiery.

Rounding off the trio, comes once again, Yellow Swans! I’m pretty sure this one is untitled as well but there is a giant (intentional?) blotch of screenprinting ink over the info so who really knows. Not I, that’s for sure. This track isn’t quite as monolithic as the other Yellow Swans 7inchers but it features some real nice guitarwork courtesy of Gabe. Lots and lots and lots ecstatic ringing notes. Pete cooks up some real nice whirring and whooshing in his electronics kitchen as well. My big complaint is that the track feels way too short. It’s poised for a sonic implosion/explosion but instead tapers off. It’s still a nice track though, it just means I’ll have to give it a few repeat spins to get my fill, which doesn't sound bad at all now that I think of it.
On the flip comes a track by Warmth a.k.a. Steev, a former Jean Poliseman. It may have a title but I’m not in the mood to squint my eyes to death to make it through that deep endless blue. I'm not actually sure what Steev uses to construct his brand of musics, synth or a sampler maybe? There are what sounds like vocal clips and Vietnam movie helicopter sound effects, which makes me think “Sampler?” Anyway, that’s not really too important. The track begins with about half: short repetitive loops and half: sounds trickling in and out. The first part of the track is alright but doesn’t totally impress me, however about halfway through there is a shift where a subtle but thick synth loop takes over and rides the track to it’s end. It sounds sort of like early Excepter (“Vacation” maybe?) minus the constant machinebeats and I like it a lot. Overall, it’s a nice outing and I’m interested to hear more from the Warmth moniker.
A few aesthetic details to go over. Each release looks real nice—though I’d probably give the blue ribbon to the Ghosting/Robedoor cover, which has a multi-screenprint job on grey sparkle paper and some stylish lettering. The Robedoor/Yellow Swans features screen printed art by Shawn Reed of Night People records on lightly shimmering purple paper. Yellow Swans/Warmth features involved double-sided (nice) fold out artwork by Belgian crazyman Jelle Crama. I have no idea what’s going on on the sleeve but I like it. It also has cool inkblot logos for each side, I really dig the Wu-Tang by way of Batman label on the Warmth side. Ghosting/Robedoor and Yellow Swans/Warmth are on white vinyl, Robedoor/Yellow Swans is on black. Those first two are sold out at source, but the rbdr/ys is still readily available from Arbor and I’d probably call that the pick of the litter anyway. Don’t give up hope though; the other two were produced in editions of 300ish so check the distros. Try Here or Here for ghstng/rbdr and Here or Here for ys/wrmth. (fck vwls)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quetzolcoatl – Vast Eternity Bridges [Abandon Ship]

