Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nicholas Szczepanik - The Chiasmus [Basses Frequences/Sentient Recognition Archive]

All this time Nicholas Szczepanik spent putting about records from awesome artists like Caldera Lakes and Medroxy Progesterone Acetate on his Sentient Recognition Archive label, dude was hiding some serious sonic skills of his own. The Chiasmus, a handsomely packaged CD, marks Szczepanik's debut musical venture.
The first of five pieces, "Another End of New." opens with a cold gust of wind. The piece travels in near silence for a while before bursting forth with a indurate digital tone, slightly metallic and not quite smooth but still hypnotic. When you put the CD in a computer it comes tagged as easy listening. That's half right, the track consists of mellow drones but there's something a little bit cold and distant about them. No euphoric trips to the heavens here. Szczepanik expands the drone modestly with light touches of melody and rhythm. "We Define Everything in Desperation" changes the attitude considerably. It's a much softer piece with lovely gliding tones. As alluded to before, Szczepanik has a light touch when it comes to melodies. The melody is the most important part of the piece, but its so slight and ephemeral its almost subliminal. At one point there's a sample of someone speaking Spanish or something which segues back into the main melody. I don't get it but maybe Nicholas just wants to keep us on our toes. Like the previous track, Szczepanik elaborates slightly in the track's final minutes making "Desperation" one of the stand-outs for sure. The significantly longer piece "Temporary Inundation of Sleep by Open Windows" imbues smooth tones with an agile but subtle rhythm, making the piece weirdly groovy. Around halfway through the piece outside tones drift in, smothering the drones but also revealing more clearly the rhythmic thrust of the piece. The long drones contrast with the swift rhythmic figure highlighting all the subtle adjustments to the ghost beat. "The Silhouettes of a Winter's Sunset" begins slowly with a thin drone. Szczepanik works the barely there magic with more slender intimations of melodies and, despite the track's leisurely feel, it seems on the verge of something bigger. "Bigger" probably isn't the right word but the track does morph into the most shimmering soundscape of anything on the record. The hefty, 19 minute closer "Lose Yourself..." plays pretty typical of Szczepanik's style. A few drones, just this side of invisible, intertwine endlessly. It's a very protracted piece where Szczepanik's changes come so gradually they are nearly imperceptible. The back half of the track is more active, I think I might be even be hearing a vocal loop mixed up in a series new drones, but all the sounds are melted together thoroughly. How did I get from a few tones into this modest aural tapestry, I got no idea. Szczepanik will sneak up on you. And just to throw the listener for a loop before the curtain drops, Sczcepanik drops in a sudden, heavy dose of dry, agitated static making for a shocking exit from The Chiasmus's world.
This CD is definitely for someone really into drone and ambient musics willing to put in time to appreciate the album's subtleties. It's well-made but definitely a patient album.
The pro-everything CD comes shrinkwrapped and packaged with a booklet of angular photographs by Avery McCarthy, certainly a nice visual addition to the sounds.
It looks like it's still in-print from an edition of 500, though Sentient Recognition Archive's patented "availability" meter is pretty low. If you're in Europe it looks like you can still grab it from Basses Frequences as well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NASA - High Cube [Baked Tapes]/Driphouse - Romanti Gains [Baked Tapes]

