Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rats - Rats [No Label]

When it comes to jazz, I don't typically go for the smooth stuff or the soft stuff or cool stuff. I prefer things fiery, plenty of wrong notes to go with the right ones and well, you get the idea.
Enter new LA trio Rats whose music fits into the former camp much more than the latter and, inexplicably, I love this record. I don't know if this is "jazz" exactly, at least not how it's often conceptualized. It certainly isn't "soft jazz" or "cool" or any of the styles I mentioned earlier. Maybe it's "post-jazz" or something, but I don't really understand what that's supposed to mean. Anyway, screw genre labels and all that cause this is some great stuff and I'm just gonna go ahead call it jazz and be done with it.
Now that unnecessary intro/tirade is over, Rats is a trio of Eric Kiersnowski on baritone guitar, Jonathan Silber on tenor sax and Kelly Kawar on bass guitar. Eric and Jonathan both played in Godzik Pink, a somewhat similar but much more hyper and skronky combo, which was one of my favorite discoveries as a 14 or 15 year old. Anyhow, not really why I am sharing so much of myself here, onto the sounds.
The first of 11 tracks, "Milan Slaw" is a mellow introduction to the record. Guitar and bass strings intertwine as Silber contributes a gentle, fuzzy sax solo. They all break into a fantastic arpeggiated melody that is far too brief before allowing the rest of the piece to languish lazily in the warm sun. Silber delivers another great solo as Kawar and Kiersnowski pick out an accompanying melody with precision. The record is so consonant and well-put together that I figure it has to be largely composed; if I found out this was completely improvised my head would explode. The dexterous trio still certainly allows for improvised touches, such as in "Curly's Notebook", but to be honest it's actually pretty refreshing to hear someone take the jazz vernacular and move in a slightly different direction, creating something incredibly beautiful without sacrificing any compositional complexity whatsoever. There definitely seems to be an emotional component to Rats' music but it's never sentimental. They are certainly unafraid to throw in a jarring note so when they deliver a sweetly melodic line it's almost breathtaking. Plus, they tend to drop a gem and simply move on to another, rarely repeating themselves.
"Raunchy Fax" flirts with raucousness with a phenomenal, frantic little heat-up before slipping into an elegant, yearning melody and then jettisoning back into the clattering guitar and sax bleats of the first half of the track. I mentioned that Rats rarely repeat themselves, well they indulge me in what is absolutely the most gorgeous, untouchable piece on an album of winners. I'm counting the days before some smart director selects "It's Lonely at the Top" to score the pivotal scene in his or her film. It doesn't matter what the scene is, whether actors can act or if the cinematography is shit; this song is so powerful and heartbreaking, it will choke you up. Lead by a perfect, lilting saxophone melody, the guitarists provide subtle backing before slowly unfurling some lovely lead lines of their own the saxophone gently hums. Unspeakably magical. "Sentimentally Titled" is jauntier thanks to the "rhythm section" of Kawar and Kiersnowski but its another melodically rich piece that evolves persistently throughout its two minutes and eighteen seconds. "Bee Charming" mostly plays it cool with flashes of urgent sax pushing their way in. "Squirrels Gone Wild" features an especially complex web of notes as each instrument weaves in and out of each other adding a bright, bubbly melody to finish it off.
I like the first 2:15 of "Pumping Irony" fine but man, the melody that comes at the last minute and a half is some of Rats' best work on the record. It's a fleeting 20 seconds and I am perpetually hitting the rewind button but it also marks a wonderful shift in the piece.
"Wasabi Break," at six minutes, is the longest cut on the record (most fit snugly between 2 to 4 minutes.) Rats use the extra time for an extended breakdown which sees an ascending melody dissipate into a ruminating string (can't tell whether it's coming from the bass or guitar) that comes off a bit like a vibraphone. It's an interesting moment in the record, hearing only that string vibrate in solitude for a second before the rest of the band slowly crawls back in. "Ghost Gang" is another quick one that comes right to the point, juxtaposing an initial pleasant melody with a loose, skonk-lite section with things getting even stranger from there as the band tries to marry the two approaches. "Teriyaki Milkshake" is the finale and it's a good one. I hear Ornette Coleman and his slippery, elliptical but melodic style of play in the first half but Rats morph the piece into another one of their signature mournful, melodically rich passages. It's a perfect way to end a beautiful record.
Rats is an immensely enjoyable listen and a pretty damn fine record overall. The pro-pressed CD is self-released as far as I can tell so hit up the band's website for a copy. Recommended.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Giancarlo Bracchi - Silicon Immortality [Circuit Torçat]

Silicon Immortality is a nice half-hour tape by NY synth artist Giancarlo Bracchi, released on Barcelona sound artist Juan Matos Capote's excellent Circuit Torçat label.
The tape finds Bracchi creating two side-long pieces with a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer and a theremin. The first side features smooth circular tones, almost like playing wine glasses, which Bracchi jumpstarts a delayed synth melody over the top of. Bracchi layers further, adding a synthetic clicking/ringing tone as well as plenty of theremin and synth swoops. The piece gets better as the rhythmic synth figure gets pushed back a touch and the theremin's warbling coos and synth manipulations take over. It's a total jam, the initial figure is explored and improvised on through the entire piece. Around halfway though, Bracchi introduces a really nice melody. It only manages to peek through at certain points but man, I love it. The melody is able to shine through later though Bracchi navigates his Juno into rougher territory whipping up some rumbling noise. In a surprising move, everything drops out except that initial synth figure. Bracchi goes wild on either his Juno or theremin, I can't quite tell, making for a clusterfuck of delayed tones. The melody that I love so much does return to send the track off in its final seconds. Bracchi knows when he has a good thing.
The second side kicks off with an immediately more ethereal vibe. There's heavy delay creating a cascading melody that continues before being phased out for a more skeletal, echoing arpeggio. It's actually pretty groovy, Bracchi moves heavily filtered tones through a jaunty set of delay pedals making for a surprisingly buoyant riff. Bracchi gradually adds subtle layers in the final minutes, slowly expanding the simple but elegant piece. He still squeezes a minor Juno freakout in the final minutes, unwilling to go down completely like a spoonful of sugar. At the end of the piece he seems ready to go all over again, with a melody standing tall by its lonesome.
Overall, this is a cool tape, definitely worth a look from all the synth heads out there. I probably prefer the first side as it reminds me a bit of synthesizer film scores from the 70s and 80s. But I love to hear all analog set-ups and you know I'm always psyched to hear the underused theremin back in action!
Limited to 50, with great artwork and matching color case per Circuit Torçat's typically classy aesthetic. Check it out and pick up the other killer Torçat tapes while yr at it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Black Eagle Child - "Born Underwater" b/w "The Arquebus" [Avant Archive]/Knit Prism - Growing [Avant Archive]

Avant Archive is a brand new label, only a few releases old, run by Mr. Black Eagle Child himself, Michael Jantz. These two tapes by Black Eagle Child and Knit Prism are catalog numbers AA001 and AA002, respectively.
First of all, it's cool Avant Archive has emerged with a fully formed aesthetic, a rigid, rectangular format with matching white cases. This Black Eagle Child cassette features material dating back to 2008. Jantz makes a vague note in the label's description that these recordings come before BEC developed its "compositional process." I'm not really familiar with Black Eagle Child's ouvre, so I can't comment on any differences to later work, but I can say I dig this tape.
Side A, "Born Underwater," starts out with a wonky synth whose slow skronk is reduced to a crackle upon the entrance of keyboard ether and distant field recordings. Further down the road Jantz brings in a music-box-styled melody making for a very odd but definitely delectable arrangement of noises. They flitter along as a looming, fuzzy bass synth drops an authoritative tone. Near the end Jantz digs up a keyboard melody augmented by rubbery synth swoops. From there though, Jantz switchs things up putting all tones into a consonant line with a flood of atmospheric, though not completely soft, drones. Overall, what I love about the piece is the perplexing contradiction it presents; how is it so mellow, so tranquil and so prickly and incongruous?
As the title notes, "Born Underwater" is backed with "The Arquebus" which also starts out just as weird, probably weirder, with a woozy, percussive, pitch-shifted and cut-up guitar. There's some very subtle synth resting in the background but Jantz really pushes the wacky guitar mangling to the forefront. You feel the floor slowly begin to give way as a deep deep deep bass undertow lies just below the surface slowly swollerin' you up. Other than a touch of keyboard/guitar here or there, (always left just outside the frame) that's the bulk of the piece. The side covers less ground than the first but it gets higher points in the sustained mood category. Definitely some focused, furrowed brow, what-is-going-on business here. I am down for sure.
This is the first I've heard of Knit Prism, a project of Mike Pouw who runs the stellar House of Sun label. This tape pulls mellow guitar moves over two sides in under a half hour. The first side "Crooked Drifts" is a dizzy wanderer. Multiple layers of guitar slowly jangle over one another which make for a steady stream of blissful confusion. The strings are all a smoke screen letting a few strong notes harmonically punch through. Some birds cackle at one point but before long we move into the side's second part, a bassier drone fills the spectrum with a few melodic touches trying to squeeze their way in. The fidelity is so smudgy it's hard to tell what's going on but the piece gets nicer and more melodic as it goes on. It gets really nice. There are some lovely melodies which are so far removed yet their essence shines through and colors the thick drones in a wonderful manner.
The flip side is titled "Sentimental Elevations" is more lo-fi guitar ruminations with birds creaking in the background. Before long the tape rattles and warbles and the piece shifts into clearer, intertwining guitar melodies. The melodies grow and grow interlocking and joining up with each other as birdcalls snake through the gaps. The confidence of that section soon disappears into a quieter melody matched up against what sounds like flowing water. Weird rumbles pop up intermittenly, never allowing you to get too comfortable with the gently humming strings.
Avant Archive doesn't do limited editions which is pretty cool, that said though, these are both in stock with a few other tapes. It looks to be a sweet label in the making, check it out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Xiphiidae - Pisces Muse [Stunned]

