Saturday, April 24, 2010

Comisario Hjuler & Madre Osa - Musica Experimental [Circuit Torçat]/Vlubä - Live at Erks [Circuit Torçat]

I'm catching up on the last two releases from the great Barcelona-based Circuit Torçat label.
First up is the gorgeous looking tape by Comisar Hjuler & Madre Osa a.k.a. Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer. Like their Feeding Tube LP from I reviewed a couple months ago, this tape pretty much defies all logic.
I tend to prefer Baer's work of the pair, maybe because I find her to be the less creepy of the two, and she delivers the stronger side with "Wegbeschreisbung zum Kühlschrank". The side starts out with distorted vowels and what sounds like Baer blowing up a balloon into a mic. There's child-like speech which I can't tell if it's coming from an actual child or a manipulation of Baer's voice. It's surprisingly listenable for unintelligible distorted speech. Apparently, throughout this track Baer is giving a detailed how-to on entering her house and finding the kitchen. This is all lost on me of course because I know about four words of German (or whatever language she happens to be speaking). There's a nice passage where Baer speaks rapidly over a mellow, stuttering loop of reversed keyboard or maybe just mic feedback or something. A second slower sing/speak vocal track accompanies the first until eventually one wins out. This section of the tape has a really nice feel. It just seems to be a touch forlorn, twisting in the wind. Baer takes a break from the vocals for a while and manipulates the various loops she's operating. For a brief couple seconds there is a fantastic melody that comes out of nowhere and recedes back into the feedback blips. I don't know if it was an accident or what but damn do I want more than five seconds of it! This instrumental passage is really nice and, from my limited experience with Baer's/Hjuler's works, very unexpected in its relative normalcy. Baer's voice returns briefly with descending coos until another shift into what sounds like a strummed guitar and keyboard played backwards. The dynamics fluctuate but the piece eventually peters out into silence.
The back story for Hjuler's side "Cy.4mm" is they are pieces for piano and voice made for his son, Cy, who was a 4 millimeter big embryo at the time. Apparently the lyrics come from Danish pornographic magazines, total lullaby material. I don't know if Mr. Hjuler actually sang these to his son after he was born, but if I was a kid and my dad was singing these songs to me I'd be creeped the fuck out. Anyhow, the side is divided into 13 songs featuring unconventional use of the piano and creepy sing-speak apparently of Danish dirty words. The first piece finds Hjuler picking inside the piano and singing while the second song, one of the stronger tracks, features a lot of percussion via knocking about inside the piano and strange atonal, fragmented melodies. All this while Hjuler drags his husky monotone over all the sonic bumps and snags. Each of the 13 tracks, ranging from 39 seconds at the shortest to 3 minutes at the longest, are all more or less cut from the same cloth. Certain tracks take on different feels such as the sixth track which flirts with late-period Birthday Party gloom. Or number ten which almost creates a walking bassline. Or the final piece which is seriously pretty in a hobbled sort of way. Definitely for fans of eerie, atonal horror movie scores, slow burning percussive piano abuse and creepy German dudes.
Circuit Torçat labelhead Juan Matos Capote also reached outside of Spain for the label's third release. Live at Erks is an hour long disc from Vlubä, who hail from Argentina if I am not mistaken. I've never really heard Vlubä before but I always wanted to because this looked so badass! Everyone's fond of talking about their transcendental/spiritual/what-have-you jams but Vlubä put their money where their mouth is:
Live at Erks by Vlubä was recorded in the Valle del Silencio, in the nightfall of one day in January of 2009, inside a precious cavern in the mountain ranges of Cordoba (Argentina), on the high. The power for the few played instruments was supplied by a solar generator, and the event was unpolluted by artificial light using only phosphorous. At the encounter, Vlubä’s vital energy gave birth to mantras, while visions followed one another and Erks sparked in light. Trance lasted until the early morning. This album is just a recording of the beginning moments. Some chants you hear on it are comechingon's psychophonies that from Sirius were making way among the stars and into Erks.

