Saturday, May 18, 2013

In Brief #4: It's Been a Long Time Comin'...

Been forever since I've gotten a post finished and there's been so much bangin' shit showing up in my mailbox that I'm just gonna take care of things 12-gauge double-barrel buckshot style.

Ecstatic Cosmic Union - XCU [Eiderdown]
Planets Around the Sun - Cosmic Job [Eiderdown]
Datashock - LiveLoveData$ [Eiderdown] 
Jon Collin - The Great Stink [Eiderdown]
Seattle label, Eiderdown Records, must be commended for a very thorough, and surprisingly quick, development and definition of its aesthetic. After only an LP and six tapes, it's become very easy to spot an Eiderdown release. The sounds possessed within their earthly formats all fit pretty nicely together too. Eiderdown always likes to get psychedelic but does so in a variety of ways. Among the pleasant surprises in the most recent set of tapes is Ecstatic Cosmic Union--or XCU--a Seattle crew that has recently crawled out of the woodwork. Pumping out slightly dubby psych-funk grooves, this might be my favorite spooler of the batch. Live congas, spaced synths zipping about and filtered guitar smoke make this some seriously stellar shit, all captured with the warmth of a 4-track. The duo really gets things rippin' on "Skarab's Bones" the perfect soundtrack for a midnight spacecraft ride. This thing has some serious hit potential, can't stop this groove! Get blissed, get tranced, get groovin'.
On Cosmic Job, Planets Around the Sun offer up a side-long slow burner "Cock and Balls" first but really get to work on the flipside with "Bump Tongues." The drummer keeps things steadily thumpin' amid the sloshed vox and free flowing wah-fest. Straight up minimal psych groove. No frills, no problem. That track is the best distillation of the Planets Around the Sun vibe but they soldier on with a guitar only interlude and bring back the drums for a final go round.
Datashock get freaky with their pan-audio septet thing on "Into the Abyss." Gorgeous synth movements, slightly creepy wordless female humming, distant clangs and chimes, trippy rubber duck exhortations (no joke)... What am I supposed to call this stuff? Doesn't matter I suppose as long as we all just LiveLoveData$. Out of the abyss comes percussion giving the piece an instant structure--albeit a very leisurely one. A wandering fiddle joins up and the crew really starts feeling the vibes.
These guys know what they are doing. Seamless transition from weirdo forest zones to full-on psych blues stomp? Not so easy but the great Data$ totally NAIL it. The flip is called "Noch Ein Bisschen Erbs'" and, though I'm partial to the first side, it's probably just as good. Synth bubbles mingle with violin and backwards guitar before the drum kits get rockin'.
On the final tape, Jon Collin offers a set of minimal guitar pieces with the appetizing title of The Great Stink. The six-string woozefest is populated by coughs, power tools and other incidental noises among the twist and twirl of guitar strings. The first piece, recorded in Sweden, is a bit more coarse than the rest, featuring Collin on acoustic guitar, wandering through the pines and ending with a mild take on Bill Orcutt's guitar rough-ups. The next three pieces feature Collin on electric guitar with varying levels of distortion, be it the smooth and drippy "Snake Road" or the wave of fuzz on "The Lark in the Morning." Collin really stretches his limbs--and goes all mental patient on us once or twice--on "Furniture Makers Medley" which unfurls over the entire second side.
All tape covers are beautifully screen-printed by A Crenshaw at Broken Press--continuing to keep Eiderdown's packaging aesthetic uniformly excellent across all releases. The other element that I must praise: none of these tapes run too long, a common symptom of psychedelic music. Thank you for the editorial third eye!

