Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunflare - Sunflare [Cubic Pyramid]

This raw debut tape by Sunflare on the up & coming Portuguese label Cubic Pyramid is two sides of fun. Earlier in the year, I reviewed another psych tape by dUAsSEMIcOLCHEIASiNVERTIDAS also on a young Portuguese label A Giant Fern, where the group experimented with different styles and instrumentation; that is not the case with Sunflare, the trio know exactly what competition they're participating in and they go for the gold.
You will be able to decide if you like the first side "On the Red" literally from the opening seconds. There are three elements: 1) relentless, swinging drums 2) a chunky, clutch bassline 3) a free-wheeling, wah-soaked six-string burning rubber all over the goddam place. That right there is all you need to know really. Not into that? No need to bother.
Sunflare goes at it with gusto which I really appreciate. Too many psych bands out there don't have enough balls for me. If I'm gonna listen to your 15 minute jam you had better not waste my fucking time.
The last couple minutes get really good when the dude with the ax really starts to shred and eventually just settles into slammin' out power chords before opening up for some more shredding. The rhythm section is rock solid to the core until they eventually call it quits as the tape runs out.
The second side is titled "Into the City (Night Vision)" and the name is fitting as its much chillier despite still being completely fuzz drenched. After the gutsy energy of the first side it's nice to transition into moodier territory. There's a healthy dose of reverb and whammy bar providing Twin Peaks-esque dark surf moves every so often. The rhythm section kicks in and the jam is in motion all of a sudden retaining the chiaroscuro lighting of the intro. The guitarist goes way off in his own world, leaving it to the bassist to navigate the track through it's various movements and eventually guide the ship home. The back half of the track mellows things out in a really effective manner, building tension before laying on some burned-out psych wreckage before pulling the plug.
The group has a raw knack for this kind of stuff and I think there's a lot of potential to be developed by the trio. They aren't afraid to get wild and really go for it, and that's a quality that can never be valued highly enough.
Cubic Pyramid has since released a 12" by Sunflare but this tape is still available it looks like and it comes with cool paper and vellum overlay artwork. Psych-heads take note

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Che Chen - Che Chen [Pilgrim Talk]/Bridesmaid/Sunsplitter - Split [Bastard Sloth]

I'm pairing up these two 7inches for review for two vague reasons. They both have ties to Illinois and their covers look vaguely similar and alien to me. Otherwise, I'm not sure these have anything else in common whatsoever other than their size.
I'd never heard of Che Chen before but record features a complex system of "violin, sine wave generators, feedback and tape delay" which definitely got me excited and I always expect Nick Hoffman's Pilgrim Talk label to offer something interesting. I like violin quite a bit and it's rare I get to hear it in a solo or semi-solo context such as this. The first side "Pulaski Wave (Violin Halo)" features a beautiful pairing of overdubbed violins. They teeter back and forth between drones, half melodies and skronky aggression. The sine wave generator provides a round, near-constant hum which, while subtle, fills out the lower end of the spectrum to complement the sharper violin notes. I think the oscillators are somehow rigged to interact with the violin, though that whole business flies way over my head. Overall, the side is really tastefully considered. The range of sounds available from a violin are employed while keeping within the mellow context dictated by the sine wave generator.
The second side "Newtown Creek Mirror Lag" features tape delay in addition. It's more melodic that it's predecessor without sacrificing any edge or interest in the less "pleasant" sounds violins have to offer. There's a jaunty beat created via the electronics manipulation of the violin. I'm reminded of Cajun violin when the player's feet are constantly tapping a rhythm along with his action on the strings. Here, with the help of tape in the form of delay and overdubbing Chen applies this principle in a more integrated fashion, where the rhythm is derived directing from the instrument its supporting.
This is a great little record and I'll have to be on the lookout for Chen's name now. The artwork is super-minimal but the record comes with awesome blue labels which feature detailed diagrams of the systems used for each track. My favorite detail, on the second side, is "Violin Tuning: ?"
This split from the Bastard Sloth label is a small slice of metal.
I've never heard of Bridesmaid before but it's a double bass and drums trio. Something that's kind of funny to me is the two bassists play exactly the same thing almost the entire track. I am guessing they have no pretensions about doing some kind of dueling bass thing, they're just trying to sound fucking heavy. Who can't get down with a band that wants to sound really heavy?
The band's totally in sync; since it's one big rhythm section the drums follow pretty closely to what the basses are doing. The first half of the track "Vilkin' it for All it's Worth" plays around with a heavy lurch & groove riff, with sort of an ebb and flow to the rhythm eventually transitioning to a tighter arrangement. The band kicks into the next gear in the second half of the track which I really dig. They launch into "pummel" mode, with a surprisingly melodic touch. There's not a lot to report, just that Bridesmaid is rollin' hard and heavy, riding the riff to the end groove. Not too shabby.
I have a full length Sunsplitter tape on Land of Decay that I still need to give the review treatment but the band's offering here is probably the best track I've heard from them. On "Plum Blossom" (a pretty metal title if I do say so myself) you notice instantly that instead of basses SS has two guitars. In fact neither band shares an instrument. It's almost like a 6-person metal band split in half and put out a 7 inch. The guitars duke it out with their own slo-mo riffs while the vocalist sings and delivers swathes of noise and loops. A. Dunn's vocals are a good match for this sort of thing, they are low and sort of lethargic (only word I can make out is "flower") and they exist inside the mix rather than on top of it. Minimal drum programming occasionally kicks into full-on double-bass drum mode but it's the guitars that do the heavy lifting here from every angle. They really hold down the rhythm, the melody and control the dynamics of the song. Sometimes content to pound away at a measured pace other times delivering twisty leads. All in all, it's a pretty badass track with a lot going for it. The more I listen, the bigger the fan I become.
I dig the vibe of these guys because they retain a certain "classic-ness" but they aren't afraid to tuck vocals into just a single section of a song, or use a drum machine or smear acrid coats of noise over their arrangements at times. Also props to Bridesmaid for doing their own thing as well. And there's no cookie monster vox on either side; I'm in metal heaven.
Both records are available from their respective labels. The Bridesmaid/Sunsplitter record is also available in gold which is pretty sweet. Pilgrim Talk put out the Che Chen record in an uncharacteristically large edition of 300 so you can definitely get your hands on a copy and grab the deeply strange Psychophagi LP while you're at it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Remnants - Vision Being [Imminent Frequencies]

Got a lovely-looking noise tape from Remnants to discuss from the Imminent Frequencies label. I dig the whole visual vibe of this thing; top notch inspiration, design and execution.
This is the only release I've heard from Remnants but based on the sounds on display here, it's a quite a fitting name. The feel of the tape is noisy but at a distance. Either it was recorded in a large space or more likely there are a few reverb pedals in the effects chain. Short, constant delay drives the side as waves of feedback ebb, flow and crash. Apparently, the only sound sources on the tape were a pair of contact mics. The aim of the tape is interesting because despite the basis in noise electronics it's also trying for some of that resonant temple drone feel (that goal is confirmed by the artwork.)
The first side is a good deal stronger than the second. It begins with copious amounts of decayed, blurry feedback, but a little ways in the piece settles into a deeper, darker place. The feedback crust is wiped away somewhat, and vocals and other noises are able to come through. Vocals create a nice melody sounding almost like an incredibly bassy pipe organ. I'm definitely feeling this section of the tape; it sounds much richer and infinitely more expansive. The tape begins to rupture towards the end; stuttering, crackling in danger of getting torn from the face of the earth.
I think in seem some ways all the reverb does a disservice to the second side because it smooths out the dynamics so much. You can do a lot of interesting things with contact mics but all the sounds get kind of flattened out here. Furthermore, the first side doesn't really have much of an arc to me. A side doesn't have to have an arc necessarily but on the other hand it doesn't really hit that deep drone sweet spot either.