Now I've only heard a small chunk of Jeff Astin's considerable output as Xiphiidae but damn if I don't feel like Pisces Muse is the best thing he's ever done, as Xiphiidae or with any other project for that matter.
To try to communicate the sound of the tape to you the only "sounds-like" card I can really play is that it's somewhat similar to Spencer Clark's stuff as Monopoly Child or Black Joker. The tape however is so much more dense, dynamic and environmental. Clark has done some great work under those guises but you're also locked in a single frame of mind when you listen to those records. Astin's work here is exceedingly dimensional; it puts you in a trance, it puts you in a zone but it also puts you in a whole new mental locale. You get whisked around in an abstract, psycho-geographical travel tape. Leaves crunch, water drips, occasionally people murmur but simultaneously and continuously Astin is rocking your body with relentlessly catchy, organic micro-beats. I don't know for sure what Astin had at his disposal here, but it sounds like at least a hand drum, tapes, a thumb piano and keyboard too.
Coming to life in mucky tape warble, the jams rolls on a 1-2-3-4 drumbeat against a heavy forest of thunder and trail life. Changing up to a speedy jaunt of elliptical loops, it's a race between the trickling creek, jittery thumb piano and thump-thump-thumping hand drum. And the jam pumps along teeming with life. It's particularly interesting at the piece's end when Astin gradually peels back the layers revealing the pulsing tendons underneath.
The next one slows up the tempo a tad, giving the listener a deeper look into the sinewy tendrils of the beat. The editing and pacing here are both fantastic. There's a handful of pieces across the forty-ish minute runtime, but within a "piece" Astin will often change things up, for instance introducing outside recordings of garbled speech and whatnot then seamlessly re-mold the beat for the new environment. I actually really dig the last set of rhythms on Side A as they're much more direct, offsetting the effusive, abstract sound collage.
Most of the beats move at a swift clip, remaining chill but consciously very active. Though the tape seems to be about an effortless flow Astin, doesn't mind jarring you back into reality with a bit of tape abuse at the end of the first side.
The next side seems to raise the bar even more. A strange, repeated groan and burbling, hyperactive percussion lead off the piece making for what is possibly the most tangled area in the tape. From that extra-jittery, jangled piece, Astin moves into a beat constructed from tape mulch and bird calls, while a repeating keyboard swell lulls and locks you into a serious hypno-coma. A hand drum enters gradually at some point, but only to lend a helping hand not to take over. It drops out soon and the piece subsists on the single keyboard motif until a violent bit of tape warble puts it down. I'd say it's one of the finest compositions here, rather than just grooving on the beat (which I'm perfectly fine with) there's more of an ebb and flow here. Sounds show up and disappear and the piece evolves with each new change. Later, the drum nearly takes a backseat to the aquatic splashes and drops, as the keyboard hums a relentless two-note tune. Halfway through Astin flips the script, imploding the beat a little, leaving a frantic stammering drum and a mellow, strung-out keyboard mussed with static tape blurs. The final piece is way shorter than the others but still very good despite it's comparative brevity. Astin seems to have trouble getting his Walkman working as the piece begins with whirs attempting to get the piece rolling. After a few moments, it takes off on its own, constituting the most laidback piece of the tape culminating in keyboarded windchimes.
It seems like about every month or so Stunned has been dropping something essential this year. Here's your next installment. Grab this.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sekstett - Gjerstad, Skaset, Grenager, Tatjord, Molstad, Moe [Conrad Sound]/Bay/Oslo Mirror Trio - Bay/Oslo Mirror Trio [Conrad Sound]

A pair of great jazz/ improv CDs here from Norwegian label Conrad Sound.
Sekstett is just that. It features six players on clarinet, guitar, cello, double bass, as well as french horn and tuba! The first piece "6.1" is the shortest at 5 minutes and its a very nice, spacious piece. There isn't a consistent melody throughout but despite the occasional passage that lets a single instrument ruminate, it's overall fairly mellow and melodic due to the bassist's work. As the piece travels the sextet moves into stranger, more dissonant territory. The upright bass sits in as a percussionist and the cellist saws away like a violinist high up on the fingerboard. The following piece "6.2" picks up in bizarre territory. It's hard to describe the frightening things going on in the headphones now, the wind instruments literally sound like wind whistling through the forest. The cello sounds like it's being rubbed with sand paper and the bass and possibly guitar too are producing guttural animal-like groans. It's not much more comforting when the six join together for a droning passage. The clarinetist improvises a nice little melody which is a bit of a surprise but before long it's back to the creep and crackle. You think the piece is winding down but it's a fake out. The group gets jittery and rhythmic in the last four minutes or so, balancing slaps, scratches, squeaks and bleats. I love how tactile and dynamic the record sounds; it has this strange ambiance, a light natural reverb to the instruments lending an amazingly tactile feel to the record. I wonder what kind of space this was recorded in, as it was the perfect choice for this heady exercise in friction. "6.3" lets the wind instruments loose. They don't get particularly wild but the rumbling string section permits them to wax melodic over top rather than having to swallow their notes like in other tracks. The tuba provides an ominous, bowel-curdling dirge taking the piece in an oddly dark and gelatinous direction. "6.4" has a great opening, with pitter-pattering muted guitar and cello, the bass and tuba back the track with slow, subterranean swells. The other wind instruments get in on it too making for a very tense push/pull between random sputtering clacks and a slow slow slow motion throb. With around 4 minutes to go, one of the wind instruments breaks everything up with a piercing cry and it's a cautious comeback as the group gradually reconvenes. When they do, they somehow create bizarre UFO transmission/cooing gremlin textures. This is probably the most out there track, and it might be the best because of it. The final piece "6.5" features heavy bowing from the bass which the other members rally around. The result is seasick slo-mo jazz with various solos happening at once while the arrangement sways queasily forward. It's easily the most active track here as all players seem to be getting agitated and jumpy, spurting forth ideas with a variety approaches. All in all though, the group impressively keeps everything together, united in their dissonance. The breakdown with 3 minutes to go, the first point that introduces some semblance of structure, is excellent with a repeated string pluck and wary drones surrounding it. I don't know anything about these players so I don't know how long they've have been at this game but there's a pretty stunning maturity here paired with a hunger for the strange and challenging. No one overplays; there's an incredible, nearly telepathic, chemistry present here which is staggering considering there's six individual minds and 12 sets of hands at work here.
Both artists are sextets but the Bay/Oslo Mirror Trio try to trick you. The explanation behind the name is that three members Guro Skumsenes Moe, Havard Skaset and Kyrre Laastad (on double bass, guitar and drums respectively) hail from Oslo. The other three Tony Dryer, Ava Mendoza and Jacob Felix Heule (Ettrick) also on double bass, guitar and drums, hail from the bay area in California. So you got the Bay/Oslo thing, and since they are two trios with mirrored instrumentation they decided to put it all together as Bay/Oslo Mirror Trio.
"V1" is the first of 11 tracks, beginning with a lot of silence and only an occasional thump of bass or drums, there's some swelling e-bowed guitars later before it comes to a close. The latter continues in the second piece "H1" but it's the basses that really add the most dimension here. The glistening cymbals and gently buzzing guitars highlight the see-sawing grey clouds of the uprights. "V2" switches things up moving into certified skronk territory. I can't decide whether I like the Trio better in their controlled mode or when they throw caution to the wind and let loose completely as they do here. Lots of squiggly lines, coming mainly from the guitars, but the rhythm section(s) do a great job navigating between freak out and a keeping of the beat. "V3" continues to groove in that direction. The basses are rubbed raw over lightly jangling drum kits and wildly pitch-manipulated guitar smears. "H2" is all rattle, rustle and crackle quietly drifting by. "H3" drags by rather than drifts. I mean that literally, it sounds like the sextet is dragging tin cans, bicycles and other junk down the street. A continuous 4 minute scrape. "V/H1" (VH1??) is a little more in line with the kind of stuff on the Sekstett disc, an atmospheric, slowly clattering creep-jazz affair indulging in silence almost as much as sound. The next piece, "V/H2," retains the vibe but takes a more maximal approach with each player filling his/her respective space. The sextet always creates an interesting array of textures, somehow managing to reconcile strange electronic ones from the guitars with that of the drums and double basses. "V4" even dabbles a little in 50s sci-fi soundtracks which is fun to hear all mixed up in this improv/jazz blender. "H4" showcases the guitars a bit more as the two provide loopy lines over a dim, rumbling percussion section. The first 10 pieces range from 2-4 minutes, but the finale "V5" nearly hits the 10 minute mark. Starting slowly, each instrument contributes a sound here or there to an overall fractured rhythm. It's interesting hearing the Trio in a long form piece after 10 brief segments. They definitely use the space, the nervous energies often present in their shorter pieces are still present here but manifest themselves in a tenser fashion. The jitters are now a constant, mild but debilitating presence rather than violent unexpected spasms. The piece's wind down at the end is excellent as the group locks into a lurching cyclical rhythm before pulling the plug.
Both discs are great, I probably lean a little toward Sekstett because of the fascinating instrumentation and I dig that it's entirely acoustic but you really can't go wrong with either. It looks like Conrad Sound only has a handful of releases to its name so far but it definitely appears to have its finger on the pulse. I'll have to keep an eye on it. Check these out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skin Graft/Dim Dusk Moving Gloom - Split [Rainbow Bridge]