Adderall Canyonly - From Below We Reach Above [Tranquility Tapes]
Adderall Canyonly - Excelsius Minor [Rubber City Noise]
I've heard a pair of recent Adderall Canyonly cassettes, From Below We Reach Above and Excelsius Minor and damn, gotta say I'm impressed. (Not that I haven't said that before) These two tapes definitely show a different direction for the project, one that may just transcend its goofball moniker. Previously, AC sort of worked as the house band for the Field Hymns label, ready to start a party at a moment's notice. However, gone are the fizzy synths and bubbly beats, someone left a window open and these releases are suitably drafty. Every once in a while I was reminded of the chillier bits of Vangelis's Chariots of Fire score, maybe a slight intimation of Carpenter here and there. Really though, what I like about this stuff is that you never catch more than a brief whiff of the influences at work. I don't mean to say that these are entirely "original" (whatever that means) but that all reference points have been seamlessly integrated into a new fabric. "Song for a Broken Rhodes" off of Excelsius Minor is a piece that caught my attention instantly and easily nudged itself into the group of elite Adderall Canyonly compositions, a modest little epic that vaguely reminded me of early GY!BE and even Alexandre Desplat's recent work on Zero Dark Thirty.
All the work across both these tapes exhibits oodles of restraint, making each sound and every layer pull its weight. From Below We Reach Above is certainly befitting of the Tranquility Tapes namesake, though you're never allowed to get too comfortable. In contrast, Excelsius Minor has a bit of a Gothic, procession-like feel to it. Both are pretty excellent and amount to some of the finest work I've heard from this guy.
You're attention please, Mr. Canyonly has something to say.

Survive - HDXV [Holodeck]
Thousand Foot Whale Claw - Dope Moons Volume One [Holodeck]
JU4N - Vaporware [Holodeck]
Sungod - Contackt [Holodeck]
Dylan C - Samsara [Holodeck]
Smokey Emery - Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. II [Holodeck]
Man, if Austin, TX's Holodeck Records kills it with any more releases, it'll technically be a spree. So, yeah, these guys were responsible for dropping this little thing called Troller that I couldn't get enough of (or say enough about.) And then now we have HDXV and Dope Moons Volume One, my newest Holodeck obsessions. This doesn't even include that other Survive tape. Or the Amasa Gana one. Or that M. Geddes Gengras tape. Or the... well you get the idea.
The techno successor to that Troller masterpiece (in spirit anyway,) Survive issues a heady slab of programmatic composition. Complexly (and expertly) designed and brimming with melodies, where do I start? I guess I could say "Hourglass" is the fucking jam, but that may draw focus away from the whole album which is chock full of gems. I guess I could start listing influences: John Carpenter, Adult.'s neo-Suicide grime-grooves, Tangerine Dream a la Thief... nah. You know what, I'm not even gonna try to get into it because you should listen to the goddam thing. Don't take my word for it, just go here and listen to it and then buy the tape cause it sounds so much sweeter in fully analog fashion. This Survive dude is totally entitled to one of those tiger blood-fueled Charlie Sheen "winning" moments, but he won't partake cause he ain't one to brag. He's satisfied with merely blowing (out) minds.
Alright now after that head expansion, you got these bastards who call themselves Thousand Foot Whale Claw up next. What kind of band is this? I was under the impression given by their last tape that this was a drone band. And judging by the first and last track that's pretty right-on, but then again in the middle they shift gears into a full-fledged techno band. These guys are like a one-cut running back, they see the hole and decisively blast through. Once they hit the groove, they ride it to the end zone. Good Lord, that "tambourine" on "Ganymede," if I had friends this is what I'd put on at a party, instead I just put it on, clean the apartment and GET SHIT DONE. 1000ftWC got no time to fuck around and neither do I!
Vaporware by JU4N is the perfect comedown from the delirious heights of HDXV and Dope Moons Volume One; employing the same principles of those too but in a much more breezy, effervescent fashion. "Last Night in Cyberia" is certainly a high point, setting forth a fragmentary but oh-so-comforting sound collage.
Those first two tapes are pretty much essential for people who like music. That JU4N ain't a bad chaser either, making them a hell of a hydra altogether. They all make you feel so good, and each in a little different way.
It kinda seems unfair that Holodeck has cornered the market on "awesome synthesizer shit" this fast.
Elsewhere in the recent Holodeck batch is a psych burner from Sungod. The duo lays waste to acoustic and electric guitars, drums, a Moog Opus 3, a SCI Six-Track, piano and a tape machine. Needless to say things get pretty epic. In a lot of ways this a divergence from the previous Holodeck sounds but presence of analog synths and repetitive (sequenced?) grooves keeps this psychedelic blowout humming right along with the other artists in the Holodeck stable. The proggy psych thing can be tough sell on these ears but this is some good stuff.
I had Chicago's resident electronic music fascist, Brian Labycz, explain to me the difference between techno and house once, I honestly don't remember the difference but I'm pretty sure Dylan C brings the house on this one (I'm really liking my football references today.) Samsara is a faux-double album with the first side's song set labeled "Causes" and the second titled "Conditions." It's house music on cassette tape which is probably the most palatable way to export the genre to someone like me. I've always found my favorite house tracks to be ones that are comforting and cassette tape is the preferred mode of transport as it adds some extra warmth. I think Dylan C is at his best on the 1-2 punch of "Make 'Em Feel It" and "Genuine Vibes." My favorite of the rave-ups, "Fogman," gets goofy with 8-bit arpeggios galore and even slings around a few dub moves. The "Conditions" side takes things into darker territory, with a stronger emphasis on that nighttime feeling. Dylan C really hits his stride on "Time Warriors (ft. VVV)" my favorite track of the side. Wrapping up the album is a remix of an unreleased Troller track (who Dylan C also produces.) This isn't as up-my-alley as the Holodeck tapes I mentioned earlier but there's some nice stuff here--now I have a go-to cassette when I find myself in a house state of mind.
Smokey Emery shifts gears quite a bit on Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. II: You Take the High Road. After diving into the deep end of synths and programming, I'm toweling off with the vague, found textures of Daniel Hipolito's project. The woozy vibes come via home-spliced, tape machine gnarled loops of samples,  field recordings and live instruments. Hipolito whips up a dense stew of sound; melodies are present but you have to dig through the muck to find 'em. That isn't the case, however, on "The Lights are Big and I'm Driving Home" which amounts to the default single. It's pretty dang catchy with a sauntering jingle-jangle and repetitive organ melody. While Hipolito follows it up with the percussive, thundering "A Face in the Crowd" most of these pieces fit firmly into the "environmental listening" drawer. Nice stuff and a complete 180 from its counterparts in the batch.

