Friday, December 18, 2009

Bird Names - Recession Vacation [Really Coastal]

Recession Vacation is Chicago's self-described "young adult contemporary" ensemble Bird Names' second cassette on Really Coastal this year. Returning with 9 more songs of their brand of borderline twee pop concocted from a bevy of instruments, this cassette seems a little more homemade and smeary.
"The Squeeze" kicks things off with a shambling mini-orchestra of keyboard melodies, strummed acoustic guitar, jaunty drums, slide whistles, idiophones, and fuzzy guitar leads. The piece shifts from part to part with abandon always returning to the central catchy melody, starting the album off on a strong foot. "Hauntings like Harpoons" uses a programmed drumbeat, a couple of opposed keyboard melodies and a couple more layers of guitar, slide and other, on top of that. The band manages to keep the melodic heart of the song in focus the whole time despite the loosey-goosiness of the arrangement. The arrangement of "Another Faceless Puller of the Pharaoh's Great Stones" is a little more restrained. Beginning rather skeletal at the beginning of each verse and gradually expanding into a melodious cacophony with cymbal clangs and all. "Crumbling Hand" is the last song of the side and the dude singing sounds just like Calvin Johnson. Musically it's not too Beat Happening though. The song is anchored with a nice slide guitar lick and rambles along with a twitchy energy.
The title track opens the B-side with a Vince Guaraldi/It's Christmastime Charlie Brown vibe. A jaunty acoustic guitar and piano duet for a little while before a cooing choir of voices join in. There's a glockenspiel solo later which is followed by a great warbly bridge/restating of the initial melody. The instrumental "Key West" is the shortest song here at about a minute and a half. It's got a keyboard set on the bossanova drumbeat and invests itself fully into mircrowaved "Latin" grooves. Bird Names' previous Really Coastal tape closed with a fantastic song that towered above the rest called "Taxicabs and Bicycles" so I was hoping there might be another song like that on this tape. There is (yes!) and it even tops "Taxicabs." "If I Had a Carriage" is probably the most straightforward Bird Names song I've heard. It's two minutes of unadulterated pop goodness, addicting as it should be. The song's central refrain, which begins with "If I had a carriage..." is the star of the show here with just voices, handclaps and an acoustic guitar, and Bird Names wisely don't diverge from it too often. There's not much to say about it other than it's just a wonderful pop song. The next track "On With the Show" sounds like an old NES Mario game; an instrumental comprised of a ratatat-ing drum machine and a bunch of bouncing keyboards. Finale, "Where Sheep Graze" gets freaky. Starting with an acoustic guitar arpeggio that could have maybe been from some epic folk-metal album, then shifting to some refrain sung by creepy forest creatures. The track changes up plenty of times from there developing into a rather nice song with various bits of slide guitarwork, agitated keyboards and a trumpet. A grandiose ending for a sweet little tape.
The blue pro-dubbed tape is still available from Really Coastal and comes with a hilarious cover as you can see.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gay Beast - Gay Beast [Gilgongo]/Pigeon Religion - Dead Boss [Gilgongo]/Sissy Spacek - Fortune [Gilgongo]

