Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hairmaiden of the Totem Robe – Lured to the Ground [Housecraft]

I apologize for the egregious lack of reviews lately. Life has been too hectic to fit in much writing. However, I’ve been making the necessary preparations to catch up on all the stacks of great stuff I have to review during my stint in London. I’m not sure if I’ll have a steady internet connection but I will least update the site sporadically with (hopefully) large lumps of reviews. Anyhow, this is not the point of this review.
Hairmaiden of the Totem Robe is one the Housecraft house bands of Jeffry Astin and this c20 finds them in particularly awesome fashion. Heavy on guitar, possibly only guitars, which you know I love to hear. I can’t tell if this was done live or overdubbed but the first side sounds thick and tangled. Stringy, sinewy guitar chimes and clanks tie themselves in knots with a subtle low end buzz whipping up an unassuming undertow. The track covertly builds in intensity—usually when one guitar gets aggressive the other backs off. There is a fantastic push/pull dynamic between the two guitars which is augmented by the choice to pan each either hard left or hard right. After a short slip into silence halfway through, sounds slowly come into focus again. The artwork fits this well cause there is a vague aquatic vibe cast upon the sounds, though it doesn’t ever indulge in spacious, liquid drone style. When the duo does approach “drone” towards the end of the side, the results are claustrophobic and unsettling rather than peaceful. The side runs a strange trajectory from clustered guitar dissonance to oppressive, festering drones and they pull it off with amazingly subtle skill.
The B side kicks off with a more skronky mindset. There are all sorts of atonal jingle jangle, possibly looped, and I’m so sure I’m hearing a flute in there somewhere but maybe it’s a keyboard disguised as a flute. The track stays surprisingly rhythmic augmented by some electronic contact crackle and scraping. All the sounds find a unity in a strange tumbling cycle that ultimately ends up as a relatively full drone that subsides after the passage of time leaving a loop of percussive electronic noises and a soft, eerie cooing mixed with splatters of guitar notes.
A fantastic, fascinating tape on the whole, well worth checking out. My only criticism of Housecraft is their editions are always too small and I think this masterpiece of c20-dom only had an edition of 50 copies give or take. Thus, it’s long sold out. Though Hairmaiden is pretty prolific it seems so there should be plenty more releases in the pipeline.

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