Sunday, June 21, 2009

Electric Annihilation/Various Artists – Psyched Punch [DNT]

(FINALLY got this transcribed from my journal)
This is the debut issue of Electric Annihilation; a new zine edited and published by Tynan Krakoff, CEO of DNT Records…
Electric Annihilation has been a nice companion while riding the London Underground. The cover feature is an interview with Sun Araw who is of course blowing up right now and has been for awhile. I haven’t followed his music too much (though his side of the Predator Vision split is pretty rad) but the interview was interesting. Because of how decentralized the “underground” is, its cool to hear someone just chatting about what’s going on around them as Cam Stallones does here. It was interesting to learn Sun Araw was just kind of stumbled upon while Stallones was working on Magic Lantern stuff and then became equally as big a deal.
Shawn Reed (Night People/Raccoo-oo-oon) discusses how Wet Hair went from being a dark solo project before Ryan Garbes (also of Raccoo-oo-oon and the unreasonably awesome Trash Dog) hopped aboard somehow leading to their debatably tropical sound (Reed ain’t having it). There’s a close-up of his gear on the back page, so you too can sound just like Wet Hair kids! Their first DNT release, a VHS, is due this year.
There’s also an interview with John Olson, pictured sporting a rad American Tapes tee and Frankenstein monster of a sax. Olson discusses the small but fertile Michigan scene and laments the days when Wolf Eyes could play shows with White Stripes and Slumber Party without it seeming weird--I agree those were the days indeed.
Thurston Moore and Henry Rollins are asked about their thoughts on today’s underground. Moore compares it to the 80s “noise scene” and extols the sonic virtues of cassettes. The quick interview with Henry Rollins was interesting cause I had no idea he was into noise stuff. To be totally honest, I’ve never really understood why people are interested in him as a personality or why he has a show on IFC or why he randomly pops in movies playing SWAT personnel. Though he has occasionally dropped gems like “if I had the money, I’d pay Bono a million dollars a day to not make music.” Anyway, enough doggin’ on the guy, I have more respect for him after this interview. He discusses American Tapes, as Olson and Moore did—an obvious topic of interest for EA. Rollins asserts what noise is doing is what punk should have done. He’s not only impressed by the “zero interest in MTV” but compares its vision to bop. He ends the interview with another gem, “music survived the Reagan administration, Creed and Nickelback, so it can survive anything else thrown at it I reckon.”
Elsewhere in the issue, Nomen Dubium and Steve Hauschildt (of Emeralds) both discuss how they got to where they’re going musically. Although, the article I’ve found myself returning to the most is "The Last Man" by Jon Isaac (of Really Coastal tapes). It’s an engaging, if a bit unfocused, rumination on how listeners come to define and order sound. He moves through childhood anecdotes as well as pointing out examples in the current underground, particularly the vocabulary that small-press labels have developed to promote their merchandise. There is a pretty funny anecdote regarding Robedoor in there too. It was really great to have a non-interview article in the mix. Hopefully Jon Isaac continues to write for EA and maybe a few other writers join up to do other columns or whatever.
Another section I hope EA continues and expands is "Scene Reports." Sam Goldberg gives a rundown of some crazy shit goin’ down in Cleveland, Shawn Reed reps the new and old blood in Iowa City, and Matthias Andersson (of the Release the Bats label) gives a thorough, detailed portrait of everything rad going down in Gothenburg. I jotted down a bunch of Swedish names to check out, one of which, Attestupa, has a DNT LP on the way. Readers are encouraged to send in letters and scene reports, so everyone out there, get writing about your scene!
I enjoyed this issue and I think Electric Annihilation will only get better. Also it was a bold move not to include any reviews in the zine, the staple of every music mag. Its available from the DNT and Electric Annihilation websites and its also stocked by various record stores and distros.
DNT also put out the Psyched Punch double cassette comp that collects 3 sides of out of print DNT material and a side of new stuff to celebrate its 3 year anniversary (just a tad late.) The tape starts spooling with a vintage Robedoor track “Tribal Rites.” All militant, pounding drums, angsty wordless vocals and a whole lot of fuzz bleeding everywhere. Quite a good track that transports me back to 2006 when I first heard the band. Forbici is next with “Remote Concentrator.” Never heard of Forbici before but apparently they released something on DNT. This track is wiggly, directionless electronics—decent but not totally my speed. German makes the first of two appearances here with the minute long “Vein,” a surely grooving interlude. The Warmth/Yellow Swans 7inch (which was one of the earliest AuxOut reviews) is captured here in its entirety. Check the old review if you want more details but Warmth conjures a sonic bog and Yellow Swans are brighter than usual and as awesome as ever. Also, I finally learned what the Warmth track is called (“Demode”) cause the info is hidden behind a blotch of blue ink on the 7inch. German returns with “Neun,” a track of boisterous drumming and clanging, ghostly thumb piano. “Ironlung Wheeze” by Dead/Bird is the side’s finale. A bit like the Warmth joint but full of sputtering synthesizers and dying machines.
“Desert City Summer” by Nomen Dubium kicks off Side B in style. I remember a ND tape coming out a while ago on DNT a while back but I never checked it out and, man, I wish I had. This track is one of best of the comp. It’s incredibly lush and melodic and gorgeous. Really knocked my socks off when I first heard it. Wonderfully layered with some of the strata being soothing and other bits being of a more chugging nature but all blending beautifully. This cat has a VHS due later on DNT; I’m so there. UK crew Jazzfinger contributes a piece called “Birth of the Knife” and believe me it fucking sounds like the birth of a knife. Violent, sharp, searing, grinding, serrated, metallic—all belied by a lilting reed organ which as far as I can tell is the only sound source. Unassumingly but unflinchingly bloodthirsty. Plankton Wat contributes a track of winding reversed guitar called “Translucent Nights” and Acre closes the side doing his thing with unchanging walls of sound.
The final side of the reissued material begins with an untitled track by Mudboy. Since I’ve heard all DNT Mudboy releases save for Livish I can deduce this comes from that. The track features signature stacked organ lines and waves crashing in the background. A nice, borderline meditative track. Super Minerals make their first appearance with the title-track from The Piss, one of the most apocalyptic moments from the tape’s apocalyptic half-hour. Swollen sores of fuzz bear down on oppressive shrieks, creaks and rattling before they approach melody in the final moments. Quilts contribute the 15 minute “Pink Hotel” from their split with Quintana Roo way back from ’06 if I remember correctly. This comp is interesting cause it only looks back 3-4 years, but you can see how quickly the underground changes. Quilts, for instance, put out some cool stuff awhile back but have since dissipated (I guess) cause I haven’t heard or thought about them lately. Anyhow, “Pink Hotel” is a sweet track, if on the long side. There’s a lot of space in the piece, silence is poked through with plinking (toy?) piano, manipulated vocal slur and a static drone—all of which are run through delay pedals. By the end they have scraped together a subtle but persuasive melody.
Moving on the side of new material... The biggest surprise for me was the Blank Realm song “Cats on the Edge.” The bits and pieces I’d heard of Blank Realm was fine, folky free-psych stuff but it didn’t leave much of a mark. This track however is utterly slammin’. It’s nearly 8 minutes of mellow, ravin’ 60sish organ driven psych rock. This track is just the epitome of cool. The band constructs the song really well, perfectly balancing surfy spy guitar, heavy organ riffage, a solid rhythm section and a touch of wispy vox and keeping it all moving with chugging grooviness with effective dynamic shifts. Basically, I never want this track to end. It’s in a fist fight with Nomen Dubium for my favorite new discovery. Plankton Wat contributes another short track which weirdly enough has a lot of vocals in it in addition to the guitar. Super Minerals return with an awesome track “Purple Gravity Spindles.” It features the Minerals in total spirit summoning mode. After a bombastic opening, a good chunk is pretty quiet with a lonely flute until Phil and Will bring on heaps and heaps of lush, living sound. Really transcendent and frighteningly beautiful. I don’t know anything about Birdcatcher but they close with “Dusk.” It’s a good track similar to Super Minerals with murky flute loops (part of a complete breakfast) and bowed something-or-others creating a real doomy vibe.
The comp is already sold out (my bad for taking so long to actually get this online) but it’s limited to 100 so I’m sure a copy or two can still be found in distros. Good luck!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Snowstorm – Snowstorm [Malleable]

