Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shepherds – Bush Babies [DNT]/Gang Wizard – I Remember You From the Party in Long Beach [DNT]

7 inches are a reviewer’s dream in a lot of ways, well one major one: they’re short but still substantial (and usually rad—is that 3 ways?) Anyway, it’s not important to talk 7 inches in theory when you got a real one on yr turntable. Lucky me, I got two.
The first comes from Shepherds, which is Jeremy Earl (of Woods and Meneguar; who both know how to make awesome 7inchers in their own right) and G. Lucas Crane a.k.a. Nonhorse. Despite the greatness of the duo on paper I’ve always been a little on the fence about them but Bush Babies has firmly swung me to the pro-Shepherds side of aisle. I think I remember reading that this piece of primal aggression and beauty was supposed to be part of DNT’s split 3” cdr series but it was too long/awesome Tynan (DNT’s head honcho) rightly decided the world needed 700 copies of this sucker. “Side A” starts with a driving, tribal drum workout. I’m guessing this is Earl. When Crane’s contributions finally poke their heads out things go momentarily apeshit. There are friendlier smoother sounds clashing with rougher distorted ones with the drums in the eye of the storm. At one point a trumpet (99% sure) suddenly appears, I’m wondering if this is a sample from Crane’s bag of tapes or what cause it sounds live but there is definitely other manipulation and whatnot going on so I think it’s impossible. Meanwhile, Earl is just pounding the shit out of the drums and I’m loving it. Then on a dime, the drums sputter out and a morose wash of brass seeps in.
The b-sides takes up “Bush Babies” where the a-side left off, seeing the brass get more active/jazzy with the drums following suit. A nice little jam ensues, particularly nice for the appearance of a backbeat in the midst of the freejammin’. The track really hits its stride here, locking the listener into its hypnotics. I’m curious to know what exactly Crane was up to here (if it’s all tapes) because there is a grinding distorted violin-type sound amongst the spurts of brass and rounder keyboard-esque tones. A impressively broad mix of sounds while keeping up such a fiery improv attitude.
My next subject is Gang Wizard’s I Remember You From a Party in Long BeachDNT’s second foray into the 7inch world. Beginning with the end of another song, lead off track “Lemonade Folly” easily, immediately stakes its claim as my favorite track here. With a super catchy, slippery/sloppy slide guitar riff leading the pack, the rest of the band gets the message and follows with their own ramshackle pounding and whirring, resulting in a deliciously pseudo-atonal, pseudo-arrhythmic treat. The title-track is a brasher affair. I’m digging the clanging guitarkeyboarddrum brew but the Magik Markers-esque female vocals kill my buzz a bit. The track doesn’t get very far before the cut but “I Remember You From the Party in Long Beach” continues with “I Remember You From the Party in Long Beach (cont)” on the b-side. There’s an excellent breakdown with sustaining feedback, plinking keyboard hits and a drum solo where things really come together for a while dissipating into extended coughing(??). However, things pickup again for the finale with another drum solo this time mainly dueling with a squealing oscillator.
So there you go, DNT has given you two options to feed your primal 7inchin' desires. The Shepherds one as mentioned earlier is limited to a generous 700 copies available on white vinyl and comes with a full-size insert. The Gang Wizard is packaged minimally with “Fang Wizard” stamped all over the orange label. There are only a few copies left apparently so jump on that if you’re interested. Both are available postpaid for the super low $4-5 price range i.e. get ‘em.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Christian Science Minotaur – Map 1 (of 9) [Little Fury Things]/Christian Science Minotaur – Map 2 (of 9) [Little Fury Things]

Christian Science Minotaur is one of my favorite joke band names, and like all the best bands with joke band names, Christian Science Minotaur’s music is serious and seriously great. These are the first two installments of a nine part series—as I’m sure you gathered—and both are excellent.
Map 1
consists of 3 tracks and would actually be short enough to fit on a 3incher. Nevermind that however. CSM reminds me of my favorite non-Charalambides Tom Carter project Spiderwebs, and on average I think they might even eclipse that project. There’s no info about the Minotaur’s membership on either release so I’m gonna guess it’s two people playing heavily reverbed, clean-toned guitar. That is what it sounds like at least. The first track “Benji” is rather airy, floating by rather quickly though not before hitting all the proper pleasure buttons in my brain. I’m sort of a sucker for this kinda stuff but Christian Science Minotaur do it about the best I’ve heard it done. The second track “Ooh Doo Daa” is the immediate standout. It is loveliness taken to the extreme and improvised on guitar. It commences with two guitars each playing their own improv’d cyclical melodies. The atmosphere present on the previous track gradually filters in. This is a hard track to put into words because you can’t really. What’s so great about it is exactly what language fails to capture—the subliminal beauty that can occur when certain sounds are placed next to others. Sorry for my failing at my part here but that’s all I can give you. The last track is a quick little ditty called “Pappy Drumb” with a nice repeating melody and a strange sound in the background that sounds like a heavily processed and cut up duck quacking. I don’t know, weird but cool. Although Map 1 is relatively short, it is pretty much endlessly playable and there is no fat to be found anywhere, which I’ll take over an overlong release any day.

