Monday, May 23, 2011

Toning - Pitch the Drone [Stunned]

Pitch the Drone is a recent tape by Portlander Cody Brant a.k.a. Toning, issued earlier in the year on the inimitable Stunned label.
All I really know about Brant is that he's been involved with Smegma; to what degree, I'm not sure. His solo project Toning speaks on its own terms though.
Considering I'm a big cinema person, I love that Brant lists the soundmakers on the recording "in order of appearance." He's joined by the colorful cast of characters of Kelsey McCurdy, Blaze Freely, Dunja Jankovic, Shaela, Josie and Ocean; no more info is given other than the names which is characteristic of the mysterious sounds that emanate from the from the cassette.
Running through 9 tracks in a half hour, "Melt" brings the tape to life. A gently swelling synth loop is matched with a few layers of sine waves and crackle. An uneven drum loop adds a (ar)rhythmic element making for a pleasantly mellow intro. "New Life, Dead End" lines up what sounds like percussive, muted guitar strings over a guttural drone loop and a hazy vocal-esque keyboard loop. Slowly I realize there's a rhythmic stomp behind it and then, boom, whisked away to a strangely abstract and awesome approximation of tribal music. Looped hand drum, odd jangling, a bevy of odd slurping, chirping swooping oscillations and loops. Killer! There's a ton of complexity if you want to pick it apart or you can just shut up and groove. A fast-paced bass and bells loop pushes along underneath an unintelligible looped vocal part on "There's No Hiding," changing up but continuing the high groove quotient. "Scuffed Lips" slows things way down with a devoutly mid-tempo drum machine. Usurped by some kind of looped reverse bass and effected guitar loop, the track doesn't gel quite as well as the others but it's no chore to sit through either. "Something Simple" is anything but. Thick, wet, drippy synth is slathered all over the piece seeping into all the little cracks left between the polyrhythmic loop cluster eventually vacating, letting a single looped vocal part conclude the side.
"As You" is real thick and goopy with a drum machine trudging through the swamp of molasses keyboards and creepy children's coos. A totally trippy, slo-mo dirge. Adequately named considering it's the longest journey of the cassette, "Secret Trip" drops some filtered feedback for the opening 30, slowly augmenting it until its almost a drone piece. A sloooow bass throb rolls underneath the scratchy upper crust eventually unveiling an abstract, groovy little techno beat. Mix in the horn breaks, sprinkle some wind chimes on top and the recipe's complete. Well, not nearly, Brant shifts things up with a killer sub-bass loop that catches my attention immediately. Brant rightly lets it rule the rest of the track adding shards of static and oscillations around the edges and slowly letting them blanket over. A definite favorite is "Good Going" which features a great 4-note keyboard loop, some barely present acoustic six-string noodling and slowly forming layers of static. It doesn't move beyond that yet it's one of the most memorable numbers on the tape. "Patient Returns" closes things up with some prickly chimes and pitch bends until Brant flips the script and drops the best, most mellow and catchy segment of the tape. Damn, I wish it lasted longer than 30 seconds! Yr killin' me Cody!
The tape is a must for anyone into dense, loop-based miniatures, and seriously who isn't into that? Toning's definitely one of the most promising new projects I've come across recently. Looking forward to hearing more from this guy.
Long gone from Stunned so hit the distros!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Family Underground - Demon Parade [DNT]

I feel like it's been a while since Danish drone hounds Family Underground dropped a record and considering Demon Parade is one of their best, I'm wondering if they've been holding out on us. What other sounds do they have locked up in the vault?
"Son of the Morning" features what I consider to be the classic Fam Underground sound. Jagged electronic drones, agitation situated within stagnation and slow-motion. Some tones stay static, serrating at an even pace while another tone is gradually jostled back and forth between pitches. There's a dose of unintelligible vocal muck in the midst of it all. You know I've been thinking it was vocals but it may be a horn of some sort, really can't say. The more I listen, the less I know. A strange, plink-plonk melody emerges barely towards the end of the track lending a rigid, rhythmic sway. This track should keep all the fans satisfied but it's the following tracks that I found the most interesting. "The Spectral Janitor" (killer title by the way) is heavy on the violin drones which I am all about. The Family keeps the piece in the pocket, not too abrasive but not too smooth or pretty either. With strange permutations from each sound source occurring throughout, the piece evolves very subtly, with an array of sounds constantly shifting within a certain framework. Nice work.
The second side is two tracks merged as one, "Singly Lost, Eternally Gained Part One and Two." Dark as hell, the thing rolls to a start with a bowed drone, a barren bass pound every 10 seconds and what sounds like a noisy recording of a boxcar. Gradually the plot thickens, more sounds enter and the affair gets noisier but no less bleak. When "Part One" reaches its breaking point and shuffles off into darkness, "Part Two" appears with a slightly more optimistic tone. Whaaa? Are these guys actually going to end on an upbeat note? The distorted oscillations are still present but so is a chiming keyboard part, synth squelch and even some vague axe moves. I'll take it. That's not as surprising as what happens next. Out of the cacophony comes a totally bizarre groove. Like Excepter doing trip hop, maybe? A little? I don't know man, cause it isn't some accidental thing. There's a bass line, a heavily effected percussion track and then a totally sloshed voice comes into focus. Yes, this has happened. Family Underground have made a disco record. Fuck. Yes. Please excuse me while I board this soul train and ride it to the end of the groove. All aboard!
Considering the past couple Family Underground LPs and that Attestupa record, DNT is really holding it down when it comes to dark-ass Scandinavian sounds. Keep 'em comin'. Demon Parade may even be the best of 'em though it's hard to turn down the plague-ridden rage of that Attestupa record.
Sparse and ambiguously great artwork from DNT completes the package. Check this bastard out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trent Fox & the Tenants - Mess Around EP [Kind Turkey]/Two Tears - Eat People [Kind Turkey]

