Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chaostic Magic – Phantasmagoria [Debacle]/Forrest Friends – Forrest Friends [Debacle]

Sam from Seattle-based Debacle Records gave me a stack of CD-rs when I met him at the amazing Ear Venom reunion show awhile back and these two emerged quickly from the pack as some of my favorites.
Chaostic Magic is a duo of Corey J Brewer on guitar and Eric Ostrowski on violin (Ostrowski also played in the dual violin project/onslaught NOGGIN.) I’ve recently realized how much violin rules in an experimental context. I’ve been having a love affair with the Blue Shift tape on Breaking World and this CD-r is a dexterous firebreather. “Morning Nightmare” is rather friendly at first (keep in mind that is very relative.) Both sets of strings scrape and saw and skronk. Ostroski pulls tones out his violin reminiscent of a jittery oscillator, which is a feat in itself and it sounds so cool! The guitar moves through periods of fairly clean-toned but highly metallic mangled arpeggios and heavy metalfuzz assaults that might be classified as riffs if they weren’t so loopy and deranged. At certain points the two men imitate each other’s playing on their respective instruments which creates a kind of funhouse mirror effect. Near the end, there’s a calmer period where, I wouldn’t call it pretty but, sustained tones from both instruments complement each other nicely. One of this CD-rs biggest strengths is each track improves on the one before it. “Brains on Fire” is the default epic clocking in at the combined length of the other two tracks and it slays. Though kicking off brashly (and continuing on brashly) the track provides a few moments to catch your breath. One passage in particular sounds like it may be solely Brewer’s work (which if true would be damn impressive) there are guitar harmonics sustaining with a very lo-pitched, crazed bit of glissando that’s almost like when you play with a synth’s pitch wheel. This piece is a total monster through and through——too many great moments to mention. These guys play entirely free form in every way so there doesn’t seem to be any preset agreement on rhythm or harmony. The only thing Brewer and Ostrowski match up on is intensity. And you’d think a half hour mess of audioviolent guitar/violin improv might get a bit trying, these guys have incredible pacing and are able to continually entice the listener to follow while somehow avoiding the standard way to do so, that is providing brief periods of consonance amidst the maelstrom for the listener to latch onto.
The devasted finale, “Brown Cloud/Magic Dragon” begins more sparsely than the previous tracks. There somehow seems to be a bit more space in the mix. The reason for this may be that Brewer’s playing is more percussive here with lots of banging and rattling along with the blistering string strangling. Ostrowski, on the other hand, just takes to wailing. He allows his notes to sustain longer and I really like the results. Nimble tonal shifts are still a main feature of his playing but they sound great applied to a more consistently radiating bed of sound. This is at least true until he dives of the path into a knotted undergrowth of frenetic plucks. When Brewer and Ostrowski each embark on their final finger-breaking freak out in the last minute, it is a supremely satisfying experience.
After hearing this CD-r Chaostic Magic has shot to the number one spot of local acts I still need to see. Once I’m back in Seattle, Chaostic Magic, be prepared to have me gawking at you during all your shows.
The next CD-r, a self-titled one by Forrest Friends, is a half hour of weird whateverness. The Friends are a duo of Garrison (who runs the nonsensically titled Motor & Famine distro) and someone named Chad (who I’ve never met.) The first thing I remember hearing about this act was when I met Garrison at a show, he told me they went to play a noisefest in Spokane, WA (weeeeird, right?) and for their set they played “smooth jazz, Chuck Mangione shit.” The image of a bunch of pissed off eastern Washington noise dudes standing around watching someone play soft jazz makes me laugh my ass off, but thankfully, this CD-r is far from Chuck Mangione shit. The first track is a bunch of whimpering coos and garbled speech with sparse echoing percussion, slide whistle, toy piano and occasionally splinters of picked acoustic guitar. Out of the blue, everything comes together quite nicely, lead by a catchy melody on the slide whistle. The only track with a title, “Disco Cloud,” is my favorite of the bunch with an Asian-inspired guitar part doubled by vocals, rambling percussion and then outta nowhere a couple of synths pop up and the whole thing drifts off on a sick groove. The appearance of “disco” in the title is not ironic at all, this thing shakes and moves in the weirdest way. Really brilliant piece, and I'm pretty sure had disco actually been this creative and rad, Americans of all stripes would have united in it, said “no” to Reagan and kept the 1980s from being such a shithole. The next track summons a tribal rhythm and employs mellow wordless vocals. Though, it’s a repetitive thumb piano figure that anchors the whole thing. The subsequent track drops the tribalism for a minimal synth dance track. Based off a looped clicking pattern (occasionally augmented by drums,) more keyboards, voice and cymbal rolls drift in and out until it all gets piled on top of each other in last minutes. The fifth track is a bit lacking in comparison to the others but eventually hits upon a rather enjoyable, smoothly lurching groove. The final track is a good deal longer than the others and starts with a minute long pulsing synth intro stitched in before a huffing accordion pops up against the usual junk. This one has a more organic vibe to it, rhythm is still very important and ever present but it upshifts and downshifts whereas the other tracks find a groove and ride it til the end. Acoustic guitar is one of the main elements here and also maybe a piano or hammered dulcimer or something to that effect. There’s some electric burbling but the track is mostly occupied by organ/accordion and a heavily reverbed bell. At least until the 8 minute mark when another solo synth piece takes over a-twinkling. Overall, it’s a really fun listen and a different take on junk store shamanism.
Both CD-rs are still in print. They are available as part of volume 2 of the Emerald City Debacle, a subscription series focused around Seattle-area artists, as well as individually. Check ‘em out and give my city some love.

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