I'm wrapping up my stay in London preparing for my journey elsewhere. I'm not sure what the internet situation is going to be like over the next month so I can't say how often this site will be updated. I'm not planning on going on hiatus or nothing but just letting you know posting will be scattered. I've got some reviews written in a notebook that I need to get around to transcribing into a digital format but I wanted to get a couple more up before I head out tomorrow. Pardon the interruption, the review starts now.
I got a couple of things from Malleable records in Philadelphia who had a hand in two LPs I dug last year by Mincemeat or Tenspeed and Embarker. Keeping consistent with the other stuff I heard from the label, this full length 45rpm 7inch (12 songs) is pretty nuts. Snowstorm, also hailing from Philly, is a bass/drums crew which, now that I’m thinking about it, is one of the most consistent instrument lineups. Lightning Bolt, The Pope, Temperatures, Godheadsilo etc. etc. they are all varying degrees of rad. Only lame one I can think of is that Death From Above 1979 band and they have a dumbass name so it's to be expected. Anyway, that was a round about way of saying add Snowstorm to the list.
So there’s twelve tracks on this thing and they don’t have names or any of that, so in order to keep me from going nuts over reviewing a 7 minute record I’m just gonna treat it as sides. This stuff is pretty thrashin’ but always manages to find a groove even if it only riffs on it for 10-15 seconds. The bass shifts violently between ice pick feedback (trademark of the Malleable crowd) and surprisingly melodic, speed-sludge passages. There are remnants of the bands I mentioned earlier, but Snowstorm is on a frantic kick all their own.
The second side begins with pummeling in mind. With dynamics akin to harsh noise before lauching briefly into a rollicking stoner riff, then breaking down, speeding up and doing all sorts of sonic gymnastics. Awesome and hyperactively epic. The side continues with the same jacked up intensity, mauling your face but allowing for occasional gasps for air. They totally outdo themselves on this side, I’m constantly being crushed in new ways. Rules.
The record blows right past me, where each track is good but they never pass the threshold length where they get stuck in your mind. They drop catchy parts but they don’t repeat ‘em. It makes the record more of an experience than a set of songs.
Pretty killer record overall if you're down with this sort of thing (who isn’t??) and looks-wise this thing is a beauty. Off-white vinyl and killer vellum artwork/sleeve. Still in print!

