Friday, February 18, 2011

Tad - Path to the Dutchie [DNT]/Al Qaeda/Demonologists - Split [Teen Action]

Got a pair of recent cassingles here, each with their own specific genre influences.
Tad (not the local grunge mofos) is the musical moniker of Tynan Krakoff, perhaps better known as the CEO of DNT Records. His debut Path to the Dutchie is dub through and through. And I don't been "dubby," lots of bands are that but this tape is creatively and faithfully dub.
The first side is the title track which blinks to a start with synth blips and some groovy-ass organ. Krakoff unleashes one of the most monster motherfucking grooves I've heard in a while. The melody is straight-up infectious and Krakoff couches it in an ever-shifting sound world of heavily effected keyboards, guitar and drum programming and also plenty of oddities (I swear there is a sample from NFL Blitz in here.) It's flat out amazing and gets out of yr hair quickly. This would be sad except the flip side "Version" is probably an even better rendition. Making good use of a reverb-laden melodica, this side takes the previous side's infectious melody and turns it inside out. While the melody holds down the jam, Krakoff sets about, in true dub fashion, to live delay pedal knob twiddling of percussion samples, trumpeting elephants, cackling dolphins and, I don't know, some insane monkeys or something. Totally out of left field and yet totally loveable.
This thing is about the perfect cassingle. Not just because the music is great but because the two tracks sound so great looped back to back over and over. Vinyl ain't gonna do that for you. Having to flip the record over constantly would make it a chore, and I'm pretty sure Tad would come out fiercely against chores. This tape has been out for two months and I ain't sick of this bad boy yet; I am starting to doubt I ever will be. Absolutely recommended.
Switching gears drastically, Al Qaeda and Demonologists are reportedly finding their black metal roots with this cassingle. I figure Bad Brains put reggae and hardcore hand and hand so why can't I do that with black metal and dub for this review? I haven't heard either of these crews so this makes for a quick get-to-know-ya.
Al Qaeda makes the jumpoff with the trio delivering 5 tracks in like 4 minutes. I was probably expecting 45 second raging metal tunes but AQ got something more abstract brewing. Starting out with "Battle Fuck" (a name so ridiculous it just might work) percussive bass throbs and wind blows before some obliterated vocal cord shredding bares its teeth against a weird looped keyboard. End track 1. "Bottom Feeder" actually features a rock band set-up pounding away on a rhythmic riff and the track plays out like an intro to an unmade album. "Shitting Gold" features warbly keyboard against distorted backwards tape loops or something of the like. "Lepper Cuss" opens with a scream and shuffles along heavy on the groove and light on the fidelity. Possibly the tape's standout. It shifts abruptly into "Veritable" which sounds a little too clean to be "black." Nearly glistening tones are sustained all the way through along with some bizarre brushing-your-teeth noises.
Passing to the other side, Demonologists deliver a single sidelong track, "The Bastard Curse." The jam is immediately heavy on the crunch. This is some Oops, All Berries crunch. I can't tell what the fuck is going on underneath all the distortion on this thing. Vocals? Guitar? Keyboard? Drums? There are a few sustained tones near the end but that might just be feedback. I figure if this was made with a combustion engine that runs on goat's blood, I'd get a press release letting me know, right? Then again maybe not...
Both tapes are available from the labels. The Tad tape comes shrinkwrapped with sweet prehistoric artwork. The AQ/Demonologists cassette features awesomely bleak xeroxography. A pair of handsome fellers don't ya think?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Terence Hannum - La Repitition [Peasant Magik]

Philly label Peasant Magik dropped an insanely big batch of tapes, 15 to be exact (is there a larger batch on record anywhere?) and I'm very slowly working my through them, with a number of heavy hitters still on deck. This solo release by Locrian's Terence Hannum marks the second tape in the batch with some French cinema inspiration (I wrote up the other one here.)
I haven't seen La Repitition (directed by Bertrand Duma) so I have no frame of reference for this cassette but apparently Hannum has composed a soundtrack to the film. Eight pieces for guitar and accordion are spread out evenly across the two sides. The first side "I-IV" has an effortless flow to it but slight undertones of melancholy and decay. Both the guitar and accordion are smeared together, so unified they're nearly inseparable at times. After the first piece streaks the sky grey, the second (or possibly third) movement finds a guitar in a duet with silence, inching forth a note at a time. Hannum gradually introduces other sounds and melodies which curl around the edges, never breaking the concentration of the central guitar's three note meditation.
The fifth piece that opens up the second side "V-VIII" is quite pretty, made up of alternately looming and luminous accordion tones which eventually becomes susceptible to waves of rushing static. Rolling guitar drones materialize at some point prodding the piece in a more musical direction with spiraling guitar tones embedded in the fuzz. The movements are so fluid, I never notice any marked changes. The side just seems to tumble on by, moving forth, capturing your attention and consequently receding back into the tape hiss before you even realize it.
La Repitition is resigned, forlorn, desolate and empty. Don't know what the movie's about but I'll be surprised if it's a comedy. I think fans of Locrian would definitely enjoy this but Hannum's work here is pretty fragmentary and evocative, a little different than the metal formalism that Locrian is currently interested in. It is fun to hear what other kinds of sounds Hannum has going on up there in his noggin.
The tape is dressed with the utmost professionalism and care as is customary with Peasant Magik. This tape is still in print at the label along with plenty of other great ones so take a gander.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Atlantic at Pacific - Weddings [Alchemist]/I and I - The Hardest Part [Alchemist]

