Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview: Michael Jantz of Avant Archive

This marks the first interview feature for Auxiliary Out Redux; there are more in the works that will hopefully be realized soon. Enjoy!

Avant Archive is in it's second year of operation and has amassed quite a diverse and interesting catalog. The label has most recently released tapes by the likes of Talk West, Bret Schneider, HMS and as well as double-cassettes by mainstays Sean McCann and Ajilvsga. The label's founder Michael Jantz (known musically as Black Eagle Child) was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Auxiliary Out: What is the origin story of Avant Archive?
Michael Jantz: I think it's common to fantasize about doing a label. You know, "It would be cool to do this or that". So like a lot of folks working with music, I had the fantasy and so finally I realized I could probably make it work. I have been in touch with a lot of tremendously talented and friendly folks over the last few years while doing music as Black Eagle Child, and so naturally when I wanted to launch the label, I called on a few of them to contribute. Some of the first invites have yet to be responded to in full, but a handful of them have already been realized in full and I've also come in contact with new friends since last year when I started the label and lots of exciting stuff is planned.
AO: Unlike nearly every microlabel out there, you don't do one-time limited editions, what's the inspiration behind that?
MJ: The collectibility of a lot of new and interesting music is a bit unnerving. It's not a new topic for discussion, but I think it bears reiterating. It seems that plenty of artists are publishing music that becomes physically inaccessible within a week or two of the music's official release. I understand the financial entanglements that I suppose necessitates this situation, but I also think that a little patience and good faith can help to combat it. So far I've only done reprints of two (of the, at the time of this interview, 14) catalog titles. The funds for these certainly could have been channeled into new releases, but I am not interested in creating a giant catalog of music that isn't available. I want to create a catalog of music that represents a certain array of artists that I find interesting, and I want the catalog to be accessible from now to the indefinite future. I realize that with the proliferation of music blogs and torrents, nothing is every truly out-of-reach. However, I think (and especially in the case of experimental and underground music listeners) that there are people who would like more than a potentially low-grade digital copy of a work. It's in the spirit of supporting and promoting forward-thinking music that a listener should be able to purchase a copy of an album, rather than download it due to its unnecessary physical unavailability.

AO: Visually, AA releases bear a lot of resemblance to each other. Do you feel like Avant Archive has a certain or recognizable "sound"?
MJ: No. I don't really want to let the label become pigeonholed, so to speak. I know and love plenty of labels that have done a great job with showcasing a certain sound (right now a lot of labels are doing a lot of synthesizer music), and sometimes it's nice to know what to expect with a label or a new artist that label is presenting. But with Avant Archive I want to keep the scope broad and offer music that is simply good and interesting, regardless of the style or genre category the music might be pushed into by listeners or critics. I listen to all kinds of music for pleasure, so it would be probably very difficult for me to only release music that met a set of specific, banal prerequisites. If I like a demo, then it has potential for release on Avant Archive.
AO: Where did the visual look for AA come from?
MJ: I designed it myself with some kind of amalgamated vision that's a result of seeing certain book editions and record cover editions. In 2010 I worked on a split cassette for the label Digitalis Limited (a tape shared between Mike Pouw's Knit Prism and myself, as W.A. Munson). I did the layout and design for the j-card and it really kind of thrilled me to work on it. I like the b&w look and I also like the very library-like template that allows for both uniformity or cohesion and also some unique and potentially very powerful or interesting visuals. So that's more or less how the 'look' was born. I initially wanted to keep it very rigid, but since launching the label I've become more relaxed and realized that I can stray pretty far from the original layout and still maintain a nice cohesive aesthetic across all the releases. Future editions will break drastically from the current b&w cassette layout, though I will always maintain it as a 'standard' for many of the catalog items.