Got a blistering package from Jesse DeRosa's (of the inimitable Grasshopper) Baked Tapes imprint awhile back and I took a particular liking to these two burners.
The last I heard from Orlando's NASA was a tape a couple years back on Not Not Fun. Haven't listened to it in forever but I remember it having sludgy riffs galore. High Cube has that and more.
The first of two tracks on Side A, finds a bluesy riff materializing in a fuzzy feedback fog. The trio rolls along evoking mellow classic rock haze amidst the gnarly distortion. The jaunty noodling guitar lines are ditched for some synth sustain and pitch-shifted metallic percussion. Without warning they launch into a slamming groove with potent cowbell and disembodied vocals. The band jams along seemingly semi-improvised with more thick fuzzy riffs. The effected vocals take center stage for a while. The second track is pretty close to a straight up song. A grooving fuzzy jam with nice riff and barely there vocals. They ride the groove for a while throwing in the occasional curveball. Once again without warning there's an abrupt shift into some kind of amazonian 80s jam with buoyant drums, squiggly electronics and what sounds like a hybrid of a keyboard and a guitar. This abruptly shifts into a heavy marching jam, with multiple percussionists (I think) and some ray-gun histrionics in there too. Sousa eat your heart out. Hell of a jam.
The second side tops the first though. Starting out with some rock n' roll riffs pushed through thick fuzz, the rhythm section gives the track a nice swing as it gradually builds in volume. The jam gets gnarlier by the minute, shifting into a minimal stomper, while NASA continue to ride the groove hard. They can actually be a pretty tight band when they want to be. There isn't much variation to the riff which is the beauty of it. From there they move into a cloudier bit with plenty of effects and layers of guitar and drums burbling underneath. A last minute change-up brings a surprisingly clear-headed blue rock tune which NASA goes out on nice and easy.
I dig how NASA takes the heavy psych thing and flips it a little fitting it into a collage tape. I'm headed to Disney World in May, hopefully I get a chance to feel these guys' jams in person.
I feel like I've heard Driphouse before though I can't say for sure. I do know that it's a project of Daren Ho (formerly of Trash Dog/Raccoo-oo-oon) and when I popped this tape in it was love at first sight. The A-side "Romanti" is just tremendous. There's a gliding synth that makes you feel totally weightless. Ho marries the smooth interspace love theme he's got cooking with a mellow, hobbling drum machine set to "downbeat tape mode." Ho further layers and expands the keyboard melody and the spacey sound effects. Elaborating on the repeating theme Ho dips his fingers into cosmic filter sweeps and wandering synth-strings. The jam wraps unexpectedly by phasing out the theme for an even more tripped smattering of keys and blips. A hypnotizing stunner to say the least. Bask in its glory.
The flipside, as you might glean from the title, is "Gains." Unlike the previous side, "Gains" takes a couple minutes to cast its spell. It doesn't hold the same rhythmic emphasis of "Romanti" instead opting for wide open outer spaces. Alright, enough with the space stuff, you get the point. Over glistening, glacial waves of synth, Ho meanders on the keys with variations of the same melody. After shifting the pitch at various points, he hits on a great section of a nearly-tinkling barrage of keyboard stabs and slowly introduces stuttering drum machine throbs. This makes for a potent bed on which Ho tinkles the synthetic ivories with more melodies/solos. Swell stuff. I will definitely have to keep an eye on the project.
Both tapes are still available and each is an excellent pickup depending on your disposition.
Both in editions of 60.

Monday, March 29, 2010

thenumber46 - Bleach and Ammonia [Tape Drift]