As promised I'm venturing on through my stack of 7inches. Wisconsin label Kind Turkey sent it's two most recent releases by Trent Fox & the Tenants and Two Tears. That's a lot of Ts.
This Trent Fox & the Tenants record is pure fun. Nothing you haven't heard before most likely but as I said, pure fun, which goes a long way in my ears. The title track is a slightly ska-infused jaunt, which plays it pretty cool with "yeah yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" backing vocals on the chorus. "Outta My Mind" mines the same 50s/60s pop touchstones that Nobunny has been doing so successfully. The Tenants make a good show of it too. Once again some killer backing vocals on the chorus and just the right amount of jangle is dialed in. "Jokes" has a touch of twang despite being the most jaggedly fierce song on the record. It features a pretty bitchin' bridge too as well as a shuffling breakdown.
The first side is totally solid but the flip garners the most plays on my table. "Old Lady" takes its foot off the gas a little before dropping a tried and true, bombastic minor key chorus. Always a classic (and welcome) move. The rolling bassline is ace, the backup vox are on point once again. It's pretty archetypal but they nail it and considering how many people fuck this kind of thing up, I appreciate when someone does pop right. Cause pop is fuckin' hard. "Sounds Fine to Me" will speak to anyone of you who likes records and liquor. "I sit at home with my records on/I sit at home and play my favorite song/Maybe I'll go to the local bar, the one right down the street/Maybe I'll go to the local bar and see what people I meet" goes one verse. It's a punchy little number that will cut right to the core of anyone who likes to sit on the porch and have a drink. My most spun track for sure.
Cool record, sure to garner plenty of spins by anyone who has a pulse. Although, one word of advice, dudes, drop the "Trent Fox" and just go with The Tenants.
Two Tears is Kerry Davis (formerly of Red Aunts and The Screws) and she delivers three minimal post-punk tunes. The lead-off title-track has a quite a bluesy stomp. Davis writes really sparse, skeletal arrangements. Totally unadorned, no frills but with swagger to spare. "I want a man/With nothing wrong" is her lead-off line and she maintains the assertive tone through the whole record. FYI, she wants a man "who's kinda big and kinda tall" not because of love or lovin' or anything stupid like that. It's because she wants to eat him.
"Heisse Hexe" is a pop-addled brain controlling a a punk body. Despite Davis's snotty sneer and the aggressive guitarwork on the bridge, the track is total ear candy. I dare you to walk away not repeating "Heisse! Hexe! In love" or whatever it is she's singing.
Once again, I think the B-side probably garners the most plays from me. "Senso Unico" slows things way down. There are no collaborators listed for this track so I am gonna guess this is all Davis. There are four elements in the track: tambourine hits, tremolo'd guitar, a synth providing killer counter melodies and Davis's voice which alternately wails on lines like "I hate my life!" and pouts on lines like"Sen-so ooh-nee-co." The track rules. Davis cuts down everything to its bare essentials so each element has something vital to contribute. It's an unlikely number to get stuck in my head but, man, it does. By the way, it sounds killer at 33rpm too (bonus!)
I don't know what you call this kind of stuff. Post-riot grrl or something lame like that? Whatever, it doesn't need a label. It's raw, it's minimal, it's catchy. What other boxes need she check?
This is a nice pair of 7inches from Kind Turkey and considering I'd never heard of either of these artists, props to them for enlightening me. Labels always get big points when they introduce me to someone new. They are both available from Kind Turkey.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dave Smolen/hair_loss - Split [_bruxist/Injections Limited]

Yeah baby, this split LP is a hearty slab of Philly electro-noise. Dave Smolen, governor of Malleable Records, takes the A and hair_loss (no caps when you spell the man's name,) also a perpetrator of sonic terror in noise-rock duo Snowstorm, takes the flip.
From the outset I will say this record looks awesome; clear, green, thick and Joe Lentini did one hell of a job mastering this son of a bitch. It sounds killer. Smolen starts ravin' from the word go. "Bionisensitivity" bumps hard underneath a looped guitar or keyboard melody. From there he layers on copious amounts of cut-up freak noise over the steady stomp. Actually it's not a stretch whatsoever to spin this at a club. Smolen always keeps things pumpin' even when he's throwing curves. The track has a lengthy deceleration process. Like that slasher that refuses to die, you think the sucker's on the ropes but it somehow gathers enough energy to come at you again. When Smolen does pull the plug it's in favor of the icy stabs of "Stitchglide." After lulling you into a trance, Smolen rips the thing wide open with a machine-gun marching drum machine and squelching synth-bass. Nice. Smolen manages quite a tightrope act here, balancing fierce throbs and chilled out keyboard bleeps and coos. Don't ask me how but he pulls it off; he just does. "Manual Control (III)" concludes his side. It seems a good deal shorter than the previous tracks and is focused much more on percussive sounds. It amounts more or less to a thumping drum machine solo over a filtered synth-loop. My least favorite piece on the side but I'm a melody guy so that figures.
I like the choice in sequencing for this LP, Smolen takes you to the club (a forward-thinking club, granted) and then hair_loss burns the fuckin' thing to the ground. "Eyes up to the Glass Bottom" throws all sorts of sounds at you but not too intensely, it doesn't want to scare you away, it's chill, it ain't gonna freak on you... not. Mr. _loss gives you a taste of whats to come with an explosive jump into highly groovin' but still midtempo territory. "Hair Dryer Funk" though, dang homie, that track is slammin'. Uppin' the ante with a super punchy and fuzzy bassline and then goin' all in with a stuttering percusssssive loop, the track's like a minute long but it will get you movin' in no time. hair_loss's work is so frenetic with sounds accosting you from every angle, it's pretty bizarre that it manages to still feel like a club record. "Borrowing Sugar" is a good example of this, sounds sourced from who knows where originally all throwdown in this abstract lockstep. Totally complex, totally weird and totally bangin'. Despite getting thrown off course a time or two they find their way back home into the enchanted forest of beats. "Window Over Yellow" throws a big curve, with nothing but a looped drone to start out on. A clicking drum track crops up at one point and gets it's filter settings molested. Playing 'em close to the chest, it's not clear until later just where the track is headed, which oddly enough is the mellow place it started at. Mr. Smolen gets in on the action for the final track titled simply "B." It crashes to a start with bursts of noise shredding up every potential shot at a beat. A super messy dancefloor smasher finally pulls itself together and things go off. Fuck splits these guy gotta do a whole record together! You hear both brains in play here, hair_loss in all his zany, sound-crazed glory and Smolen comin' through with the strong, much-enjoyed, ass-shaking groove underneath. Hell of a closer.
If you're into Philly's unique form of noise, this is a no-brainer. If your unfamiliar with said noise, well here's your shot to get two of the sharpest minds in the game on one slab of wax.
Limited to only 100 copies (yikes!) and at 12 bucks postpaid I doubt there's many left. You can get the record here but there's also mp3s of the record available on Amazon released through Injections Limited if you don't have a turntable (though what a sad life that would be...)