This is a heavy duty noise tape from the curiously Care Bears-y titled, outside-of-Baltimore label Rainbow Bridge.
Skin Graft is an artist that I've heard of for a while now but this is the first time any sounds have met my ears. SG fills the side with a single piece, "You Victim." It's sort of buttoned-down harsh noise. There's a persistent static rumble, upon which Mr. or Ms. Graft drops more splashes of guttermouthed, feedback squirms. It doesn't sound pained, just unhealthy. The artist seems to really be opposing cleanliness here, this sounds like licking the dust and grime in the corners of window frames. The piece morphs into this weird sputtering, throbbing version of itself, most likely the result of one too many crossbreeding experiments. It's actually kinda groovy in about the most ungroovy manner possible. The chorus of stuck engines putter for a while before Skin Graft brings the heat and lays on the static real thick-like. That is until the signal dies a slow, Jiffypop-sounding death.
Things are even more morbid on the flipside. Dim Dusk Moving Gloom delivers the blistering "The Gnashing of Teeth" unto your lily-white ears. There's a hefty dose of noise here but it's the gliding organ tones glimmering underneath that really give me the willies. Justin Marc Lloyd, Rainbow Bridge label head and architect behind the project (whose moniker has since been changed to Pregnant Spore), delivers an excellently constructed piece here. The new agey, holy tabneracle choir thing is perfectly balanced with an insanely active harsh-free-noise bludgeoning. Lloyd doesn't just coat the piece in 12 DOD Death Metal pedals, it sound like the guys is actually ripping up speakers, crushing circuit boards and probably spilling a little virgin blood on the altar for good measure. The piece is eerie, transcendent and relentless; Lloyd gradually dials down the noise over the duration of the piece but it somehow becomes more intense as it gets more calm. This is the creepiest misty pipe organ this side of Carnival of Souls by the way. One motherfucker of a side, I'm tellin' ya.
Pretty darn solid tape overall. The second side is obviously my favorite but Skin Graft has some good stuff to offer too. It comes with disgusting artwork as you can see but don't let that deter you. Still in print in a run of 50
You can check out some of Dim Dusk Moving Gloom's side on the Bourbon County Seattle Halloween Special

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rambutan - Narrow Sky [Ghetto Naturalist Series]

Rambutan a.k.a. Eric Hardiman, proprietor of the smokin' Tape Drift label and member of upstate NY psych crews Burnt Hills and Century Plants, is a very busy man. The guy drops tapes like its nobody's business on labels across this wonderful nation and beyond, and defying all logic, the numerous releases he continually fires out are all really good. This one, released on Ghetto Naturalist Series (run in part by Nathaniel Brennan/Cruudeuces) is absolutely some of the finest work Hardiman has done.
Narrow Sky kicks off with "Half Circle," an unusually aquatic zone for Mr. Hardiman. This isn't deep sea diving mind you, more like swamp trudging. Mellow, melodic tones burble over clanging bells and a brief slice of clarinet. Maybe the swamp trudging was a bad call, the piece is probably a bit more akin to floating down a river in the middle of a jungle. Sounds exist in all directions seemingly random and insulated yet organized in a grand musical fabric. Straight up beautiful piece. "Trailing Moss" finishes out the side and changes up the tone straight away. Distorted tones pulse wildly, I think with a clarinet underneath at the heart of it maybe. I suppose it could be guitar, but it sounds more guttural and reedy. Hardiman moves through the dusklight at a decent clip despite no clear percussive pulse. The piece looms along like a dark grey cloud jetting across the sky. Towards the end, it seems like there may be a bass drum pumping along underneath. I don't know man. It's big, it's dark, it sounds great. What more do you need to know? I also dig how Hardiman is still busting out melodies through the thunderstorm. Needless to say, great side. Now onto the next.
"The Rising Path" takes the whole of the B and it's pretty damn great as well. Opening with a fantastic, deep fuzzy lick and what sounds like a little vinyl crackle. I don't know what instrument Hardiman is employing here as it sounds too deep to be clarinet, too smooth to be a guitar, too organic to be a keyboard. I don't really know. After a patch of silence and I think a bit of snare drum, the piece moves on with the arrangement thickened up significantly. It gets even darker than "Trailing Moss" and it does so pretty quickly. On the other hand though, Hardiman also throws in a few curveballs too, such a distorted tribal-ish drum pattern that appears briefly. Hardiman does a great job arranging the piece here as he manages to retain its spaciousness while filling the piece with a menagerie of sounds and odd melodies. He's really in the zone on this one. "Path" continues to gain momentum, the crashing waves of sound get bigger and louder until they roar across the stereo spectrum. Hardiman never loses a melodic base either, by the side's final minutes there's a melody coming though loud and clear even though it's buried under two tons of fuzz. Phenomenal work here.
I'm a little miffed at Ghetto Naturalist Series for only running 35 copies of this, as it deserves far more. The best Rambutan work that has met my ears. Definitely recommended if you can find it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tidal - Fractal Empire [Sacred Phrases]

Sacred Phrases is a solid, young label specializing in dreamy tones. I'm unfamiliar with a lot of its artists, such as Tidal, but man do the unknowns hold it down.
Tidal is a one J. Billingham, and with Fractal Empire he delivers over an hour of compositions for synth and tape hiss. The first of six pieces, "Taken" starts out with probably the most cynical-sounding atmospheric synth piece I've heard. Nothing about it sounds particularly light or airy despite its drifting tones. On the other hand, it doesn't sound dark or gloomy either. The tone is very dry and hard-bitten, making for a very unusual experience in musical synthesis. Billingham drops in some unintelligible radio recordings later in the piece which certainly don't do anything to lighten the mood. "The Hypnopomp" totally changes things around. Billingham lays down quite a few layers of sparkly melodies that remain far enough in the distance to be a little blurry. It's a great piece, managing to be rhythmic and completely fluid at the same time. It doesn't change a ton over its course but its a real hypnotizer. "Pearl" features slow glistening keyboard swells nestled amongst far off electrical storms. The piece features a slow come down that's quite a bit longer than the piece itself. "Silver Halide Memories" is immediately more tense with a few fairly quiet sounds grappling for control. Once in a while there's a sharp, loud jab of noise to keep you from slipping into the deep zone. It sounds like Billingham might even be playing guitar or something here as there's a badass staccato tone coming from somewhere. The piece isn't incredibly long but it feels pretty epic. Billingham does a great job slowly splintering the piece apart near the end, using more grainy speech samples to pry apart his arrangement. It sounds like there's violin in here, or maybe a synth emulating a violin, either way it really works and adds an awesome punch at the end.
Side B is split into just two pieces, the first of which is the epic "Cascade Interval." Rigid synth tones, stutter and mutter over each other making for an uneasy quilt of melodies. I dig this piece because its forever changing. It retains the same vibe throughout, but melodies and keyboard settings drop in and out over the duration of the piece. A little ways in, Billingham settles into a nice melody but even that doesn't stick around. There's a flute-like keyboard on its lonesome for a stretch of time before being augmented by thicker, jet streams of synth. The ever-evolving nature is what's key here, as Billingham is able to mine a number of different territories while remaining fluid in his navigation. Maybe the best piece of the tape, aside from "Silver Halide Memories." The second part manages to be more lush and more spacious than anything else on the tape, finding Billingham moving freely in between thick, swelling melodies and near silence. He continues to do a good job helming the track without giving any indication where it will go until its smeared conclusion. "Mist" by comparison, is pretty simple. An uncertain rumble abounds next to a cautious keyboard melody. Gradually though it becomes apparent which direction the piece is moving in. The keyboard finds its confidence and skitters along without a look back while drones grumble and groan underneath. Billingham breaks everything off momentarily for a soundbite ("He really is from another world") before bringing the music back briefly and ending on another "(Game's over. You win.")
The tape is probably too long (it could have used a sharper editing eye) but there's some real talent on display here. I think we could be hearing lots of brilliant things from this guy in the future.
The tape is still available from Sacred Phrases along some other cool tapes (I also dig the Sundrips one, which will get a review at a later date). Anyone into the whole cosmic synth thing should definitely give the label a look.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