Had to get some words up about this tape as its one of the oddest things to come down the AuxOut pipeline recently, despite the rather blah band name.
46 is a duo of Suzanne Thorpe (who apparently was a founding member of Mercury Rev) and Philip White who both employ electronics for their musical game but the real curveball here is Thorpe is usually wailing away on her flute. Off the top of my head, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides is the only other act out there using flute regularly so 46 is in exclusive company.
The first of eleven, "Beehive as a Child" wanders through slightly fuller passages of sustained tones as well as plenty of sputtering motor electronic freakouts and weird percussive rhythms. It's heavy on the confusion. The first time I jammed the tape, though I liked the album as a whole, this track wasn't working for me for some reason. Although, when I returned to it, it was one of the stronger tracks. Listening to this group (for me) required total recalibration as a listener. Even though I listen to a lot of stuff I'd categorize as "weirder" than this, the tape wasn't totally accessible the first time through and definitely requires the listeners full attention. But hey, flute and electronics? There are plenty of nuggets to be mined from that combo, and after a period of adjustment, I found thenumber46 to be unearthing quite a few.
Unlike "Beehive," I definitely responded to "Two Choices" the first time through. Auto-panned electronic stutters, crunching feedback and gusts of hollow wind collide in a swiftly paced panic lasting maybe two minutes. "Like a Magazine" is a bit quieter with rustling static and short, breathy puffs of flute. The track is at its best when the electronics make their presence known with tumbling, strangely percussive sounds. One of the standouts, "Pilotless Airplane," comes next. Over a looped, programmed rhythm, the flute waxes free. The flute and electronics then begin an interplay occasionally trading licks and all. The duo use a lot restraint with this piece, keeping everything tightly controlled as the elements multiply and congeal with a measured build in intensity. It's difficult to find a good point of reference because the track sounds like a lot of things and nothing else at the same time. It's a well-played hand for sure. "Bet with Myself" kicks in with some kind of steel drum type noise (the flute? a sample?) that totally perplexes me. The electronics groan and squirm underneath the wigged out steel drum/whatever. The electronics step into a brief, mechanized march reminding of the early Yswans days when they rocked the drum machine. It's not as fully realized as the previous track but its a cool jam nonetheless. Closing out the side is "An Operation." Electronics are a lot thicker here with numerous layers of mild-mannered feedback as the flute improvises. "An Operation" quickly amounts to the heaviest track of the side; the layers of feedback continue to be piled on forming a pretty dense wall of sound by the end of it. That wall is surprisingly usurped by quiet meandering flute with which the track drifts out on.
Side no. 2 brings "The Amen Song" which immediately shoves the icepick through your ear drum with a high-pitched skittering shard of feedback. The duo is definitely in "hot jazz" mode on this one with the flute ripping all sorts of runs and the electronics providing a twisted approximation of a percussion solo. Things cool down for the other side of the track though, with sustained tones coming from both flute and feedback. The duo manages a few fucked agonized freight train bleats in there too. The feedback repeatedly shatters the relative calm of the flute's tones. That is until the flute gets wilder, backed up by lurching, gasping electronics. "Thumbing" is a pretty short track of uneasy flute and feedback tones. "Drainpipe" is a total roughnecker. Violent blasts of feedback greet you for a minute and a half before "settling" into a bizarre rhythmic passage that seriously borders on a house/disco jam. It's pretty fucking killer to tell you the truth. Around halfway through the jam heads into a quieter section. There's still a residual pulse from the previous section though. "The Plates Flying Off the Wall" is a great flute-focused track where the electronics debate with themselves whether they want to respect, interrupt or mimic the flute. It never decides on one and the track is all the better for it. It's home to some of the best electronic mangling on the tape. "Morse Moan" closes out the tape with some sharp tones, crunches, rumbles and clicks as well as a couple ghostly melodic moments.
As I mentioned before, thenumber46 is hard to pin down. There's certainly elements of harsh(ish) noise as well as the loopier free-whatever scenes. Though they come to very different outcomes, thenumber46 reminds me of Caldera Lakes a little in each group's respective adaptation and hybridization of rough electronics with vastly different forms of music.
If I'm not mistaken this is the duo's first release, so I'm definitely looking forward to whatever directions the duo explores further in the future. Though the tape could use a little trimming here and there, there's plenty to get excited about.
Edition of 100, still available. Pro-dubbed with bright yellow cassette shells! Smart move Tape Drift.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #59 (3/14/10)

Radiant Husk "Spring Snow" Atolls [Faulkner Tapes forthcoming] (CS)

Boy+Girl "Side A (excerpt)" Dice Cuts [St. Petersburg Institute of Noise 2010] (CS)

Lee Noble “Sick for a Week” Darker Half [Bathetic 2010] (CS)

Fag Cop "I'm Fucking Dead" Complete Shit Vol. 1 [Eat 2008] (7")

Banana Head "In the Tubs" In the Tubs [Goaty Tapes 2009] (CS)

Slasher Risk "Side A (excerpt)" Chillers [Baked Tapes 2010] (CS)

Yellow Swans "Limited Space" Going Places [Type 2010] (CD)

Millions “Static and Distance (excerpt)” Static and Distance [Obsolete Units 2008] (3" CD-r)

The Spits "Live in a Van" IV [Thriftstore/Recess 2009] (LP)

Cetacean Trancefer "Side B (excerpt)" Cetacean Trancefer [Sick Head Tapes 2009] (CS)

Sean McCann "I Waked Up Early One Morning (excerpt)" I Waked Up Early One Morning [DNT 2009] (VHS)

Rambutan "Everything is Water (excerpt)" Split with Chapels [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Dth "I Hope I Can Feel Something Like That One Day" I Hope I Can Feel Something Like That One Day [No Label 2010] (mp3)

Home Blitz "Sliding Decks" Out of Phase [Richie 2009] (LP)

Maths Balance Volumes “Tried to Make a Call” Tried to Make a Call [Bum Tapes 2008] (CS)