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Armed with perhaps the most unwieldy band name I've ever encountered, Portuguese psych unit dUAsSEMIcOLCHEIASiNVERTIDAS (which I gather from minutes of internet research translates roughly to "tWOHALFiNVERTEDeIGHTHNOTES") drop a burner of a c30 housed in a plywood box thanks to enterprising labelhead Carlos Costa of brand new imprint A Giant Fern.
The first jam, "Amnesia," teases a little bit with scattered notes here and there and no real form. You can sense something is coming though. Fragments of riffs are leaked out, a rhythm section slowly take shape amidst oscillations. Then all of a sudden, it smacks you in the face, the moment you've been waiting for. A killlller 3-note bass riff hits real smooth. Now that I'm expecting the band to blow the jam wide open they opt to end it (what's the deal?) I might be a little miffed but they get back to it on "Anagrama" which sounds much cleaner with another relentess 3-note riff tripled on bass, organ and guitar. A saxophone wails away as the rest of the band veers back and forth between mellow vibes and aggressive buzzsaw modifications to the main riff. If The Jesus Lizard was a psych band, you'd probably get something like this. Sweet. Finishing out the side with much chiller vibes is "Apneia." Bouncing from "Anagrama" to this track is like seeing these guys play at a basement punk show and then at some mellow late-night club. Previous track gets you up on your feet and this gently pushes you back into your seat.
The album's default epic, "13:13," on the second side, is pretty sparse and definitely free at first. Each member drops their own strange sounds. So suddenly that it almost seems like an accident, all the stars align and the band is grooving as one. Ever so slowly they build to a cascading peak before exploding into this weird disco/jazz/psych hybrid. That's one of the most striking qualities of the band, that they bring so many different influences in comfortably under the psych umbrella. Noisy art-rock, disco/funk, improv, a little dub, a touch of hip hop and a hefty dose of jazz. These guys sound like they love playing; even in the moments where they're "cooling off" you can feel the adrenaline still pulsing through them and the sweat pouring from their collective brow. "13:13" is like an unkillable beast, it may back off temporarily but that's only because it's prepping to come back at you even more fiercely. By the end of the jam, the band is so turned around they finish the tape with "Intro" which is just like it sounds. Heavy chiming, gentle guitar and synth mangling, you get the idea.
The tape is a lot of fun. It plays more like a collection of various jams than an album, but that's pretty characteristic of the psych-jammin' genre in my experience. The band has a lot of raw energy, a sense of adventure and a weird-ass name (at least to those not from the Mediterranean) how can they lose?
Getting back to the coolest thing about this release, the tape comes housed in a plywood box, cut and nailed together in a super-professional manner. There's a perfect circle cut in the front to let your choice of two picture cards show through and then on the back "AGF1" is etched mechanically on the back in big capital letters. Amazing little package! The label's called "A Giant Fern" how can it not rule as well??
The Fern edition, that is the plywood box version, is limited to 45 but there's also the fantastically titled Kayak Tour edition that comes in a jewel case limited to 105. I recommend the box but it'd be pretty badass to have the "Kayak Tour" edition of anything.
Hit up the label if you are interested.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grasshopper - Calling All Creeps [Prison Tatt]/Grasshopper & Wether - Delaware Dreamin [Baked Tapes]/Grasshopper - Classic Jazz Moods [Pizza Night]