Tim Hurley has really been blowin’ up in the year 2007 it seems. If I was on VH1 I’d probably say he's having the Best Year Ever (or Week or Month or whatever that show is). He’s had a slew of excellent releases on rad labels such as Foxglove, American Grizzly and his own recently formed Leaf Trail label (another reason why he is having the best year ever). And oh yeah, this spectacular cassette on the newbie but totally capable and totally awesome Abandon Ship records called Vast Eternity Bridges. It’s kinda late in the game to start writing about this because a bunch of other much more respectable folks have already been singing its praises, but I figure one more review won’t hurt.
The first of 5 tracks (2 on side A, 3 on the flip) is a real gorgeous slow mover. A swelling keyboard anchors the piece with faraway vocal moans drifting in and out and noisy but not abrasive contact mic-ery and, like any good Quetzolcoatl record, the whole thing is absolutely doused in reverb. It’s ghostly and beautiful and totally dreamy, especially when everything drops out to reveal a single voice, a cooing mellow siren. It should also be mentioned that this thing sounds awesome on cassette. The tape hiss is like a constant, torrential downpour—a perfect backdrop for Tim to work his magic. Unfortunately, this is the only Quetzolcoatl cassette so far, in the mostly cd-r discography. (Tim if you ever happen upon this humble review, please please please make some more tapes. Thanks) (Update: Well, Tim did happen upon this humble review and corrected me, he has done two previous cassette splits, one with Changeling and the other with Moonmilk. I guess his tape had my head so far in the clouds I forgot to check my facts.) If there is a single thing that Quetzolcoatl reminds me of, its water, rivers and rain especially. You know like floating down the river in a rainforest or something like that. It’s a very peaceful journey but certainly not silent or quiet. There is water lapping against the shore, raindrops splashing on the surface and birds and monkeys (they're in rainforests right?) occasionally chiming in but there is an overwhelming sense of wetness and weightlessness. Sorry for that ramble, but the sounds are just absolutely sublime and I had to least try to describe them (even if I was destined to fail).
Finishing out side A, the next piece gets a tad more tribal with the addition of some surprisingly violent hand drumming. The percussive aggression, though, somehow melds fantastically with ‘verbed vocal and synth (?) murk; not obstructing the tracks natural, placid pace yet adding a whole ‘nother dimension to the surroundings. It’s just a real beautiful side altogether, with both tracks being soul mates fated to meld together and provide me with 25 minutes of pure bliss.
Even more excellent, is that there is another 26 minutes on the other side! While side A set the bar mighty high, side B stacks up admirably. Unlike the first side, B sees two shorter tracks (5-6 minutes) sandwiching a 15 minute monster (maybe my favorite piece on the tape). The first is something rather atypical for Quetzolcoatl. Stuttering low frequencies rolling along with a looped flute-like falsetto or maybe feedback of some sort meandering in the background—it’s a decent enough track but it’s just the opening act for the real star here, the fourth track.
Composed mainly of layers and layers of vocals bobbing up and down, with a little echo-ey percussive tinkling pushed way back in the mix; the piece is an ever changing and free flowing tapestry of frequencies. Slowly moving from murk to shimmer and everywhere in between, it’s a very strange piece because despite it’s rather slow pacing it is over in what feels like a snap of the fingers. It’s one of those bits of music that words cannot do justice to, only your ears can fully experience it’s transcendence. The tape wraps up with its shortest piece. An eerily hypnotic or perhaps hypnotically eerie entanglement of voice and guitar (I think, or maybe a stringed device of another sort) (Update: Actually the correct answer is voice and piano, had me fooled). There is also a slight shift with about a minute to go resulting in one of the tape’s prettiest moments. A fitting end to an incredible cassette.
Vast Eternity Bridges also looks real pretty too. A nice cover photo and fold out art by Tim himself and a cool blue tape with a nifty label and the whole nine. Watch for Abandon Ship if you haven’t already. In addition to Q, it’s put out excellent tapes by (VxPxC) and Spectre Folk as well. Not to mention a fannypack's worth of new releases (I still gotta get my tentacles on that Non-Horse Xol Mic tape). With new stuff coming from Capricorn Wings, 6majik9, Thousands and more, AS is a definite up & comer. Scratch that, it’s already arrived so be sure check what they got on tap, I'll be tuned in for sure. Tim’s Leaf Trail label has three super-rad releases in store as well, from Ixchel (his new duo project), Ghost Brames of the Cerf (featuring Florian Tositti of The Reggaee and Xochipilli) and a Bonecloud double album!! So, watch for those as well. Gee, I sure spit out a lot of info there, hopefully it wasn't too boring and something you don’t mind hearing.
Vast Eternity Bridges has been sold out at source for a few months but there are still a few copies chillin’ in various distros, so hurry up and grab them ASAP! Essential ’07 listening I tells ya. Try here or here

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eternal Tapestry – Vibrations New Dawn [Not Not Fun]