Gilgongo records down in Tempe, AZ has been doing some good work this year including this trio of 7inches and a James Fella/Timeload Fowl LP I'll get to at another time.
I pull out Gay Beast's LP Disrobics on a regular basis and now hearing this 7inch as well, I'm convinced they are one of the best fucking rock bands on the planet right now. The king of the show is the first side "Multi-Purpose Anti-Form" which I played probably a good 30 times in the first two days I got it. GB start out with a rather mellow intro before jumping into the verse. The song is actually a bit slower than Gay Beast usually moves but it's certainly not devoid of energy. "Multi-Purpose Anti-Form," however, is also Gay Beast's most melodically rich work to date. An endlessly spinnable jam where each element feels so fucking right. Each instrument, the fuzzed out vocals, everything is dynamic and perfectly placed. And goddamn, this song is so well crafted. It moves in stages with each moving seamlessly into the next, and what is most effective is that each successive stage outdoes the previous one. There's this tremendous tension that builds as the song just keeps getting better. Seriously invigorating, one of the best songs I've heard this year. When are these guys gonna get another LP out already? I'm dyin' here!
The B-side features two tracks the first of which is a short instrumental titled "Pressing Hard." It's got all their signature, off-kilter rhythmic prowess but it feels a bit underdeveloped like it's a warm up rather than a full-fledged song. The last track is an expanded, re-recorded mash-up of Dymaxion/The Need covers, "SM Head, LG Torso, Crushing Grip/Whitewash" which was also on their Navy Quilted Pier 3". The first half is angular and scrappy which sets up the second half perfectly. When they hit the "Whitewash" bit the track gets real great real quick, rolling along on a fantastic walking guitar line and ending on a strangely contorted bridge. A cool jam sure to make its songwriters proud.
My band was actually asked to play show with Pigeon Religion when they hit Seattle last summer but I was out of town which was a bummer. Anyhow, that's a long winded way of saying I've been looking forward to hearing them. "Dead Boss" begins like a soccer hooligan chant. The chorus of voices is joined pretty quickly by guitar and drums turning the pseudo-soccer anthem into a punk anthem. The actual singer is shouting his lungs out but can't make himself heard over the flurry of voices. It's an admirable effort though. "Henderson" is even better. There's an accompanying text insert about being a bum in Henderson, Nevada but I can't quite tell if it's actually the lyrics being sung. The song is only a couple minutes but it's a got great strung out, post-Jesus Lizard vibe. No wonder they got a record on Parts Unknown as well. Side B's sole track "Huge Bummer" is probably my favorite of the bunch. It reminds me of some of Pixies' (my fav band FYI) rawer, more seething selections. It's a pretty simple arrangement, a catchy bass line and dual guitars feeding back rather than just mirroring the bass line while the singer dude is agitated about "relying on someone else" or something until the piece splinters to a shambling close.
I reviewed Snow storm's debut full-length a while back, 12 songs crammed onto a 45rpm 7inch and I thought I'd seen it all. That is until Sissy Spacek put out this 7inch which ups the ante to 26 songs at 45rpm. Though calling each a track a "song" is a questionable proposition, the band seems to even think so too as they give each side it's own umbrella name. In their defense they do name every single track as well and when I saw them play a year or two ago Pete Swanson assured me each blast of noise I heard was a different song. But that's enough of my meaningless ruminations, I'll try to get one or two meaningful ones in here instead. This Spacek line up finds John Wiese joining up with Corydon Ronnau on vocals and Charlie Mumma on drums. The first side, "Fortune" sets the tone of the record. Breakneck, machine gun drumming, and a blur of processed guitar(?) noise and wild-eyed vocals. It brings me back to those early Black Dice records which I dig a lot, occupying the exact midpoint between hardcore and free noise. The songs are maybe 9 seconds long and I do find myself wishing they were a bit longer. But the sensation of accelerating and stopping, accelerating and stopping each time a song finishes and a new one begins is intentional I'm assuming. Sissy Spacek is trying to give me whiplash just by listening to their record! Spacek's frenzied sound isn't just the product of speed either; I accidentally played it the first time at 33rpm and it's just as savage and violent slowed down 12rpms. The second side "The Eyes of Men" is pretty similar to the first. It is interesting how all the songs fit into the larger dynamic framework of a side. The songs are often arranged in a way that creates what seems like a natural pause in the overall "song." Definitely a strange record and definitely a Sissy Spacek record. They do their thing like no one else I know of.
All records are still in print and each has it's own aesthetically pleasing packaging. I especially like the 4 color screen printed sleeve of the Gay Beast single.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Streetworker - Streetworker [Wheaton]

Streetworker is the musical moniker of Kevin Salyers from Wheaton Records. He's a modest fellow it seems. How modest? This tape which is a pretty great 20 minute chunk of drone is limited to a scant 11 copies! Chances are you probably won't get your hands on one but it's in print as I write this and maybe getting this review up will inspire a repress of, I don't know, more than 11 copies.
Side A consists of a single track, "20091014." The piece has a hard-to-place vibe somewhere between glistening and airy and cybernetic. There's a shimmering crackle at the center that sounds like something out The Matrix or any number of sci-fi movies. More subtle layers of sound surround and snake through that crackling until it exits completely leaving the ghost of the piece that had been following all along. It's not a particularly active piece but a nice one to drift off to. And it doesn't go too far down the "ambient/ethereal" path which is a bit refreshing.
I really like the second side which was recorded a couple years earlier. "20071014" has a much smokier, more maximal feel where even though it's a very loud piece there is so silence to be found. A ton of layers mingle creating a thick fog, but all the sounds are so distant it's difficult to decipher what I'm actually hearing. After a minute or two a simple gliding melody pops up which is augmented by what sounds to me like samples of a cheering crowd in a stadium. The track all of a sudden gets agitated with various pulsing drones and a dark undertow attempting suck everything down with it into its static grave. It plays like the soundtrack to a collapsing black hole, if it were possible for sound to exist anywhere near a collapsing black hole. The piece ends with an eerie calm and soft crackling hiss. Well played, sir.
Definitely a strong tape for any drone-minded individual and I'm curious to see what else Streetworker has up his sleeve. Just next time make it more than 11 copies, okay? Luckily, there appear to be some still available. It's nice looking as well, a fully clear tape in a light pink j-card with another transparent j-card overtop.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #49 (12/13/09)