Man, I have been needing to take some time to reflect on one of the absolute greatest bands going today. The duo of Jesse DeRosa and Josh Millrod have been blowing craters in the earth's crust for some time now with their apocalyptic trumpet/electronics rippage. Two trumpets, two pairs of hands and one highly evolved super-brain--Grasshopper lays waste to just about every other band currently making music. I know I wouldn't want to follow them on a bill.
Every release they dropped last year was top notch but I have picked three of the most interesting, their vinyl debut, their most "classical" cassette yet and their stellar collabo with Wether. Time to dive in.
Calling All Creeps (yes! title rules,) also, the debut release of an enterprising young label Prison Tatt. Built on a synth-y, swelling two-note loop, the piece is overcome by electric cricket chirping and velvety blankets of noise as Millrod and DeRosa start shoveling in the dirt to your early grave. Through the mountainous peaks of sound, a beautiful unadorned trumpet solo barely peeks out. It is an intense moment. Heavy, oppressive throbs of electronics try to get squelch out the trumpet, but someone's lungs keep providing air before inevitably collapsing. It feels like the electronics have won, the track pulses harder, the sound spectrum grows ever nastier and then, shit, the trumpet is back. Maybe a little wounded, but the fucker ain't giving up which is all that counts. Through all the lurch and crunch, the regal horn seems to gain the upper hand, fending of massive electric squalls. The two forces lock horns, grinding each other to a pulp. After the carnage, both sides are obliterated but the lone trumpet staggers forth with a prayer for its fallen comrades. But does the ambiguous mechanical exhalation just before the runoff groove signal the death of the machines or an inevitable rise to power once again? These guys always end with a cliffhanger.
Better move your ass Hollywood, snap up the rights to Calling All Creeps: Story of an Underdog while you still can; it's a surefire winner!
I'm probably being too reductive trying to fit this record into a post-apocalyptic narrative but I can't really help it. This record rips so hard that it really makes me want to go out and battle some motherfuckers.
The only bad thing I have to say about Calling All Creeps is that it's one-sided. Though I hear that the Hoppers are prepping a proper two-sider for release this year. Hallelujah!
To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this Wether/Grasshopper collaboration. Both artists rule on on their own but sometimes collabs can be less than the sum of their parts. Holy shit were my reservations stupid. Delaware Dreamin on De Rosa's Baked Tapes imprint is some of the best work either party has done. Period. Mike Haley plugs right into DeRosa's and Millrod's super-brain and the trio delivers twenty minutes of utterly gorgeous trumpet and electronics damage. This doesn't sound like a one-off "collaboration," watching one person's style interact with another person's; they sound like they've been playing with each other for years. The first side is a beautiful whirlwind at sunset. Sure, it might be ravaging everything in its path but it looks elegant from afar. The trio creates a vast canvas of grainy fuzz drenched sounds but with unmistakable beauty flourishing underneath, particularly at the end of the side. Maybe the dynamic that has emerged is that Haley holds down the electronics angle and the trumpeters therefore are allowed a little more freedom to develop lovely, vaguely intertwining melodies such as these. That's the just first side.
The second side opens with a bulldozer of an electronic rumble, bristling with rattle and squelch. Stormy wether for sure. Gradually glistening waves of brass spread across the arrangement making for an unbelievably gorgeous composition. The piece soldiers on with Haley delivering some heavy duty noise destruction against the alluring trumpet tones. By far the most elegant bout of noise I've experienced in some time. The relationship between the various elements of the track is purely organic, the harshness and the smoothness both properties of one fabric. Completely stunning work.
Classic Jazz Moods on Sam Goldberg's Pizza Night label is only a semi-tongue-in-cheek title; this is the cleanest sounding Grasshopper recording yet. There's a minimum of distortion and electronics, and what happens when you strip all that away? Grasshopper is probably even more impressive. "Looming Clouds Rain Gold and Frankincense" begins with Patton-esque heavily delayed trumpet calls. More interesting is a somber undercurrent unfurling just audibly underneath the cool, bright bleats. This trumpet grows and grows, moving from background looming to front and center with a heart-wrenchingly mournful elegy. All the while a subtle pulse of electronics takes shape with a deep, sub-bass undertow. This really is some high-minded composition. The cassette goes beyond noise or psych or drone; Millrod's and DeRosa's classical training shines bright but heavily imbued with the glorious ambiguities cultivated in the finest psych, drone and noise recordings. Their trenchant compositional style comes to complete fruition on this piece. I don't know if I've ever heard anything this eloquent on a small-run cassette before. A spiritual partner to "Looming Clouds," "A Gift Committed to Flesh" fills out the rest of the side. Brass gently wavers in the wind as this piece expands fully to cinematic scope. More hopeful, and eventually more cacophonous, than "Looming Clouds," "Gift" is just as masterful and articulate.
"Strength and Sanity (A Mournful Apparition Shrouded in Blood Mist)" takes the entirety of the second side. Gently quivering electronic tones seem to dominate at first but the trumpets bide their time before making their play. They set the trap, stalking slowly before completely swallowing up the piece. Thick melodic swells overlap and, just... at some point you realize for the past few minutes you've been slowly drowning in heavenly beauty. I know that sounds hyperbolic but I guarantee you it is not.
Everyone of these releases is utterly essential. If you can't get all three, get two. If you can't get two, get one. If can't get one, well, you have none of my pity because you just aren't trying hard enough.
I'll close how I began, Josh Millrod and Jesse DeRosa are one of the absolute greatest bands going today. All hail Grasshopper.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sacred Harp - Apparitions at the Kenmore Plantation [No Label]

Despite borrowing its name from one of the finest vocal musics the world has ever heard, Sacred Harp is the project Virginia-based guitarist Daniel Bachman. This self-released debut LP consists of six guitar-centric compositions. Right up my alley.
"Feast of the Green Corn" announces the beginning of the record with a pair of alternating laconic phrases and a bit of silence before bursting forth in fertile, rapid finger-picking and swelling electric tones. It's quite a beautiful, perhaps even a little cinematic, piece, with plenty of energy pulsing through its veins. Bachman isn't really exploring any uncharted territory on this piece but, man, it is a joy to listen to. "Brother Green" shifts things from bright, acoustic fingerpicking to swollen, raga-like electric tones and voice. Voice, rather than guitar, is actually the focus of the track. I can't tell if Bachman has lyrics or not but his drawn out exhalations come off as wordless either way. The latter part of the piece sees the spotlight shined back on a patient, echo-laden guitar solo. It's an abrupt shift in style from the first track and manages to work out okay, but despite being a good piece it feels a little amiss amongst the other material of the record. The final track of the side "Rappahannock (Jr)" (one of the counties in Virginia where this was recorded) shifts right back into the style of the opener. It actually probably one-ups the opener. It's another speedy, rather old-timey and richly melodic piece. There's a particularly phenomenal minor-key passage that marks one of my favorite moments of the record.
The track that garners the most needle drops from me is "Ditch Duets" which opens the second side. Scraping off the sweetness of the previous side, Bachman attacks a detuned acoustic guitar with aplomb. Perhaps with a similar intent to but separate style from Bill Orcutt, Bachman acts real rough 'n atonal throughout, sometimes purely and purposefully percussive and other times drooling out twisted lead lines. I'm pretty positive there is only a single guitar track on this piece i.e. no overdubbing and Bachman does quite a job pulling a number of sounds from his axe simultaneously. It buzzes, knocks heads, whines like it's got multiple personalities or something. Some damn interesting stuff, here's to hoping he's got more of this magic in his fingertips.
"Dogwood" follows instantly becoming another standout. Bachman imbues the templates of "Green Corn" and "Rappahannock" with the gutsy, rough and tumble nature of "Ditch Duets." The son of a bitch just jets along, mowing down everything in it's path. It's the shortest piece and there's probably not a lot I can say about it other than it rocks. After an interlude of strange detuned warbles, "Make for Me a Way" brings back the raga vibe of the first side with a sitar or similar instrument situated front and center. The sympathetic strings drone, there's a hi-pitched hiss coming from somewhere and Bachman wanders down the road with sitar in tow. What's odd is after an intial "cool down" period, Bachman suddenly heats up, applying the speedy fingerpicking of his other pieces to this Eastern set-up. I don't recall ever hearing somebody play sitar this fast and it's an unexpected but welcome extension of Bachman's style into a vastly different musical territory.
Apparitions at the Kenmore Plantation is a cool little record, and a very promising debut. The guy is still young and possesses some serious raw talent; I'm really interested to see how he develops it. Bachman has presented more than a few reasons to get excited about his future.
Bachman has distributed free mp3s of the record widely across the blogosphere but if you'd like to hear it on wax, you can hit up Mr. Bachman directly at danilbachman[at]gmail[dot]com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wasteland Jazz Unit/Tiger Hatchery - Split [Gilgongo]/AG Davis & Jamison Williams - May 6, 1937 [Skrot Up]