AO: You offer free streaming of every Avant Archive release, what prompted the decision to do that?
MJ: Well this sort of follows on the heels of the idea of a permanently-available edition. I don't want any of the titles to ever be unavailable from the label, but I'm also financially unable to order more copies of every release as stocks are depleted. I will eventually restock physical titles, but the time frame inside which I do that will vary. So as a solution I have created the digital section, which I then realized would be a great way to just allow people to listen to the release entirely if they would like (without purchasing, or prior to). The streaming is really an added bonus or an afterthought to the download function. You can opt to download an album for a fee, or else just stream it for free. And if you like what you hear so much that you want to order a physical copy, then great! Perhaps total streaming availability will eliminate 2nd hand sales of Avant Archive tapes because nobody will ever be disappointed with a purchase ever again!

AO: What about the "Artists Page"?
MJ: This was sort of done without thought. I think one of the elements that defines a label is the group of artists it brings into the fold. And I think it's important to give potential listeners or patrons of the label a chance to read the label's description of the artists it’s working with. My description of a particular artist should be unique to my perspective, which I channel through the label. It's an opportunity for me to explain what's great about artist X and to justify the existence of that artist's album in the label's catalog.

AO: What is it about an artist or release that makes you say "I want to put this out"? Or "what qualities attract you to an artist or release?" may be a better way to phrase it.
MJ: Things so far have fallen into three categories: 1. music made by folks I've been in touch with (friends) and whose music I enjoy; 2. music made by people whose music I've admired for a long time but have not yet spoken with; 3. music submitted by strangers via demos. So in the first case, it's pretty straightforward; a friend is doing a cool music project and I want to work with the person. In a perfect world, this would be the case 90% of the time. However there are a lot of labels and folks are busy. Also, it's good to let some new voices enter the stage. In the case of putting out music by people I don't know yet (either someone whose music or project I'm already familiar with or not), I think the most important thing is that I enjoy the music and I can envision others doing the same. Like there is no formulaic approach for targeting a sound aesthetic, there can't really be a distinct method for picking what music gets put out. If I like the music and the person is interested in working with me, then we will likely be good to go.

AO: Are there any releases you're extra proud of or particularly excited you got to release?
MJ: I don't think it's fair to pick one or two above the rest, because honestly I am very proud of all of them and I think they're all excellent contributions to both the label's catalog and the global music community. BUT I will say that I was particularly excited to put out the first catalog title, which is my own "Born Underwater"/"The Arquebus". I'd been waiting for the perfect opportunity to put these out and then it came. I had only submitted the demo for this tape to a few labels back in 2007/2008 and not surprisingly, got no response from anyone! But over the following years, I spent a lot of time listening to and relistening to these tracks. I'm glad to finally have them out in a respectable edition and one I feel entirely satisfied with, since of course, I handled every aspect of the production. I'm also right now eagerly awaiting the delivery of the label's first vinyl edition, a 7" record by the band Horse Marriage. It's been a thrill to do a vinyl project and having 'broken my cherry' so to speak, I now feel pretty excited about tackling more projects like this in the future. I'll also mention that the 7" rocks hard! As much as I love working on experimental music, I am also very excited about working on a full-fledged rock'n'roll record.

AO: That makes for an easy segway into my next question. "Born Underwater"/"The Arquebus" are probably my favorite Black Eagle Child recordings. You sort of covered this, but why did they sit on the shelf so long? They seem to stand out or separate themselves from most of your catalog.
MJ: Well it was recorded at a time when I didn't have a very concrete vision of how Black Eagle Child should sound. Albeit, I didn't really form that vision until after putting out a good dozen or so cassettes of music under the name. After a certain point I felt like the stuff was too different from everything else I was doing that I couldn't see putting it out alongside the rest of my rather pastoral catalog. But then I realized I could do it on my own label because I could kind of explain it myself. And I think now that I justify it by saying that it is still largely guitar music, and Black Eagle Child is predominantly a guitar project.