M. Mucci - Time Lost [The Tall House]

Any regular reader here should know I really love solo guitar. A lot of times I end up praising all the wild men like Chris Cooper, Bill Nace, Brian Ruryk, Bill Orcutt etc. but you know what? I also dig guitar in the more conventional mode. This LP right here by M. Mucci is one of the best in that vein I've heard in sometime. Actually, it's one the best guitar records of any "vein" that I've heard in recent memory.
Laying out 8 tracks, 4 per side, Mucci goes to town armed without much more than his six-string. As far as I can tell, there is no improvisation here. Everything is composed and performed to a tee, and beautifully I might add.
"Small Triumphs" features robust arpeggios and a kiss of steel guitar as well. Two of Mucci's greatest strengths are his use of dynamics and pacing. He's not afraid to employ silence but he doesn't overuse it either. He uses it here to build momentum between melodies but before long the piece can just coast on its own supple energy. Mucci plays with tempo and volume particularly well, there's a moment where he appears to be winding down before thrusting forth with a new bombastic melody and stereo-panned cymbal swells to back it up. Taking around half of the side, "Small Triumphs" is a winding journey but its the following track "The View from Here" that's my absolute favorite. From the get-go its an uptempo piece with a jaunty, thumb-plucked bass part to go with the glimmering fingerpicked melodies. The piece builds and builds occasionally sliding into the minor key before unleashing a wonderful two-note progression. This is difficult to write about as all I can really say is "this is a great melody" "Mucci plays it extremely well" so all I can ask is that you just believe me. Mucci makes an unexpected divergence in the final part, with an extended breakdown of sorts into the final seconds. "The Culprits" has the faintest hint of Morricone, with sparse guitar plucks and a quiet but tense tone ringing relentlessly just within earshot. From there, Mucci is back to his hypnotic fingerpicking, cranking out a masterful old-timey minor key jammer. Despite the record being consonant overall Mucci isn't afraid to incorporate atonality occasionally here or surprisingly savage slide work either. "Apri L'occhi Pt. 1" is a much too brief and mournful little coda for side A that reminds me of glimmers of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's masterpiece F# A# ∞. Very nice and too short!
Side B opens with "Chase Down Alice St." which would be the perfect choice for a playful montage of a bandit quietly outsmarting the authorities. Rob Cappelletto contributes subtle but stomping drums, imbuing the piece with a touch more energy but without overriding the fabric Mucci weaves. There's a lovely, atmospheric slide breakdown as well. "Moments Between" changes the vibe considerably, with a sparser, darker set of arpeggios that slowly twist along to their conclusion. "A Day Like Any Other" is another favorite. Initially it sounds like a more expanded version of "Moments Between." It simmers, slowly revealing a more complex scheme in brief flickers. New melodies weave their way in amongst the old, which refuse to totally relinquish their grasp. The last couple minutes of the piece are rather beautiful, the notes continue to cycle over a light frost of melodica and Mucci stirs a handful of equally lovely melodies into one big pot. And then it hits, a 3 note phrase on the E-string cuts deep and pulls the rug out. It's a shame that Mucci fades the piece out as soon as that riff shows up, although I suppose that adds more punch to the end of the travels. "Apri L'occhi Pt. 2" is another short coda for the side, and this time the record too. I wouldn't mind hearing Mucci flesh out more works in this cloudy, drifting style.
So the guy's chops and exactness are impeccable, but importantly this record is ridiculously listenable. It really is one of those you can throw on any time. Before work, after work, before bed and any time in between.
It's a hell of a record and The Tall House (which I think might be Mucci's imprint) did a fine job dressing it up as well. Recommended.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Locrian - Territories [At War With False Noise/Basses Frequences/Bloodlust!/Small Doses]/Locrian - The Crystal World [Utech]

In this post-Yellow Swans world of ours, Locrian has always been one of the most consistent and musical of the noise brethren. I'm sure buckets of sweat went into it, but it seems Andre Foisy and Terrence Hannum just have this special chemistry. There must be an explanation, like they're telepathically linked or Siamese twins separated at birth now reuniting as one mind or some comic book shit like that. I don't know how it got be that way but it is, and there's hours of evidence and thousands of witnesses to prove it.
Bringing in the concept of collaboration to an already perfect union is a funny proposition. Collaborations, particularly in an improvisatory environment, are always risky but are always interesting as well. You never know if the unknown volatility of collaboration will lead to an explosive re-imagining of the participating parties' sounds or will it just sort of fizzle out.
In all honesty, I was initially a little resistant to this Territories LP. One of the main things that I absolutely love about Locrian is the singular chemistry shared between its members. I felt like adding collaborators would dilute the magic. But truth be told, once I nestled up to it a bit, I noticed that there' s a lot of damn fine shit on this record.
Opener, "Inverted Ruins," is a good choice to bat first as its opening seconds are phenomenal. A thin wave of feedback lingers as an echoing synth trots out a simple melody and what a great pair they make. From there the piece morphs into an actual song with loping drums, Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded, the Bloodlust! label) growling through some effects, and a number of instruments being pushed into unstable territory. Its yet another great example of sustained tension, a feat that Locrian performs probably better than anyone else. There doesn't seem to be a lot happening; each performer is incredibly restrained. Yet! By the end, the track is just quaking and you have no idea how it got to be. The next piece is my favorite from the record and one my favorite Locrian pieces period. "Between Barrows" stews in a boggy single note synth for a while, augmented by tasteful cymbal rolls. And then it happens. Channeling, whether directly or indirectly, Basil Poledouris's magnificent opening titles for RoboCop, the piece flowers into the most beautiful of Locrian's career. Bruce Lamont contributes lilting saxophone to Foisy's and Hannum's brooding guitar and organ. It's hard to adequately put this into words. The piece is so simple but its blackened elegance is breathtaking. A must hear. "Procession of Ancestral Brutalism" is the default epic, totaling 11 minutes with 4 additional players in tow. After the near silent two minute intro, a guitar slams out a pretty rockin' progression and synth seethes along with it. From there the double bass drum kicks and the track gets a shot of heavy metal adrenaline in the heart. I'm not the biggest metal fan on the planet, so I don't totally connect to this one. It's pretty good but, in my opinion at least, it lacks a lot of the texture and detail that made the previous piece so brilliant. It does feature a pretty sweet outro though, as everything but a sole guitar falls away. "Ring Road" is another long one featuring Solotroff on vox and synth. The whole affair is a heavy throb of multiple synths and bass guitar. It's a muscular arrangement but Hannum (I think) is still working hypnotic bell-like melodies within the humid terrain of bass and synth. Tremors pulse underneath until crumbling into feedback and a melody via slide bass (again, I think.) "Antediluvian Territory" is the sole piece made only by Foisy and Hannum. The latter brings out the organ and tapes, while Foisy contributes clean-toned guitar harmonics. It's a nice piece, certainly in line with the darkness surrounding it on the album but its a touch brighter and a little more airy. Minor key organ still looms ready to swallow up the bright harmonics, but said harmonics manage to get out unscathed. The finale "The Columnless Arcade" is really great. It's dense and gritty and there's a certain looseness to it that isn't present elsewhere on this very tight record. Sounds intermingle and disappear into each other. That's the first part of the piece. There's an abrupt shift into a full band affair with pummeling drums and so forth. The shift is jarring at first but the guitarists (Foisy, Hannum and B. Judd) whip out some excellent guitar leads before the piece subsides in a brief glistening organ outro.
It's not a totally cohesive record but it was an interesting experiment and all personnel involved produced some great material.
The Crystal World, Locrian's latest studio effort, also changes up personnel with the addition of Steven Hess (Pan American) on percussion and electronics for the whole album. The record is inspired by JG Ballard's novel The Crystal World about an African jungle that is slowly crystallizing. Opening track, "Triumph of Elimination" introduces the feel of the record. It sounds like a jungle, the tinkling guitar could be any number of creatures. But it doesn't sound like your typical, red-blooded jungle full of life. It's ominous and strangely empty. The tinkling guitar motif carries over to the second track "At Night's End" as Locrian further expands on this dim portraiture of a fading jungle. Hess's drums drop in the song's back half. Foisy contributes many excellent guitar leads as Hannum moans, probably prostrated over his organ. The piece features Locrian's signature polyphonic approach to audio hypnosis, inculcating Hess's drumwork seamlessly into their sound. The title track, throbs on a lone sub-bass synthesizer before Foisy introduces an arpeggio made more complex through a hall-of-mirrors use of delay. I think Hannum might even be wedging a few piano notes in there too(?) A soaring distorted guitar tone lingers with swelling synths and sporadic drum hits. "Pathogens" is the first of two 11 minute monsters. Starting out real slowly with a barely noticeable taped key and a few ruminations of guitar, it isn't until halfway though Locrian comes out of their shell. The drums pound with a nearly jazzy swing as the strings and keys strain themselves around the drums, pushing themselves into corners they're afraid to go. I think its the most unusual arrangement Locrian has yet come up with, neither guitar, synth or vocals are the main focus but twitch and fret at the fringes of the piece allowing Hess to fill in his primal ferocity. "Obsidian Facades" changes the tone with a scream and an ominous two-note pulse. Pouring on copious amounts of fuzz and feedback, the piece trudges along; too heavy to be ghostly but much too chilling to be anything but. In the final minute or so, an ascending/descending guitar melody emerges so lovely you have no idea how to process it amidst the murky horror. A marvelous piece, which segues into the epic finale "Elevations and Depths." Opening with stark acoustic guitar strums and Rosemary's Baby-esque vocals by Erica Burgner, the trio launches into a full-on dirge 3 minutes in. The Burgner's coos are replaced with Hannum's distant shrieks and thick fuzz is exchanged for the acoustic guitar. Maybe my favorite element at work here is the zoned out surf guitar accents, pulling all the right things out of Badalamenti's work in Twin Peaks. It doesn't end there though, Locrian shift gears again into a fantastically beautiful arrangement of acoustic guitar, violin by Gretchen Koehler and I believe multi-tracked accordion by Hannum. It's just an incredible, incredible arrangement, worthy of accompanying the climax of a feature-length film adaptation of The Crystal World, if there ever is one. Really brilliant work.
Without doubt The Crystal World is Locrian's most cohesive full-length yet, though I don't know if I should make the claim that it's my favorite as I do really like Drenched Lands a lot. Needless to say, there's some gorgeous and powerful stuff here and anything with the Locrian seal should probably be in your collection.
Territories is available is you haven't already grabbed that one but the The Crystal World is still nearly a month away (it drops 11/27/10) so in the meantime you may want to grab Locrian's new split LP with Century Plants on Tape Drift as that is sure to be a monster as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