Alrighty, got a trio of jazz demolition experts on today's small plate specials.
Tempe, AZ's Gilgongo label dropped a monster of a 7inch betwixt two of the finest jazzin' roughnecks around, Wasteland Jazz Unit take the A and Tiger Hatchery take the B. As usual Jon (Lorenz, saxophone) and John (Rich, clarinet) melt your face off from the get-go but the brutalism on display in "Coma Flares in a Razor's Coil" seems, well, extra-brutal. Listening to this is probably akin to a lethal factory accident during the industrial revolution. Gears ripping flesh at relentless speeds, the lurching crack of bones snapping like twigs. This is more an end times holocaust than it is a wasteland or, especially, jazz. This would rival Celine Dion as a torture instrument at Gitmo. I don't see how someone could walk out alive after 24 hours of exposure to this side. Rough, rough stuff. The mastering is insanely loud too, props.
When I don't feel like having WJU mug me in the back alley, I call up the friendlier jazz gang in town, Tiger Hatchery, on the other side and they're downright neighborly by comparison. Their track "Sour Star" is a pretty slammin' 5 minutes of free jazz. Totally dynamic and bristling with energy. The trio of Ben Billington (who also records as Quicksails) on percussion, Andrew Scott Young on upright (who dropped a stellar cassette on Catholic Tapes) and Mike Forbes on tenor sax delivers a slab of epic sweetness. Things start fairly cordially but Billington's cymbals and Forbes's horn get into a pretty heated lover's spat. How heated? One of them pulls the car over and starts just chuckin' every CD it can get it's hands on out the window, even that expensive Ornette boxed set! Young's bass has to act as the voice of reason, calming down the argument enough to provide a little stage for a percussive click-clacking solo of its own. What continues to amaze me after countless listens is the amount of territory covered in such a short amount of time. It doesn't feel rushed or scatterbrained like they're trying to cram a bunch of things in before their time runs out. "Sour Star" just naturally navigates a lot of terrain from thunderous brush-fires to rocky, open plains in about as much time as it took me to conjure such vividly clichéd nature imagery. It's the only the thing I've heard by these guys but it won me over instantly. The crew is hittin' Seattle soon, and they're even playing my neighborhood (bonus!) I am there.
This state of Florida collaboration between between madman AG Davis and madman Jamison Williams is typically madmannish. The duo is loosely similar to Wasteland Jazz Unit in that they integrate jazz and noise culture. Side A of this 45, titled May 6, 1937 by the way, in loving memory of the Hindenburg disaster, features Williams on a particularly feral alto saxophone and Davis screaming his brains out with unintelligible syllables and most likely smearing feces all over the walls of his padded cell. I really love Williams's playing on this, he has a unique style where he can deliver these slippery clusters of split second quips along with long bleats. There's an incredible energy between the two and Williams is definitely playing off of Davis's mental patient antics but, Davis's incessant vomiting can be too distracting of a calamity.
However, on the flipside Davis switches over to electronics and that's where the real sweet stuff resides. Williams takes no prisoners with his sax and Davis plays off him in all sorts of weird ways, sometimes delivering chirping electronic tones and pulses and sometimes deeper, oft-kilter loops. Occasionally he drops out completely only to return with pointed synthetic squiggles. He has no dearth of ideas when it comes to sparring with Williams's firebreathing. I really dig the sound the duo is developing on the B-side, here's to hoping there's a longer tape or LP in the works!
Both releases are still in print and Gilgongo (which is offering the WJU/Hatchery record for 5 bucks postpaid--a steal) has another 7inch by Davis and Williams currently in the works. Funny how the world works sometimes, huh? You know "interconnectivity" and shit.

