Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Maths Balance Volumes – Tried to Make a Call [Bum Tapes]/Rahdunes – Drink and Drive or Smoke and Fly [Bum Tapes]

I took full advantage of my temporary UK residence to check out Bum Tapes, a label I’d been eyeing for a little while but shied away from as I do too often from foreign labels cause of exchange rates/shipping costs... because I'm a cheap bastard. Over here though, these things are dirt cheap, 3 pounds post paid in the UK. That’s less than five bucks! Anyway, I recommend all you Americans out there to take advantage of the fallen exchange rates while you can. Anyhow, this is part 1 of my Bum Tapes report.
It seems with every Maths Balance Volumes release I hear, I’m more and more convinced they’re one of the best bands operating today. The magic concoction they brew (however it is done) is equal parts pop genius and sloshed basement crawl. The weirdest stuff is put on the first side of this tape, which I guess is called “Tried to Make a Call” though the second side isn’t mentioned. The first piece is a stumbling rag of sauntering carnival organ, a pair of slowed down mumbling voices and found percussion. It sounds like a wreck, and is in a way, but the group’s talent lies in making the most bizarre combos of sounds utterly catchy, if lethargic as well. The second piece is no less abstract but brings a heavy groove. It’s almost like a thrift store Black Dice (in their “dance” phase) but MBV uncover something much more strange and indescribable than Black Dice have or ever will. Based around a looped bass tone, a bunch of unidentified sounds are assembled around in unexpected but well thought out ways.
The B-side is basically a lo-fi pop song and it rules! It's mostly just an unfailingly catchy chord progression and indecipherable muttered vocals. Those elements form the skeleton of the song. Augmenting it is a lovely but subtle keyboard that pops up at the end of each verse. There’s also an amplified metallic something that provides a vague but oh so important percussive element and a bit of growling percussive banging comes in near the end. Even at ten minutes, this thing seems pretty damn essential. Probably the best argument for a cassingle I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t marketed as such. One of those I always flip over as soon as it ends.
My buddy Adam told me about how good Rahdunes are a while back and, silly me, I’m just now taking his advice, and oh how right he is. The accurately titled first side “Sounds” is a pulsing masterpiece of drone. Despite heavy, throbbing synthesizer pulsations there’s a leisurely feel, like riding a train where you glide along but still feel the machinery grinding beneath you. The texture complements the vibe quite well, lush but synthetic——and with too much gravity to be considered new age.
The flipside is just as good. Two tracks are listed (“Acid Meter” and “Eruption Factor”) but it sounds like one seamless piece to my ears. Maybe I’m reading it wrong and its “Acid Meter Eruption Factor”? Aww, well, I’ll let that be a mystery for the ages. Guest drums, supplied by Nick St. Mary, turn the piece into a rollicking drone rock affair of thunderous proportions. One of the heaviest hazes I’ve ever been caught in. The drums drop out leaving thick, steaming frequencies to rise. Subdued drums return until the smoky vibes evaporate. Excellent tape.
Both tapes are still available but way too limited with nice artwork as well. Rahdunes is an edition of 40 and the Maths Balance Volumes tape is limited to 50. Can’t go wrong picking up either so I suggest you get both.

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