Smokey Emery - Quartz [Indian Queen]
Silent Land Time Machine - I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solitude [Indian Queen]
Indian Queen is a sister label of sorts to Holodeck which explains Smokey Emery's presence. Quartz is a 1/4 hour 7inch in contrast to the more expansive tape I just covered and also sounds even more wasted and blurry if you can believe it. The trio of pieces amount to one big greasy smear, with the vinyl crackle adding an extra textural layer. One of the deepest and darkest 7inches I've ever heard.
Silent Land Time Machine's EP comes to you on a clear 12" 180gram platter in a nice professional jacket. The racket is a colorful hodge-podge of electronic and acoustic, music and non-music. It comes off at times like a more scatterbrained, less classically-oriented Sean McCann. Various bowed strings, reversed and otherwise fucked samples, lots of aural underbrush. The record occasionally locks into a short, potent melody and sets its sights on infinite expansion such as on "Remembering Names" nestling you into the repetition 'til it ends like a blanket ripped away. The following track, "Kissa," oddly enough ends up being a quasi-dance number. Yep, distorted samples rumbling frenetically beneath mournful, floating tones somehow equates to dance music in my mind. Perhaps my favorite tune is the waltzing opener of the second side, deemed "An Own to One's Room." Fragments of piano, accordion and violin, along with murmured vocals, step along in rhythm--drifting endlessly in circles. Holodeck also dropped this on magnetic tape so pick yr poison.

Adoption - Nineteen Ninety [Skrot Up]
AG Davis, Florida's resident (non-politician) crazy person, has a new band. It's called Adoption. Davis and new collaborator A. Kalaczynski lay waste to the rare C5 format, cramming 10 tracks onto the 5 minute cassette. Firing blast beats like they're Sonny Corleone's assassins, this is ostensibly dance floor fodder--a strange, forbidden alchemy of Sissy Spacek and those as-seen-on-TV Ultimate Dance Party compilations. Brutal drum programming and synth goop courtesy of Kalaczynski clash with Davis's distorted vox and signature "editing" for max disorientation. This is that fucked up, factory-chewed crayon in the brand new box of 50. Love the stark piano interlude dudes!