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.

No comments: