Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fossils From the Sun – The Living Mixer [Peasant Magik]/Transcendental Manship Highway – Lord of the Trees [Carbon]

Continuing to make my way through the stack, I got these two releases Ray Hare (Century Plants, Burnt Hills) sent awhile back.
The Living Mixer is a thirty minute tape of super minimal electronics under Hare’s solo moniker, Fossils From the Sun. The thing that’s amazing about it is that guitar looks like the only sound source. The first side consists of five tracks ranging from one to six minutes. “A Livication” is the shortest and introduces the listener to the pulsing pallet of the tape. “Rockers” is louder and crunchier, where frequencies are molded and manipulated over a pseudo-rhythmic juddering. The track covers quite a lot of ground for clocking in under two minutes actually. “Sun Selector” is my favorite here. Hare gives the track plenty of room to stretch its legs, focusing on a repeating swell and dissipation of a tone more akin to a didgeridoo than a guitar. There are little prickles of quiet, metallic feedback that form, very slowly, a vague rhythmic counterpoint to the central loop. There really isn’t a lot going on to be quite honest, but there is something incredibly hypnotic about it and an attractive strength in its subtlety. That main loop is like the donging of a church bell almost. A super hard track to pull off, especially communicating to someone with a short attention span like myself, but Hare does it with style——though style seems like the absolutely wrong word to use there. I suppose “concentration” would be a bit more accurate. “A Damaging Air” is another short piece, this time of echoing percussive contact noise. “Not Waving” finishes the side with more of those metallic, hi-frequency feedback tones. Hare expands the sound spectrum deliberately over the course of the track, leaving the initial sounds the same by the end but swollen somehow.
Side B starts off with “The Living Mixer (a Sound Clash)” which clocks in at nearly 12 minutes dwarfing all the other songs on the tape——at least, lengthwise. The track works with a round, lightly pulsating drone for a while. That tone casts a constant, whirring fog across the track which experiences slight ripples in its static fabric by various sounds, some of which are actually somewhat identifiable as guitar. It’s a hard piece to describe really. The last two tracks are both just over a minute. “A Simple Star Vibrating Slowly” is quite nice and develops an intuitive melody amidst the pulsing electronic signals. “A Livication (version)” actually features of some straight-up guitar playing (though still heavily effected.) It works as a nice coda/transition back to the world outside the tape. This tape is certainly way different than any other of Hare’s projects, even quite a bit different than the FFtS 3” I reviewed in the fall. While it’s not necessarily something I put on a lot, I don’t have anything else in my collection that covers this ground. Hare does a pretty great job creating a world of his own on tape and really altering your consciousness in a way. He’s sculpting some deep meditations here but stripped of any put on “psychedelia.”
The awesomely christened Transcendental Manship Highway is an upstate NY “supergroup” featuring Hare, Eric Hardiman (Century Plants, Burnt Hills, Rambutan,) Cory Card (Stone Baby) and Joe Tunis (Joe+N). This CD-r is a single half hour bludgeoning and damn fine one at that. Beginning rather quietly with a lone drum and indecipherable speech, guitar tones drift in along with a vocal sample submerged in a effects. Tension is built up gradually with some frantic, slicing wah-wah work before the tempo picks and the full crew gets moving. It’s actually nearly relaxing at first. Shuffling mid-tempo drums and 2 or 3 blurry guitars combining with ease, but there’s always a suggestion of something a bit more evil on the horizon. Around the 7 minute mark, TMH shifts to sinister. A lot of cymbal smashing and wah freak outs and general disarray. The drums drop out a bit revealing a pretty solid chunk of noise being kicked out by the other dudes. I think there’s someone shouting an arena rock chant but it’s completely buried by grimy feedback. About halfway through the drummer picks up a fast groovy pattern and the track takes off. All of sudden the psychedelic feedback bath becomes a foot stomper with the return of a (still buried) lead vocalist. It’s all pretty ruling, especially an aborted guitar solo during a breakdown. Whoever was watching this gig was treated to quite a show. Things slow way down and get a little heavier and there’s a killer repeated synth swoop coming from somewhere that adds a second point of rhythmic orientation. All guitars take this as a cue to go to town, some go wild but one keeps things steady with a nice melody. If this was completely improv’d then, damn, these guys know to write great songs on the spot. The track actually fits somewhere between a long jam and already worked out songs. No one ever gets lost either which is always good in long jams like this because it can be a bit of a bummer when some dudes are roaring but another isn’t sure what he’s doing. An amazingly protracted drum pummeling ensues against more feedback and wah-wah excursions. There’s a come down which actually a total fake out before the four horsemen lay waste to the room and everything in it in the final minute. Pretty rad set, I’m looking forward to seeing more of this combo; so hopefully this wasn’t a one-off performance cause, you know, if it is that would suuuuck.
The TMH CD-r is still available from Tunis’s Carbon label but the tape was dreadfully limited to a mere 39 copies and thus is long out of print. So if you are remotely interested in the sounds and you see a copy floating around somewhere you should pick it up cause this baby is practically a collector’s item.

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