Imminent Frequencies has been trucking along quite well it seems dropping tapes from the likes of famous "C" names: C. Spencer Yeh, Chapels and an upcoming one from Collapsed Arc that should be good. Based on the high-quality production value and the variety of sounds emanating from it, IF could be a label to watch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Joe Kile - So Many Nights [Unread]

It's not too often I end up with a tape like Joe Kile's in hand. I mean the cassette world of raging noise, euphoric tones, grimey rock & roll, 70s analog synth revivalists, wingnut instrument abusers etc. is awesome and I love all those sounds. But you know what? Sometimes there's nothing better than popping in a tape of sweetly classic folk tunes.
I mean there's not really an angle to take on Joe Kile. He's not a certified outsider weirdo, or at least his music doesn't give me that impression. He doesn't bury his songs in lo-fidelity scuzz or howl demented lyrics. He just writes some good songs.
Released on Baltimore's Unread label, Kile crams 20 tracks onto a c32. The lead off "title track" features a far away thump-crash rhythm and the occasional six string embellishment. Proving to be a defining characteristic throughout the album, Kile's voice and its gentle twang is the center of the action with perfect, subtle accompaniment from the instrumentation. "Feeling So Tired" has a nice organ procession as a weary Kile hums "I'm so tired of feeling so tired." "Heat of Misery" is absolutely my favorite. It's one of the most "country" tunes and it's quite an elegant, understated ballad about the death of a relationship. Kile is at his best lyrically, speaking as an omniscient narrator delivering poetic commentary and even manages to squeeze a guitar and banjo solo in there too. The gently warbling organ of "Feeling So Tired" appears on "I Heard it When You Called Me" but the whole thing cut offs after a half minute. "Living on Mars" changes things up considerably with a super crunchy electric guitar that practically drowns out Kile's voice.
Kile cuts through the next bunch of tracks quickly. "Balloon" is brief and nearly an a capella. "Firey Red" in addition to a dirty guitar, muffles Kile's drawl in fuzz. "Glass Bulb" is one of the bigger head turners as all of a sudden you're dropped into a crispy disco beat louder than both the guitar and voice. Just as quickly you're yanked out for "You n' Me" a plaintive ballad about "doin' some honkin' tonkin' just like old times" which features quite a pretty piano/organ arrangement in the outro. The instrumental "Bad Time" is an odd guitar/organ pastiche and closes the side.
The second side opens with "Bend and Peel" which is an a.m. radio pop tune basically. Jaunty strums, jaunty drum machine and even jauntier organ stabs make for an incredibly buoyant pick-me-up that contrasts well with Kile's typical mellow, wearied style. One of the finer tunes on the tape. A dose of warbly strings make their presence known on the brief "Takin' Off". "Southern Heat" ought to be climbing the charts with its timely topic; "You can't beat Southern heat" is a refrain many would agree with. "North Brook" features a searing little riff which Kile cools down with his soft coo. "Old Tom" vacillates between fragmented strings and becoming a rising stomper. The closer, "Sometimes All the Words Come Out Wrong" is another good one. It's one of the more layered arrangements on the tape with multiple guitars and organ cascading and subsiding, and it's all the better for it.
The criticism I have to level at So Many Nights, is it's put together pretty roughly and cramming so many songs into a short amount of time causes some to bleed together. Maybe that's the idea, bleeding together like memories from so many nights. Either way, a significant amount of songs don't hit (or barely hit) the minute mark so quite a few feel underdeveloped. There's certainly a gap between the best, most developed songs and less developed ones. The fact that songs are often cut off a tad prematurely due to the dubbing causes things to be a occasionally jarring as well. Those points said, they are small complaints. I am glad I have this tape and have been introduced to Kile's work, perhaps he's the sort that puts out more polished records and then scrappy, rough-hewn tapes like this.