Steve Gunn/Shawn David McMillen – End of the City [Abaddon/Abandon Ship/DNT]

I’ve been playing this one a lot on this wobbly, crap turntable I procured from an acquaintance here. I’m wondering how the experience will change once I return home and play it on a turntable that rotates in a perfect circle. Hopefully not too much cause as is this record might just be my favorite LP from the year so far. A trifecta of labels put End of the City out—the always fantastic DNT, Abandon Ship which this is their first LP (congratz!) and Abaddon which seems to be a brand new label.
The two artists’ work compliments each others’ really well here. Their sounds are similar enough that listening to the sides back to back feels coherent but Gunn and McMillen bring totally different ideas to the table.
This is my first experience with solo material from Gunn (he’s part of the killer group GHQ) and this does not disappoint. He showers us in pleasant vibes contributing a lovely raga-lite track. A groaning organ/sitar/something loop spirals around as he tears it up on guitar. Shakers come in later and they’re a real subtle but effective addition and tablas join the ranks afterwards. It’s fairly repetitive but not boring the least in. Gunn lays down a real nice solo towards the center too. For a while its only one track of guitar but there gets to be about 3 or 4 creating little, consonant webs. A renegade sitar pops up too and the whole thing ultimately wraps with a nice bed of loops. Beautiful stuff and effortlessly good, mellow vibes, a much sunnier experience than GHQ’s bleak, harrowing (and excellent) journeys into raga-drone.
I think Gunn’s side was probably my favorite initially but I think McMillen has swung me to his side the aisle. While Gunn worked very strictly with one sound, McMillen’s side constantly moves through many rooms of sound on his side. Beginning with a junk store instrument pile-up and almost immediately giving way to an amazing, creepy piano/thumb piano duet, augmented by the occasional hollow floor tom. After electronic scribbling, the piano returns full force, barely on this side of tonal, against a chirping cricket-style electronic melody. So then there’s an amazing evensong choral bit with the angry crickets still in tact and weird field recording rumbling around. Just beautiful, eerie stuff. Air raid sirens and all kinds of shit is in here; it’s nuts. A keyboard/guitar duet grows out of the last part with some kind of spoken word/poem reading and sitar in there too. All of a sudden the crickets get groovy against a bevy of sounds until a harmonica takes the lead and piano follows suit briefly unleashing an awesome suspense movie type melody. So what next? Where else is he gonna go? The answer is a path to a vintage era Skaters thing with distorted vocals, hand drums and a jiggy spirit flute. The whole ordeal ends unassumingly with a brief jam on a guitar that has a bunch of shit stuck between its strings. Oh yeah, there’s a crow cawing in there too… The question I keep asking myself is who is this guy? Why have I not heard of him before and how did this jumble of sound collapse under its own weight? The most that I’ve found is he’s a sometimes collaborator of Warmer Milks, which I confess I’m not too keen on. But I’ll be seeking out more of this guys stuff anyway.
The LP comes in a pro-printed sleeve with excellent artwork by Mary Kidd and a full size insert. DNT’s copies are gone but it was still in print at Abandon Ship and Abaddon last I checked. Edition of 500. Recommended.