Monday, March 28, 2011

Scissor Shock - Psychic Existentialism [For Noise's Sake]/Expensive Shit - ATX Ghosts + Flowers [For Noise's Sake]

As you've likely noticed, ain't been too many reviews poppin' out of these Auxiliary Out tubes lately. There has been no shortage of great stuff comin' in the doors here; it's just been that time has been incredibly elusive this year. Although, to quoteth Galaxy Quest, never give up, never surrender. I am chipping away steadily, if glacially, at the stack of patient submissions here. Well, I just caught a few minutes of Madrid on Globe Trekker yesterday, I figure it's a sign to give these transmissions from Madrid's For Noise's Sake the review treatment.
Scissor Shock is the work of insanely active, insanely motivated and insanely nice guy Adam Cooley. I use "insanely" purposefully there because a few things about Adam are a little insane, probably most of all is his music.
"Psychic Existentialist" breathes life into the record and actually isn't that crazy at first. Sure, a little scatterbrained maybe, but not crazy. Chopped up samples (ranging from vibes to children's programming) mingle with "free" drum programming. There actually is nearly a jazzy feel at parts but Cooley is much too eager to stop and go at a whim, trading in mellow grooves for skittering melodies like it's nobody's business (it isn't.) At 6 minutes, it's the second longest of like 13 tracks. Most wrap-up in a little over a minute such as "Cat Planet Woman" which features a similar vibe to the opening track but daresay it sounds much more focused? "Ghost with Shit Electronics" flips the script with a lonesome guitar intro before launching headfirst into a spastic showcase of stitched together guitar and drum programming. If sheet music shoved into a food processor made a sound, this record might not be too far from it. I don't want to cheapen the music with hyperbole because what makes the record is not the split-second editing; it's that Cooley will end the frantic, hi-speed collision of the aforementioned "Ghost" with a detuned guitar and vocal ditty. So there is Jungle in here as well as shredmasters but there's this weirdo sensibility as well. It seems like when Cooley eases up on the gas a little he reveals great little moments. Sometimes it's a strung out acoustic guitar. Sometimes it's a lingering, aural tone. Though, the record can still sound pretty good when the pedal's to the metal. The 9 minute title track works like a plunderphonic punk/hardcore track. Breaking down and mashing up the various signatures of punk and hardcore music along with spurts outsides genres. Unexpectedly, the piece drifts out on a few minutes of mild, psychedelic drone while the next track "Sunset Dream of Codeine Eyeball" is a few plucked guitar notes. "Bring Back the Guillotine" stands out because of how it begins. It's more or less a rock song, albeit an extremely debilitated rock song. The track doesn't necessarily continue in that same fashion, but it does seem to choose melodies over tropes which I am in complete support of. "Man of the Graveyard Man" does straight-up morph into a one-man DC hardcore track that's pretty rad while it lasts. "Tearing Wings Off of a Pigeon" continues the string of hits. It's actually a song with vocals and a melody all the way through. The final 23 seconds (titled "Johnny Merzbow Psychic Contact") are pretty badass, so badass in fact need a little more than 23 seconds, Adam. C'mon! Don't leave a guy hanging.
How much you really enjoy Cooley's music probably depends mostly on how chopped-up you like your audio. Though I'm not a big fan of that generally, Cooley imbues all the cuts and splices with the overarching character of his music. He's obviously fond of chopping the shit out of everything which I can respect (especially because I know my lazy ass would never have the patience nor perseverance to make music like that) but as I alluded to earlier, it's all things that don't jump up and down, demanding your attention that make the record interesting.
This Expensive Shit CD-r had a couple things going for it before I even listened to it. First of all, I like this gang's name. Second, the cover (intentionally?) evokes Rampage one of the most badass arcade games around. Third, there's the winking nod to Pitchfork media's most hated Sonic Youth album.
The disc consists of a single 19 and a half minute rager. The thing is so blown out, so gnarled, so ravaged that my agitated girlfriend asked me to plug in the headphones.
There's some semblance of "music" here. Expensive Shit is definitely a "band" just one that plays furious 19.5 minute-long, improv'd disasterpieces. Every so often the drummer takes the lead, with the rest of the band following his torch through the cave of clang.
The second half, much like the first half, of the track features a lot pounding, thudding, crashing, slashing but also some weird harmonic licks in there too. It may be the most developed section of the track, which ambles along from bit to bit fluidly if a little languorously sometimes. By the end of the set, though, they are really grooving like a mid-period Six Finger Satellite but caked with dirt, rust and oxidation rather than basking in radioactivity. For full band free noise-rock, these guys aren't a bad source. They will certainly beat the fuck out your face if you let them out of yr sight.
I'm curious to hear more from Expensive Shit, or hear them develop rather. These guys got the sound down, but I wouldn't mind hearing a few songs driving all the volatility next time. I highly doubt these guys take requests though.
Hit up For Noise's Sake for the discs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