Celer “Part 3 Tended Pouring (excerpt)” Close Proximity and the Unhindered Care-All [Sentient Recognition Archive 2009] (CD)

Tim Blood and the Blood Album “Work” W/ Blood and Squalor [CTRL Force 2009] (mp3)

M. Geddes Gengras “The Blue Push (excerpt)” Split with A.M. Shiner [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Ossining “Untitled 3” Split with Afterlife [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Hunted Creatures “Himalaya of Skull” Split with Ophibre [Oph Sound 2009] (CS)

Albero Rovesciato “Untitled” Ancient Shining Drums of the Covered City [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Fag Cop “Gimme Fag Agenda” Whispers from the Pantheon [No Label 2009] (CS)

Orphan Fairytale “Bubble Memory” Ladybird Labyrinth [Ultra Eczema 2009] (LP)

Handglops “The Last Party” Ronk Ng Rool [Gulcher 2009] (CD)

Grasshopper “The Langoliers” Wretched Blood Wraith [Obsolete Units 2009] (CS)

Teenage Panzerkorps “Corpse on an Empty Stage” Teenage Panzerkorps [Captured Tracks 2009] (7”)

Historians “Bomba” Proof [Stunned 2009] (CD-r)

Sean McCann “Sunk Eyes” Phylum Sigh [DNT/Roll Over Rover 2009] (CS/CD)

Little Claw “Frozen in the Future” Human Taste [Ecstatic Peace! 2009] (CD)

Horse Boys “What is Always Angry Like” Horse Boys [OSR Tapes 2009] (CS)

Tusk Lord “Museum Fly” Summer 2009 [Dynamo! 2009] (CS)

Dylan Nyoukis “I'll give you a translation world in which you're a rotting corpse of a run-over dog in some ditch” Split with Nackt Insecten [Sick Head Tapes 2009] (CS)

Silver Bullets “Monday Morning in Ragusa” Free Radical [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Steve Gunn “Untitled” End of the City [Abaddon/Abandon Ship/DNT 2009] (LP)

The Widow Babies “Moon Milk” Jet Packs [olFactory 2009] (LP one-sided)

Dragging an Ox through Water “Houses and Homonculi” The Tropics of Phenomenon [Freedom to Spend 2009] (CD)

Black Joker “Watch Out! Part 2 (excerpt)” Watch Out! [Pacific City 2009] (CD-r)

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grasshopper/Twisty Cat - Split [Abandon Ship]/Cough Cool - Digestible Doom [Abandon Ship]