Visions? Mantras? Psychophonies? Inside a cavern? Solar generator? Phosphorous?! Vlubä win points for complete dedication if nothing else.
There's a tracklisting for 9 pieces but for some season the disc is just a single hour-long track. Thus, I don't know how accurate my delineation of the individual tracks from the whole is. "Wokytoky on Erks" is the first piece listed and it introduces the album with cymbals and effected guitars. There's a hard-to-read insert that lists the instruments but I can only make out things I've never heard of like Egyptian daff or SMK system. However, I can say with certainty there are drums and "shamanistic flute" on here. Anyway as far as the sounds go, the first piece is kind of minimal psych. It's not exactly rockin' but its continuously circular with, what I'm assuming is guitar, and the reliable clatter of cymbals. There's a change-up, perhaps the next piece "Piedrasroxas Fluos" which continues with light cymbals and shakers and a friendly melody on synth or guitar and I think maybe some vocals. That's a rather short interlude though and the trio brings you deeper into the cavern with more muted clatter and heavily effected drones. There's a jazzy guitar figure that materializes for an instant before quickly retreating back into nothingness. "Shine Gods UFO" is the next piece on the list and I think it refers to a detuned guitar-led interlude backed up by rattling percussion. The subsequent track "Kosmic Mountain Spectralis" benefits from a steady drumbeat behind it. The drums jam by themselves for a while but a flute makes a few whispers here and there. The track while quite repetitive, is one of the most listenable portions of the album. Something about the drums pounding away in the natural reverb of the cave makes it a semi-hypnotic experience. Synth pulses color the outskirts of the track but the percussion remains the main attraction throughout. "King Star Ceremonia" works more for atmosphere with a few spacey swells of sound and distant drums and what sounds like a theremin. The track drifts along in the darkness in a hazed stupor. The disc wraps with its too longest tracks, "...y Sirio se Apagó" begins with percussion a little like "Kosmic Mountain Spectralis" though it isn't the sole focus. After around four minutes, the track begins to fill out with droning guitar, nearly trance-like drums and various incidental noises curling around the edges. It's hard to make out what the sounds are coming from, could be guitar or that "shamanistic" flute or something else entirely. Though they seem on the road to a climax, Vlubä flirts with whether they want to commit or not. Shifting back and forth from soft to loud dynamics, ultimately deciding against it. The finale "Sirius Sarumah (Interstellar Chacarera Trunca)" starts with birdcalls, eerie drones and a jaunty but somehow sinister melody. The drums join up with the melody in ramshackle unison as slices of feedback and vocals swirl around in zoned out dementia. Vlubä seems a subscriber of saving the best (or at least strangest) for last.
I think, overall, Live at Erks is a little too formless for my taste, but anyone up for some smoldering, burned-out cave-psych by moonlight should check this out.
The Vlubä disc is an edition of 100, with a pro-printed CD-r, insert, and fold-out psychedelic alien landing artwork. The Baer/Hjuler tape is battling Arnau Sala's tape for the title of best looking Circuit Torçat product. It's in an edition of 50. Both are still available from the label.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boy+Girl - Dice Cuts [St. Petersburg Institute of Noise]

Dice Cuts is a pretty recent tape by AG Davis (Extra Sexes) under his Boy+Girl moniker on Florida's St. Petersburg Institute of Noise, handily referred to as S.P.I.N.
Dice Cuts is actually a pretty evocative title of what Davis's work sounds like. That is diced and cut(-up). The tape also has some of my favorite work I've heard from Davis. The tape opens unusually for him with liquid-y bubbles popping and a few nicks of static here and there. Then the tape moves into drone basically, certainly a first for Davis's hyper-kinetic style. The drones are simple and captivating and just when you settle into them Davis unleashes some sort of post-post-hardcore static thrash. I don't know if there's a sampler used or maybe a laptop, but the initial, longer noise-and-yell section is continually whittled down into smaller and smaller fragments until the cassette reaches a period of mild calm. An irregular drum beat, touchy squelches and a rising tide of static. Little by little, the section lurches into ground-up distorted vocal-shards making for a short slab of ID M Theft Able-style weirdness. Samples of growls, mouth-farts and other silly sounds amount to an a capella "percussion solo" of sorts that ultimately jettisons head first into a harsh feedback fest with a barely discernible rock band jamming underneath. Afterward there's some more squiggly beatboxing, feedback and a breakcore-styled screamo freak out at the end that's probably my least favorite part of the side.
The second side opens with mild feedback and synth blips. There's about 8 seconds of sax whine before a cut-up noise freak out. From there the side abruptly shifts into a fuzzed out bit of bass/drums sludge with some banjo-esque instrument plucked over it. Certainly the strangest bit of doom I've come across. Various bells, sirens, footsteps, sounds of suction are spliced together in head spinning fashion. Things only get weirder with more fragmentary compositions in the keys of gargle, spit, scoff, sniffle and wheeze. Like the first side it ends on a frantic vocal/noise mash-up session. This one is especially cut-up and percussive.
I don't think I've ever seen Davis this utterly bizarre and violently scrambled. Not for the faint of heart.
The tape is apparently sold-out at source but some copies may still be residing at the Scotch Tapes distro. Word on the street is that Davis has an LP and CD due in the coming months as well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pulga - Pulga Loves You [Fire Museum]