It's hard to pinpoint a good reference point because Kile's style is so classic and steeped in tradition; he sounds like everyone, in a good way. I'm thinking his music is maybe a little like Pumice but thoroughly inspired by Americana? I may just be reaching for a comparison there but Kile is a voice worth hearing if you like classic Western song forms on cassette. Unread seems to be quite a neat little label as well. Check 'em both out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Clay Man in the Well - Kupe's Sail [Peasant Magik]

This warbly, hissing mess is one Antony Milton's latest works, and amongst his finest.
The first of many untitled racks is a highlight with it's backwards noises, unintelligible vocals, and a killer guitar/drums combo that drops in in the second half. Milton follows that up with some loose guitarin' , augmented by shards of feedback and melted organ tones. It's a really great track that has revealed itself more on repeated listens. Changing gears, the third track spotlights a couple of layers of organ (AM dropped a whole record of chord organ so you know he's into the instrument.)
One of the best things about the tape is that its looseness is a defining factor and strength. Milton makes the listener feel at home in his musical wanderings, the steady stream of new approaches is never jarring. The fourth piece for instance features a sizable build-up. In fact, almost the entire track is a build-up, basically a journey-not-the-destination sort of thing. Milton does change directions though, delivering a fantastic resolution without resorting to providing answers. The piece is a gorgeous little number with a fractured, faraway melody. There's a warmth certainly , but with forlorn trappings. I imagine it soundtracking a vacated farmhouse, the emptiness consequent of tragedy. Really just utterly gorgeous. Milton provides soft vocals but wisely leaves the focus on the central melody allowing his voice to fade into the track's ether. The final piece works in AM radio trance mode. It almost sounds like Milton's version of "Dream On" but I think he's just borrowing the phrase. It turns out to be a rather epic jam with a nice organ-led coda following it up.
The second side opens with a fragile little folksy tune. Wispy voice, intertwined guitar and piano lines and footsteps keeping time. What begins as fragile feels convicted by its end. Nice work. The track that follows is a weird one. Plinking piano keys are featured upfront as Milton delivers speedy, rather incomprehensible spoken word. A lot of feedback and scuzz takes over, rumbling along on a deep bit of drumming. Hot string bends fall all over each other as Milton whips out ragged riff after riff. Milton's brief vocals are barely detectable under the racket but I really like that they make it in, you get a true sense of how heavy the din is. The next piece is quite nice. An unwound, just out-of-tune ballad of guitar, voice, field recordings and a sawed violin. The mellow vibes perfectly follow up the previous wreckage. Slipping into something a little more warbly, multi-tracked acoustic arpeggios vie for control over manipulated field recordings until a new guitar takes the lead with a stomper. Some violin shreddin' and a great vocal melody from AM bring the track home. One his best quieter tunes on the tape. A shiny, ramshackle folk thing is stretched out with soft, bowed drones and organ tones and various guitar melodies making for a fantastic send off. The second side doesn't offer as many high points but it's still incredibly consistent throughout.
The tape is a really cool little journey but seems to have flown under the radar a bit. It's got that rustic, cassette-coated guitar wanderer vibe of Ignatz records but with a penchant for noise rock. Not a bad combo in the least, give this thing a look.

In Rotation #8

Dang, it's been a while since I've done one of these In Rotation things. And since, so much incredible stuff has found its way to me one way or another so I'm gonna spew it all out at you.
I caught Chicago free jazz crew Tiger Hatchery at Seattle's best show so far this year (they shared the bill with an amazingly free and melodic set by Wally Shoup and Don Berman (dude's got one of the coolest drumming styles I've ever seen,) Jason E. Anderson (Brother Raven) did live analog modular processing of saxophonist Wilson Shook and Panabrite closed the night with deep synth vibes.) The Hatchery blew the roof off the place, still one of the most intense, relentlessly energetic jazz ensembles I've ever encountered. Dudes were all super nice too, I complimented Andrew Michael Young on his solo Catholic Tape and I was pleasantly met with news of a second tape to be released in the future. Ben Billington also gave me his recent tape as Quicksails on Deception Island, another sweet entry in his unique percussion-inspired solo synthery. While I was there I obviously clutched a bounty of proper Tiger Hatchery stuff too: an insanely good one-sided LP on Pizza Night, a cassette on Baked Tapes, the best bang for the buck, with a live set on each side, and a split 7inch split with rock band Lechuguillas (who they modestly stated delivered the better side; modesty is great and all but please allow me to disagree, Tiger Hatchery.) Killer band, if you missed their tour, well, that was dumb.
