Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tusk Lord – Summer 2009 [Dynamo!]/Forest Dweller – Demo [Dynamo!]

A couple of new (and already sold-out!) tapes from Pittsburgh’s Dynamo! imprint.
This tape by Tusk Lord (the moniker of Mike Kasunic) really caught me off guard cause judging by the name/artwork/past Dynamo! releases I expected some kind of dark drone/noise thing. Instead my ears are first met with field recordings and a fantastic, catchy home-recorded song “Museum Fly” written from the point of view of, you guessed it, a fly in the museum (“The pictures on the wall all make me crash.”) You don’t realize at first but there’s a lot of depth in the song, a couple tracks of guitar, couple tracks of vocals, percussion and a stammering piano that does nice job providing rhythmic thrust. This leads into a quick and pretty, overdubbed, guitar interlude which leads into a stripped down cover of Brian Wilson’s “He Gives Speeches”. “Afraid of the Dark” is probably the best thing on the tape, along the lines of Leonard Cohen or Michael Gira but way more catchy and upbeat musically (though the vocals are as dour as can be.) It’s a really simple arrangement of two acoustic guitars but it sounds amazing, and feels like finding some unknown classic from 30 years ago. Another great interlude of reverse guitar follows. After a short track of just field recordings that didn’t really need to be there, Kasunic switches gears to a mega-heavenly, ethereal vocal piece. Another subdued, droney interlude leads to “Blue Eyes” featuring a sinisterly jaunty piano line a la The Birthday Party’s “Blundertown” and layers more tracks of piano top to finish out the side. The side is really varied and solid all the way through. A great piece of work.
There are 3 tracks on the second side, compared to the 9 of the first side. It opens with “Venus”, another cover, though I’m not sure who by. A long live track takes over of garbled speech and simmering electronic tones and lethargic chime melodies. It’s not a bad piece but after how crammed full of (great) ideas the first side is, this track kind of kills the momentum of the tape. “Sewer Drain” closes things up with the weirdest song on here, sloppy detuned acoustic guitar and strange, pinched vocals. I like this tape a lot though, I would like to see grade A Tusk Lord material all the way through, cause Kasunics’s grade A material is seriously grade A.
Forest Dweller, however, is really noisy, and pretty great in his(her?) own right. “Burning Civilization” starts things off in a fit of rage with a pummeling drum machine and an oscillator being torn apart. “Mountain Religion” is a cool piece using a recording some kind of spiritual vocal piece and going all LA harsh noise on it. Really frantic, dynamic and well done. Forest Dweller sounds really focused and confident with the control of this piece. One of the best harsh jams I’ve heard in a while. “Path to the Lean-To (Part 1)” brings back the drum machine for an almost shuffling rhythm. Effected vocals give the piece a bit of an early Yellow Swans feel. “Part 2” of the piece turns metalcore which I’m not totally feeling, but to Forest Dweller’s credit it doesn’t really come off as incoherent to the tape’s overall aesthetic.
On the flip, “Sky Canopy” is similar to last piece but more successfully integrates the noise, electronic and grindcore elements and it’s a pretty sweet track overall. Maybe it’s just the title that gives me the impression but “Bone Garden” sounds like Bone Awl channeled into a one-man noise performance. Relentless drum machine, cool guitar lines and somehow through all the noise it somehow manages to be kind of catchy. “Cedrus Libani” takes it easy, going for a more suspenseful drone vibe. My girlfriend rightly commented that it sounds like a haunted house score. Not in a cheesy way, it’s just very subtly eerie with a looped swelling organ tone and manipulated oscillations. A good thing to be jamming this Halloween.
All in all these two tapes make me really excited for whatever future tapes Dynamo! has in the works. And next time can we please have more than editions of 50 and 25? This stuff’s too good.

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