York Factory Complaint - Remorse of Conscience [House of Alchemy]

Adam Richards's House of Alchemy seems to be on the road to becoming a full time cassette pusher, Amen to that. This one by York Factory Complaint came along in a batch with a Chris Dadge solo percussion tape (which I will speak on at a later date) as well as an expansive split/collab double tape between Richards's Chapels project, Sleepwalkers Local and The Circle and the Point.
Never heard of this duo before the tape, though I've seen the name around a couple places since. The tape is kinda weird to write about because it keeps me at a distance. I don't really know how to get close to it or into it. Maybe the fact that it's an antisocial junkbag could be part of the problem.
The cassette starts out with some motherfuckin' rumble. As the side (titled "Asleep in the Arms of an Ocean" as if anyone could confuse this racket for a lullaby) moves forward it sounds like that some of this noise could be originating from percussion or guitar bashing rather than just inbred circuits. The tape is weirdly "musical." There aren't any melodies or discernibly intentional rhythms so maybe it really is just two dudes trying to peel the paint from the walls but there's a lively physicality to it buried underneath not found in all noise music.
York Factory Complaint are absolutely trafficking in no-fi, recorded-in-a-dumpster audio-garbage so the sound doesn't get anymore detailed when you crank the volume. Like it or not, the Complaint are giving you big, broad, abstract strokes like playing mud on your turntable. Their brand of impressionist noise obscures its artist, along with everything else really.
"Marked" is my preferred side, if only for the sharper, trebly bite it has. Various sources of feedback, forced to mingle, unwillingly breed making for bastards and bastards of bastards all clamoring over each other in forbidden instinct. The side isn't any less caked with shit than the previous (it might even be a little more unstable) but the claustrophobia of "Ocean" is gone leaving the sounds to exist in a strangely open territory. The funny thing is for all the "crumbliness" of it, the piece sort of seems in a vacuum. I'll throw some oxymoronical buzz words at it: infinite destruction. How can something be destroyed if its infinite? I don't know, talk to these guys...
York Factory Complaint, in my estimation, are somewhere between junk noise brethren like the Fossils family and other thicker, electronics-based harsh noise artists. Does that sound appetizing (or, more likely, vomit-inducing?) Well, come to the stable and let the House of Alchemy feed you until you burst.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alex Barnett - Section 4 [Pizza Night]

This is the fourth installment of the killer Section series by Chicago-based analog synth maestro Alex Barnett. The previous installment featured "Try Harder" a bad ass John Carpenter-ish jam of epic proportions, which is still the pinnacle of Barnett's work for me, though Section 4 is pretty solid all the way through.
"Bad Omens" comes to life like a re-animated body, a pulse first that gradually builds into the actions of an agitated malformed nervous system. The piece moves forward with scientific precision yet a woozy rage seems to bubble underneath. Halfway through Barnett flips the script, whipping out a speedy arpeggio and dueling counterpoint melody. It's a sizzling, banshee-like scree that pushes the piece over the top though. Slipping into dirge territory the ephemeral melody emerges again as an even eerier figure. Tough act to follow. "Day Dreams" finishes out the side. It works well in conjuction with "Bad Omens" because there is a certain wooziness as well as toughness. But overall, the piece comes off as brighter and simpler with an auto-panned synthesizer aura.
"Streams" wastes no time getting the next side moving. It emphasizes Barnett's playing more as there are no overdubs making for a nice introduction to the side. "Cavernous Places" really changes things up as it veers closer to noise territory. Percussive noises scrape around and writhe on the floor leading into "Foldover" and its zippy, percussive arpeggio over which Barnett tears into his oscillator. It is a simple piece, but the 3 or so components prove to hit the right marks, amounting collectively to an effective piece of work. The closer, "The Best Day of Your Life" features the same rough-edged synthesizers but is a little sweeter at heart. Glistening waves of keys chime in over a couple looped arpeggios.
This set of pieces feels a little looser, with Barnett often laying out a simple theme and then improvising and exploring the piece from there. He keeps the works tastefully short though so they never end up in meandering territory. That's characteristic of the series as a whole; one of the strengths of Sections is Barnett keeps each installment to 20 minutes so each new tape finds him probing the areas of synth composition a little more but in a manageable fashion. Every tape is considered rather than a series where artist says "here is everything I have been up to lately" and drops hours of material at your feet.
Check Pizza Night for copies or hit the distros.