The full-length, Map 2, puts its best foot forward with “Cancun”. “Cancun” is like what Cancun is cracked up to be—a warm, sunny paradise. It’s a tough call to say whether this or “Ooh Doo Daa” would win in a showdown so I’ll just say they are equally matched. “Cancun” has a more composed or collected nature as it unfurls it’s limbs. One guitar works from a pretty arpeggio and the other dances and glides around it. There also a bit more emotion or longing tied into it than rest of the tracks on Map 1 or 2. Another glistening piece of gold. “Little Women” follows at more than twice the length “Cancun”. Here the typically excellent sonic glimmer is met with is strange hard panned alien guitar noises conjuring a not-quite-eerie not-quite-somber but still affecting mood. Around halfway through those alien noises takeover completely and, though it takes a minute to find it’s footing, the rest of track takes on a bit of calmed down Bill Nace vibe. “Isn’t it a Pity” goes straight for that bittersweet “awww” jugular in it’s 3 minutes and finds complete success. So far all of these tracks would be perfect in conjunction with a visual component perhaps a route CSM should explore. “Foosball” is an ominous, minimal piece that initially left me a little cold but I have since warmed up to. One guitar mimics the string pad setting on a keyboard while the other uses it’s six-string for all its percussive potential. The extended “Mysteron” finishes off the cd-r. Christian Science Minotaur takes it up a notch with this one, exploring and expanding upon the sound/style they’ve already perfected. Whereas their previous highlights focused on a semi-repetitive melody, “Mysteron” takes you on a placid, silver-streaked ride that, at ten minutes, doesn’t end a moment too late. The forty seconds in particular contain a wonderful, all-too-brief tremolo’d melody. Sign me up for Map 3.
Little Fury Things gives off a nice vibe with their packaging—there’s a certain enthusiasm and ingenuity to it. Like how Map 2 looks like a totally professional printed cardboard slipcase but it’s actually just a piece expertly designed/folded textured paper. Or how each of these cd-rs are colored with color pencil. I dig the thought of Nat (the guy behind it all) hanging out and coloring each cd-r himself; that’s dedication. Both releases are still in stock for cheap (3-5 dollars) and you can also download Map 1 digitally for a measly dollar.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fat Legs/Terror Tank – Split [Big Fat Noise]

This is a hyper-limited cd-r (12 copies!?) that is probably all gone never to be seen again. Although, since I’ve never heard of either of these acts until this cd-r arrived I figure there’s the off-chance you haven’t heard of them either and I’m only too happy to fill you in. This release is quick and blistering which is how I prefer my cd-rs. One track of metallic wreckage each from Fat Legs and Terror Tank.
Fat Legs strikes first. Creeping in with an oddly soothing grind of prickly pulsing drones (my apologies for the unintended tongue twister). Fat Legs seem completely content to swim around this lightly whirring pool of grainy noisethat is until a serious whale of a juggernaut of an earthquake of a jackhammer of a drum machine (or something) begins pummeling; ripping holes in your speakers, yr brain and probably the ozone layer. Seriously, holy fuck man. Even after I listened to this track over and over Fat Legs never ceased to rock me/scare the shit of out me. Utterly awesome.
So that’s quite an act for Terror Tank to followand they don’t even have the benefit of the moment it takes to flip a tape or record overbut they do a commendable job. TT shares a similar tonal palette with Fat Legs but hangs a bit looser in comparison to FL’s single-minded dynamic shifts. A dirty smog permeates the track though there’s plenty of creak, rattle and clang slipping through. The piece is anchored by a subtle but pretty melody wandering around the lower registers which is juxtaposed with some rather sizable spikes of feedback. The buzzy din snakes around a while longer before evaporating.
Anyway, as I said, good luck tracking this release down. It’s begging to be reissued as a 7inch as far as I’m concerned but I don't make the rules. Apparently there’s a Fat Legs/Family Underground release looming in the future though which is music to my ears. But, if you aren’t already, keep an eye out on both of these acts.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Human Adult Band – Impotent & Filthy [Abandon Ship]