AO: You mentioned you've got a 7inch by Horse Marriage coming out soon but all of your releases thus far have been on cassette tape. Are you pretty dedicated to the cassette format or do you intend to do predominantly vinyl releases down the road?
MJ: Similar to my views on playing and recording music, I am opposed to the purist approach in music publishing. I am a proponent of the Rooseveltism, "do what you can with what you have". So while I love cassettes and the possibilities they offer, I also think CD and vinyl are terrific formats. I think it's unfortunate that formats go in and out of fashion, though I suppose I owe my realization that cassettes are a viable format to the fact that cassettes are now in fashion. But trends aside, I think that all formats have their own benefits and selling points. Down the road, I would like to be able to pick a format that I think most fits the music that I'm publishing. So a couple of 40-minute pieces will obviously not fit on an LP, even if (fingers crossed) I could just decide to do an LP version of any given release. Just an example there...some stuff is great on CD, I think. The vinyl record is considered by many as the king of music media, but I think that's a little simplistic. So no, I don't think I would do vinyl predominantly, but I do want to do more projects on media other than cassette.

AO: You're last few releases (HMS, Bret Schneider, Talk West) were from artists unknown to my ears, how did you come across them?
MJ: All three of those were instances in which someone contacted the label to inquire about submitting a demo. So they were all pretty straightforward and easy; simple introduction, here are some samples or our demo, and then we would talk about what would potentially become a release in the label's catalog. I think I've been fortunate so far in that I've not got too many demo submissions that I've turned down (i.e. I have had some pretty excellent demo submissions!).

AO: They're all very different but really good.
MJ: Thanks...I would have to agree with you. I like keeping the sound varied.

AO: Do you see any of those as in line with previous releases you've put out? Do you ever choose releases with the intention to stake out new territory for the label?
MJ: I don't really think too strategically about the catalog, except for one avenue, which is simply that I don't want to put out too much of the same kind of music. I have a loathing for genres and categories as much as anyone, but in the case of operating a label I think it's important to be aware of the categories into which people will inevitably put the music that you're producing. So I try to be mindful of what I've done and what's on the slate for near-future and I try not to give any critic or listener any grounds for pigeonholing the label with some term that would serve to oversimplify my mission.

AO: What are some of your favorite labels? How much does your personal engagement with other labels influence your work with AA?
MJ: My desire to start a label was definitely born from watching some of my favorite labels grow and turn into these incredibly inspiring and impressive entities. For the last few years I've been obsessed with Stunned Records (no doubt many other folks have as well). Stunned is probably the sole underground label that has time and again wowed me. Also, Housecraft records, owing largely to the fact that Jeff has released so much of his own music on that label, as well as the many collaborations and solo efforts happening in his neck of the woods. Digitalis was the one label that actually opened my eyes to a lot of underground music. I don't think any other label is doing the same as Digitalis right now, in terms of volume and quality...they just put out a lot of great music on a frequent basis. I'm also a long-time fan of the Rephlex label, and I kind of revel in a lot of aspects of that label, including the minimal production specs and a lot of the 'mysterious' releases they've produced over the last 20 years. Roll Over Rover is another fave, owing to my ties with the folks running that label...they're just super-nice guys and their putting out great tunes that I've spent a lot of time with over the past couple of years. I could probably list dozens of excellent labels, but those are some that have been consistently excellent.

AO: Do you feel like AA is line with other labels, for instance a number of the artists on AA have released music on Stunned and/or Digitalis. Is there any sort of comraderie or, perhaps on the other hand, competition that develops when you share a "stable" of artists?
MJ: I think the overlap is pretty evident among many labels working in this realm, and I definitely want to let Avant Archive be something more than "just another tape label" or whatever it might appear to be to the untrained eye. I do enjoy a lot of what's happening on these other labels, but I also think there are artists who, for whatever reason, are not getting any voice, but whose music is every bit as incredible. So while I like to work with artists who are already established in the music community, I also think that working with new artists is probably more important. I think, "If I don't put this out, who will?", and it is something that really deserves listeners' attention. And I suppose my hope is that some of these new voices will be then welcomed into this mystical stable of artists!
I also think that it shouldn't matter what an artist's back-catalog looks like...listeners should listen to a sample (or the whole album, if you want) and decide from that basis whether or not you want to buy a tape or record. I'm sort of unnerved by the circumstances we sometimes create in which we foster wild proliferation of a certain handful of artists' discographies, which then 'dominate the scene' so to speak, while new voices are unheard because they aren't 'abuzz' right now. I don't claim to 'solve' this, but I do want to do my best to make the music the most important part of why I operate the label.

