Thursday, August 25, 2011

Idaho Joe Windslow - Smoke Your Fear [Psychic Sound]

This record came out of nowhere. It is almost like some spirit out there guided it into my unknowingly open arms.
Armed with a bevy of gear including a home-made "gongtar" along with tabla machine, lehara machine, "Arabic Casio SK8-A," Pakistani Bul Bul, Tibetan creaking drum and more, Windslow integrates each element of his sound perfectly. His droning, metallic gongtar, the trippy grooves of his tabla and lehara machines, his deep voiced, lethargic delivery of lyrics about ghosts and out-of-body experiences.
Lead off track "Out of Body Experience" is still probably my favorite as it's such a perfect nutshell of what Idaho Joe does and does so well. A seriously infectious melody emanates from the lehara machine (I think) while Joe wields all sorts of creaks and glistening grind from his gongtar. His beyond sloshed vocals lay out the LPs main aim as he petitions you to "experience an out-of-body experience." This really is a track you gotta hear, gotta feel as words don't do justice to its trifecta of creepiness, trippiness and catchiness.
"Arabic Casio (Sk8-A) Sampling Function" is an instrumental interlude showcasing the, you guessed it, Arabic Casio's sampling function. Joe throws his metallic gongtar daggers over a tight match-up of tabla and lehara machines in "When Fear Overflows Into Ecstasy". He sings about fear making you feel warm and fuzzy but this song sure doesn't make me feel that way. Dude's gonna hurt someone with that gongtar.
After the 45-second warbly drum solo of "Ektar Solo," another album standout called "My Own Ghost" wraps the first side. I had never thought of "Hey this guy has a pretty good life" being a catchy refrain but man it is here. The gongtar sounds jangly rather than grisly here too which certainly contributes to its sing-along quality.
The second side opens with a fantastic piece of analog electric tamboura called "Analog Electric Tamboura." It's highly evocative, so much so I think it could be fleshed out into a film score. It makes for a perfect midpoint in the record.
"Poltergeist" brings the tabla machine hard and heavy (you may recognize it from Punch-Drunk Love) as Windslow waxes about feeling spirits around you. "Sk8-A with Distortion" makes for a surprisingly weird little interlude. I tend to have a set idea of what can be done with a Casio but Windslow wrings out some weird and squirming sounds from it.
The lehara machine crawls a lot slower on "Great Great Grand Brother." The gongtar drones come long and slow as well. I love that it ends with "you feel like the entire youniverse"
"Heaven's a Booby Trap" details what to do if you see a light at the end of the tunnel. Windslow's advice? "Don't go. Heaven's a booby trap." Windslow sounds most convicted on this track. Perhaps it's because the Casio beat and gongtar stay far enough in the distance that Windslow's voice twists comparatively naked in the wind.
This is a seriously bitchin' record. Nothing else like it my collection. Definitely do what you can track this down.
Psychic Sound did a great job putting this package together: multi-layer screenprinted front and back covers, thick vinyl, sweet labels, and very informative insert with lyrics and instrument listing for each song. Contact Psychic Sound and berate them until they repress this spooked out monster.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Parashi - The Wine is Safer than the Water. [Skell]