Arklight "Boshinstvo Outgrowths/Manifestations of Doubt" The Callow Summit [Faulkner Tapes forthcoming] (CS)

Velvet Chrome "Etude en Psychobilly" Readymades [Hobo Cult 2009] (CD-r)

Basil Poledouris "Rock Shop" Robocop [That's Entertainment! 1987] (LP)

Charlatan "Pyramids" Equinox [House of Sun 2009] (CS)

Night of Pleasure "No Vibrations" Night of Pleasure [Faulkner Tapes forthcoming] (CS)

Josh Burke "Side B (excerpt)" Imagination [Housecraft 2009] (CS)

Hunting Rituals "Spirit Wok (excerpt)" Spirit Wok [Tape Drift 2010] (CD-r)

The Hospitals “Ape Lost” Hairdryer Peace [No Label 2008] (LP)

Monopoly Child and Black Joker "Side A (excerpt)" Star in "Nightlife on Horseback" [Pacific City 2009] (CS)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme # 58 (3/7/10)

Chapels “Blood Miracle Pt. 3” Split with Rambutan [Stunned 2009] (CS)

Le Sang Song “Hot Reggae” Le Sang Song [Dragnet 2010] (LP)

The Uphill Gardeners “Boner Music” The Uphill Gardeners [olFactory/Kill Shaman 2010] (LP)

Gay Beast "Reprise" Second Wave [Skin Graft 2009] (CD)

Zanzibar Snails "Creme of Sum Yung Zen" Vitiligo [Tape Drift 2010] (CD-r)

Pulga “Still it Rides Me” Pulga Loves You [Fire Museum 2007] (CD)

Form a Log "Untitled" Logged & Loaded [Human Conduct 2009] (CS)

Xray Eyeballs “Fake Wedding” Xray Eyeballs [Night People 2009] (CS)

Big French “I Got Bent” Toyota [OSR Tapes 2010] (CS)

Mister Fuckhead "Plasthma (excerpt)" 333 [No Label forthcoming] (CS)

Charles Cohen "I'll Let the Committee Name It" Technicolor Hell [Badmaster/Malleable 2007] (CD-r)

Vlubä "Star Kingdom Ceremonia" Live at Erks [Circuit Torçat 2009] (CD-r)

Embarker "Elizabeth City/Invisible Yarmaluke" Embarker [Malleable/Send Help 2008] (LP)

Comisario Hjuler “Cy.4mm” Musicá Experimental [Circuit Torçat 2010] (CS)

Meth Teeth “Unemployment Forever” Everything Went Wrong [Night People 2009] (CS)

Christopher Riggs “Live in St. Louis" Fat, Sassy and Mean as Hell [Holy Cheever Church 2009] (CS)

Campfire “Side A (excerpt)” Beach at the Top of the Mountain [Ace of Tapes 2009] (CS)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big French - Toyota [OSR Tapes]/Horse Boys - Horse Boys [OSR Tapes]