Eternal Tapestry is apparently a pretty new group out of Portland, OR (it’s Portland, baby!). It features Nick and Jed Bindeman, the former of Jackie O Motherfucker and Tunnels and the latter of Heavy Winged, as well as Dewey Mahood Wah on guitar and Bob Zone Jones (what a great name) on bass. The excellently titled Vibrations New Dawn is a recently released cassette reissue of a recently released cd-r of the same name on Mahood’s Solar Commune label. The sounds that lie within are totally psychedelic and, perhaps more importantly, totally rockin’ but in a somewhat relaxed groovy kind of way.
A side “Vibrations” starts off slow with some phaser guitar noodling and ever so gradually starts turning up the volume, and the fuzz. This slow start leads me to believe the track is improvised, which is a total thumbs up in my book. Though everything begins to coalesce suspiciously quickly around the 5 minute mark so maybe I’m wrong. Either way, everyone’s instruments mesh real nicely—discernible but still moving through a little haze. I actually really dig the bass playing here, Bobzone lays down some nice two note grooves before Jed comes in and the guitars slowly go haywire. The enthusiastic vocal “wooooooooooooo”s that pop up towards the end are a nice touch too. Anyhow, just when the track feels like it’s really gonna get going and everyone is gonna bust out their secret karate moves they’d been saving, they start to break it down and dismantle it piece by piece. Which is cool, though I have to admit I would have really liked to see the band go all wild eyed and start foaming at the mouth, I bet they’d be awesome at it.
Luckily for me, the Eternal Tapestry guys get a tad more aggressive on the flipside’s sole track “New Dawn”. It’s 12 minutes of guitar fuzz and midtempo crash cymbals. The whole thing rumbles along on the verge of total meltdown with low-end fuzz, half lurching/half grooving drumming and some nasty wah-wahed axe duels trick you into believing a reckoning is about come. It never does though and that’s fine by me.
I’ve never heard anything else by these guys, so I can’t say for sure, but it seems like their thing is to take the psych-rock blueprints and shade them with subtlety rather than scrawl sweaty freakouts all over them. The point is not to take the jam to a drastically different place than it started, but instead to just make it a little groovier, a little hairier and maybe a little louder. And the trick works quite nicely for them, I must say.
Hopefully I’ll get to catch a show by these guys during my summer months here in PDX but I can’t seem to dig up any dates online, so I’ll see how that goes. Nonetheless, if yr into psychedelic cassette jammin’ look no further, there are still copies (for cheap too) over at Not Not Fun the last time I checked but it is limited to a hundred so get yr ass in gear if you want one. A real nice packaging job by the way, black tapes speckled with silver paint and textured labels and then a piece of textile fabric is glued on the case in conjunction with the already cool J-card design. Very sweet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fricara Pacchu – Kleinstein & Co. CS [Dutch Beer]