M. Geddes Gengras - Pink Trails/Deep Moon Time [Stunned]

So I've always liked Mr. Gengras's stuff, and his side on the split with AM Shiner at the end of last year was pretty damn slammin' but this right here, this Pink Trails/Deep Moon Time, his expansive new double cassette on Stunned, is some serious fucking business I was not prepared for.
MGG rips the first tape hard unleashing some Yellow Swans-ish zen-through-grime action. Initially hitting your ears with a manipulated tape of hand drums, Gengras lies you down in a coffin in no time and starts shoveling on dank fuzz and synth. This first side is really incredible, so gnarly and throbbing but still so beautifully melodic. A layer of snowy feedback is caked on everything. Some deep sub-bass synth lurches and grinds making be think maybe there really is that underground volcano ready to swallow up LA. Powerful and heavy as hell yet scrappy and detailed too. It's a fighter without a weak point. More and more elements surface Gengras eventually singing something but there's no way to tell for sure what, or even guess, due to the racket. Seriously brilliant piece. The second section of the side manages to come off as even more unstable with speaker cabinets buckling under their power and shriveling up against weird taped clatter. Raging feedback and a lilting melody hit back simultaneously. Going all rock tumbler on us, he's grinding down grit to gleaming gems. Then, Gengras, whips out some tabla amidst the noise and a Moog with the one-way ticket to hell. And we coast out on some raucous hand drum action. So Side 1 down, mind blown. 3 to go.
The second side opens up with the same tabla as feedback begins to work its way back under your fingernails coloring them a grody brown. MGG tries to keep your mind clean with a fantastic, soaring synth melody buried under the gunk. Subterranean tremors start crumbling the interior of this here temple Gengras has built and all the ghosts and ghouls are set free. The voices join for a decayed symphony as the damned march to the gallows, while Mr. MGG is over there in the corner just fuckin' one-finger jammin' on his Korg. He then pulls out the Sun Ra chops he's been hiding, molesting the keyboard and wringing out a devilish extended solo. The synthesizer dies off ever so slowly, bedded in rattles, clangs and rumbling, speaker-ripping bouts of feedback leading to a lonesome melody coming from either a guitar or a keyboard (I can't tell!) At that point, the side seems to launch into a new section with polyphonic organ tones and a random instrument being strummed to death. Before long the competing melodies begin tear each other limb from limb. Gengras beckons you to experience the aural cannibalism.
It's a nasty mess and this is worth picking up for the first tape alone. I know usually save this for the end of the review, but fuck it, Recommended.
The second tape Deep Moon Time finds Gengras taking it easy for all us sinners. Gone are the feedback doused arrangements and putrid audio infections. Beginning with two dueling clean-toned synth melodies, the piece is immediately more relaxing than the previous half hour. However, MGG hasn't lost his edge, massive sub-bass swells push their way in turning the piece into a thoroughly ominous affair. It's now just a matter of time to see what evil thing will happen. The section segues into a new set of sustained tones, really the first place the tape goes a little drone. From there Gengras constructs melodies out of the ether. Slowly but surely he molds the melodies, eventually whipping them into an improvised synth solo. Gengras just keeps riffing away, against the foggy bass, until the piece drifts away.
The final side continues the vibe of dense, packed bass and single note melodies. An echoing melodic figure treads water before being swept away by the current of other swelling tones. Literally unstable bass rumbles turn up nearly shaking the piece off its hinges. The crashes get louder and sharper moving at a relentless, metered pace for a while before sputtering out. The next piece hits instantly with tangled, thicker-than-usual melodies. And when MGG pulls out the late 70s film score synth lines, man oh man, it's too much. It's a beautiful polyphony that's way too short. The next track attacks you with the sharpest, most brittle synth tone west of the Mississippi. A saturated bass throb hits hard and heavy and we appear to be moving full circle back into the grime of the album's beginning. Cycling on two-note bass waves, a melody cuts its path puncturing the monolith with quick stabs, gradually tearing it away to reveal a beautiful, shining chorus from heaven underneath. This is an epic, epic event.
Gengras has found a luscious and muggy middle ground between analog synth composition and the improvised noise sphere and I can't get enough. Headphones are a must!
Chock another "one of the best of year!"s on the Stunned Records 2010 scoreboard. What are they at now 6 or 7? Great artwork, chunky "butterfly" 2xCS case, seriously massive tunes. There's no reason not to snatch it up except, well, it's almost sold-out so hurry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Are Not All Boring - Pixelated Getaway [Boring Tapes]

Pixelated Getaway is the debut release for both You Are Not All Boring, a project of Jason Boyko, and the label Boring Tapes. Boyko provides nine instrumentals that mostly throwback to 80s new wave mixed in with a hefty love of ska and reggae as well.
"Riding Mowers" kicks off with a mechanical buzz and some birdcalls before launching into a no-holds-barred cheeseball synth/snare/bongo ditty. It's not until a theremin-esque keyboard lead enters that the jam really hits its stride. The jams rolls along in that mode for a while before leaving that theremin lead by its lonesome, ending things on an eerie note. "Lagging" recalls an old video game soundtrack (a la Streets of Rage) by way of Miami Vice and Duran Duran. Serious forward momentum based on a circular melody, heavy synth toms and some cool lead lines. One of the better songs on display. "Miles" continues the vibe with a mellow laidback groove. At least until a fluttering sequenced melody kicks in. "Island" takes the tempo up another notch with repeated synth-bass line and dubby organ stabs. And then the track goes OFF with this wiggling, warbly synth-xylophone solo! Totally rad. (Also really dig the rustling drum machine backing it up as well.) Then Boyko takes it up another notch doubling the long, sinewy melody with organ. The drum machine gets thicker and the jam grows more and more bad ass. Great piece of work, good use of dynamics, instrumentation and just a real sweet melody too. "Evil Electronics" closes out the side, with another xylophone melody and a crunk snare and clap pattern. An ominous bass throb earns the track its title. Halfway between the score of an 80s horror movie and a club groove. It would be great piece to accompany one of those bad-trip-in-the-dance-club scenes. Way too short dude.
Side B starts off with "Physical Dimension" flips the script with a 4-on-the-floor disco jam. Focused on an excellent clipped vocal melody, almost more akin to a siren, it hits all the classic disco marks continually ramping up the energy. Boyko even drops in the syncopated synth stabs at the end, wearing his dub influence on his sleeve. "Cruiser" is another favorite, a super cheesy dub ditty. My mind is flooded with memories of the early 90s, Ace of Base, the rainy, trashy beach stage of the aforementioned Streets of Rage video game and so on. There are a handful of fantastic synth melodies all intermingling making for another bout of excellent listening. "Ska Synthesizer" is similar but sped-up almost to a vaguely country rhythm. After Boyko launches the main keyboard melody all thoughts of country music dissipate as he layers on more slot machine synth. "Last Light" wraps the tape up. It's another good one incorporating all the elements you've come to know and love throughout the tape, heavy dub rhythms, creepy theremin-styled tones, a long stringy melody all played with a light, carefree touch. A perfect way to end the tape.
Overall, it's a pretty darn fun tape if maybe a touch on the long side. You do have to be a person who can stomach plastic-y instrumentation to appreciate it, but there's lots to love and groove to in this collection. And though lots of people are starting to get back into 80s dance grooves, Mr. Boyko is carving his own niche with that serious ska obsession.
The tape is limited to a scant 25 copies, though it looks to still be in print. Ch-ch-check it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R. Sawyer - I Burn [Bridgetown]/Kevin Greenspon - Corridor [Bridgetown]

Couple of short discs here from Kevin Greenspon's Bridgetown label. The first is by R. Sawyer formerly Timeload Fowl and the second by Greenspon himself.
Timeload Fowl contributed a great side to the Gilgongo LP he split with James Fella and Sawyer delivers more good if also more mellow stuff here. Kicking things off with "Constricting Realities I," which amounts to a single soothing drone for most of its duration. Sawyer layers a few more light drones, adding some harmonic divergences but maintaining a focused, subtle touch throughout. "Amaryllis" is similar but hints at a little chaos brewing inside as opposed to the arctic inner calm of the first piece. The piece is more complex than it seems at first glance, due again to Sawyer's extremely subtle hand. Things open up a little near the end before merging into "Constricting Realities II." This piece is much more expansive than the first "Constricting Realities" with slight, rhythmic pulses gliding underneath. The title-track "I Burn" immediately introduces the listener to a noisier palette. It's certainly not noisy in the way his work on the aforementioned Gilgongo LP was but there's a constant, if distant, rumble for the smooth guitar tones to contend with. After a few minutes everything breaks up save for a recording of children playing and a smidge of static. From there Sawyer commences a chilly slowburn of melodic guitar swells. "Blood Bright Star" features the most tension anywhere else on the disc, making for the best listening as well. Fuzzy guitars jet along in a vacuum, hi-pitched notes provide flickers of melody along with percussive elements. The track gives itself a makeover halfway through into a rather beautiful glistening, melodic chorus. Overall, the disc is a well-played hand of guitar atmospherics.
With Corridor, Mr. Greenspon delivers a disc of his brand of "actual songs not improvs" using guitar, electronics, tapes and emphatically no synths. "Once by Chance," the opener, is literally just a taster, introducing many elements without developing them. "Sinking" features a revolving set of distorted, trembling notes that bleed more and more as the clock ticks. Augmented by breaking waves, the guitar eventually tapers and dissolves into them. "Drift Away" comes next, which is an interesting placement as the guitar here seems to be emulating the crashing waves that came before. Greenspon even manages to work in a mellow guitar lead amidst the mist. "Alarming Return" is just that, loud, scraping cassette shards which shatter the placid rays of guitar. After the final crash, the piece drifts off on a multi-tracked melody. "Eyes Forward Still" features more conventional guitar playing as Greenspon spins a lovely blue-grey guitar melody in, what may be, the finest piece on the record. "Unbearable Keepsake" seals up the record with speedy guitar playing submerged in a serious bog of noise and feedback. The track devolves into chunky noise before doin' a 180 into more relaxed guitar swells. A nifty little disc when you add it up
Both are still in print, the Sawyer disc is in it's first edition of 50 and Greenspon's disc is in a second edition of 50 after an initial run of 75 (and 100 copies of a cassette version on Nautical Leftist Antiques) so they are each available for you to gulp down. Greenspon has been particularly busy as of late, touring and dropping releases left and right so you may want to lend an ear in that direction as well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