A pair of tapes from the relatively young Alchemist label here.
First up is Atlantic at Pacific, the nom de plume of Santa Cruz dude Austin Wood. Wood gets the endorphins flowing right off at the bat with hazy bedroom electro-pop jam (and album standout) "Hallucinations." It's a very simple piece but sturdily constructed with unassuming but still HUGE synth hooks littering the track all over the place. I've never actually timed how long the track is but, damn, I always know that it's way too short. "On We Go" starts out a touch chillier but thaws out over its duration. Initially entering with an almost trip hop drum track, it's almost into DJ Shadow territory when the track reaches full bloom. "Drifting" whirls around on a woozy arpeggio with a drum machine pumping along faithfully before jumping ship for the keyboard solo. Upon its return the piece becomes more focused leaving the fog behind. The brief "50" certainly brings back the hip hop influence, collaging a handful of beats in more misty reverb. The title track stomps steadily underneath a luminous 3 chord synth progression which is given a moment to shine on it's own before Wood expands the piece to full force, including an infectious tinkling counter-melody. It's another piece that could have lasted longer not that it's especially short. And really I should probably be praising Wood's brevity as its a quality too few artists have. "The Sun Melt the Sky" is a rather swirly piece lead by stark a piano melody. That is before it morphs into a late-night downbeat raver. The side wraps with "The Lonely Ocean," an aquatic head-nodder I can envision MF Doom dropping a verse over.
Side number two kicks off with "For the Record," a thoroughly breezy just-go-with-it jam. "Tired" features burly keyboard chords and just a hint of early 90s videogame soundtracks. It's hard to pin down the mood of the track, a touch too intense and rhythmically involved to be somber but not light or uptempo enough to be a peppy pop number. The grey area works for it. "Intentional Pt. 1" is an unusual one for the cassette. There's a zonked monotone vocal drone, a synth snare at an almost punk tempo and bright keyboard melodies. "Summer Nights" is ponderous with a plodding synth progression and chiming counter-melody while the sunnier "I Know You Know" follows it up with a rattling drum track and fuzzy chords. The closer "Who Are We" spreads massively echoing vocals across the track with a sparse keyboard melody plinking away in the ether.
Wood doesn't create the most unique textures out there but his songwriting is pretty fucking solid making for an incredibly pleasant listen for a variety of moods. For fans of takin'-it-easy music.
Alchemist label head Adam Sarmiento is I and I (or i and i as he seems to prefer to have it written) which causes me to ask is that a Bad Brains reference? If it is, you probably wouldn't be able to tell from the music contained on this tape. The Hardest Part is more or less a cassingle but of the "12 inch single" variety, i.e. it lasts more than 7 minutes and it features the single version of the title track as well as two remixes and then an additional track ("Pocahontas.") "The Hardest Part (single version)" has a bit of a similar vibe to that Atlantic at Pacific tape but minus the haze. The vocal presence is much stronger as well (it actually has discernible lyrics) in fact the vocals are the focus. The rest of the elements are kept pretty minimal for the most part, crisp drum programming, fuzzy electro bass and stark piano notes. I think how a listener responds to Sarmiento's voice will probably dictate how he/she feels about the track. I am a bit on the fence regarding that matter myself. Sarmiento doesn't have a bad voice but it feels a little ill-fitting for the production. Or maybe more accurately its the production that doesn't suit his voice the best. "The Hardest Part (Radio! remix)" which I think was done by Austin Wood takes the opposite route of the original. Pushing fragments of the track through loads of effects and minimizing the vocal presence by comparison. It's pretty darned sloshed and, while still using the original as it's source, it refashions the original into a far more "electronic" track.
The second side brings the Nassau Caledonian remix of the title track. It retains the mellow vibe of the original and keeps many of the elements intact but really ups the "club" quotient with big splashy drum tracks and sequenced synth at points. There's some nice synthesized strings at the end too moving the piece briefly into a different realm. The ironic thing about this tape is that the "b-side" is actually far more interesting and my favorite track. "Pocahontas" feels a bit grittier, with wobbly drum programming and an ambling synth melody. There's a cool fuzz organ solo in there too. Again, Sarmiento's voice seems slightly out of place but as more elements enter throughout the song it seems to fit more and more. There's a brilliant little counter-melody with stabs of keyboard notes that is worth it's weight in gold. The song takes an unusual path moving from a slightly abstract, ramshackle drum and synth duet into a fully (de)formed pop ballad forgoing most of the rules along the way. It's vaguely similar to something like Dragging an Ox Through Water, where there's a real solid pop song core but the way it is ultimately outfitted is more than a little unexpected. This little nugget makes me curious about just what Sarmiento can do. I think he may be onto something with this "Pocahontas" thing.
Both releases are available in cassette, compact disc and downloadable formats from the label. Your call but you know the right decision is tape. You can also stream both releases from the Alchemist website too which is pretty sweet.