AO: Any music been wowing you recently?
MJ: Well the last two Super Minerals tapes (both on Stunned) have been on frequent rotation, as has another couple recent Stunned tapes. One is a split between Nite Lite & Waterfinder. Really I've been digging hard on the Nite Lite side, but the whole tape is pretty grand. Then also the summerTales/Knit Prism split, equally great. Then also the newer 2xCD by Lionel Marchetti called Une Saison, issued on Monotype (literally wowed me...just floored me on first listen!). Not on the WOW scale, really, but I've also been listening to the Art Museums LP a lot, and plenty of Chris Weisman, Kurt Weisman, Happy Birthday, and Ruth Garbus.

AO: What's next for Avant Archive?
MJ: Definitely more cassettes. Cassettes from Hakobune, Olli Aarni, Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Bjerga/Iverson, Travis Johnson & Jeph Jerman and a few other less-certain but equally awesome artists. I've invited a guest photographer/designer to contribute to some of the future editions also, which I'm very excited about. Upcoming 7" lathe-cut acetates from Will Long and Fabio Orsi. Then there will be a CD edition of a live performance from He Can Jog, including a remix by another existing Avant Archive alumnus. Finally of course there are some very exciting things I'm not quite ready to share...but hopefully 2012 will be excellent.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

[GUEST REVIEW] Camis - Cats Kils [No Label]

This is the first of its kind, a guest review on Auxiliary Out, written by Arvo Zylo. Enjoy!

Cammisa Forrest seems to have an affinity for spray paint. When I saw the band that she was in, Miami Beach, who apparently reunited for a performance at Chicago's Neon Marshmallow Fest in August 2010, she was running around gleefully behind some kind of barricade made of plastic wrap in front of the stage, coating the translucent sheen with a fog of different colored spray paint. The flimsy cellophane wall fell down, and she flailed around with it like some kind of glue sniffing fairy lady, while Matt Kimmel babbled, chanted, coughed, and hacked into a heavily delayed swatch of effects. Everybody in the room probably left with a headache or a “contact high” (if that is appropriate for fumes), and I'm not sure if I liked it or if I was just light-headed. In person, Cammisa is definitely mellow and peaceable, certainly a free spirit if there ever was one, which is still refreshing to me even in the art/noise/experimental scene. There was a discussion between Dominick Dufner (Sigulda), myself, and her, which led to trades. With no surprise, what I bartered for was packaged in thick paper sewn together, covered in gold spray paint, with a CDR also spray painted (caked with spray paint). Apparently it was limited to 20 copies and thrown together in honor of the fest.
Cammisa or Camis, which seems to be the official artist name, is definitely young, but just how young I don't know. Either way, the CDr Cats Kils to me is an excellent piece of work, not that it boasts expensive vintage synthesizers, has any studied techniques, or worships any particular necrophile genre, it doesn't even hold much of an affiliation to the concept of “outsider music”. What does it for me in a lot of cases is when a person's personality is shown in what I would consider a pure form, and when someone creates a world that I can visualize, I haven't caught on to that as succinctly as I did with
Cats Kils in a long time. In this case, there are layers of lo-fi drones, simple toy keyboard phrases, lots of reversed vocals, and (dare I say) charmingly half-baked acoustic bedroom songs. At one point, there is someone novicing at a piano and in the background, birds whistle, people walk around, Camissa continues to play while occasionally making talk with a barking/growling dog. Later on, something that sounds like a plodding reverse accordion tap weaves around sparsely with distant spaced out wa wa wa singing, acoustic guitar and maybe a ukulele, a squeak doll, and some kind of plastic percussion instrument, and this track goes absolutely nowhere, which is good for an ending. At other points it sounds like layers of Soundgarden and Fionna Apple in reverse, and ultimately, what drives it home is where Cammisa is sort of meandering with her voice reverbed out over a sitar loop, when someone apparently comes in during the recording and says stuff like “you said you were going to go to clean your room 4 hours ago, you said you were going to go to sleep one hour ago, I need you to quiet down, I can't sleep through these pornophonics” etc. It sounds more like a roommate than a parent and either way, the chant defiantly keeps going.
I can't help but to imagine a person (not necessarily Cammisa) sitting anxiously in front of a television or at a dinner table during autumn, after getting back from school, annoyed that the sun is going down earlier and earlier, unsure of their identity, unsure of their future, and feeling a sort of optimism that comes with so many options; a desire to have more horizons coupled with the feeling of being trapped, the absolute refusal to accept some dreadful idea of hatching into a real grown up who packs their lunch and hurries through futile, clotted traffic over and over. I see a person unintentionally disregarding consensus reality in baby steps, a willful naivete, an insular yet familiar chaos coupled with a peaceful disruption that irks people who can't let loose, and an unwillingness to commit to anything but the moment. This little disc comes off as not particularly rebellious, not deliberately contrary per se, yet both abstruse and autonomous, and refreshing in how effectively peculiar it is.
I don't really know Cammisa, she could be an accountant for all I know, and I don't intend to project these ideas as her motivations for the release; I'm sure they were different, but either way Cats Kils was an unexpected surprise. It's hard to explain, I feel strange because I'm confident that this is something that is not simply a fleeting point of interest in my personal history as a listener, but I'm pretty sure that I'm going to return to this thing in 5 years, regardless of my personal sound palette is at this time, although only time will tell if the spray paint hasn't eroded the disc by then!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Charlie McAlister - Country Creme/Victorian Fog [Feeding Tube]

