Saturday, January 29, 2011
"Racer Boys" kicks things off with heavy tape damage, speedy bass piano arpeggios and a breakneck narrative (I think?) about racer boys. "Dada" (as in papa) is a pretty skewed attempt at a barbershop quartet couched in plenty of clutter. "Not the Woman" is their take on the tender, heart bearing ballad and it's pretty darn good ("How many times have I told you/I am not the woman that you thought I was"). There's a pretty excellent, smoky nightclub jazz piano solo in there too that gets roughed up by a snagged tape. "Life is a Plant" is half piano pop and rambling harsh noise vocals. "Nature Identical Rose" has Chris Cooper's name attached, perhaps he provided the cluster of chattering, sci-fi blip-bloops that dominate the track. "Onion Rings" is actually about onion rings and eating them with a girl over fuzzy, frenetic keyboard melodies. You would guess that "The Way She Moves" would be another pop track but instead it's the noiseiest yet, with loads of fuzz, feedback and garbled tape. Unlike the weirder non-music "Palestine," "Lebanon" is a bouncin' song about Lebanon. Although, the phrase "My home town, it's Lebanon!" is making me wonder if it's about Lebanon, Oregon or another Lebanon in the USA instead. "Chancing" is an anything goes, everyone's junk on the floor piece which segues into the fuzzed out lullaby of Dave Berry cover "Stranger."
The second side is especially good, starting off with "Cameron," an angular piece with a bit stronger guitar presence to go with the tinkling ivories and the multitude of distorted off-key voices. "Bad Ass Shoes" is a pretty sweet a capella interlude about some bad ass shoes ("he won them in a contest!") "Kill You" is a standout track. Imagine Beat Happening, then imagine them having fun and your in the area code of this track. It's got the best lyrics on the tape too, the infectious chorus goes "I'm gonna kill you!/And your family too!/I'm gonna kill you!/And all of your friends!" "Tyler Toys" is a great interlude of sped-up "jazz," possibly a keyboard demo or something. The most beautiful melody of the tape comes on the oddly titled piece "Skit." It features some sublime keyboard work which I'm assuming is coming from the fingertips of Mr. Phillips. "I Don't Want Your Fucking Head" is straight up D.C.-style thrash that doesn't even make it to the half-minute mark. "Neumonia" is another speedy piano track about driving somewhere fast, still not quite sure what it's about. There are some skronky ("Know What"), rockin' ("Dog Trena") and silly ("Doo the Right Thing") interludes leading up to another favorite "Rold Gold" which is an incredibly catchy two minute noise pop tour-de-force. The funny thing about this tape is that my favorite track is one that I'm fairly certain Sord had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with. "Goodby Goodnight" is a fantastically bitching Asian big band pop song from I-don't-when. Sooooooo goooooood. You can't help but just groove to it.
Tearing through 24 tracks in under 30 minutes the tape is a totally excellent ride and there's no way to get bored. It makes for a good cure to those drone doldrums we all experience sometimes. The tape is still in print at the label for a very sweet price of 5 bucks.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
This is the first full length from this
What I like about Psychophagi is it pulls no punches. I don't mean that in the typical aggressive/violent manner, but that the sounds delivered are immediate, tactile and incredibly detailed. There is no added murk or misty blankets of effects here. Just pure (whatever that means) sound.
Zarzutzki's weapon of choice is a turntable appropriated as a grinding wheel of sorts. Hoffman's tool chest is kept a little vaguer as an assortment of electric and acoustic objects. The first piece, "(Grotesque 1)," which takes the entirety of the first side, begins with something resembling an oscillator but with a more organic timbre. Another sound which could potentially be a horn of some sort, though I doubt it, joins briefly. The aforementioned grinding 'oscillator' sound, which I am going to guess is Zarzutzki's turntable, is the focus as it weaves a range of sounds over a mild mechanical hum. A few pieces of metal clatter cut through with sharp clangs and the turntable appears to get switched off, dimming the piece momentarily into silence. Skittering percussive noises break the silence and something that sounds akin to a few people whistling acts as a counterpoint.
The material on this LP was culled from a live performance and it feels like it. There is a patience at work; the pieces move forward naturally as they may not have with editing or overdubs. The piece continues to crawl forward on strangled tones; there were definitely many objects under duress during the making of the record. It is kind of interesting to hear how these mostly "non-musical" objects end up capturing the sound of a drum roll or, as previously mentioned, a oscillator or whining trumpet, to see the relationship instruments and "non-instruments." That even though the sounds produced are relatively similar, the method of production drastically changes the dynamics and compositional nature of a piece of music. The first side culminates with a thicker palette of sound which builds somewhat like a crescendo before ending on a squeak and silence.
I might as well say this now before I write any further. This record is for people who love sound, not just "music," but the phenomena of sound. If you fit into that category than this record should be pleasure to listen to.