I've previously reviewed Vanessa Rossetto under her The Mighty Acts of God moniker as well as last year's killer disc by her creeping free jazz duo Bright Duplex. Pulga finds Rossetto in by-mail collabo-mode with Italy's Valerio Cosi, a certified badass in his own right.
Similarly to that Bright Duplex disc where two people played like a hundred things, Cosi and Rossetto must have pilfered music shops around the world for the assortment of instruments at work here from sax and viola to shruti box and balalaika. The first of the CD's five tracks, "Return to the Forest of Shoes" begins with a wondrous choir of saxophones. Smooth but slightly unnerving, an excellent way to start off the album. The piece seems to expand organically, effortlessly like a mist slowly filling your head. Abstract groaning, rumbling tones threaten to overtake the saxophone but never make good on it so there's an uneasy coexistence between the tones until the sax manages to slip away briefly. Gleaming, auto-panned percussion is met with a shrieking sax solo, melding together in a mass of aural confusion. There's a lot more going on than I'm letting on but as I said my brain is frightfully disoriented and overloaded right now. The final minute of the jam is killer though! Some rhythmic loops are pulsing with this unusual melody, waves of sax are cascading and random little tones are pitter-pattering around until it comes to a close. "Still It Rides Me" further ups the ante, beginning with reversed guitar, layers of keyboard hits and light touches of percussion. The whole arrangement sounds like it's being shaken around in a glass. So many different rhythms are operating at once but none of them choose to take the lead so you get this piece with the illusion that the rhythm is constantly changing while somehow keeping a steady beat. Around halfway through the duo settles on a single rhythm and bring voices and other elements that are careful not to distract from the triumphant groove taking place. The piece ultimately culminates in a slow swirl of guitar, voice and a stringed instrument of some sort which drifts directing into "Tequila Feast" on a deep synth tone. At 3 minutes, it's a good amount shorter than the previous tracks and it moves through its course at a much faster clip. Like "Still It Rides Me" it's heavily focused on rhythm. It's much less shy about it as well. There's big bold percussion, a bass line and jaunty sax line. Not exactly funk but a touch of it. "Fuck the Satellites" is another short piece with a heavy presence of drums and guitar among many other things. It's rhythm swings a tad more on the free side than "Tequila Feast" though it culminates in a distorted explosion of sound and then a lone Morphine-styled bass part. The hefty, final track "Raga Pulga" features a lengthy saxophone intro by Cosi. He delivers some nice work and after about 2 minutes synths float in behind him. The duo then weaves a wonderful web of melodies and small loops. At one point there's a harpsichord thing going on but that's not listed as an instrument so it must be one of the instruments I've never heard of. The sax is a constant element throughout but the harpsichord thing shifts into a either a synth or maybe(?) a heavily treated viola. The piece continues down its dark spiraling path of synth, sax, bells and whatever else. There might even be sitar in there, but I'll be damned if I know.
This being a mail collaboration, Rossetto and Cosi put this album together really well, the only thing that its missing is that spontaneous feel of material recorded live. That's the nature of the beast though.
This is only the Pulga record that exists I believe and I'm not sure if it was just a one-off collaboration (might be) so I'd definitely make sure to check this out.
Pro-pressed CD. Edition of 500. Still available from Fire Museum.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pimlo - Pray For Whoever Did This [Durable Stimuli]

Pimlo is the solo project of Ohio-based George Viebranz who also collaborates with John Elliott (Emeralds/Mist) as Revelation Blitz (killer name incidentally). The first thing I was struck with when I opened up this package is the oversized cover photo and an accompanying letter detailing the history of the statue adorning the cover and an account various acts of vandalism that have been perpetrated against it as well a picture of it during better days. It's rare I can be called a journalist, and I actually shouldn't be called journalist obviously, but I did the journalist-ish thing of politely inquiring to Mr. Viebranz "what the hell?" He filled me in:
I pass that kid every day on my way to work... I've been at my job for a little over a year, and when I started there, the kid was barely noticed, just a statue sitting there with a fishing pole. Then after a few months I noticed that his head was missing, obviously some shitty people up to shitty hijinx. Then a few days later that sign went up. I thought it was the fucking coolest thing. I'm not religious, but I thought "PRAY FOR WHOEVER DID THIS" was 10 times more "fuck you" than a sign that said "fuck whoever did this" would be. I took the picture on the cover sometime in March of [2009.] Every day I drove by and it seemed more and more awesome and powerful. So one day I took down the address and wrote a letter to the family that lived there. The inserted letter is what the mother of the family wrote back to me.

