Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arklight/Dead Gum - Split [Phase]

Dang, Greeks love Arklight. The country is reliably pumping out Arklight releases even after the whole bottoming out of the economy. Thank you for your continued service Greece.
This one (from the Phase label) is special because a) it’s a tape and b) Dead Gum is on the other side. I’d never heard Dead Gum before this and I can’t say the name lead to high expectations but they were a pleasant surprise. The tape is wound on their side right now so I’ll start the review there.
“Knock Your Head on the Tablet” starts things off with lots of distorted echoing guitars. I don’t know what the band line-up is or if it’s just one person but I’m pretty sure everyone who is actually in the band is playing guitar. The track amounts to a rough, glistening wall of shimmer; shoegaze with balls. “Let Me Show You Around” features rigid marching guitar strums courtesy of a delay pedal. From there the track gets gradually messier as the delays fold back on themselves. This one has a lot more space in it leading me to think Dead Gum is probably the result of a single pair of hands. Unintelligible vocals near the end are a welcome addition as it sort of feels like a bonafide song in its closing minutes. As one chapter ends another begins, Dead Gum segues into the track’s finale edging toward psychedelic territory with a slightly more upbeat and groovy feel. This shifts directly to the stark, jangling strings of “Secret Love.” “Rat of Tide” changes the vibe considerably as it’s a very loose, jangly guitar and voice song. It’s got plenty of prickly points all over but stands apartment from the layers of distortion at the outset of the side. The finale, “Six Packs of Everything,” inadvertently caused me to wonder how many things do really come in six packs, beer/soda, abs, crayons, I don’t think that many things do. Anyway, that tangent has nothing whatsoever to do with the music. The side’s finale is even looser, with some zonked vocals and rustling guitar strings.
This tape sounds awesome with the volume knob up. Not necessarily anything new I guess, but its tried and true cascading guitar fuzz and loner six-stringin’ that never gets old. I’d like to see where Dead Gum goes from here; maybe they’ll imbue their sound with a little more form next time around?
Arklight’s side opens with “Radonitsa.” A garbled weather report on the radio, needling guitars, a thunderous loop of bass feedback or something or other. I think there’s a live hi-hat in here too. Typical of Arklight, it’s an atypical arrangement. The jam stays locked into it’s groove, builds tension until distortion starts spreading like a virus through the track slowly eclipsing everything in static. I always enjoy it when Arklight brings the grooves, and “Russian Ark” flirts with that very idea. A spaced guitar melody slowly loops against unspecified percussive bumps, clicks, steps, scratches, whathaveyous. The piece is relatively unchanging; it almost feels like a Buddha box or something. “Like Light Night” jams on a single guitar a little like parts of the Dead Gum side. Much like some of the Dead Gum side as well, it lapses into a blurry, fuzzed out mess. The closer “Captain General” hits hard and heavy right off the bat with big distorted thumping toms. A guitar that sounds like it’s being molested by a violin bow is panned back forth as the rhythm section thrusts and rumbles on. The drums drop out for a fantastic breakdown, atmospheric guitar touches and especially a clutch bassline totally nail it, making it the stand out moment of the track before the drums return. The track as a whole has an elusive vibe I’m really digging. My favorite jam on the tape, hands down.
Phase did a nice job with screen-printed artwork. 65 copies, still in print. Hit up the label.

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