(D)(B)(H) - Bleach is the Color of My True Love's Hair [Lighten Up Sounds]/Neon Sea - Fading Light [Lighten Up Sounds]

I've finally found some time to discuss these tasty, beautifully packaged morsels from Matthew Himes's Lighten Up Sounds label.
Starting off with cult crew in the making Damaged Bachelor Hood better known as (D)(B)(H), a project headed up by Justin Rhody featuring the talents of a staggeringly large list of other people. The first piece on the tape, the title track, features some excellent drumming from Matt Shuff (who also plays melodica, guitar and trumpet on the recording) and Kray Fanny weighs in on guitar, radio, percussion and, uh, foot massager while the main man Rhody himself clatters away on paper, vacuum, violin, cymbal, metal and trumpet. Knowing the instrumentation is definitely necessary to envision this stuff if you've never heard it. DBH's music is definitely "improv" but it gets a little more hairy labeling it beyond that. I personally don't think calling it "jazz" is that far off but that might not put the right image in some people minds. The set moves through junky, heavily percussive passages (even on the instruments not generally deemed to be "percussive") while also delving into some near-drone excursions with some pulsing electronics (the foot massager?) The trio does a good job navigating between the various sections somehow making all their bizarre activities makes sense in the context of the piece. My favorite parts are definitely the percussion-oriented ones; coming off of the drone-y section the trio whips into a fantastic all-percussion bit with drums, various objects and what sounds a little like a cash register bell. Totally free and very detailed, the piece certainly goes out on a high note. Well technically it goes out on a few seconds of trumpet and a DJ announcing "You just heard DBH here on DBX. Yeah, I know. Dumb pun." Really cool set.
The second piece of the side "To Me, It Seemed Obvious" features TABOO, who I'm guessing is a band rather than an individual. TABOO contributes vocals, bass and drums while Matthew Himes plays guitar and finger cymbals and Rhody focuses his attentions solely on trumpet. It's a strange track made even stranger due to following that long free set that came before. Over a simple 4/4 beat a low voice grumbles semi-inaudibly with the only phrase I can really pick out being "you're alone." Trumpet and guitar sort of dither around along with someone whistling but the main focus is on the chugging, lo-fi weirdness coming from TABOO.
The taking up the second side is "Creating an Atmosphere in Which God Will Speak" which is another trio formation of Rhody (guitar, violin, feedback, cymbal), Himes (percussion, electronics) and Tyler Larson on drums and guitar. This set was recorded in a live environment so the recording quality is murkier and the piece comes out a lot more jumbled. Instruments randomly pop out at you, temporarily escaping from the lo-fidelity bog, meanwhile people are laughing and cheering making me wonder what was actually going on during this sweat. Did someone turn the game on? Does DBH regularly play sports bars? Or was DBH doing some kind of interactive doing some kind of interactive live performance? There are some cool bits that sound almost like organ, but I'm not sure what is actually behind those noises. Guitar probably. There's some cool violin work in the back half too that I'm enjoying. I just wish the recording quality were a little better on this piece; the murk gives it a curious vibe but I miss the dynamics and detail of the title track. I'm guessing at least part of the goal of the piece is just to (re)create the live environment of the band playing and the crowd discussing "the NBA All-Stars." Odd, to say the least.
Neon Sea is a new project to me, consisting of Oakland-based Dan Kaufman on accordion, bass, drums, tape manipulation and "vocal rasps." Unlike the electro-acoustic clatter of DBH, Neon Sea works with sweeping drones/tones. There's a fine static to the proceedings, perhaps some accordion wheeze had a hand in that, while various effects pulse and sputter, stepping in time. All forward thrust, bouncing along on stuttering, clipped loops. Drums make their appearance with a bit of interplay with bursts of heavy electronics. The drums are a nice presence as they don't overwhelm the electronics but provide significant rhythmic backbone to hang the freaked out electronic signals on. Those signals get real freaked 2/3rds through "Side A" where the monolithic electronics dissipate into frantic warbles. From there they try to at least bundle all their nerves together so they continue as the drums trudge along. Before long though, the drums say "fuck it, I'm out" and the side wraps up in a storm of feedback.
The flipside is real sweet; there's a lot more space and it feels a bit creepier. There's a quiet relentlessly pummeling loop underneath, small swells of feedback and a wealth of eerie creeping creaks. Kaufman bashes away on cymbals like there's no tomorrow though the drums are pretty buried in the mix for the most part. Hissing static envelopes everything for a little while before the pieces settles into a brooding, ominous bass note. Kaufman does a great job molding the other sounds around the monolith. Really rad, I've added this to my list of upcoming Halloween listening. There's a second piece on the side that is noticeably brighter. Not necessarily any happier, but brighter. The bass eventually begins to flow through a swamp of sine wave hiss and chime and I really wish it lasted longer as it seemed to be headed somewhere real cool.
The other thing I must mention here is what a great job Lighten Up Sounds did presenting this pair of cassettes. The packaging on the DBH tape is stellar, great Beatles/wood grain wrap-around slip-on cover which when removed reveals a cover depicting the full set of auxiliary DBH band members George, Paul, John and Ringo. On the inside there's a mini-booklet with matching wood grain cover, with track/personnel info, badly xeroxed photo and bonus Donald Barthelme poem. Fading Light also features a wrap around slip-on cover with double-sided j-card and what I personally love, the Cotton Candy flavor Bubble Yum-inspired pink and blue tape.
Both tapes are still available in editions of 50. And I'd probably advise you to keep an eye on the label as its got plenty more in the works including a Caethua/Shep and Me LP and a pair of tapes I'm personally very curious about by Soaking Rasps and Mole Hole.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Extraordinary Pigeons - Journal of Graphic Noise: Issue One [Pigeon Coup]

Journal of Graphic Noise is a new art zine from Seattle act Extraordinary Pigeons. The 20-some pages of artwork are accompanied by a lathe cut, cut rectangularly to size to slip inside the pages of the zine. The concept here though is the audio on the lathe was "created by converting the zine's images into sound with reverse spectrogram technology." Reverse spectrogram technology? Sounds like a made-up something from one of those 50s sci-fi movies I love but I'll take the Pigeons at their word that it exists.
The artwork in the zine was created by the members of Extraordinary Pigeons and I don't know how many members there are but it seems like there are 3 hands at work. The first set of images are a grey-scale, topography-gone-psychedelic affair. They look they were made on a 20 year old computer, mapping diagrams of microscopic bacteria. Next up are 4 bizarre ink/colored pencil drawings of faces with strange features and creatures popping out of them. Gruesome teeth, skeleton/Swamp Thing hybrids, some sort of rabbit/beetle/larvae thing. Weird shit. The last section, probably my least favorite, continues the WTFs with a centerfold of two cats doin' it and computer manipulated photos of children and boy scouts.
Now for the audio portion. The small, weirdly cut lathe makes my automatic turntable flip out. It refused to play it for a while until I outsmarted to the stupid machine. The sound of the images via that "reverse spectrogram technology" is strictly harsh noise. Heavy crunching static crackles and rips in surprisingly dynamic fashion. I'm assuming there has to be some human organization here as I'm guessing the images themselves don't indicate any temporal instructions to the audio conversion. I don't know if the Pigeons scan the images live and sculpt the output from there or if this is all put together on a computer. Either way, it's a pretty good shot of harsh noise and the lathe ends on a groovy, crackling locked groove.
This certainly an interesting release and the first time I've ever come across something like it. If you are interested I recommend heading over to Extraordinary Pigeons' awesome website ("we are a band, this is our fucking webpage.")

