Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gigantic DNT Cassette Round-up

I heard through the grapevine that DNT is dropping some new sounds real soon which reminded me I needed to get my ass in gear and finally talk about all the rad work Tynan’s been doing with my favorite format.
Yuko Chino/Sasqrotch - Split
I’d heard Yuko Chino was a Sasqrotch member’s bedroom black metal project, but I still hadn’t much idea of what I was getting into when I first popped in the tape. The first track, an intro called “...of the Valley of the Wind,” emerges and it’s an unholy Frankenstein monster of two parts Rosemary Baby soundtrack and one part hip hop mixtape. It is creepy and amazing, achieving exactly what intros are designed to do——it gets me psyched hear the rest of the tape. The 1-2 punch is completed with “Dawn of the Black Hearts” the best track of the side. Here black metal is mixed with the best elements of electronic music. There are multiple layers of heavily distorted guitars and vocals, a cavernous, loping drum sample and then almost twinkling synths that glide along underneath the muck and secretly provide the true impetus of the track. A really great song and the guitars’ return after a long breakdown seals the deal. “We Believe in Nothing” really reminds me of another song but I still haven’t been able to place it. Oh well. This piece is a lethargic duet between detuned guitar and synth with hyperdistorted vocals making their presence known as well. It is a really lonely piece, especially when following the strut of “Dawn of the Black Hearts.” The concern exhibited in the title “Tell Me Where it Hurts” is purely feigned because this track is the longest and blackest of the bunch. A slow motion roller coaster through black metal hell, one of the ones you wait hours in line for and get off wanting ride it again. The synth was dropped (and vocals mostly too) so it is straight-up guitar sludge and feedback slinging with stark drum accompaniment. It’s all based on a simple but addictive cleaner-toned arpeggio. There’s a lot more tracks of guitar here than I thought originally which is why it sounds so damn massive. “Ea, Lord of the Outros” is just that. A chugging guitar/drum machine slow fade. This is the only tape of the bunch still in print so I suggest you grab it, if only for the Yuko Chino side.
Which leads me to Sasqrotch’s side-long live track “Genre-rhea.” There’s a really long build up, but when a saxophone pops in, it instantly puts a smile on my face. It plays a great borderline mournful melody against the tectonic bass shifts. And before long it gets into free jellybone mode and then the whole group settles on a course for swirling shitstorm. The other Sasqrotch releases I’ve heard were in heavy rock-trio mode, their line-up for half the track is guitar/bass/sax which is an exciting line-up in my eyes. Drums make their entrance by way cymbal rolls and crashes. With about ten minutes to go, the boys get into sludge and shout pattern. They get a nice groove going but the first half with the sax still wins my heart. Speaking of sax…
Uneven Universe - Nightcrawler Walls
This tape took a bit of time to connect with, but once I did I was hooked. It looks really pretty, with a fantastic super-pro art job but the sounds inside seemed at first maybe a bit too sparse for me. But a lesson to listeners everywhere: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. The tape is a bog of dingy loops, a bit of sax and a bit of silence but it's constantly dismantling itself rather than going the usual route and building upon itself--which could be why it took sometime to grow on me. This was my first time hearing the project (though I've been looking forward to hearing it for a little while) so I needed a little more time to wrap my head around it but now whenever I do return to it with a fresh set of ears I enjoy it and appreciate it more than the last. It's nice because the sax playing is pretty melodic so the tape doesn't strand the listener in a cavern of dissonance. I can't tell if sax is the only sound source here or not but maybe it's being manipulated to create the watery pitter patter, strange animal growls and dilapidated house creaks at work here in the loops that sound too organic to be coming from purely electronics. I do think that some writer with more talent than I should adapt this tape into an existential short story or something. A man trapped in a cramped, dank room with a small flickering light dangling overhead, continually blowing his lungs out on a rusted saxophone for no one but himself. Nightcrawler Walls, man, creepy shit. Uneven Universe has made an impression on me though, I’m gonna be seeking further knowledge.
The Pope - Do You Wanna Boogie?
I wrote a review of this somewhere already but it got lost or deleted or something so I’m gonna keep this blurb short and to the point, which is just what these 11 minutes call for. The Pope is dead unfortunately but their memory will live on in this swansong. The bass and drums duo run through four songs in about 5 minutes on the first side. With hissing fuzz and riotous riffs, this thing was destined to be a tape cause it sounds so utterly blown out and awesome. From “Micheal J. Whiteguy” to “City Pride is Justified” the first side is non-stop fun. “12 ‘O Clock Boogie” takes up about half the length of the first side, at two and a half minutes, featuring a towering breakdown where skulls are crushed in the name of having a good time. “Grandma’s Mountain Boogie” takes the second side. Beginning slowly in epic fashion, it isn’t until halfway through they set the tape ablaze before slowing down again and finally pounding home the last thirty seconds. Here’s to a reunion tour in 2010.