More killer Chicago shit (is there something in the beer over there?) Running's self-titled 45rpm LP on Permanent. A wailin' and wall-shakin' Chicago noise rock record. Sloshed, uptempo Jesus Lizard-on-amphetamines gnarlyisms. Some of the cuts barely qualify as songs and others drop the catchiest riffs and most inept drum solos in ten counties, all the while feedback bleeds all over the record even between its 13 tracks. There is no silence on this record! Awesome. Check this band out already!
Speaking of silence, I gotta talk about this new Rale LP on Isounderscore. First of all, fuck. Have you seen this record? Like for real seen it in person? If you haven't, you won't be able to begin to understand what I'm talking about. Seeing a picture of the jacket online will give you an idea of what it looks like but make no mistake, the record in person is simply gorgeous. It's so simple, so elegant and just perfect. Kudos to Brandon Nickels's design work. As far as the sounds go they are quite stately as well. Rale aka Bill Hutson has created quite a fantastic drone record; one that does not lull (or dull) you into submission with constancy or repetition but it instead breathes. Hutson constructs it meticulously to move through stretches of sculpted sounds and pure silence seamlessly. I just got this and can tell it's a good one. I am looking forward diving in many more times.
"Meticulous construction" and Sightings are two terms that I've never really thought about together until now. "Now" being since I got Future Accidents the latest LP by Sightings, released by Our Mouth. This is the best Sightings record I have heard. It's got all the good things about Sightings but revamped into a more studied, cerebral brand of noise rock. The side-length track "Public Remains" on the B-side (which features help from Pat Murano) could pass for (or in fact is rather) an excellent example of modern abstract composition. It's dense and complex stuff but immediately listenable. Really outstanding work. Shahin Motia and Kid Millions engineered this record which reminds me when are Ex Models gonna drop another record?
Moreso than any other label this year, Weird Forest has been blowing me away. Of course part of that is me digging through their back catalog as well but still, props. One of the smartest moves made by Davy Bui when he became the new CEO last year was instituting tapes into the Weird Forest pantheon. Matt Kretzmann (Garrincha & the Stolen Elk) dropped a tape earlier in the year which is a great cassette-concrete thing he had done like a decade ago or something, glad it finally saw the light of day! I can hear traces of its style in Garrincha, but it's definitely a path of its own worth traveling down. And damn man, Bui went 3 for 3 with the new tapes he dropped recently. Colour Buk delivers a half hour of intermingling avant-junk skronk rock with super-weird and really awesome songs. The Preterite dropped a hearty two full hours of magical piano/tape manipulation pieces. It's always nice to have another reason to add a double cassette to the collection. The crown jewel of the three for me is Kevin Corcoran's Haptic Music, an absolutely stunning tape of solo percussion. It's the kind of thing that not everyone will be down with but they fuckin' should be. Corcoran's approach to his instruments (or "objects" may be more apt) is patient, tender (sometimes) and fascinatingly detailed. His subtle manipulations make for extremely engaging aural gestures in the headphones. It's music for people who love to listen. One track is actually pretty too, as Corcoran pulls drones out his drums. Along with the tapes, Weird Forest dropped a to-the-letter reissue of Symphony for a Genocide by Maurizio Bianchi (billed as M.B.) which was gone in a flash (all 520 copies!) I had never actually heard any M.B. stuff which is why I picked it up. Apparently Bianchi is a pretty conceptual guy stating "The moral of this work: The past punishment is the inevitable blindness of the present" and, well, whatever. I'm not exactly seeing what the gnarled tones and relentless beats contained on the record have to do with that. Good thing I only really care about gnarled tones and relentless beats. This thing seems like it could have been made today and it's 30 years old. Modern experimental music you are really behind the times. Also, Noveller released a new album of her trademarked tangled guitar strings called Glacial Glow. Weird Forest collected a bunch of Terrors cassette tracks, forming a new CD/LP of barely-fi, heavy-on-the-lethargy tunes called Qagan Lord. A few keepers on the record for sure. Perhaps the most interesting of the new full lengths is Garrincha and the Stolen Elk's Void. In some ways it has a touch of a post-rock feel. Not the shitty neo-prog stuff but the classics like early Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Of course, where there was like 20 people on a Godspeed record you got two here; though the two, the aforementioned Bui and Kretzmann, are products of the current multi-tasking, 17-instruments-to-every-person scene. Long story short the record is still a bit of an enigma to me as it is, and when you think about it in context with their previous releases, well, that makes it all the more enigmatic.