So there it is, mystery solved, a very cool image and a fascinating story to go along with it. Now let's get to the disc.
Clocking in at a half hour over six tracks, Pray For Whoever Did This starts out with "Calypso Hospital Nightgown." It's a very sparse and eerie track. I believe it's a wind instrument of some sort (flute most likely) but there could be bowed metal or something in here as well. Point is, Viebranz cranks up the chill factor with this. Spine tingling drones float limply in some serious haunted spirit fashion. There's some faucet-drip percussion that does the absolute minimum to make you feel warm and cozy. In the final minute the spirits erupt in angry hornet-style swarms of feedback. Risky way to start the record in such bleakness, especially when the advertised calypso is nowhere to be found. It does immediately establish the vibe of the first part of the record though. The excellently titled "It Was Anything Goes Until Everything Went" moves in a similarly minimal style. Based on a few pulsing tones the track crawls along until amassing a slough of high-pitched, restrained feedback shrieks. Viebranz manipulates the tones a little before bringing the track to a close. "For Diamond Shiners" is the first of a pair of short tracks in the middle of the album. Out of the previously barren soundscapes comes an echoing church organ providing a nice little interlude. "Coaxial Flutter" dives back into minimal electronics with a single tone manipulated over the course of the track. Neither of those tracks are that well developed but they're brief enough to stay their welcome. My favorite track on here is "Youth and Youngness" it's quite a bit longer and it's a multi-layered piece for organ. The piece moves leisurely spreading the subtle changes across the layers of organ. By the middle of the piece, it has taken on a rhythmic feel due to certain pulsing notes embedded with the drones. There may be flute here as well but it's buried way down in the mix. I like that the piece isn't totally smoothed out with reverb. There's reverb here, sure, but Viebranz retains the jagged texture of the organ's vibrations making for a complex overall timbre. The finale titled "The Once and Future Dingbat" makes up the last third of the release. Beginning with something like a flying saucer sound effect, Viebranz very slowly builds the piece. Working with a few precise sounds at first, about halfway through the piece expands into a much fuller arrangement of tones. There's a lot of movement between sounds though the piece maintains a pretty calm exterior. Mild noise and delay-pedal manipulation further color in the track. The piece ends up being a pretty vibrant, pulsing piece of work; ending the album in an opposite place that the album began, though coherently so. Actually, that one might be my favorite.
Still available from Durable Stimuli as far as I can tell. CD-r comes with full page insert in oversized envelope with large paste-on front and back covers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

IB M Theft Adle - Intendo Innuendo w/ an Inuit in it [Mang Disc]

So amongst the items in my package from ID M Theft Able's Mang Disc label was a DVD-r entitled The Robocop Hermaphrodite Pornography Video and other works by "lllllllllllllllll1", which unfortunately I have not gotten to play in any DVD player or computer at my disposal, as well as a CD LASER LENS CLEANER which is a cassette tape flooded with paint. Anyway, one of the items that has music I have actually been able to access is this one. And the sounds might be weirder than any I could imagine coming from those unplayables.
"I Turn it ON and I Turn it OFF" marries a voice delivering a jazzy rendition of the title over samples of a vacuum cleaner. A bassy velcro synth crops up as well, as the track saunters down a loopy path. More layers of vocals are added giving the song a spiraling, poly-rhythmic effect. Pretty soon the voice taunts me for sitting in front of my computer and "counts my freckles." The final product is swinging and irresistible and more than a little loungey, but with a heavy reliance on a vacuum cleaner. ID M's rechristening of himself is no joke, the mad man is rocking all sorts of primitive computer/video game technology on this one. "Everpubescent" is some NES soundtrack regurgitated and thrown in a blender. I really don't know what to make of it; it's a synapse-stunning sensory assault more than anything. "Inuit Pixel Loss" is similarly jittery composition of fragmented video game sound effects. It's a bit more digestible than "Everpubescent" though. A good portion of it is the endless cascading of various sound effects creating the illusion of collecting infinity billion gold coins. That peters out into "Epistle to Mike C." which is like some kind of bizarro punk song but performed with the same NES palette of the last couple tracks. The unintelligible lyrics ("Ye-ye-ye-yeah da boom da bip pah"?), which are also sung in an accent, are pretty catchy and carry the song's melody over the minimal, rapidly repeating samples. Even though the song just repeats itself over and over, it lasts six minutes in true iconoclast fashion. "One Eye, Which Eye" has some sort of grown-up Dr. Seuss feel with a man repeating a refrain from which the title hails. With droning chord organ, rustling field recordings and various percussive scattershot sounds the track staggers forward occasionally interrupted by strange split second collages. This track focuses a little less on the video game aesthetic, with a stronger emphasis on percussive elements, which is a nice change of pace and it features ID M's... excuse me, IB M's best collage-work of the disc. It's dense but not overwhelming. "Clown Milk, Clown Meat" opens with an answering machine recording of a voice singing, you guessed it, "clown milk and clo-own meat." From there we get launched into another frantic, madcap Mario-on-drugs adventure. How Mario afforded all this speed on a plumber's commission I cannot say. The track's scope expands to inter-galactic laser battle proportions. After a brief breather the "clown milk" voice comes back in the middle of the schizoid techno-meltdown. After the ashes, the voice continues, drenched in static, against a pummeling loop. Album closer, "Your Senator" is a seasick tornado of confusion. Various voices and sounds whirl around and around in any direction that will have them until someone pulls the plug.
This one really does a number on the noggin. As with all ID M releases there's good and totally fucked up stuff to be found though this particular release requires a hefty tolerance for high-pitched video game noises. Enter IB M's lair at your own risk muhahahaha.
Still in print. Killer artwork too as Mang Disc oft provides.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yek Koo - I Saw Myself [Stunned]/Slam Fucking Dunk - Slam Fucking Dunk [Stunned]