Looking over Abandon Ship’s pretty much impeccable discography; you’ll find that they specialize in sounds that go pretty easy on your ears. When I first popped this tape in way back when, I found it to be a surprising, though pleasant, punch in the face. According to the j-card, Impotent & Filthy was recorded live in Philadelphia (at a place called the Big Pink) on April Fool’s day two years ago. Don’t know why the recording sat on the shelf so long but I’m grateful it’s now been given a cozy cassette home.
The first track, “Schizophrenics Control the Weather”, is a loping, minimal affair. The piece consists of an incomprehensibly muffled vocalist dueling in slow-motion with off-kilter guitars/various other soundmakers refereed by mid tempo drums. In the final moments, everything crashes together in a combustible climax without betraying the track’s initial sleepiness. The real jewel of the tape comes next.
“Scurvy Seaman” is fucking awesome. The track reminds me of the best stuff the Jesus Lizard put out which is a compliment I don’t dispense lightly, or often, for that matter. Human Adult Band have the fiery caveman clatter down this is the tape’s best example. Things are way uptempo in comparison to “Schizophrenics…” and the vocals and instruments take lacerating turns rebelling against the relentless monster of a groove set forth by the drummer. If I ever made one of those top singles of the year list, this one would make the cut no doubt.
On the B-side, “Hoops”, a song “about playing basketball” apparently, gets things rolling. I’m a bit lost how the song relates to basketball though it has an excellent subliminal creep factor like a number of NBAers. The guitar provides a constant quiver of feedback casting an uneasy light over everything else. The electronics are used perfectly here, the moments of strange squelch are placed flawlessly. You can almost dance to the rather mellow, “Deep South”, with its cyclical rhythms and unintelligible but groovy vocal phrases. And “Hot Hands” closes the tape like a thundercloud—heavy, unhurried and looming. That is, except for a tremendous burst of crumbling noise at the end.
The tape comes very professionally done as is Abandon Ship’s style, a double-sided j-card and a labeled tape. Abandon Ship still has copies in stock at their everyday low price, but I should also mention the insane blowout sale their having right now apparently to make some room for upcoming vinyl releases. Buy one 7inch get two releases free anyone?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Traum Ecke - Traum Ecke [Goaty Tapes]

This is an insanely overdue review of one of the best tapes of the year in my humble opinion. The conspirators behind the tape (brought to us by Goaty Tapes, the most bitchin' young label around) are Traum Ecke which is a duo I was unfamiliar with prior to this tape. They also bear some relation to the outfit known as Ducktails which are, as a sampling of their myspace page leads me to believe ("Pizza Time"!!), different but as awesome as Traum Ecke. Perhaps even more so?
If my memory and ears serve me correctly Traum Ecke is a duo comprised of a dude on guitar and a dude on keyboard. The first side is 15 minutes of mesmerizing foggy bliss. These guys have an amazing intuitive touch when it comes to drone. They know exactly when to let a tone linger and when to bring in melodic flourishes. I can't really explain why but this track always gives me the image of watching a light snow turn blustery, but like in the middle of space or some otherworldly realm. It echoes the Gown side from his split tape on Arbor that I was in love with last year in its complex layering and fantastic pacing. The track builds rather stealthily to a crescendo. By the end there is some legit blues-infused guitar shredding floating just below the mist. It feels like a 15 minute joyride around Venus, one worth taking again and again.
And that's only the first side of the tape mind you. On the flip they switch up their style to equally successful effect. The piece has a sweet groove from the get go and is a bit reminiscent of the solo tapes James Ferraro put out way back in 2007, though without the overt weirdness. The keyboard swells around the jaunty guitar riffing clouding it in a haze of reverb. It sounds like there is some sort of looped percussion underneath but it's hard to pick out. The rhythmic bed allows the both guitar and keyboard to get aggressive and let loose a bit. The track builds a la the first side but overall carries more forward thrust and ends with a nice keyboard+delay pedal melody/solo breaking everything up beautifully. These boys have a future.
The presentation of the tape is entirely topnotch just like the music. It features a double-sided pro-printed j-card cut in an interesting shape and an insert. The tape itself is bright yellow (my favorite color) with a sweet fishscale type design printed directly on the tape. Certainly one of the coolest, most professional packaging job of a cassette I've seen, and all Goaty Tapes come this way. Definitely a label to take notice of.
It looks like the tape is still in print from Goaty (along with other awesomely packaged tapes), but there are only a 100 copies in existence so act fast. Actually, it's probably safe for me to say, just buy anything with the words "Traum Ecke" and/or "Goaty Tapes" on it.