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Douglas Firs - Haunting Through [No Label]

The Douglas Firs is a project of Neil Insh of Aberdeen, Scotland and this CD-r Haunting Through is supposed to be a taster for a forthcoming full-length, most likely to be released on cassette.
Apparently the material on this disc was recorded over a six year period and its separated into four songs, two in the 3-4 minute range and two in the 6-7 range. "The Quickening" begins with footsteps crunching through leaves and an unidentified rumble that slowly comes into focus as slightly ritualistic tom toms. A melody tinkles along with a chattering crowd and Insh drops in a folksy violin with multiple voices singing and on a dime the track turns into a pop tune. Petering out into crowd noise, the song resets itself to a lovely waltz with echoing piano, humming violin and loping drums. Insh's voice carries the tune to its next passage, a duet with a female counterpart over puffs of accordion. The folk-dance feel earlier in the piece returns before dissapating into an a capella choral interlude. When you think it might go out on a big crescendo, Insh subverts expectations as the piece slips away on abstract field recordings and a lone synth. The song perfectly introduces Mr. Insh's style, at least how I see it. Insh is working largely with traditional or conventional folk and pop influences but chooses to weave them into an elaborate, unconventional fabric over the course of a piece. So rather than delivering something standard like your average indie pop band, his songs feel a little more alive, as they take you somewhere. "Future State," the shortest at nearly 3 minutes, is woozier with a lovely melody and a swelling chorus of voices, recalling some of my favorite Spiritualized moments. Second half of the piece is an interlude of subtle tones. "Grow Old and Go Home" finds Insh and his female counterpart whose name I sadly do not know singing over a sparse piano arrangement until synthetic and acoustic percussion kick in. An array of brass provide a fantastic segue to a more grooving version of the song with shakers and a walking bass line. This doesn't last for long as the final minute or so features a quiet organ and recordings of dogs barking in the distance. The final track, "Soporific" may be the strongest. After an extended intro of ambient synthesizer, Insh's carries a sparse arrangement into a new movement that hints at getting a little more rockin'. The reason I feel this is probably the best piece is simply that the melodies and all the "pop" elements are stronger here than anywhere else on the disc, and there's a bit more grit courtesy of some guitar fuzz. From the rocking middle section, the song tapers off into just voice and piano atmospherics.
This disc has definitely piqued my interest; The Douglas Firs show a lot promise. There's a bunch of great ideas and melodies here, and Insh is certainly approaching pop music from a more interesting perspective than most. I'm looking forward to hearing the Firs on a longer record that will allow them to unfurl their limbs a bit as well. Not to mention, it'll be great to hear 'em on tape.
I really have no idea how to find a copy of this as I don't think The Douglas Firs have a myspace or anything. I guess hit the ol' Google now if you're interested, besides your job just got a lot easier with this new Google Instant thing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Debacle Records Round-up

For those involved in the Seattle noise/drone scene you know Sam Melancon from Debacle Records nearly props the scene up singlehandedly, the guy is crazily active both with his label which focuses exclusively on Seattle-area artists and with Debacle Fest a multi-day festival which he curates. This year's Debacle Fest is coming up quick, starting tomorrow night and running through Sunday (Sept. 17-19) and features the likes of Pete Swanson, Rene Hell, John Wiese, Chrome Wings, Stag Hare as well as local/Debacle favorites Dull Knife, Du Hexen Hase, Physical Demon, Wind Swept Plains and Megabats, among many others.
Anyhow, a long while back Sam handed me a hefty stack of Debacle discs and I'm sad to say I've only taken the time to review a few of them so I'm playing catch up now.
Various Artists - Bleak|Beauty
Since I was just mentioning the curatorial capabilities of Mr. Melancon. I figure a compilation is a good one to start out on. Culling artists from across the Debacle catalog and beyond, there's hearty doses of noise from Slates and Pig Heart Transplant and gritty, occasionally groovy, malfunctioning machinations from Summon Thrull and Physical Demon among many other sounds. The opening track, Slates's "Rainscatter" is all jagged, serrated edges; a relentless 7 minute rumble in the gutter. Certainly a brave way to kick off the disc. Meanwhile, later in the disc Pig Heart Transplant give the listener a quick run through the wringer with "How to Survive in the Woods." What I really like about the track is how succinct the pummeling is. They drop in and 3 and a half minutes later your skull is pulverized. Thunder Grey Pilgrim and KRGA both turn in some really nice drones as well. TGP's track "Breathe Eons Breadth" does a great job balancing melodic elements while sustaining atmoshere. There's some sparse, ringing Western-ish guitar notes near the end which you know I love.
Although the disc is solid on the drone and noise fronts, it's often the oddballs that catch my attention here. Walrus Machine delivers a great, idiosyncratic jazz track "Attic Stains" which stumbles around at a quick pace like a drunken man chasing the bus. Red Squirrels make an excellent raga-ish contribution "My Bike is a Sailboat" that definitely stands-out amongst its company. Forrest Friends are probably the weirdest band in Seattle and their track makes that very clear. A four minute menagerie of literally thrift store instrumentation. Cheap acoustic guitars, weird metal chimes, yelping, hand drums, toy accordion, you name it. Wind Swept Plains challenges them for weirdest here though with a loping, detuned, weirdly voiced "folk" ditty. Megabats shifts things into a heavy fog with sequenced melodies and drum machine barely peeking through, very nice.
Overall, it's quite a good compilation as it features a lot of quality work that covers a lot of area on the sonic spectrum. Perhaps a good place to start if you've never heard any Debacle material before. There's plenty of artists here I hope to hear more from.
Megabats - In/Out
Megabats is Sam Melancon's music project along with somebody named Riley. There's next to no info on the disc so I'm gonna guess this is predominantly keyboards, electronics and possibly a guitar. The disc veers back and forth between dronier selections and rather vibrant keyboard-driven pieces. "Meek Attack," the opener for instance, finds Megabats gradually building in volume over the course of 7 minutes. Grey-blue drones dominate but it's slowly apparent there's a synth melody burbling underneath. The next track "Battleground Sky" totally flips it around. There's pretty much no reverb, just multi-tracked, quivering synth. A stomping bass drum is a nice touch that really slingshots the melodies on their way, upping the energy of the track. The melodies slowly become more complex as does the drumming. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear live drumming on this track as well. Since they're trafficking in such boldly in electronic textures, the live drumming gives the piece a wonderful balance between the electronic and the organic. Nice choice boys! "Bag Lady," the only short track, is another good one, delivering a heavily murked out two minutes of looped melodies. "Clever Teeth" twinkles, lopes and glimmers over its seven minutes while "Jarritos" slightly echoes "Battleground Sky." Its got a murkier feel than "Sky" but its got a boatload of keyboard melodies all locked arms and skipping down the street. Megabats kick in the distortion for the default epic, the 13 minute closer "Canopy Fire." Spitting sequenced synth melodies through static distortion, the duo straddles the noise and electronic music realms without actually sounding like either.
Hemingway - The Mansions in Heaven are Empty
First of all, love the title of this disc. Now that that's outta the way, Hemingway will be playing Debacle Fest in their two-man heavy metal riffin' guise Great Falls. On this disc though, a single 22 minute track, they use space very well. Panning spacey, percussive bass notes while a guitar crackles and feeds back, the piece moves through peaks and valleys. Just when you think a crescendo may be on the rise they push everything back leaving only a few deliberate sounds. This disc is all I've heard of Hemingway but from where I'm sitting they are at their best when they are the most restrained. They really know how to hone in a few potent sounds and garnishing them with a few noises around the frayed edges. The duo mostly moves back and forth between a simmer and pummeling, as occasionally they like to drop some in-the-red rumbles on you. The back half of the track continues the peaks and valleys trajectory but also works around a loose guitar progression leading to a modest but satisfying finale.
Slates - Street of Dreams
Here's another single-track CD-r but this one's twice the length. Yikes! I'm guessing there's a concept here but there's practically no info to back me up. If you look at the cover which is a really wonderful piece of photography, you'll notice the house burning amongst the beautiful flowers and otherwise quiet neighborhood. The cover folds out to show the rest of the photo a crowd of neighbors grouped in the street, some craning their necks out windows, all attention focused on the fire. The flip-side of the booklet thing shows the fire from another perspective, raging even further, with the group of neighbors still captivated by the smoke and flames, with one man caught in the act of photographing the fire on his cell phone. I'm guessing that this piece is attempting to capture the experience on these onlookers. I may be way off base here but I'm goin' with it anyway. What's my evidence? Slates's track sounds like a fuckin' fire! It crackles and grumbles incessantly and grows, very slowly, more massive, more intrusive and more violent. There's a hypnotic aspect too as you see with the onlooking crowd. (May I also cite those DVDs of nothing but footage of a crackling fireplace to warm the homes of those without chimneys?) You can't keep each crackle, crunch and pop straight and, for better or worse, you get lost in the noise. Some people will appreciate the experience of this 44 minute arson-steeped piece, others won't, but it's gonna keep burning whether you like it or not.
Anyway, Debacle Fest will be kicking around The Josephine and The Black Lodge here in Seattle over the next three days. Hit up the Debacle myspace for full info

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flower Man/Carl Calm - The Breslin Wayside Rotary/The Sag [DNT]