In Rotation #5 (Seattle Edition)

It's never a bad idea to shine a light on cool things going down in your community considering I just a nabbed a couple releases the other weekend that fit very snugly into that category.
My pal Adam Svenson (Dull Knife, Du Hexen Hase, Little Claw) has finally realized his life-long dream to put out vinyl records with the release (A) Story of Rats's debut LP Thought Forms on the newly christened Eiderdown Records. Svenson is no stranger to the weirdo label biz (he ran a cassette label in the 90s called Squirrel Energy Now! putting out tapes by Charlie McAllister among others) and you can tell. This record looks awesome! Killer gold and black screenprinting of artwork by Mr. of Rats himself, Garek Druss, and beautiful blue-grey marbled vinyl. Real classy, grade A. The sounds themselves are signature Rats--the first side drops you into heavy, heavy atmosphere. It's the flip side though that really takes the cake. Druss brings in the forms; trippy organ calls along with mists of vocals and guitar and subtle creeping electronics. The record drops officially on May 11th, Story of Rats is playing a record release show on that date, weirdly its at El Corazon.
I also heard an upcoming CD-r of Svenson's solo project Karnak Temples to be released by Seattle-based Debacle Records. It's 40 minutes of minimal, classically psych'd guitar drones where each track is better than the last. Very nice. I will be happy to see some of Svenson's solo work (which rarely makes live appearances unfortunately) finally see the light of day.
I also did my good deed and nabbed a copy of Seattle's DRAFT Records compilation Pacific Support (pictured,) a benefit for post-Tsunami Japan, curated by Jason E. Anderson of the Gift Tapes/DRAFT labels and known musically as Harpoon Pole Vault, Spare Death Icon and half of Brother Raven. You can get the full story here but the skinny of it is all labor and product was donated to the effort so whatever you pay goes straight to the Red Cross. The artists involved had a week to submit their material, National Audio Company not only fast-tracked the process but generously donated the 300 cassette run as well, Anderson organized the whole shebang and then the various distros stocking it paid face value for the cassettes so it's a pretty awesome collaborative effort. And you don't have to be an altruist to get behind this; the tape rules. Everyone knows comps can be hit or miss but this thing is solid as a rock. Some standouts are Rene Hell's fantastic opener, tracks by Seattle synth-heads Brother Raven and Panabrite and tracks by Portland-based Matt Carlson and his synth/clarinet duo Golden Retriever with Jonathan Sielaff but really it's a totally cohesive effort despite all the minds contributing. I'd never heard GR or Carlson's solo work previously but each delivers on this tape. The c75 is rounded out by Flower Man and Carl Calm (both of Caboladies) who each contribute tracks, The North Sea, Keith Fullerton WhitmanTemporal Marauder, Pulse Emitter, Make a New Memory (new duo of Geoff Mullen and Sakiko Mori) and Greg Davis. Can I expect a Southern Support comp looming in the future to help out the tornado and flood-ravaged parts of the US? Hope so. So many reasons to pick this up.
I've also been jamming Paintings for Animals's 3" CD-r on Kimberly Dawn recently. It's a great long form piece, really beautiful, recorded somewhere in Seattle called Minor Tower. Through some google-mapping I found a spot across the water from Gasworks park which I am guessing is the "Minor Tower" in question. Considering the release is called Whale Hunter, being in close vicinity to water makes a hell of a lot of sense. Frank Baugh's term of "deep environment" in his label description totally applies to this sucker. Why have I not heard of this project before?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Occasional Detroit - Occasional Bomb [I Just Live Here/Human Conduct]/Form a Log - Digital Duck [Spleen Coffin]

I was understandably psyched to find this single at a record swap last year, considering a) it rules and b) it was released all the way back in 2007. Occasional Detroit is the probably the most badass hip hop crew rolling right now and this record is a testament to that.
Ostensibly titled Occasional Bomb due to Gaybomb's work on the single, I don't see it written anywhere on here but I'll trust the internet just this once. The first side is a stone cold motherfuckin' classic. It's a blitzkrieg of turntable scratches, violin/synth-horn/xylophone samples, and random cluttered beats. When the track gets moving, it's on a harpsichord lick! Heavy bass crunches, horn throbs, serious DJ skills all combine for the most frenetic, catchy beat possible. Then the verse drops, Demeat spits knowledge on the workingman's dilemma, "Gotta get that payday/Workin' 9 to 5 just to stay alive" and my favorite comes later "You know you want that promotion!" over Beyababa's thick, noisy drum patterns and Gaybomb's hoarse saxophone; O-D's motto holds true: Different Yet Able to Relate. There's a killer breakdown with more horns and an eerie almost Eastern keyboard melody before the whole thing turns into reggaeton stomp, with a hefty dose of Flintstones-style sound effects. The flipside features an instrumental heavy on the drum programming and cut & paste grandfather clock/power tools samples. There's an almost classic rock-style sample buried way down there but things start moving a little closer to 90s UK rave type stuff as well as dropping in some Middle Eastern sitar-esque samples. Keep in mind this is all backing up noisy, manipulated vocal fragments.
Totally sick 7inch, essential if you can find it. The internet has your back if you can't though.
Moving from a record on Ren Schofield's (God Willing, Container) label I Just Live Here comes an even more wacky release from one of his latest projects. Form a Log, a trio on 4-track tape recorders featuring members of Social Junk and The New Flesh, deliver a logic-defying party single here titled Digital Duck.
"Digital Duck" features a looped synthetic quack which provides an unorthodox rhythmic base along with another sample of cartoon "quacks" and yet another sample of "dig-it-tal-duck" repeated ad nauseum. Before long the trio starts up a pumping house beat underneath. Thinks just weirder and wilder from there. The rhythmic arrangement is robust and relentless letting the trio go duckwild with various forms sample manipulation and noise production. I'm digging the heavily filtered electro-cowbell in the second half of the track. Weird shit.
The second side holds "Digital Duck RMX." Which may or may not be more bizarre than the original. The "digital duck" sample is cut-up and messed with over a loop of AOR guitar/drums blandness. Fuzzy synth tones swoop in and out amongst unintelligible chatter and nearly unrecognizable slowed down vocals. It gets stranger as the piece is left to bump along on a single slowed down guitar solo. The closest analog I can think of to this piece is Tim Sheldon's (Fat Worm of Error) National Felt tape.
Digital Duck is of those records that is somehow awesome even though you're not totally sure it's good. It comes with a rad illustration by Lance Simmons screen-printed on a paper bag slipcase with an insert and nonsensical "short story." Available for 4 bucks from Spleen Coffin.

