Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Brief #5: Late for Class

Sorry for the tardiness of this post, it somehow got stuck in 'draft mode' or something for a while. So if any jokes seem a slight bit dated or the links are not au courant you will know why. Silly me for trusting the internet...
Before we get into the post I want to give a shout out to Cassettivity, a recently minted cassette-only distro! (Tape power!) While it's true that pretty much any cassette-centric distro will get my support, the founder, Dave Sandifer, has done some really fresh things with his site including my favorite feature "play random stream." You can just click it on while browsing and sample all the tapes carried by the site, it's like a Pandora for weirdos! Plus, it's an easy way to check out artists and labels you've never heard of. The site also has a feature that makes me chuckle called "sort by ease of listening" ha! There's also plenty more that's cool about the endeavor, you can tell Sandifer put a lot of sweat (and brains) into the operation and he's come up with something very innovative. Follow that link and give it a look. Now's all we need is a Cassette Pride Parade!

German Army - Holland Village [Dub Ditch Picnic]
German Army - Sedentary [Hobo Cult]
German Army - Tarsier [Nute]
The GA continue their travails around the world, conquering every country in their path (and securing a highly coveted spot on the AO year-end thing.) Having already made mincemeat of the US and Denmark, not to mention the UK, the Army has since set its sights on Canada (Dub Ditch Picnic,) French Canada (Hobo Cult) and Ireland (Nute) emerging victorious once again.
I fucking love this band. 
My favorite of the three, Holland Village, on Dub Ditch Picnic is fortunately still available to get yr mitts on. "Colony" is a surprisingly mellow and friendly first step but things quickly get hoppin' on "Abbasid Golden Age." A favorite of mine, the drum machine really thumps along with a great two-note melody/counter-melody combo. Rather than live vocals, the GA slice up some samples to construct quasi-dual vocalists while the beat just builds and builds. The "proper" vocalist shows up on "Fetal Change" in his signature disaffected style with a thick, chugging loop of junk, halfway between Suicide and DJ Primo, backing him up. Groove monster for sure. "Eyes in Front" is another slammer, really working the two-note bass throb with a super-fuzzed unidentifiable lead "instrument" at the tail end that I really dig. "Sultan Skin" shows up practically club-ready, a creepy club but no matter. A synth snare rat-a-tat-tats loudly from a distant corner of the room amid a brooding molasses-mix of synthesizers and a sharp point melody. "Harem Diseases" on the other hand shows up, sequencer in hand, ready to rock. Vocals via sample hiss over pre-programmed bass lines and beats for a new "techno" look from the crew. An instant standout, "Deep Wall" features an infectious sample that sounds Turkish perhaps? It's a brief sample and my ethnomusicological identifiers have gotten rusty but that's the vibe I'm getting. The closer, "Holocene Epic" brings back the sequencer in aggressive fashion merging the relentless beats with their sampling techniques and cheap keyboards. Holland Village shows the GA forging some new territory within their well-defined bleary-eyed, dub-fried corner of the sandbox. Nice stuff!
Sedentary announces itself with echoing percussive taps and a sampled musical phrase. Shuffling along, swimming through muck, German Army come up for air on "Two Dogs" with an actually beautiful keyboard melody and follow it up with a repeated guitar melody on "Babylon." Has the German Army gone soft? What is this friendly consonance I am hearing?! Fear not GAcolytes 'twas nothing but a bout of temporary sanity--the ol'boys have not lost their edge. "Love on Loaf" really rolls with an infectious rhythm pushed hard upfront dominating over shards of harmonica and vocal murmuring. As you might imagine, GA gets dubbed out on "Kingston Brass," an easily consumable intoxicant. Oh shit though, cause "Pulling Lashes" brings you down hard. Totally discomforting, trudging through unintelligible, yet still depressing, lyrics with a quiet but oh-so-effective forlorn horn yearning deep in the mix. This is the dark side of dub, the feel-bad hit of the season. Love it. "Turkish Bath" follows it up with a lethargic swirl of synthesized horns and a looped guitar arpeggio.
Tarsier, released by Trensmat's cassette subsidiary Nute, may be the most sloshed of the German Army tapes I've heard--now that is really saying something. The sounds seem like their bubbling up in a vat of goo rather than simply emanating from amplifiers. The tape mostly eschews the pop formats engaged in on other tapes instead diving deeper down the rabbit hole of electronically-farmed gunk. One of the album's rare identifiable 'songs' "Human Limbs" thumps like a Suicide military anthem underneath disinterested vocals while "Miles Davis Catalog" buries an infectious synth-funk bass line deep under radio static and a smattering of electronic percussive hits. "Ely" sounds like a voodoo-infused poetry reading in your intestines, what the fuck is this? "Ox Cart" balances tribal drums, foreign guitar pop and skewed samples from musicals on a knife's edge. As a bonus finale, Whirling Hall of Knives distills the preceding half-hour into a 10-minute "reconstruction" which to me sort of sounds like German Army with a fistful of uppers in 'em.

Brian Green - Milltown [A Giant Fern]
Headquartered in Portugal, Carlos Costa is always doing something interesting with his A Giant Fern imprint. Bringing heavy duty psych burners, unusual bedroom pop concoctions, icy drones and complex, environmental avant-sound-constructions in equal measure, Costa is a real renaissance man. (he's even helping the aforementioned Germany Army plan an upcoming hostile takeover of Portugal.)
Milltown recalls the excellent and underhyped Kakukanakina tape released in 2011 by A Giant Fern (which is surprisingly still available.) Brian Green's tape was inspired by--and created from recordings of--an old South Carolinian textile mill. As one might expect, it sounds very environmental, a sonic tour of sorts of the dilapidated mill. It certainly sounds dank and rotting as you drift threw it, clanking, crunching and burbling all along the way. Green does do some delay fiddling and creates some smoother drones as a base to guide you along, while working with the raw field recordings to provide a percussive element. A little bit one-note but certainly an enveloping experience. For true fans of the soundscape. Nab it here
You can take a video tour of the mill here

Hare Akedod - Gripgevest & Kling [Hare Akedod]
Kicking things off with some unexpected scrape and clang, this improvisatory duo--David Edren (synthesizer and electric guitar) and Bent von Bent (no way that's a real name!) on flutes, acoustic guitar, zither and the vaguely described "voice effects"--smooth things out quickly. Hailing from Antwerp(en) Belgium, these guys bring the weirdness as their cassette-armed forefathers did a few years ago when Antwerp seemed to be the weird music export capital of the world. A little reminiscent of a pared down Silvester Anfang, Edren and von Bent build a surprisingly full spectrum of sound for two people while still feeling unmistakably "live." This stuff is hard to pin down because there is usually no discernible structure yet it doesn't feel decidedly "non-musical" as many improv'd drone-type acts do. Melodies will just suddenly appear and alter the dynamic without diminishing the atmosphere which seems to be the overall aim of the project. Perhaps my favorite moment on the tape is the latter half of "Ondergronds Geduld" where a gentle, swelling melody materializes for the final minutes bringing the entire side to a satisfying conclusion. After getting a touch raga-ey on "Sermoenstonde," the duo brings a lot of chilly synthesizer to the party on another highlight "Polykrill" which would not have been out of place in some late 70s European art-horror movie. The extended finale "Graafarde," despite being 10 minutes in length, actually feels the most focused and structured of all, settling into a fertile bed of synth tones. This is a really nice outing by these guys, showing a lot of growth since debuting with the first release on the label last year. There's a ton to like here. Grab it here