I’ll let you in on some little known (online anyway) facts about me. 1) My favorite color is yellow and 2) my favorite dinosaur is the brontosaurus (fuck you veloca raptor). So I was psyched when I opened up this package from Nick Hoffman’s Scissor Death label and saw this tape. It pairs Bo Knows and Hoffman’s Katchmare project, two initially disparate seeming artists, through their mutual love of making weird sides of cassettes.
Bo Knows presents an anomaly with “Xylene”, the sole track on Side A. There is a total lo-fi bedroom rock vibe going down here, a very catchy guitar and drum machine composition which is mixed with plenty of multi tracked weirdness. So, that’s not uncommon, but it’s more the way the sounds are presented here. For one, the track is twenty something minutes long. It teeters on the line of standard, playing-melodies-in-time-with-the-beat and then times where the beat and guitar are out of sequence or the track will change up mid riff. A lurching drum machine sequence drives a new portion full of guitar scribbles and a looped keyboard hit. This section is transitioned to seamlessly somehow because I don’t really remember hearing when this new part began. The current section slowly cannibalizes itself by way of a haywire drum machine and guitars following suit. That one mellow, gonging keyboard note is still playing and starting to creep me out a little. Things take a turn back to the initial guitar riff, sounding familiar but very different for some reason. Some of the drum machine work here almost reminds me of drum ‘n bass tracks where the drum machines essentially take solos, skewing time. The track wanders on with something akin to the second portion but with more space left in and a sleepier vibe. The track’s pulse slows until its death.
Comparing Katchmare’s track “Greenhouse” with his Ghost Frequency I CD-r is interesting because both pieces work with glistening, static tones but do so in entirely different ways. Ghost Frequency I is an expansive, sustaining zoner while this track is erratic and all over the map in more ways than one. Beginning with fizzy, Velcro crunch, there is a bout of near silence while diffuse white noise drifts in and out. A sputtering, nearly rhythmic tone inconsistently pushes along underneath the sheet of noise. It returns with a steady blip, cuts out, returns, cuts out, and then returns joined by the inaugural Velcro noise. There’s a smooth synth-y tone and for the brief bit that all three sounds play together, it’s an appealing mix of textures. There is a huge range between the loudest moments and the quietest on the tape so I have to listen with my speakers cranked and then my ears occasionally get effusive spikes driven into them. This section is actually my favorite part of the tape, making me think Katchmare should push things in the harsh noise direction more often (he may and I’m just unaware.) There is a relentless torrent of icy feedback in the right channel and nothing in the left channel and then an alternate tone picks up and comes in and out of the left channel. After the madness quiets down, I’m left with a creepy/placid barely there noise drifting along, that is (not so?) strangely unsettling. This attitude continues, but with a bit louder, more confrontational sounds. At some point there’s an almost catchy loop coming from a function generator or something like that. That dies down all too quickly and then I’m hit with another ice pick of sound for a second and then it disappears. I’m discovering that noise is at harshest when surrounded by silence. Near the end there’s a steady beat and a fierce loop of distorted yells which, as you may be able to predict, gets pitchshifted, cut up and just generally fucked around with. I’m still not sure what to make of this side, Nick Hoffman’s abstract master plan has be along the lines of keeping the listener constantly off guard, either that or he has simply laid out sounds exactly how he wants them and the listener has to keep up or be left behind.
This booklet How To Makes Things Happen was also included and I’ve never written about an art book on the site before so I figured I’d say a thing or two. Not really sure how to “review” this, per se, but I enjoy looking through it and thought I would share a couple of favorite moments. The booklet is printed on neon paper of varying colors and there is a mix of mostly illustrations and a couple comics. There’s basketball playing, UFOs bound to rainbows, a prehistoric “skeletoon” taking on a tsunami and then some really bizarre ones like a sad monster-ghost with wearing a star of David that is hooked to strewn about tomatoes. My favorite is called “Dangerous Rain” which is people and an animal of some sort fleeing knives falling from the clouds. The comics “Monster Bus” and “I Live in a Box” are both “funny cuz it’s true!” affairs (stealing that from The Simpsons as you probably know). The former features the universal experience of a young person waking up (“I hate school… This sucks…”) while the latter features the universal experience of crazy-ass bums on the street (“Got any change? “Not for you.”) Awesome. (p.s. the cover is actually red-orange; my scanner just hates that color for some reason)
The tape is still available but the book is not. Nick seems to keep busy with Scissor Death though so I’m sure they’ll be another booklet before long.