Last year Feeding Tube records out in Massachusetts dropped what was unequivocally the best, most essential reissue/archival release of the year, and maybe even the best release of 2010 period. That record is Pimania. I cannot stress strongly enough how essential that record is, the less you know the better, but it is worth every penny.
Feeding Tube is not folk that like to waste time so on 1/1/11 (as you can see this review is quite tardy, sorry!) they entered this year's competitor for best archival release and it once again has blown me clean away.
Charlie McAlister was a mysterious figure I'd heard a lot about yet never actually heard. I have a friend who put out tapes by him in the 90s from whom I've heard a few stories and I've read plenty of web-ink on the guy as well. When I first heard this record I was not disappointed in the least, in fact I instantly understood why people talk so much about him. His songwriting is immediately compelling; it's at once pleasantly classic and ardently strange.
The recordings on this Country Creme/Victorian Fog LP were recorded between 1998 and 1999 but they seem to feel older like a rustic old curio no one knows about but you. All of the tape warble and manipulation certainly situates the music within a certain era, but the sound McAlister conjures transcends any era and it ultimately sounds timeless. Steeped in hissy, fizzy, buzzy fidelity, his nimble arrangements, generally consisting of acoustic guitar and voice plus a melody by a violin or harmonica or additional banjo plucks, are skuffed up revealing the diamond-hard hooks at the center of his songs. But for what most would probably categorize as a folk record, this thing is noisy. Kevin Taylor is credited with "noise machine" in the outro of "Depths of Confusion" and "Desperate Plea" features a feedback-ridden harmonica and various tape snags throughout. McAllister occasionally drops into demented passages of found tape samples, which get their own track in the form of "Fried Sandwich Play" which, I'll be honest, I skip sometimes when I'm not in the mood for such befuddlement. It's inclusion is enlightening, showing an example of the range of McAllister's work but it's somewhat ill-fitting in the context of this particular record.
McAlister is quite a spectacular lyricist as well. Kicking off with "I am Staying Here" McAlister delivers a timeless phrase I'm sure many can relate to: "Because of my friends and the beer/I am staying here." "Vision/Rage/Irish Girl" sounds like McAlister might even be making up the story as he goes over jaunty guitar and seething tin can clatter.
"Fake Country Music" is a weirdly lucid self-reflection on McAlister's music:
"Fake country music is what I like to play/Fake country music, okay/I'm playing the fiddle with a rusty key/I make country music for you and me/I'm shrieking and screaming and knocking down the walls/I'm the hideous creature in the [Fall? fog?]"
McAllister delivers a killer fiddle solo/skree to finish it off.
There's a ton of classic shit on Country Creme but the Victorian Fog side is even stronger. Starting with what is now gonna be my go-to when college football comes back in September, "Hair/Wind/Football." McAlister paints a picture of the school band playing in a fog while the players play a rough game of football over a jaunty rhythm while laying into waxy violin drones. It's a modest, mellow intro which belies the intensity of its subject matter. The instrumental "March #16" is paired perfectly with it, lead by an enterprising young glockenspiel. From there McAlister ambles down to the "Plantation of Pain," McAlister's response to confederate songs. It's another entirely infectious little ditty--McAlister is just unstoppable on this record.
The absolute pinnacle of the LP (and one of the greatest songs I've come across in a while) is "Bog Man." First of all, it's about a bog man, which I am fortunate to have seen two of in Dublin, so that's pretty badass to me. Furthermore though, McAlister re-envisions the bog man as a 1930s Universal monster movie. A man's body is thrown in a bog and 10,000 years later he is discovered, put on display and comes back to life, wreaking havoc on the townspeople in the process. In my eyes, this is quintessential McAlister; he's never better lyrically or as a songwriter and arranger on the record. I really could gush for pages and pages about this single song and at the end of the day my words would be woefully inadequate in expressing the magic of this tune; so I'll spare you on the condition that you buy this record or do whatever you have to experience the song for yourself.
Following is a wild and untitled instrumental, full of militant snare drum, tangled webs of chimes and whirring organ-tape-machine-whathaveyou--my guess is this is the "parade." Probably my second favorite song on the record is "After the Parade" as it features McAlister's most affecting vocal delivery. The gentle quiver in his voice is strangely gripping and imbues his portrait of the carcass of a parade with a strangely undefinable sensation. How do we take his couplet "It's time to go for a ride/I can't remember what we did last night"? Is it nostalgia? Is it panic? Something else entirely? Ultimately, the song closes with McAlister sawing out his most lovely melody on his fiddle. The song is so brief yet it features so much depth and rich ambiguity.
"Sinking Ship" details just that. Though McAlister's account of such terrors is met with an upbeat cyclical melody. "Song X" is another instrumental from a similar cloth of the prior instrumentals on the side.
A spate of short songs conclude the record. "Go to Hell" matches a whimsical chiming melody with garbled tape manipulation and feisty lyrics, "Pale Light" plonks along on a detuned six-string and squealing slide guitar lead and "The Big 'Parade'" oddly enough details society circa-World War 1 .
Reaching for some kind of phrase to capture the feel of this record, I'd offer up "This is old timey music for the weirdo underground." But really it's much more than that. What you need to know is this: Charlie McAlister's voice, as an artist not just a singer, is honest and inimitable. Whether you ultimately like his music or not, McAlister is someone you must hear for yourself and Feeding Tube, having done a beautiful job curating this LP, has done all the legwork for you. All you need to do is listen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dead Neanderthals - The V-Shaped Position [No Label]