This is sort of part two to the Nals Goring mystery I began to unravel yesterday. When Nals a.k.a. Zach Phillips isn't releasing things like "3 INDEXES OF URBAN OUTFITTERS' EARLY SPRING CATALOG" on his OSR Tapes/Dax Bills imprint he's releasing things like these two tapes. Horse Boys is Phillips's neo-ragtime project, the other Horse Boys tape he put out was one of the best records of last year despite being an '08 release, and Big French is a new "folk-pop" trio of Nals Goring, Nals Gorman and Sarah Smith (of Sord and I think Cave Bears as well.)
Toyota appeared ominously early in the year predicting the Toyota recall, which is just another reason why middle-America should be listening to Big French (maybe if they renamed themselves Big Freedom? Is that joke so old it's fresh again? No? Okay.) Anyway, I love this tape. It's got some of the weirdness you'd expect from its purveyors but it also has a lot of really great songs.
Beginning with the half-minute not-quite-a-song vocal and dulcimer assault "-----" the tape picks up with one of its finest songs "Using the House." It's a catchy, fast-paced pop ditty for acoustic guitar and vocals with a great backing band of recorder and keyboard plinks. Though it doesn't make it much farther than a minute, it makes quite an impression. "Teenagers" is stranger with distorted vocals, scrappy guitar and percussion managing to hit the exact midpoint between pop song and straight up clatter. "Down to the River" is another gem of songcraft. Starting with a fantastic base chord progression, the strangled vocals carry a surprisingly potent melody. After a long build up, a wonderful huffing accordion contributes a nice counter melody. Great song. "1995" is a grooving instrumental interlude of a couple keyboards and a percussively strummed acoustic guitar. "I Got Bent" is the record's default sappy ballad and it's beautiful. I don't actually know what it's about and for all I know it's a parody of this kind of song with lyrics like "I was feeling like it was yesterday but it was today" but if it's a parody the reason why it works is it follows all the rules. It's got a sweetly melodic, "na, na, na" chorus and everything. I'm half-expecting these guys to put out a box set of c-90s covering the entire Leonard Cohen catalog next. So how do they follow up their tender, beautiful ballad? With another one! Equally as good, and with an even more hushed sensitivity and starkness, "Nothing Doing" is practically heartbreaking. "A.O.E.R." is played entirely backwards which I normally don't care for but once again, the melodies totally win out and the backwards dynamics give it a nice rhythmic thrust. "Watts" closes out the side in shambling minor key style. "Deer and Lakes" opens the second side. There's no songwriting credits or anything so I'm not even sure which Nals sings what song but it sounds like they both might be singing on this one. It's another great song slowly paced song. "Frowning" is similar to "A.O.E.R." except that it clocks in at about 14 seconds. The title track is just a short interlude with some skronky electric guitar before shifting into "Runnings" a bouncing acoustic guitar and vocal ditty. "Lamb's Bread" introduces melodica I think but it could be accordion or harmonica or something else and after a slow first section it turns on a dime to a fast avant-pop jam. "B" is another cool instrumental interlude leading into the Neutral Milk Hotel cover "My Dream Girl" which a very faithful rendition other than it is sung in an obnoxious, squeezed-nuts style. "Juniper" is sub-minute more or less instrumental song with someone imitating a singing saw with their voice. There's something pretty "deep" about that. "That's Right" another sub-minute tune closes the tape. It's got kind of a broken done feel reminiscent of really early Smog stuff except for the very high pitched vocals.
It's a great tape, solid 19 tracks through. Definitely recommended, one of my favorites from the year so far.
Unlike the previous Horse Boys cassette which, for the most part, was 30+ old timey piano pieces, this one messes way more with tape fuckery. There's no track listing like the previous tape so I don't know exactly how to go about structuring this review. What I would call the first track is a jumble of groaning tape warble and stately (and more wild) piano pieces. I dig the second track. After a recording of someone explaining the process of counting ("zero now. one next. two later.") there's a really nice piano piece that mellowly prances along into the next which slowly develops from a series of disjointed spurts of a couple notes. The next is a weird sped-up piano ballad with alien vocals and great piano work as always. It should be implied but it must be said, Phillips is a phenomenal piano player. Technically he's very good and he comes up with so many twisted, catchy melodies it's staggering. The song is interrupted by another non-pitch-manipulated song about a love affair which in turn becomes a great instrumental piece which becomes a kind of bluesy drum and piano duet. From there comes an oblique but utterly groovy percussive piano piece. The next opens with an advocate of the meat market before a frantic, garbled free piano and tape jam. From there, there is strange piece that resembles both a keyboard demo and a beat off The Game's first album. The next all too brief piece has a very nice and somewhat eerie melody. The second side opens with what could very well be a Big French demo, a voice and acoustic guitar song about sailing on a ship to shore. There's an out of tune trumpet in there too. Perhaps my favorite comes after that. A series of brilliant little melodies jammed together along with strange tape warble and whatnot. This morphs into a piano/voice jam along with toy piano, melodica and piano overdubs. The next piece is mostly minor key with an occasional zippy ragtime interjection. More piano sketches and voice samples and other such recordings follow until a straight up, sauntering lounge blues piece which seamlessly shifts to terse 70s cop-show style music at will. Among the last pieces are another piano/drum duet and if I'm not mistaken some gospel song sung by a random person Mr. Phillips asked to sing. In conclusion, if you haven't heard Horse Boys, you've really got to.
Both tapes are available I think, the OSR Tapes website just says "if you want something let me know and i will send it to you in time" so I'd say that's worth an inquiry.