Sunday, November 18, 2007

Capricorn Wings – Precenc [Abandon Ship]/6majik9 – Sinister Kindness [Abandon Ship]

I noticed that it’s been much too long since Nate Rulli’s Abandon Ship label has graced these pages, so I am here to rectify the situation. Here we have the foreign chapter of the second to last batch on Abandon Ship, tapes by France’s Capricorn Wings and Australia’s 6majik9.
Capricorn Wings is the “more acoustic” alter ego of the French duo Ghost Brâmes. It really doesn’t sound all that acoustic, which I’m actually digging. This hour long tape is a menagerie of accordion, guitars, cymbals, melodica, tape, organ, microphones and 7” vinyl. The first of two side long tracks is “Black Words”. There is a dense, undulating swirl/rumble that is pretty much impossible to sonically decode. You can hear guitars, organ at first and then cymbals jamming over top of the audio jumble. Despite its mellow pace, and the track being nearly 30 minutes in length, it goes by pretty quick. While it’s usually the guitar or cymbals leading the track, I find all the stuff going on lower in the mix to be the most interesting. It morphs so subtly throughout the track, that it’s a rare occasion that you notice it changing. Towards the end there is some totally excellent tambourine/rattle playing that puts the whole thing over the top for me. There are also sweet bassy jellybone organ type sounds as the fellas begin to break down their sound construction. The guitar and organ come back along with an odd swooshing loop for a pretty, extended comedown.
“Green Woods” takes up the span of the second side of the cool green tape. It is a more straightforward, composed piece, with most of the action taking place in the left channel for some reason. There are a couple loops of gleaming organ, delicate guitar accompaniment and tambourine percussion. Like the previous track, there are subtle shifts in sound as the duo slowly adds melodica to the party. At some point a stuttering feedback drone type sound emerges, it sounds like it might be a loop but I’m not sure. It overwhelms the proceedings a bit, unfortunately. It drops out eventually though revealing a very nice bit of interplay between acoustic guitar and something else I can’t put by finger on. The organ (or maybe its accordion) comes back with beautiful sustained tones amidst strange multi-instrument clatter as the track floats away. Overall, the side has some really great moments but doesn’t have the depth of sound that made the first so great. Still a nice piece though.
A while back I was chatting with my friend about Michael Donnelly’s projects, Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood and 6majik9. He said he didn’t care for BotOS but liked 6majik9, I respectfully disagreed telling him that I really like the Sisterhood stuff but had only been occasionally impressed by 6majik9. Which lead me to wonder if it’s one of the things that you have to take sides on (like during the east coast vs. west coast rap war, or something). But in a swift 60 minute kick this tape straightened me out. This might be the best overall 6majik9 release I’ve heard. It has the trademark bizarre, incongruous clatter but in these two ever moving pieces, the arrangements are fleshed out and sound about as coherent as possible which is a good thing. Other than a few vocal moves, the sounds are pleasantly strange. Weird cricket-esque noises, synth sputters, hand percussion and clanging, with my favorite probably being (auto?)harp plucks. Side A, “Sinister Kindness”, midway through has an absolutely great soft groove, based around a mellow guitar line. After a little while, a bit meaner fuzz guitar comes in and disrupts things a tad. That plays out for a pretty good length of time, until the percussion players change up a bit and everything else drops out but a guitar. Free form percussion rolls along against slow sustaining swells until things stop and a full band excursion begins. Nomadic guitars over an uptempo percussive base until things shift into psych freakout mode. I appreciate that they keep the psych freakout to a few minutes at the end, it helps the freakout retain its impact rather than when bands freak out for a half hour and things just get boring.
”Sister Kindness” takes up the B-side. This piece begins much more conventionally, with steady pounding on a drumkit and rock song structure then there is a strange sound and a brief a capella sing along ensues. I don’t know dude, but it was weird. Then almost as immediately yr shot into a tunneling free form jam force. Lead by fuzz guitar but sprinkled with bits of drums and acoustic guitar. Things transition into a rattling gypsy jam, with vocal loops popping out amidst the clutter. There is enough forward momentum to offset the randomness of the arrangement. Once again, there is another shift this time 6majik9 is thick and mostly electric, getting pretty close to “drone”. Then once more a transition back to an acoustic set-up. This one I’m not really feeling too much though, there is cello which I’m liking but also a really annoying reed instrument of some sort that I’m not liking so much. The section, unlike the previous ones, feels pretty aimless. A more delicate section takes over with sampled vocal babble, pretty flute accents, minimal drumming and sustaining low notes from an organ or synth. The totally angelic “voice setting” keyboard at the very end makes the journey worth it. This tape appears to be stitched together from various (live?) recordings made along “the east coast” between 2006 and 2007. They did good job putting the sides together with only a few sections lagging behind the rest.
While both tapes operate with different palettes, they are similar in that they are both roaming across the vast plains of half hour sides and doing a good job of it too. You know I’m down with the Ghost Brâmes crew, but 6majik9’s tape caught me a bit off guard in how much I liked it. Both tapes are a good place to start investigating either squad, especially with Abandon Ship’s low low prices (plus it seems both groups dabble in CD-rs a lot of the time, so I recommend grabbing them on cassette while you still can).

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