The Dutch duo Dead Neanderthals are back with another 3" disc of destruction. Their last was some intense grindcore jazzin' and they are back with more effects on the sax, more reverb on the drums, a few slower tempos and some probably even faster if you can believe it.
"Asterisk" sets the tone of relentless grindcore drumming and distorted baritone sax. Dude can wail like a banshee, dude can smack the skins like a bastard. The 35 second "The Bleaching" one-ups the previous track in intensity. "Drinking Mercury" develops itself past the minute mark with clattering drumming and boisterous sax. Parts of it actually sound like it could be covering another "Dead" band, the Kennedys that is. It sounds like fierce loopy punk transcribed for sax and drums. Out of nowhere a heavily effected sax dirge takes over "Hemisphere" providing a bit of a breather between the two assaults bookending the piece. "Rabbit" similarly, slows things down in the back half with a cymbal wash outro. "Rotten Teeth/Tooth Decay" despite a brief almost 8-bit sounding NES-soundtrack breakdown, brings the raw and nasty stuff. As does the shortest track on the disc, "Speed of the Cobra."
The default epic at 5 and a half minutes, nearly half the album's runtime, the title track builds tension with a long intro of measured, pounding drums and looped sax drones. When the duo finally reveals their cards halfway through there's a legit melody (surprise!) Though the melody is quite tense and spectacular, the Neanderthals don't rest on such laurels. They slide into a long (in their world) breakdown/sax solo before coming to a halt. With less than 90 seconds to go, they pounce back with a fury, delivering inescapable, Wasteland Jazz Unit-levels of carnage. Yee-ikes!
The disc comes with a sticker and a mini-poster of a gynecological illustration, not sure if that was necessary. You can get the disc from the crew directly.