No strangers to blowing me away, Stunned dropped their second to last batch of tapes and well the batch probably couldn't be any more flawless. A.M. Shiner drops a weirdly musical tape (is that an actual instrument, and not a stalled transmission, that I hear?) Super Minerals go straight off the deep end with Contacteer and continue their hot streak of one-upping the release that came before. Not sure if you caught that, but basically each successive Minerals release has been better than the last, at least for a while now anyway, not many bands you can say that about. M. Geddes Gengras and Jeremy Kelly play analog synth-sparring partners as Voder Deth Squad to masterful, mind-blowing effect. Think Gengras's other Stunned tapes and then imagine him dueling with some kind of alternate reality doppelganger. Santa Cruz, CA's Ugly Husbands (which I haven't heard since their very nice debut cassette) delivers an abstract spectacle of lo-fi bedroom songwriting while on the flipside resides Gul Bara, a Warm Climate side project--need I say more to entice you? A duo of Seth Kasselman and Caitlin C. Mitchell, Gul Bara is maybe a little like an expansion of those interludes between "songs" on the Warm Climate records, but where as those interludes were strategically calculated, each piece here is left looser to thrive on its own accord.
The Rise of Elklink delivered by, you guessed it, Elklink is a LP reissue on KYE of a cassette released way back in 1998 (yes, "My Heart Will Go On" was stilling ruling the airwaves when this initially came out.) Graham Lambkin, thank you for reissuing this. This record is way too fucking nutty to get lost in the past. The duo of Lambkin and wife Adris Hoyos (Harry Pussy) have created something that hasn't gotten any less confounding in its 13 years of existence. The source of practically all sounds on the record is the human voice but, it's most likely not what you imagine it is after a description like that. This is a record for someone who loves tactile sounds, minute sounds magnified and all textures that can be derived from physically manipulating something i.e. me.
Blanche Blanche Blanche, the metamorphosis of a Zach Phillips project I loved to pieces, GDC, delivers lots of good homemade minimal pop pieces ("Heroes of the Microphone" probably being the definitive statement thus far for a few reasons) on their debut tape (pictured) for Night People. The duo seem on the verge of blowing up, Night People are dropping an LP later this year and Pitchfork and Vogue are already drinking the kool-aid. Looking forward to more.
Avant Archive has been all over the map of good shit this year. Take a gander for yourself. Recently Mr. Michael Jantz dropped tapes by Talk West, Bret Schneider and HMS. They're all so different it is hard to rank them. Talk West was initially my favorite with its patient pedal steel meditations but now, I don't know, Schneider's balls-to-wall loopy computerisms are really sticking in my mind and that doesn't even take into account the staggering showmanship of HMS' guitar/synth/drums improvisations. How about you take a listen and tell me for a change?