Various Artists - Mash Mansum
I love cassette compilations, at least when they’re as good as this one. I like that Tynan kept things to 7 artists in 8 tracks, it keeps things from getting too overwhelming for the listener trying to keep straight who he or she is listening to. Anyway, the first side kicks off in wonderful Jesus Lizard-meets-Led Zeppelin fashion with “Waiting for the Bus” by Hunting Lodge. I don’t know anything about this band but I wish I did cause this track rules. Nearly 7 minutes of unhinged yelps, growls and warbles backed up by a furious wall of guitar, drums and synthesizer. This all results in an amazing throwback to 70’s blues rock riffing——and I don’t even like 70’s rock. This song is total fire, I want more. Moving on to two short tracks by Neck Hold, both are driven by drums and vocals, with guitar augmenting the arrangement of “Oh God; You Devil” and saxophone making a great appearance on “Sibling Rivalry.” Both tracks are a little slight but a lot of fun and whoever’s on the sax really knows how to mangle it. The only criticism I have of this tape as a whole doesn’t involve the music but when we get to the Shearing Pinx track (billed here as Shearing Pinks for some reason) there is a huge volume drop off. I’m not sure why cause these are pro-dubbed tapes and all but you gotta crank it up to hear the Pinx. Anyway, “Trusting the Forest” finds the Vancouver crew in the most raw free jazz form as I’ve ever heard them. Not among their best stuff, but a nice enough track. The Sticks start off the next side with a short track called “Aerobic Fuck,” a steeped in reverb garage-y surf thing which never seems to stick in my mind (no pun intended) but it’s nice enough to listen to on the way to next track. Gay Beast, proprietors of last year’s awesome Disrobics LP, contribute an also awesome track “Exploding Knee” which manages to fit a bunch of jagged sections together seamlessly into one gnarly piece of start/stop riffing. The band just straight up rules. Probably my favorite track comes from Deaf! Deaf!, another group which I know nothing about. “Loss of Appetite” is a fantastic sax-driven romp. It’s so urgent and catchy and at barely over a minute its real easy to just keep rewinding and listening again. Twin Crystals are the final entry into Mash Mansum and they offer up “Live in Olympia.” It’s \weird because this track sounds kinda like a band I was in in high school but, you know, actually good. Groovy drums and synth driven stuff. The track is actually two songs taken from the live setting featuring crowd noise and whatnot in the middle. The second which I gather is called “We Are Trinity” is more synth/drums with nonsensical shouting really reminding me of my days of doing that. Sorry to get silly and autobiographical but I love this Twin Crystals track and it gets me through its unintentional nostalgia inducing ways. Overall great tape, I like listening to it as a whole which can’t often be said about comps, so props to Tynan for curating it so well and also Danimal of Gay Beast for doing the awesome fold-out artwork.
Mudboy/Ducktails - Summer of Saucers
Hot off the heels of the utterly phenomenal and essential Mudmux Vol. 1 7inch on DNT (pick it up if you don’t have it yet) the part man/part machine from Providence contributes this side-long creeper. Eerie synth sounds spread across the side and some come across as deceptively human or maybe animal. The disgruntled machines find a surprisingly sweet melodic center. Between all the automated step-tones and gizmos and whatever other pseudo-mechanical jargon I can make-up, there’s an underlying softness and tenderness here. Mudboy’s ability to pull that off always seems to be the aspect I really appreciate and respond to in his music.
One of the bummers of the “split” is that can inadvertently put the two sides up against each other. This Mudboy side is really great but I mostly catch myself listening to Ducktails side cause of how much I like that one. Luckily I got this whole reviewing process to reflect on things and really realize how great all this stuff is.
End of digression. This Ducktails side is maybe the best thing the dude has done. A lonesome synthesizer drifting along by itself is met by an echoing, plinking keyboard. This sets a number of layers of synths into motion and it’s just plainly, fucking beautiful. I don’t how this guy does it but he taps into this wonderful melodic center that all the sounds seem to orbit; it’s like a magnetic field of melody where all the sounds occupying the track simply fall into their right place. Fucking beautiful but I already said that. That’s only the first half too, a mellow guitar/drum machine duet kicks in bringing up the signature tropical Ducktails magic. That one is brief but another elongated one comes on next featuring a mutinous drum machine before it slides into a lovely acoustic guitar passage. Utterly brilliant side. Killer art by George Myers as well.
Super Minerals - The Piss
While everyone is discussing the greatness of Clusters and Multitudes, I’m gonna take you back a year to The Piss, which still might be my favorite thing put out by the super mineral squad of Phil French and William Giacchi. The duo crammed 13 or 14 pieces into 30 minutes and they all meld together wonderfully. The single aspect that I love so much about this tape is it sounds like it was recorded in a dried out, moldy air pocket beneath the California desert somewhere. It’s an experience for those listening carefully. Among my favorite moments on the first side, the mechanical thrum of opener “Viral Cycles,” fiery tribally pulsating distortion and harmonica muck, the wooden flutes singing around dying embers, that they named a track “Firebomb the Zombie Army” and the bizarre werewolf/jungle/slasher movie sounds of the side A closer whose title is illegibly identified on the insert. On the flip side, there’s plenty more crusty distortion. “Descended Swarm of the Undead” is a temporary respite from the putrid bleakness, with a ritual performance turned into flickering drone by the sheer amount of fuzz its being pushed through. I hope “Futurelife” isn’t a legit look into the coming days cause it creeps the hell out of me. “Failed City Escape” is a sparse grinding of guitar strings and “Slaughter & Loss” and “Bloody Pandemic” make up a weird mechanic/percussive/static mildew between their combined 1:30. The title track closes the tape and rightly so, it encapsulates the strangled atmosphere, seething diodes and uncanny crumbling of sound of the 27 minutes that came before it. I hope I get to see these guys perform their excavation in the live environment before I die.