In anticipation of an upcoming Caboladies LP, DNT Records CEO Tynan Krakoff has prepared this double cassette of the two Caboladies solo projects. Flower Man and Carl Calm each contribute a succinct, twenty minute tape to the release though on slightly divergent paths.
Flower Man's tape is marked DNT053A so I'll start with that one first. Cramming in 10 pieces, Flower Man is apparently a bit of a wildman. He's all over the map here with his electronic squiggles, acoustic percussion and weirdo birdcalls on the opening title track. It's somehow frantic and mellow at the same time, don't ask me how. "Away Outdoors" could be an m83 outtake or something, a buoyant synth arpeggio recycles itself and chiming tones hammer out a melody. Very nice piece. "Yayenna Airplane" is a bunch of spacey oscillator manipulations a la Forbidden Planet. "The Quoclo Zoom" sounds like an old video game score with a marching drum machine and stressed synth tones warning of the ghosts, neon boulders and other dangers lying ahead, waiting to befall you. Wrapping up the side, "A Ripple Near the Sun" rests on a looped group of synth plinks with animal-like oscillator manipulations groaning and squealing over top.
Flipping it over "Fostered by a Latch" (ha!) burbles and rumbles to a start. It's another weird one with an array of percussive electronic noises and I think briefly a voiced couched in radio static. "Resurfacing" resembles the title track but features a number of glistening keyboards nestled uncomfortably next to each other over what I think is the same percussion loop from the first piece. "The General Effect of Science" is a collage of random electronic beeps, swoops and whirs similar to "Yayenna Airplane," do I detect a pattern here? "To Be/Wildlife" is a very nice synth number with a mellow, smooth arpeggio and a grumbling oscillator. "Seagull Pill Box" closes out the tape with more animal-like noises, like recreating an aural jungle habitat using nothing but a synthesizer. I know I'm repeating myself but this is some wild stuff, if a little underdeveloped.
Carl Calm flips the script with what is more or less an electronic/dance project. Contributing 5 tracks and one alternate mix... "Acayucan Cacique (Orchestral Mix)" flickers to a start with stuttering organ backed by almost choral keys. It's a great introduction to the tape; its rather a modest arrangement but still with an epic touch. "Crocs Time" gets the beats rattling and shaking, they tick away in a vacuum so to speak until the synthline drops and everything suddenly makes sense. The spacey arpeggiated melodies take over while the beat smashes away in the background. Mister Calm keeps piling on more keyboard melodies and subtle funk guitar stabs among other sounds. Very cool groove. Almost makes me wanna go out and buy a pair of those ugly ass Crocs shoes outta respect. "Bone Destined" takes the tape into a more abstract zone, with many, many layers crashing into each other. Although, they start communicating and making friends as the track progresses with a slowly pumping drum track, materializing along with hints of melody.
"A Royal Hole in the Sky" is built upon a series of short loops, I think from a bass or guitar. Carl does a good job jostling through and splicing the series of loops while the drum track clicks away. "Broad Jaunt" is actually not much of a jaunt. It's by far the most chilled out piece on the tape. Unfurling cosmic keyboards with scattered drum machine coming along for the glide. The tape is bookended with "Acayucan Cacique (Hype Mix)" a much more upbeat version of the track. A drum machine marches along with disembodied singing and scrappy keyboard melodies which I'm really digging. After a breakdown into a solo section of said melodies, the track comes back a little heavier before settling back into the song's main passage.
It's a cool little set as you definitely get a bit of a yin and yang vibe, Carl Calm's intricate sound structures and Flower Man's talent for concocting exotic textures. When DNT drops that Caboladies LP I'm gonna try applying this little decoder ring to see how the two members' styles fit together.
This has been sold-out for a while now, so check the distros for copies...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

David Russell - Architecture [Pilgrim Talk]

So here we are. I have another awesome looking lathe cut from Pilgrim Talk on my hands; this one's a clear 33rpm 7incher, and it is very, very good. David Russell is an artist I have never encountered before and I am wondering why. Apparently, Architecture is a "greatest hits" of Russell's best loops as chosen by Nick Hoffman at Pilgrim Talk, reissuing some out of print stuff as well as new material. There are 11 tracks over the two sides and at least as many loops if not more.
This stuff is really wild and really replayable as well. I don't know what Russell used to create these (except that "Erie" is created from recordings from Lake Erie!) but I imagine its quite a range of materials. The scathing, blistering bluster of the unironically titled "Shriek!" scares the fuck out of you right as you drop the needle. It's a very unfriendly little scalawag. Flipping the switch to "Fiddler" Russell gets the train a-movin'. There's the implication that a fiddle is involved here but hell if I can figure out how. It sounds more like a heavily botched/manipulated trumpet melody to me, with a snare or something providing some sharp crackle and pops. "Snap Dragon" is a sexy telephone party gone haywire, with them all cradling each others' receivers and ringing excitedly. "Who Dunnit? Loop" is short, all murk and grind. "Jerk Loop" is one my favorites, a seriously fucked dancefloor stomper. Don't even know how to describe it, very playful, very groovy. Very cool. "Swagger Loop" keeps the energy high with a much more ominous point of view. Mechanical shuffling with a relentless whining sine melody. "L W P" is also a neat one and totally changes styles. It appears to be all piano at work here and its creates a ghostly but surprisingly uptempo little creepout to end the side on.
The second side allows its four tracks to stretch out just a tad more. "Tremor" is a hyper-ventilating little groove. It's the kind of stuff I imagine all the weirdos out in Western Mass and Antwerp dance to all night long. "Loop of Guilt" is another favorite. Totally not getting the name here as this one just makes me wanna jump and jive. It's an expertly crafted beat from various vocal samples and a few raw drum hits. It sounds like something a very adventurous party DJ might have spun back in the early 90s. The aforementioned "Erie" is another anomaly in a record full of them. Apparently created from recordings of Lake Erie, this thing seems way too rhythmic for that to be so. There's definitely a submerged feel but there's gotsta be some drums on here somewhere! Anyhow, "Slighted" returns to the vibe of "Swagger Loop" but develops it much further. Plenty of distortion, lots of sounds all sputtering for your attention. It really feels like its building to something but alas its just a loop (or more accurately a collage of them). This is a case where its definitely about the journey though.
Some seriously excellent stuff here, possibly my favorite Pilgrim Talk release. What I love about Russell's work here is that most of these are simply just a single loop, but he constructs them to have a lot of depth as well as to throw you off guard slightly so the loop never feels too familiar or repetitive. Great work.
Limited to 50 copies but happily still available. The artwork/packaging is very nice as is typical of Pilgrim Talk's output.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase - Seashard [No Label]/Rack Rash - National Felt [No Label]

So apparently Chris Cooper (Buddies/Chris Cooper Bill Nace Duo, Fat Worm of Error) is in a techno band now and this tape Seashard, the latest from his solo guise Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase, is his him in that "techno" mindset. I'm gonna guess that this tape has, at its center, guitar, as that's the instrument Cooper generally performs his wizardry on, but it's very possible I am way off on that as there must be at least a sampler or something everything that is channeled through. The sounds have gone completely ballistic here, all sorts of weird bloops, squirts, crackles, scratches, pops, cowbell hits? tear through you like shrapnel at a mind-boggling rate. I haven't been able to discern a coherent rhythm here but everything flies by so fast it wouldn't have been missed anyway. At one point, Cooper shifts into hyper drive with ascending synth tones follow by pitter-pattering snare and long, agitated bow-scrapes on guitar or bass. There's a cool "glitch" section, which makes me think "wow, glitch music would actually be pretty cool if it wasn't always made on fucking computers." You may have noticed that I'm just clutching at anything to write about for this review. This is because, well, how do you describe this? Hopefully, I'm giving you general idea of it (maybe? [shrug]) but this thing is on its own orbit. There's some beats here but they either creep up on you or just straight up hide. Near the end of the first side Cooper brings out some strange melodies and the tape develops some forward momentum before mellowing out on the comedown.
The second side is even a bit better I think. Beginning with a weird collage barrage of laboratory beeps, racecar-like sound effects, percussion plunks etc. From there it jumps off the deep end into 50s sci-fi sound effects (back when they made them with oscillators and circuits and such) but in a strictly non-cheesy way. Strange little melodies pulsate, either butting heads or jumping in each others beds. Receding into a softened squirm and scrape affair, with a drum machine puttering along underneath, it launches into a gnarly, cut-up, hard-panned freakout. These are probably the most "normal" moments of the tape as there's a steady if subtle beat and it slows down just enough you can start getting a hang of all the sounds going on. The most upfront beat of the tape turns up later still skittering away like the drummer in a 60s jazz quartet on a solo. Slowing down even further, the tape concludes with a handful of sounds conversing across the left and right channels, birthing melodic bastard children until muttering "Fuck, I'm tired. I'm outta here." This is the most thoroughly inventive cacophony I've heard in a long time.
Who knows if Cooper himself can wrap his mind around this incredible piece of confusion he's created. This is the uncharted, intergalactic intersection of techno, free music, weirdo music, jazz, avant-guitar and probably a bunch of other shit but its way more wild and fresh and exciting than any of that implies. Absolute jaw dropper, I highly recommend seeking out a copy of this as I doubt you've ever heard anything quite like it. I haven't at least.
So now that 3-D is all the rage (again) everyone's jumping on the band wagon and Fat Worm of Error's Tim Sheldon is right there along with everybody else. Check out the packaging on this thing! It's like the smokestack is coming right at you (it is!) Sheldon somehow found time to hand carve the title into the tape shells too. Anyway, so the presentation's awesome and this tape also helped me get a step closer to hearing all the Fat Worm members in solo form. Only one more to go; Donny, I'm comin' for you next. This tape is another perplexercise you'd expect from the crew but probably not in the way you'd expect. National Felt is all slowed-down samples of what sounds like various pop-rock songs from the early 90s. I'm sad to say I don't recognize any of the samples but they got me singin' "bay-buh!" in a slow-mo, Tears for Fears-sounding voice. The tape hops from sample to sample sometimes looping them or slicing and splicing them up. Along with that, Sheldon lays down some grrrrzzz's and oscillator squeals, static blurts and sounds of random shit getting knocked around in between and overtop the samples. It's quite a cool piece of music (probably about 10 minutes in length) that seems to cover a lot of ground in that time while also being paced rather quickly. It's unexpectedly listenable in a really great way.
I believe the b-side is just a repeat but for some reason it never sounds identical to the side that came before. I guess that's a testament to the elusiveness and wonder of the tape. Or maybe I'm right and it's not identical. Or maybe Mr. Sheldon is just fuckin' with my head. I'm okay with all three possibilities.
Both tapes are self-released so I guess try tracking down the artist, or getting them at a show. Some distro out there may have a copy(??) Anyway, maybe try Cooper at angsthasepfeffernase[at]gmail[dot]com and the Rack Rash myspace