Parashi is the project of NY-based Mike Griffin who I gather, based on a couple of CDrs from his Skell imprint, is a righteous dude. (He also dropped a tape on the famed Stunned imprint this year that I somehow missed out on.) Griffin also collaborates with Ray Hare (Fossils From the Sun, Century Plants etc.) which is a match-made in heaven if I've ever heard one. Need I continue?
On The Wine is Safer than the Water. which Griffin "recorded live using synthesizers, metal objects, contact microphones and various percussive devices" is a killer little disc. Namely what's so killer about it is the restrained presence of the synthesizer. Now, I love synths as much as the next guy but it's really exciting to hear someone, such as Griffin here, working with such dynamic sounds and minimal, reasoned structures rather than flooding a tape with synth sustain.
The top jam, "And the People are Often Drunk" unfurls itself over the course of 7 minutes. Ever so slightly, the once small clicks, clacks and crackles become agitated, and begin to burgeon and swell sucking up the formerly plentiful amounts of space. From manipulated percussive clatter at the front of the track to the grinding machinery at the end, Griffin plans a well thought-out route and then navigates and paces the trip wonderfully. "This Results in an Increase" begins somewhere around where "Often Drunk" ends. A low rattle gnaws away, wisps of sounds scrape by occasionally. Midway through, a synth tone becomes discernible but is quickly plucked apart, tendon by tendon, cannibalized by its own sonic surroundings. "In Their Pronounced Tendency" over multiple layers of sputtering machinery, the synth gets another shot and sirens away gently, relatively unharmed. That is until a rabid a hyena gets into the circuit boards. The cackling and screeching are offset by a deep, smoothly throbbing basstone that makes the whole affair all the more queasy. "Toward Violence" cuts its length to under for 4 minutes for a more distilled kernel-ing of the ideas that preceded. Various percussive sounds trip and stumble, emanating through delay pedals keeping slurred, synth washes at bay throughout the duration. The most radio-ready track of the bunch! Nice!
The ever reliable Eric Hardiman wasn't blowing any smoke when he praised this guy. With this CDr, Griffin shows a much appreciated sense of adventure and a sheer knack for complex, thoroughly engaging compositions/performances. We may have a real talent on our hands, folks.
Edition of 50, Skell looks like it may still have some copies.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Froe Char - A New Swan's Death [Free Loving Anarchists]

This was a good lesson to never judge a tape by it's cover. There was a picture of a super goth'd woman on the inside who I gather is Froe Char, the title A New Swan's Death was not givin' me good vibes (perhaps because I really hated that fuckin' Black Swan movie which was fresh in my mind at the time) and I really had no clue what Froe Char meant or how I was supposed to pronounce it. I guess that goes a long way to expose my prejudices of goth-looking album photos, the word "swan" used in conjuction with "black" or "death" and, of course, band names that confuse me. You know what showed me the error of my ways? Actually listening to the tape. It's a brief one but pretty dang good too.
Released by Texan label Free Loving Anarchists, Froe Char drops 8 songs in 20 or so minutes. Each is steeped in reverb but never really sounds spacey or euphoric to its credit.
"Morning Rax" pounds away on a rudimentary acoustic guitar with multi-tracked voice, practically drowned out by all the echoes surrounding them. "In Waste" rolls along on a two-chord guitar progression, sloshed vox and minimal drum machine taps with a fantastically subtle counter-melody appearing midway through that really sells me on the jam. For as simple as the song is, Froe Char did a hell of a job creating a ton of depth and texture in the arrangement. This has slowly become one of my favorites on the tape. The following track, "Seppuku," which may or may not be about samurai, I can't tell, was the instant stand-out my first time through. It really hustles. Sharp organ tones and a relentless drum machine keep the energy jacked from the get go and from there the artist has a lot of fun arranging soft, melting vocals and other subtle, nearly subliminal instrument parts. Not too much fun though, as the track feels like it only lasts for a minute. The title track seals up the first side. Plenty of flanged whooshes fly through track which is built around a basic acoustic arpeggio.
I can almost understand the lyrics in "Saying Again" which is a first for the tape. It's a very pretty ballad, with all the instrumentation blending into an almost effervescent coating. "The Arsonist" is another favorite. A sizzling, uptempo drum machine pump-pump-pumps underneath an excellent bassy guitar riff. Aside from multi-tracked vocals, that's the extent of the arrangement but, damn if it's not a potent combination. "Resume" cools it down a notch with a keyboard beat, round organ tones and slurred, spoken lyrics. "The Burial Song" is a great choice to close on. The most open sounding guitar on the tape appears, strummed gently with a really great (and a little bit eerie) keyboard melody leading the way.
All in all, this is a really cool tape. There are certainly some standouts but the more important quality to note is there are no duds. Froe Char has a great sound (I hesitate to make a comparison to Grouper or someone of that ilk since Froe Char seems to approach her music with a more energetic viewpoint) but most importantly there are some great ideas underneath the reverb. A promising voice in the blandscape of hushed, reverb-buried songwriters.
It looks like Free Loving Anarchists still has a few copies of the tape on sale for a fiver. Edition of 80 copies.