Seattle-area crew Extraordinary Pigeons and Regosphere (who is PDX-based if I'm not mistaken) just dropped a split cassette via Pigeon Coup International. The last I heard from the X-Pigeons was a Zine/Flexi-lathe which was a short track of harsh, grainy noise derived from an "audio-ization" of the images in the zine. Their side here is a spooky acoustic-drone piece reminding me of the days of 2008 when everyone was high on GHQ. Needless to say it caught me a bit off-guard but I like it. Regosphere contrasts EP's acoustic activities with a nasty wall of noise. Concocted with analog synthesizer and shortwave radio, the two pieces have guts to back up all the noise and sometimes even lock into strange hypnotic places. Nice work.
Also got a weird tape by Chica X on HeWhoCorrupts Inc. who is an eight year-old girl who raps over home-made beats by her pops. That sounds like a gimmick but most of the tracks are pretty sweet such as opener "Da Bank (1, 2 Step)" Chica X is at her finest when she's droppin' lines like "on my malibu bike and I'm feelin' kinda happy" or sneers "It's not that hard to get a library card" and taunts "How's that job at micky dees treatin' you?/Guess you shoulda been hittin the books instead of skippin' school" on stand-out "To the Library..." A couple tracks aren't as strong but overall the tapes a lot of fun.

Friday, July 8, 2011

In Rotation #7

This post got lost somewhere in the internet void cause I went to this show back in May I think or was it April?

Just caught a killer show put together by Gift Tapes/DRAFT Records main man, Jason E. Anderson, showcasing the talents of Matt Carlson (Golden Retriever) and RM Francis in his debut performance. Two cool sets by guys approaching synthesizer music from opposite ends of the spectrum; Carlson delivering a highly maximal set of analog modular patch-cordery and Francis delivering a killer trip (as in cerebral traveling rather than "trippiness") exploring the dynamics and imperfections of time-stretched digital synthesis. I'm always a little wary of computer music (I'm an analog guy, what can I say?) but I was totally sold on Francis's work. Apparently he's got a tape on the way via DRAFT.
Anyway, while I was there I picked up a ton of tapes. After being amazed by one of Anderson's sets as Harpoon Pole Vault a couple weeks ago, I nabbed the HPV tape Outside This Area on Jugular Forest. While his live set was hyperactive and wild, the tape is much more mellowed but Anderson produced equally excellent results in both. Spacey analog synth-ery with a purpose; there are a lot great melodies that drive the cassette. The Eagle Vision cassette on Aguirre by Brother Raven, Anderson's duo with Jamie Potter, is similarly excellent. Form and melody play an even greater role here. It's a hard choice between the two as I love the looseness of Outside This Area but the deeply relaxing melodic forms of Eagle Vision are hard to resist. I'll choose later. Even as impeccable as those tapes are, and I do mean impeccable, Spare Death Icon may be my favorite of Anderson's projects because it's so damn badass. The recent Gift Tape, Survival channels John Carpenter, et al. making for an inspired album of pseudo-movie synth music. The last track is even called "Credits". Anderson also dropped a side-long anti-relaxation synth piece on a Stunned split (pictured) with Brad Rose's fantastic Charlatan project, who by contrast delivers highly relaxing synth music. It's a smart pairing of two of today's top synth aficionados; one of the best in Stunned's recent split series as well.
The one non-Anderson-involved tape was by Carlson called Gecko Dream Levels. A loopy, forty minute brain-mash. It makes me think what if an early 20th c. avant-garde composer (someone with a sense of humor like Charles Ives) created soundtracks for early video games. Carlson basically just lets himself run wild all over the tape, discharging a wealth of ideas. Among the most "composed" pieces on the tape, "Infinity Canyons" is phenomenal.
What attracts me to Anderson's and his cabal's work is instead of there being a passiveness of sounds which is characteristic of a lot of this new new age of synth music, their sounds are very much active. I don't mean in a quantifiable sense, just that there are dynamics in the music that are often lacking in the work of others. Despite the highly (or should I say completely) synthetic nature of the recordings they feel and sound certifiably organic. Stellar stuff all around.