In Rotation #6

Has it ever happened to you where you buy some records or tapes that you're excited about and then grab another out of sheer curiosity and the curio ends up being the one you listen to all the time?? I feel that happens to me pretty often.
Last time I was in Exiled Records (best record store on the West Coast, at least!) I grabbed new tapes from Golden Retriever and Indignant Senility and then for the hell of it I grabbed the new Terror Bird Human Culture LP on Night People because I liked a song I heard on Free Form Freakout. [...time lapse...] Hot damn! I've been playing the shit out of this Terror Bird LP. Gothwave piano pop from Vancouver, B.C. and this shit is tops. At first, even though I liked the record from the get-go, I was worried the gothy piano-pop sound might wear thin at some point, after repeated listens; I mean, Zola Jesus didn't go wrong until she started putting out records that lasted more than 7 minutes (Terror Bird doesn't really sound like Zola Jesus but they have similar influences.) Well anyway, that worry was stupid. This thing just gets better and better; I've owned it for 5 days now and already lost count of how many times I've listened to it. It really is a case where if you put on any one of the 13 songs I will be equally happy. Some might stick in my head a little more but then others offer a modestly symphonic quality to them that I love. The songs don't all hit you in the same way but they each hit you hard; they all sound good and they all sound good together. The record sounds lo-fi (I'm guessing it was made on a 4-track with a couple keyboards, drum machine and microphone) but it doesn't sound scuzzy. It sounds clean but thin which sustains an atmosphere over the course of the record.
When it really comes down to it though, the sound is not why the record is so addictive. It's because every fucking song is fucking great! High fucking art when it comes to pop craftsmanship. Fuck.
The other tapes I got are cool but have been a little neglected in light of all of the brainwashing the Terror Bird has been doing to me. The analog synth/clarinet duo of Golden Retriever dropped a nice tape for NNA Tapes called Emergent Layer. I can't compare this to other releases since I've only heard a comp track but Matt Carlson, the synth, works some heavy disorientation via hyperactivity in the stereo spectrum. Jonathan Sielaff, the bass clarinet, humanizes the whole ordeal with his organic though copiously effected reeds, providing thoughtful melodic counterpoints to Carlson's wild-man-on-campus vibe. Synth/clarinet is definitely an odd combo (can you name others?) but these guys manage to not only subvert expectations but also effortlessly create a natural chemistry between their instruments. Very cool band.
Indignant Senility is one of many projects by Glamorous Pat Yo-Yo Dieting and considering how much I've been loving his work on Bubblethug and a DJ Yo-Yo Dieting c-90 I picked up, I wanted to see what his classical music plunderphonic project was like. Apparently he did a record of all Wagner which I haven't heard and this j-card offers no guess as to what source material is used. No matter, Blemished Breasts (pictured) on Cherried-Out Merch is definitely dense and at 100 minutes, it's a certified behemoth. I really haven't spent enough time with it to give any insight, but the source material here is much more obscured than with Yo-Yo Dieting. There's the occasional, fleeting instant where a lovely melody materializes and evaporates just as quickly, but mostly Pat just produces this stoic, oppressive force that keeps you under its thumb. I'll keep listening to this one.