Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jeremy Kelly - Shortwaves [Sweat Lodge Guru]/Andreas Brandal - Into Thin Air [Sweat Lodge Guru]

Sweat Lodge Guru is a pretty new label and I was instantly impressed when I held these tapes for the first time. SLG definitely puts a lot of effort in their packaging which is nice to see right out of the gate. The Brandal tape's J-card is printed on sparkly silver paper and the Jeremy Kelly cassette shell has rad semi-invisible imprinting you have to flutter in the light to see. I like shiny things what can I say. Especially when they come with nice sounds.
I feel each new Jeremy Kelly tape I hear gets progressively weirder. This one starts out with the title track "Shortwaves" which is static, oscillator noise and an alien voice giving some kind of argument on the nature of individuality. The track rolls along, fueled by confusion, before, lo and behold, I hear some drums. What will I hear next? Will J Kelly turn this skiff around and launch into a song? Nope, Kelly just rips into drum solo/assault. Some people play drums along to Led Zeppelin for fun; not this guy, it's only static-drenched, sputteringly spouted philosophies really make this dude wanna rock out. "Projection" shows up with dark synth swells, traces of wordless vocals and other sounds. There's a bit of drums swirling around too but it's mostly electronic signals making swooping birdcalls, thick crunching surges and other noises. A slow slide into bad-acid-trip-in-the-desert territory. Will you find your way out alive? The forecast doesn't look so good, man.
"Swallowed by the Sea" picks up on the b-side with more crackles and squeezed-out synth tones. Plenty more bad vibes and drums at work here. Seasick synthesizer bobs and weaves like a drunk failing a breathalizer test. The electronics are agitated and Kelly over there on the drum kit is annoyed they won't just play a song with him. "Asahara" is an attempt at friendlier zones, a melody is played on some bizarre concoction that sounds like a cross between three keyboards, a dulcimer and a bongo drum. I've heard the guy makes his own instruments maybe this is one? There's a hint of an Eastern-vibe to the melody that is until it gets picked apart by jealous electronic gadgets. The final track "Recursion/Dream Theatre," which I'm assuming is a taunt at crappy prog-rock, takes over with what sounds like a fuzzy reversed guitar playing a little loopy melody. Since when did this guy get all lovey-dovey? Kelly just riffs over it with all sorts of mellow, octavia-style leads. It's a great few moments. Rest assured long-haired dudes out there, Kelly hasn't gone completely soft as he returns with a scrambled drum barrage and even turns out some straight Van Halen-style guitar licks. This is a good little tape, lots of cool ideas and it moves along at a rapid clip; worth a listen for sure.
I've been hearing a lot about Norwegian musician Andreas Brandal as he's had releases on such illustrious labels as Stunned and Tape Drift among others, and now I finally get to hear him. The multi-tracked guitar affair of the title track kicks off the tape. The track has a dark shimmer like the artwork. It's harmonious though not particularly melody-driven but Brandal does a good job creating atmosphere with a relatively standard mode of guitar playing (muted strumming and single-note lines.) It ends on a cool rattling rhythm too. "The Whispering Gallery" plucks bass notes over a continuous, though shifting, guitar drones. There's a nice interplay between the drones and melody, as the piece gently veers back and forth between tonality and strained semi-atonality. Like the piece before it, it ends on an interesting loop of a cricket-sounding device among other things. "Invisible Green" has great rustic piano-playing and various sounds of jingling chimes, brittle leaves crunching underfoot and somebody rustling around an attic. Brandal's guitar playing is very nice but it's this stuff that really gets me going, as these sounds are so pungent, and dripping with natural atmosphere that the subtle drones lying dormant aren't even necessary. "Shadow" is all ghostly harmonics and hushed, hollow metal clinks. "A Midnight Visitor" has a great, wheezy organ which stumbles around in a stupor, most likely after having too much fun on the devil's day. Mechanized burblings occur in the background before dropping out allowing a lovely, but ominous, string part (cello I think) to lead the piece to an impeccable end. The organ returns for the b-side on "Room Number 3." Drones rise and cut off sharply, in a thickly woody atmosphere. There's a short melody that sounds like an organ coughing, or choking maybe, that's rather interesting in the piece's stark environment. "The Seven of Hearts" sounds like it might have a bit of effected banjo though I s'pose it could just be guitar. What sounds like a recording of footsteps (or maybe people playing basketball) creates a cool little underlying rhythm while the banjo/guitar/whatever continues its arpeggio. The piece shifts into a pretty bed of organ drones where it finally lays itself to rest. "A Premonition" changes up the pace considerably with what's more or less an electronic beat and a bit of synth action. The piece still fits into the quilt of the album but alters the color palette a little bit. Closer, "It Walks By Night" moves further down this path with unsubtle synth sweeps and siren-like oscillations. The piece develops into some kind Romero zombie movie-esque score, maybe not literally as I haven't seen one in years but that's what is coming to mind. Heavy synthetic swirls, haunting melody, you get the idea. The tape is a nice little suite moving from guitar to organ to synth. Brandal has been making music for a while now and you can tell, his hand is very sure and the tape has a very mature feel.
Both tapes are still available from Sweat Lodge Guru, which looks to be a label to keep your eye on.

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