In Rotation #4

Got the first six tapes from Cory Card's new Cae-sur-a label. It's a varied bunch and there sure are some winners. Definitely the MPC (most played cassette) of the package is Tone Arm by Steve Baczkowski, saxophonist and motherfuckin' musical MacGyver. Baczkowski did a record with Bill Nace which I sadly haven't heard, and now that I've heard Baczkowski's work here I really bet that record was stellar. The tape is a year-old live recording in which Mr. Baczkowski takes on turntables, prepared records, tone arm, bells, implements, flutes, vibratube and baritone sax and improvises the shit out of them. Seriously though, the work here is remarkable, particularly on the second side where Baczkowski has a built a legitimately melodic composition out of his ragtag troupe. There is a killer video of Baczkowski demonstrating his DJ skills embedded below.
Cae-sur-a also dropped a tape recently by Velvet Elvis who draws heavily on 70s Hard Rock via late 80s grunginess. It's a swingin' little EP with a nearly a capella cover of "Nobody's Fool" at the end. York Factory Complaint wasted no time jumping down my throat again after the wreckage left in the wake of their House of Alchemy tape. Their cassette We Call it Prayer is another prickly envelope containing the nastiest poison pen letter seen round these parts in some time. They throw a curve though, at one point they approach melody. Though their "approach" is more akin to the way a stalker is tempted to break his restraining order and approach his victim. As if that isn't enough, later on they actually go all the way! There's a melody amidst all the rage! And that's just the first side. Sweet tape. Will hit up the other Cae-sur-a tapes at a future rotation.
Speaking of York Factory Complaint, Robert & Leopold sent over a couple tapes. Demons and Dances by Pipeline Alpha is thoroughly slammin'. I have a PA tape on DNT from a few years ago, and while I haven't listened to it in a while, I do not remember this guy covering this much territory. It is well known to some that I can be finicky when a release runs longer than 45 minutes but Mr. Alpha kept me engaged for a full 60 without breaking a sweat. The tape runs the gamut of psychedelic and experimental styles along with perfectly placed plunderphonic gems. Love it! Adam Richards's (House of Alchemy) Chapels project also delivers a great cassette with That Incorrigible Death's-Head (pictured). It seems like there's slightly more clarity here than is usual for a Chapels release, so my confusion stems from the bizarre display and not just general unintelligibility. There's still plenty o' murk but less fuzz. I'm all for it as I can hear all the strange intricacies of Richards's work much better now. I think this is probably the best Chapels tape I've heard since the one he dropped on Stunned a few years back.

Check out DJ Baczkowski:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Isa Christ/Cruudeuces - Human Error [Idiot Underground/Ghetto Naturalist Series]

There's been a little stack of 7inches building up recently and its high time they get reviewed (expect some more 7inchers to make appearances in the coming weeks.
We start things off in dark territory with a 45rpm split noise single by Northeasterners Isa Christ and Cruudeuces.
This is my first encounter with Isa Christ (proprietor of Idiot Underground) and his side "Ruin Song" is a straight up harsh-ass rager. From the moment the needle drops, you're subsumed into thick, grainy crunch. Mr. Christ flicks in a few warbly hi-pitched tones, sounding like he's cutting up a recording of a construction site. Jackhammers pounding, heavy machinery lurching, the cathartic clang of metal caving in on itself. The side is pretty good; it's relentlessly active. But on the other hand, after all the times I've listened to it, it has never proven to be particularly memorable. But if you're looking for 100 mile per hour drive to the harsh side, uh, you don't have to look any more.
The proprietor of Ghetto Naturalist Series, Nathaniel Brennan's tapes/clarinet murk project Cruudeuces delivers some nice work on the flipside. "Gull Slang" opens up with just that. Brennan's clarinet is relaying some conversation in which seagulls are hurling insults at each other at the top of their lungs. Over a burly bass tone, Brennan lets loose a shitstorm of feedback-drenched reedwork. The piece is especially nice when he lightens up and you just get quiet intimations of clarinet intermixed with all the other throbbing tones crawling all over each other. The track feels too short (yet it still hits the 4 1/2 minute mark) but Brennan's signature strength is on display here: texture, texture, texture. Even though everything is looped and delayed to hell, he always has a handle on everything and navigates his piece with a sure hand.
Still in print so hit up the labels.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Amateur Childbirth - Brighter Futures Dialysis [Wet Nurse Directory]