This tape is one of many “firsts”. First of all, Kleinstein & Co. is the first of a bunch of releases I got for my birthday, courtesy of my loving mother and my ultra fine girlfriend (many thanks to them). Secondly, it is my first release from Belgium’s crazy/rad Bread & Animals/Cauliflower Dreams/Imvated label (this release is branded “Dutch Beer”, which I believe a relatively new moniker for the label). Furthermore, it is my first release by Finland’s Fricara Pacchu—though I was able to dig up his 2005 tape Waydom online. Needless to say, I was very excited when I popped it in my tape deck and I'm happy to announce that my expectations were totally surpassed.
Side A starts out with a bang, a mass of bombastic distorted drum machines piled on top of one another spitting out a relentlessly joyful noise and practically drowns out the synth/feedback loops that are also going on. It sounds pretty killer and sets the mood for the rest of the tape. One thing I really like about this tape is that despite being composed of 11 separate “songs”, they all bleed/blend real nicely into each other, though there doesn’t seem to be a purposeful effort to do so (i.e. crossfading). The first side sees Fricara in mostly “party mode”. Chugging drum machines spewing all sorts of seasick, freakfunky rhythms, hyper fuzzy synth mess, and even what sounds like live bashing of a cymbal. A totally rad headbanger’s ball and it will probably end up being the soundtrack to my summer along with the Cherry Blossoms LP.
So Side A stands for Side Awesome in my book, but on the flipside the whole shindig gets totally transcendent and even better. It begins with a short, nicely hypnotic synth loop pulsing at a moderate tempo and a very deemphasized drum machine, in comparison to the previous side. The third track on this side, “Fluffeluff / Pummeluff / Knuddeluff”, is one of my favorites and, in my mind, kinda resembles Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club. While ASC has a classy, digital sheen, Fricara Pacchu works with a much murkier template and to be honest, I prefer the latter by a little bit. The track is surprisingly simple (just a minimal beat, and a few beautifully orchestrated/layered loops) and has excellent zone out potential, akin to a fog of sound leaking into yr eardrums. “Spoink / Groink”, the following track, ups the ante, pushing the sound towards Matthew Bower territory. It’s unclear what exactly is going on here because of how pleasantly distorted everything is, and it's all the better for it. Occasionally a electronic hi-hat will peek it’s head out until the clouds part and a bizarre sequenced beat jumps out at you and the track dissipates. Kleinstein & Co. ends on an even more bizarre note, a synth wash over a strange midtempo shuffle/march that sounds like one of those preset beats on a toy keyboard (for all I know it is).
Wowee zowee! What an excellent tape! I am certainly gonna have to track down some more Fricara Pacchu-related stuff pronto cause the sounds from this cassette rule straight down the line, from start to finish. Also, Lieven did a nice job packaging this little puppy. There is the outlandish eggman/Indian cubicle worker drawing on the front by someone named Jani Leinonen, the back part of the case is sprayed sparkly silver and the whole thing is topped off by a colorful band-aid looking sticker on the side. Nice! I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled cause it looks like Lieven has got some cool stuff brewing in the Bread & Animals cauldron. I think this tape is sold out at source but there are probably some copies floating around distros, if you can snag one, do it! Highly recommended. Try here

Friday, July 6, 2007

Wooden Wand - More From the Mountain 7" [Woodsist]

A few years ago I heard Wooden Wand for the first time—I think it was Buck Dharma—and, well, I didn’t like it. I don’t remember why or anything but I remember not digging it. Then last year, I heard the Zodiac Mountain (Clay Ruby of Davenport and WW) side from their split with Religious Knives on Heavy Tapes. Anyhow, I wasn’t real keen on that one either. So I assumed that “hey, I just don’t like Wooden Wand stuff.” But I was intrigued by this More From the Mountain because I’m a sucker for a 7inch and it was on the generally reliable Woodsist label (a.k.a. Fuck It Tapes); so I gave it a shot.
As it turns out, I am quite happy I did cause I'm totally into this. The title track on side A is quite solid, a relatively simple acoustic guitar accompaniment and WW’s drawling (where is this guy from anyway? Is this drawl a product of an actual accent or just a fun way to sing?) about killing bears, “solid air” and living life in reverse. I’m not exactly sure what I can write to really describe this song. It’s a real nice plaintive ballad and definitely worth hearing. But, oh man, on the flip is “Guru Femmes” and it’s a total scorcher. It has been haunting my mind for the past few weeks. Set to a constantly propulsive chord progression and echoing slide guitar business, WW sings surreally about “the weight of the sky” and squeezing brittle trees between his teeth. I don’t know what any of it means but it sure sounds nice. The pinnacle however is the awesomely asymmetrical refrain “If you don’t know life/You won’t forget death/The west coast is back in my breath”. I have been singing that to myself for the past however many days and I still don’t know exactly what significance it bears but he sings in such a bad ass way it has got to mean something. Maybe he’s Tupac reincarnated and there is about to be a full-scale psych-folk east coast/west coast beef. That would be quite a sight, would it not?
So, I guess, maybe I was wrong about this guy. “Guru Femmes” is one my favorite songs of the year so far and I highly recommend hearing it. Woody Wand has a new full length James & the Quiet out on Ecstatic Peace! so I’m gonna have to check that one out (not to mention everything else in his massive discography that I turned a blind eye to); with any luck, it’ll be full of cryptic imagery, excellently detached vocal delivery and real well-written, memorable songs just like the pair we have here. My fingers are crossed.