Plankton Wat – Alchemy of Darkness
Plankton Wat moniker is Dewey Mahood of Portland psych-rockers Eternal Tapestry. This tape is Mahood with a multi-track recorder, a guitar and a wah-wah pedal. Full disclosure, I don’t usually go for this kinda thing but this tape rips. Mahood is almost like a one-man GHQ. He piles layers and layers of guitar on top of each other sometimes they end up with a darker edged vibe like the fantastic opener “Of Darkness and Shadows” and sometimes the tape veers into slightly brighter territory as in “Transformation of Magical Properties” which flows into a pretty acoustic guitar piece. “Rituals” is a relatively sparse acoustic piece and it’s really great. It teeters on near dissonance throughout the whole track so there’s a lot more tension than one can usually pull out of an acoustic guitar. The second side is split in half between “Spiritual Invocation” and “Conscious Mind.” The former features a number arpeggios, some reversed, all laid on top each other. It’s sound in perpetual motion, creating an image of a landscape’s decay in fast motion or granules of sand being sucked away. The latter is more like the last light of dusk before evaporating into complete darkness. A long, slow fade of burbling notes to silence.
It looks like there is a scant few copies of this tape still available from the label so email if you’re interested and also stick around for the upcoming Plankton Wat LP on DNT.
Bobb Bruno – Clown’s Castle
I’m sure this has been said plenty of times before but this Bobb Bruno tape occupies a space in between that Arbor tape from a while back and his work under the Goliath Bird Eater name. “Snail’s Pace,” the first side, is soft and synthy for quite a while. A rattling electric kit ups the rhythmic quotient before the song hits the main drag. Bruno employs the steady beat he’s used on numerous Pocahaunted tracks and lays on the synths real thick. A real nice melody ekes out of the flanger jet fumes before the melody goes solo briefly creating a picturesque moment newly augmented by modulated guitar. Bruno creates a surprisingly lovely audio tapestry jetting across the sky. There’s a subtle bass part near the end that I totally love as well and everything comes to a close with a music box-like sequenced synthesizer. The title track fills the second side and where side A was mildy airy, side B brings the guitars on quite heavily. Exchanging two detuned chords back and forth builds tension for a while, letting a hi-pitched, mildly theremin-esque synth insurrection heighten it even more. A third of the way in Bruno kickstarts a loping drum pattern with an outrageously awesome slo-mo drum fill. The track doesn’t change a whole lot but just slides along increasing momentum little by little. That is until everything fades and the guitar is replaced by a fragile keyboard melody. There’s a little bit of glockenspiel in there too, which as many times as I’ve heard this, is always unexpected. It’s a shockingly tender finale and I don’t think he could have ended it any better than he has.
Pipeline Alpha – Darking Lights of Mazil
This Pipeline Alpha project is apparently from Germany and keeps an exceedingly low profile. The sound of this tape is hard to pinpoint exactly, it’s an odd strand of synth-heavy drone. This stuff keeps relatively active though; “Nagelfar in an Icier Lull” projects a weird, untraceable sample amongst a sea of frenetic, popping synth bubbles introducing a rather stoic melody against the grain later. “Seth in Deserts” opens up with a weird voice saying English(?) incomprehensibly through a thick accent. This gives way to a rather pretty raft of keyboards that manages to be buoyant and chilling at the same time. Electro-hand drum sounds pop up pushing the track into noisier regions. Perhaps most interesting is it ends on a sound sample of heavy sketching/pencil shading at the end. A very weird, cool track. The last piece of the first side is “Anubis Cures Aschmodal” and it’s immediately more confrontational than its predecessors. It’s darker and noisier and a bit more stagnant until a loopy oscillator and a stringed folk instrument of some sort liven it up in its second half. There’s neat bit of tape collage-y stuff too. Two tracks fill out the second side, the first being “Zusa” which begins with an unintelligible spoken loop. A saxophone-ish but most likely synthetic tone leads the crepuscular piece peppered by whirs and squelches of synthesizer. “Zusa” ends up being a pretty easy traveling, streamlined drone piece. “Dark City” features more breathy speech at the outset along with shaken, dull metallic noises and a bass undercurrent. Trudging along in total ominous-ness until more flashy synths pop up in the last minutes. A dark and strangely alien drone tape.

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