I came into contact with this guy Ivan Matthew Hicks through slsk one time and he sent me a couple CD-rs of murky organ and tapes weirdness from Australia. Then last Fall he got in touch again wanting to send a new CD he was putting out (like a real, professionally manufactured CD.) I said "Sure, man" expecting something along the same lines but boy were my expectations subverted.
Opener "Womb Envy" is a burst of rapidly strummed nylon strings and syllables, setting the tone for the album. Brighter Futures Dialysis, which clocks in around a half hour, feels like a blur. The ten songs fly by, in part, because they're so quickly paced and catchy in their own strange way but also the record is so well put together that moving from song to song seems so natural that you don't realize how far you've traveled until you look back when the silence hits.
One of Hicks's immediate signatures is how he crams words where they don't want to go, particularly on "Cat Power's Armpits." Simultaneously raw and verbose, whether delivering apocalyptic love visions on one of many standouts "Venus on Fire" or the metaphorical environmental descriptions in "Winter is My Favourite Airport" Hicks is never short on bizarre syntax or chunky guitar chords. In "I Just Wanna Be Noticed" Hicks adopts the voice of an egotistical, bigamist, possibly anarchist politician. "I just wanna be noticed/I wanna be the one in charge/Just want to be the guy with my finger on the button" goes the refrain, the most memorable description contributing to the portrait of a rather sociopathic and despicable character.
Nothing is sacred in Hicks's vocabulary, not in the sense that his lyrics are offensive but because no words are off-limits. On "Cat Power's Armpits," "dandruff," "diarrhea," and "herpes" all show up in the same phrase; yet, it doesn't seem like the words are chosen for shock value. Who knows, maybe they are but it doesn't matter because they don't seem like it. Those words are nestled alongside clever declarations like "take control of your own opinion polls" and the delivery is so mild, matter of fact and quick that no single word or phrase is dwelled upon. There really are quite a few words crammed in this thing. Very little space on the record is not accompanied by voice.
The employment solely of a "$40 acoustic guitar" is quite an inspired and fitting choice of accompaniment. It's sparse and unadorned, letting the spotlight shine on Hicks's voice, but it's presence is sturdy enough to provide a very important, and much needed harmonic base. That said Hicks's Australian-accented cadence does actually deliver on the melodic front; he's not shy about belting it out and the record is all the better for it. His vocals are not the most skilled but they're uniquely effective and his delivery of such outlandish lyrics is pitch-perfect.
Brighter Futures Dialysis is an unusual and fantastic record. It's scope is specific--it's as much a product of its limitations as it is pushing the envelope--but oddly enough it's rare when I listen to it only one time through (I usually spin it in twos and threes) and I never listen to just one song. The more I digest, the more I want. There is a much more brilliant and clever authorial hand guiding the record than is noticed your first few times through.
Since I really don't think this review did a particularly good job capturing the feel of the record I recommend just listening to it. It's real good.
Though the record is available for free streaming and download at the above link, it's also available as a pro-pressed CD in an edition of 500. It comes with this totally weird booklet documenting a correspondence between Archwire & Partners Youth & Family Services and someone named Xavier. They write to tell him he owes $230 dollars in cancellation fees and not to miss anymore his government-ordered appointments and he writes them back with a multi-page scree to fuck right off, hand-scrawled over every square centimeter of notebook paper. Just another enigma to add to the package.

In Rotation #3

Tired Trails sent over a big fatty of a package containing 7 tapes, all in handmade fabric enclosures. The first tape I popped in was The Mind of Christ by Odawas because it was a soundtrack for a short film that played Cannes Independent Film Festival last year. Not sure if it's associated with the regular old Cannes Festival or not but it is actually in Cannes so that's pretty cool. My favorite track on the tape is "Mariner's Hymn" as it's full of epic spaciness, you could throw it on as an alternate soundtrack for For All Mankind if you wanted. The aforementioned film, Kill Yr TV by Neil Blakemore is embedded below. Elsewhere in the package is a noisy tape by Endometrium Cuntplow (what in the fuck is an endometrium cuntplow?) and On Growth in Form by Endless Endless Endless which delivers some really nice grooving, synth-drones. Besides, who could dislike anyone who looks as friendly as these guys do. I'm halfway through the Tired Trails stack and I gotta say the gorgeous warbles emanating from The Death of Kung Fu by The Diamond Family Archive (pictured) is absolutely top of the pile at this point. It's a lo-fi backwoods folk trip on the first side gradually morphing into some beautiful droning compositions on the second side. Wonderful stuff. I'll finish the rest of the pile in the next rotation.
The other night, I saw Davy from Weird Forest play in his killer guitar/sax/synth combo with Matt Kretzmann, eloquently christened Garrincha & the Stolen Elk, recently reviewed by yours truly. (By the way, that Stunned tape is the entirety of available recordings of the former 4-man line-up so I suggest you hop on that while you can.) Anyway, Davy, incredibly kind gent that he is bestowed upon me 3 double LPs Weird Forest dropped last year.
I'm obsessed with this incredible head scratcher, Rain in England by Berkeley-based, recently death-threatened emcee Lil B. Relentlessly serene, the double LP features B rapping in free verse over drifting new-age synth pads. It's hip hop without beats, without hooks just set adrift. His voice sounds like a combo of Lil Wayne, Sensational and Prince; his flow is harder to pin down but it has the elasticity of Vast Aire on the The Cold Vein. This really is a record. Each track sounds more or less like the last but as a whole, it's entirely engaging, perhaps even a little addictive, over all four sides. I am gonna be doing a lot more listening to this. DJ Yo-Yo Dieting (Portlander Pat Maherr a.k.a. Glamorous Pat, Sisprum Vish, Indignant Senility et al.) billed even more awesomely here as Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting also decimates hip hop convention in an entirely different way on Bubblethug. Unlike the Lil B record this one is bristling with groovin' beats. The bad ass abstraction at play here comes from the seriously complex chopping and screwing going down. The best thing about this record is it still is a hip-hop/DJ record at its core; you scrape away all the cough syrup residue and aural vomit and you have some sickass catchy beats and melodies throbbing underneath. I get up multiple times to dance over the course of the thing. It's incredible that Maher retained the essence of the source material while rendering it completely unrecognizable. Still not sure how he pulled it off, will listen more for clues. Damn fine work, damn fine.
The last of the three records is a 10th Anniversary gatefold reissue of Afternoon Tea (which I hadn't heard until now) by the one-off supergroup of Oren Ambarchi and Keith Rowe on guitar, and Christian Fennesz, Peter Rehberg and Paul Gough a.k.a. Pimmon on computer. Over the course of the incredibly dynamic recording guitars clank, rumble and drone processed by digital tones, oscillations and plenty o' crackle. Perhaps the most attractive quality of the record to me is it delves masterfully into deep, deep zones but the quintet keeps everything rough; the set is fluid but most definitely not a smooth ride. So much of the time, music created with heavy use of computer ends up devoid of texture--this is an instance where the absolute opposite is true. Though since this album employs software circa 2000, maybe them computers back in the day were a lot more raw and instinctual.
In addition to the original Afternoon Tea recordings, there is a second LP with a fairly short remix Fennesz did and two live recordings from the What is Music? festival, performed on the evening of the Afternoon Tea sessions. The "evening tea" sessions are pretty much just as essential so it's great to have them included here. Heavy and hardy recommendations to each of these records, each one tickles a different fancy but they are equally stellar.

Kill Yr TV from Neil Blakemore on Vimeo.