Monday, September 7, 2009

Josh Lay – Heirophant [Sentient Recognition Archive]/Josh Burke – Imagination [Housecraft]

After reviewing that Josh McAbee tape, I remembered I have a pair of releases to review from the other Joshs I mentioned.
“Hog Gloss,” the strong opener of Josh Lay’s Heirophant, begins with a mild grind, a dwelling synth and leashed feedback with a heavy bass throb quaking underneath. The track seems to be teetering on the edge of total sonic annihilation the whole time. Lay opens things up a bit at a point in the second half of the track. By taking it easy and letting up a bit on the noise he’s able to come back with more intensity when he drops in new, bloodthirsty sounds. It was a good choice on Lay’s part to keep things tightly controlled because it certainly heightens the drama of the music rather than to just go at it full force. The title track is some prickly feedback with throaty vocals over the top. Lay does a nice job with dynamics in the track but throaty vox have never struck my fancy so I can’t really get into this one. Nicholas Szczepanik, the man behind Sentient Recognition Archive, contributes to the third track, “Frozen in Blood.” The the track is pretty bitchin’ from the beginning. The track just keeps gathering intensity with a deep rumbling bass pulse and shrill, shrieking feedback “Frozen in Blood” just grows and grows. What Szczepanik contributes to the track isn’t listed but this piece sounds a bit thicker than the other tracks, a bit more ready to consume everything around it. After having built such a massive beast Lay and Szczepanik let it drift off on a wave of synthesizer. The two and a half minute “Beyond Melted” just pelts the listener with hi-pitched frequencies. My ears are angry with me for listening to this with headphones but you need them to pick out the bizarre little melodies within the feedback. Certainly my favorite title of the record, “Found Dead in the Woods of Kentucky” has heavy crunch on its mind like some sort of amplified bear fight. Weird little melodies emerge over long, looped ominous passages against occasional interjections of frantically jostled feedback. One of the cooler pieces on here. “My Cave is a Poison Cave” is way milder, not excessively distorted, and at one point I hear something that sounds like a flute though it probably isn’t. Guitar plays a much bigger, or at least more noticeable, role in the piece. The piece is sort of an intersection between noise and loner blues. The guitar quietly melts against a smoky bed of synths making it a great, unexpected piece. “These Times are Bad Times” is the most vicious on here, 9 minutes of shredded vocals and maddening sinewave feedback.
Quite a 180 degree shift from Heirophant, Imagination is Josh Burke in full-on dreamy keyboard mode. The beginning of the tape has a lovely lo-fi/rustic feel to it as Burke layers more and more keyboard lines on. A pause button edit leads to a much too short passage of a deeply aquatic melody before the tape stretches out and drones for a little while. A melody slowly burbles up eventually, leading into spacey beboopery sounding a little similar to the sound design in Forbidden Planet but more washed out and atmospheric. I really like a mildly seasick little melody near the end of the tape; it sparkles and twinkles effortlessly, tickling the senses. The melody expands organically until has morphed into something quite different but still quite pretty.
Side B continues with watery keyboard melodies. There’s a real nice, seemingly composed piece a couple minutes into the tape that has a rather beautiful, humble elegance. Burke has a very light touch when creating these micro-compositions, never overdoing it. The fragmentary pieces never seem under or overdeveloped, which happens a fair amount with improvised music. The second of the longer pieces is less airy with a pulsing raygun keyboard accompaniment. Overall, it’s a totally pleasant tape worth throwing on just about any time, in line with the quality Burke is known for producing. Maybe even a little bit better.
Heirophant is still available but Imagination is sold out.

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