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.

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