Phil and Myste continue be the high priests of bad ass label-running with their untouchable Stunned imprint. This pair of tapes veers a little towards the rock end of things but as with all Stunned releases nothing is ever what's expected.
I don't know what the hell a Yek Koo is (makes me think of those Japanese gigapet things) but I sure like the way it sounds. I Saw Myself finds Metal Rouge member Helga Fassonaki wailing with her voice and guitar over Chris Corsano and Milford Graves drum samples. Recorded straight to dictaphone. Something like this could go either right or wrong but Fassonaki makes it go very right. Opener "Ring of Bone" is still my favorite. First of all, the dictaphone is really working for her because the recording has this surging energy about it. Over an impulsive, jagged guitar riff Fassonaki runs the range with her voice which I think may be tape manipulated as well (or its possibly just a delay pedal.) Fassonaki did an excellent job arranging the drum samples as well, as the fractured construction goes a long way in creating the track's vibrant poly-rhythms. The jam squirms and writhes with the best of that Sublime Frequencies foreign rock n' roll stuff but with a darker, more emotional core. It's a total whirlwind and just a really brilliant piece of work. "Yellow Fever Dance" edges even closer into a "world" vibe. With frantic chimes, feedback and drum collage, Fassonaki lays out a lively bed for her guitar. This stuff is hard to pin down exactly because it's some kind of manic tribal-garage concoction. There's a bit of a trash rock feel, but rather than dissonant deconstruction, it's an inventive, abstraction of primal rock n' roll attitude. The second side holds only one track "Last Lust Lost" which begins with a relatively straightforward guitar rhythm, though with a significant dose of spliced percussion shards. The pace is mellower, focusing more on manipulation of samples and voice than the frenetic swagger of the first side. It's quite a bit longer than the tracks on the first side and the protracted form makes it more into a shamanic trance. Though there are still plenty of sharp, angular elements, on the whole it's more than a little hypnotizing until riding out on a slowly picked arpeggio. The sound still manages to envelope you without going for drone saturation. All in all, Yek Koo appears to be a great project and certainly an unusual one. Worth grabbing this tape for sure, if you can find it. I hope there's more of this stuff to come
This Slam Fucking Dunk tape is the first cassette of Stunned's bonus series which has included some of the best Stunned stuff period like last year's Historians CD-r. This tape is a cassingle of sorts with two longer songs on each side. It reminds me a tad of the Brave Priest tape on Stunned from a while back, although Slam Fucking Dunk's power trio forgoes any vocals. I'd probably call the two jams psych-grunge or something as they're loose enough to fit comfortably within the semi-improvisational psych zone but with a gritty alterna blues vibe. "Side A" lopes along with a mid-paced drum beat and deep synth bass. It's mostly a show for extended guitar riffing and soloing around an off kilter melody, though there's some keys in there and a couple frenzied full-band freakouts. The second side has more of that grunge vibe I was talking about. After another loping intro, the guitar spits out an urgent, high strung melody and the keys take on some heavy octa-bass vowel tones. After the jam peaks, the band slowly loses steam until they launch back into the intro section which doubles as an outro. It's a brief, fun tape of psych jammers. Good for the walkman or any psyched-dudes out there looking to get their groove on with their home stereo system. It's not for individual sale so if you want a copy you gotta grab some of Stunned's other excellent new releases which you should probably be doing, Slam Fucking Dunk or no.