Sorry for the long absence, school and work are finally not kicking my ass quite so hard.
I got a couple standout tapes from Abandon Ship's awesome recent batch.
Back in October I called Grasshopper, the processed trumpet duo of Jesse DeRosa and Josh Millrod, my new favorite band and whether intentionally or not they've been defending that title with a fury. Their half hour side is split into three pieces. The first, titled "Smokey Nights, Melting Flesh," surprisingly begins with a trumpet that actually sounds like a trumpet. After its brief semi-mournful introduction, the buzzing synthetic groundwork is laid. The piece builds unassumingly, bringing back the initial trumpet melody, filter squelch and oddly organ-like tones. The jam builds to a staggering, hypnotic and forceful crescendo. Brilliant piece. "When Hell Overfills, The Dead Will Walk the Earth" follows it up admirably with what I'm pretty sure is just an organ. Though these guys mold their trumpets into all sort of sounds so I wouldn't be too surprised if there's no organ around. The piece wastes no time getting right into the thick of it. Glistening, towering walls of drones surround you at every turn like the most overwhelming labyrinth you've ever been lost in. At a certain point the vibe changes up with pulsing loops and jets of swampy electronic muck. The track ends up being a cacophonous, seasick rager with an effective melodic undercurrent adding a little bit of Heaven in there with all the hellishness. "Once I Die, Put Two Coins on My Eyes" was recorded live last January on WNYU radio, which reminds me come play on my radio show guys! Please? Anyway, this one plays a little more mellow and minimal at first with layers of filtered trumpet weaving in and out. Slowly more and more layers enter as the piece teeters back and forth between calm and tense territories. It has a great vibe of a beautifully composed piece of music decaying right before your ears. There are flickers of sweet sounding melodies amidst crumbling electronics. A short but great piece. By the way, it says on the j-card "Grasshopper exclusively uses Bach mouthpieces" they've gotta be the only band putting out tapes with a sponsorship.
Fellow New York duo, bass clarinet and baritone sax, Twisty Cat take the B-side. Not to be outdone, they contribute the best stuff I've yet to hear from them. "Sedenion" showcases Twisty Cat's less drone-y/more melodic side. There's great interplay between the instruments and a bit of an eerie, tragic feel. The clarinet wanders and improvises on a great melodic phrase while the sax responds with a deep, counter-melodic undertow. "XGDFXy" features Greg Fox (Teeth Mountain) on drums and the track itself has a very unexpected sound. The trio goes math rock for a bit, with a continuous, complex arpeggio and jazzy drumming before the drums drop out for a breakdown of sustained reeds. The drums return, and the song shifts to the first section but the group builds it to a climax. Definitely an odd track but quite cool. The side's finale is "Guns in Grilling" which is another left turn. The track sounds like the duo playing melodies and then running everything though a UFO sound effects pedal. Tractor beams, warbly landing noises, they're all here but the piece definitely doesn't feel kitschy. Just strangely off-balance and unnerving. The pre-existing weirdness is topped off of with a march in unison between the two instruments. Eventually the duo lock into a real nice melodic bit that gently soars to the track's close. Twisty Cat serve up a varied platter for their side but it's all satisfying stuff.
Cough Cool is the home-made pop project of some weirdo out in Pennsylvania self-described as a "stoned Bruce Springsteen" though I'm not sure how accurate that is. After the bouncing laser synths of opener "Spaczed" the tape kicks into song mode with "Recycle/Earth." Built upon a minimal arrangement of stuttering bass synth groove and windy white noise, the song doesn't even need the astro-apocalyptic imagery ("Moving closer to a black hole/The Earth will be recycled") to exude the bad vibes. "Spit Up Blood" is still heavy on the bass fuzz but has more of a loping 90s rock flame burning within. Everything is fuzzed out making the lyrics totally indecipherable. "Giveth" kicks up the tempo a couple notches, delivering a noisy minute long punk track even without drums. The brief guitar solo at the end can barely be heard over the gain saturation of everything else in the mix. "The Real Germany" is one of the stronger tracks and the first ballad. The arrangement is basic but not as skeletal as the previous tracks. There's rhythm guitar, lead guitar, mellow drums and vocals all taking part in a simple, sleepy pop song. What's not to love? Good jam definitely. Flip the tape over and you get another standout "Sinking Soul." Rolling on a clanging drumbeat and distorted bass. it evokes a number of awesome basement bands over the decades. No real chorus or anything just the same sloshed chord progression over and over. "Four Letters" is another ballad with acoustic guitar and weird high-pitched almost alien-like vocals. "I Don't Want to Die" returns to "Sinking Soul" territory but with a more buoyant, upbeat outlook on life. Though considering the lyrics "Mommy, I'm trying" I could be reading that wrong. The fittingly titled conclusion "Leaving" shifts gears into straight noise territory mainly a persistent sine signal.
The Grasshopper/Twisty Cat tape is still available and definitely recommended (it's released on bright yellow cassettes too!) while the Cough Cool tape is sold out at source but I'm sure there's still copies around a few distros.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #48 (12/6/09)

Talbot Tagora “The Weather Man” Abstract Distractions [olFactory 2009] (10”)

Forest Dweller “Mountain Religion” Demo [Dynamo! 2009] (CS)

Eureka “Cherry Kush” Big Breath [Stunned 2009] (CD-r)

Matrix Metals “Flamingo Breeze” Flamingo Breeze [Not Not Fun 2009] (CS)

Ultra Bonbon “Restoration” Paradise Vol. 1 [Bonbon Bruises 2009] (CS)

Mama Baer “Alcoholisme – brut Pt. 2 (excerpt)” Amerikanische Poesie und Alkoholismus [Feeding Tube 2009] (LP)

Tonstartssbandht “Black Country” An When [Dœs Are 2009] (CD-r)

Spreaders “Never Seen Jaws Too” The Friends [No Label 2009] (CS)

Chefkirk & Ironing “Notorious” Notorious [Hymns 2009] (CD-r)

Zebu! “Bloody Lips” Bag of Sand [Feeding Tube 2008] (LP)

Arklight “Hunt Me Everyday” Shards and Ashes [Little Fury Things 2009] (CD-r)

Human Adult Band “Oh God, Oh Sh*t” La-Dee-Frickin-Da [Abandon Ship 2009] (CS)

Excavacations “Untitled” Excavacations [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Jamison Williams “Side B” Onassis Project [Closet Sorcery 2009] (CS)

Hair Friend "Live In-studio Performance"

Ugly Husbands “Starved by Ulysses” The Faith of the Family [Roll Over Rover 2009] (CS)

Wounded Knee “Lucier Rising (excerpt)” Split with Astral Social Club [Sick Head Tapes 2009] (CS)

Bhob Rainey “Ain't it Grand” Split with Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase [Sedimental 2009] (7”)

mp3: Part 1 Part 2