The second side begins slightly more aggressively with some loud cling-clang. A mild but persistent sine-wave feedback tone hangs around with a loop that manages to fit somewhere between melody and rhythm. This second track "(Grotesque 2)" is much more rhythmically inclined, disseminating strange little grooves throughout its duration. Insistent blares of bowed metal litter the piece as well, continuing to carry it forward in all its unsettling, prickly glory. Underneath the louder swells is a continuous hi-pitched tone, sounding like a violin section slowly dragging 500 ft bows across an open string. A new bassier tone joins up and the pair has a nice little duet. It's the strongest, most “stand alone” piece on the LP; it seems most confident in where it’s heading. "(Grotesque 3)" wraps the record up. At the outset it’s much more percussive until settling in with a quiet tone sounding halfway between a free sax solo and a Furby. From there, the record moves into one of my favorite passages which is nearly silent. A sine tone just this side of existence hangs in the ether and every so often a sharp percussive hit shatters the near-silence. It's hard to explain what exactly makes that section so arresting but after having the record demand so much attention, you are listening so hard that it is a tad surreal to feel like you are hearing silence. The rest of the piece brings in deep groans and plaintive, nearly melodic electro-acoustic drones ending on a relatively pleasant note.
This is a very elusive, enigmatic record. It will probably captivate some and be met with disinterest from others. I’m certainly in the former camp and I hope there's plenty more to come from this duo. It isn’t the most brilliant record I’ve heard but it's one that I still haven’t been able to put my finger on, and that quality will keep me listening for a long time.
The record is outfitted with killer artwork (as usual) by Nick Hoffman. It's a very nice package all together. It's still available, in an edition of 118, and at 12 bucks postpaid that's a darn good price for such high quality visuals and audio.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to write about this GDC cassette. Vermont pop genius Zach Phillips (Horse Boys, Sord, Nals Goring, OSR Tapes etc.) has delivered unto us a motherfuckin' faux-French masterpiece and I've been sleeping on the review for months! The fact that I received the tape literally a week after he finished recording it(!) makes it only that much worse, though on the day I got it I did listen to the tape 5 or 6 times in a row in my walkman as I walked around in the sun for a few hours. So here I am to ask forgiveness and shower the copious amounts of praise on this tape that it deserves.
After "Les Regles" a half minute opener of pounding synth chords, a refrain of "I don't make the rules, I just make them" and background "Hoo! Hah!"s Phillips brings the heaviest hitter. "Leur Heure" is one of the best songs of the year an absolutely gorgeous mid-tempo number featuring French lyrics and too many wonderful synth and vocal melodies to count. It is an incredible specimen of pop craftsmanship, the song takes unexpected turn after turn growing more and more infectious and lovely. Serious masterwork as far as 2 minute pop songs go. "Why Did You Reste" fills its 52 seconds with a catchy walking bass line and vocal melody to go along with its Sega Genesis-style synths. "D'une Journee" is another wondrous track featuring a bevy of keyboards all chiming in with their own unique melodies and voices. Though the tape has a very modest and warm feel, there is some serious ambition here with the staggering amounts of synths and melodies (even copping one briefly from "Poker Face") and multi-tracked vocals. I'm happy to report that Phillips' ambition is fully realized as well. I'm reminded of the mouth organ in Huysmans' À Rebours where each new melody and voice is a new and surprising flavor on the palette. "Les Histoires" changes things up beginning in a jaunty, vigorously strummed acoustic guitar in addition to the keyboards, adding a touch of rawness to the thoughtfully composed nature of the tape. "Flow Vait" comes off as rather minimal in the midst of the other songs here considering it only employs a few keyboards and vocal tracks. "Statues Francais #1-3" is the first of a series of instrumental interludes featuring piano; they make for very nice changes in pace as they still have the same heart but the stripped down dynamic breaks up the album in an effective way. The interlude leads into "Haut Contre Bas" probably the second finest piece on the tape. It kicks off a seriously infectious melody and light-footed French lyrics that skip through the song. There's an uptempo hi-hat via an unseen drum machine which pumps up the energy as well as Phillips delivers some soaring solos and choruses. Really brilliant. "Statues Francais #4" features a bit of vocals over warbly, rolling piano making for a nice lead into "Comment J'ai Aime Une Fille" which is a grand 30 second piece brimming with 18th century classical extravagance and a bit of sports arena excitement. Great way to end the side.
The next side opens with the jittery grooves of "Statues Francais #4" and continues on with the title track, an unabashed piano ballad. "Reverser Temps" is another standout in an album filled with priceless moments. It features one the prettiest melodies on the tape, and thankfully Phillips takes time to even give it a solo spot in middle of the piece. "Time Time Time Time" features dueling piano and synth formed into a boney ballad. "Couer de Lion" unexpectedly moves in between stately ballad and ambling doo wop and both are good with me. "Idiomes" is another fantastic selection. Over a relentless, pulsing bass synth riff, Phillips himself carries the melody delivering some of his best vocal work on the tape. I only wish the piece was developed past a minute and fifteen seconds. "PPPPP" is a cute little song with a slight circus feel in the melody. "Statues Francais #7-13" is a nearly 3 minute pastiche of various piano works. "Hotels D'Aeroport" barely makes it over a minute which is a damn shame as its the peppiest, most feel good thing on the cassette. Seriously great composition, I am amazed at how much Phillips packs into a minute. "Statues Francais #13" wraps things up unassumingly with more piano fragments.
One the best cassettes of the year and hands down the best pop record I have heard this year. This is a must hear!