Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dane Rousay - Blip [No Label]/Dane Rousay - Anatomize [Kendra Steiner Editions]

Dane Rousay is a San Antonio, TX-based percussionist who was unfamiliar to me until a month or so ago. I love solo percussion though so I was more than happy to get acquainted with this double dose. The opener "Blade" keeps things relatively conventional (if solo percussion can ever be considered conventional) with a thumping bass pulse and a clanging melody on a bell of some sort. Over the first few tracks, Rousay lulls you into a false sense of security that you're jamming a reasonably consonant drum tape when he drops the harsh clatter two fister "Tusk" and "Clear" like an ice pick to the temple, the bowed cymbals on the latter are particularly nasty. This all leads into Rousay's finest moment; he really kills it with "Most Broad" bowing a drum (or maybe he's got a cello mounted on his kit???) in addition to traditional short attack/short decay percussion sounds. Slowing things down to a crawl before a truly beautiful snap & squelch freakout, you'll be hitting the REW button many times over. Oh, did I mention that Rousay recorded all these jams live? So he's got a bit of octopus DNA in there somewhere.
On the eponymous--and by far the longest--track, Rousay works in a guitar looping pedal into his arsenal, using it, for instance, to keep a bell ever-rattling while he works the toms. The track runs over ten minutes and it's actually kind of great to hear Rousay sprawl over a larger canvas (three of the prior tracks clock in at 71 seconds or less). Nice way to slip out the door and into the empty hiss.
My qualm with the tape is not about the sounds but the old pet peeve of unbalanced side lengths; there's a long stretch of empty tape after Side A's program concludes. Considering the brief lengths of the tracks, grouping more on the A-side would have assuaged some of the bother, and considering Rousay's statement that "these tracks/sides are not required to be listened to consecutively" it seems a track re-sequencing could have solved the issue altogether without sacrificing artistic vision. It's a minor complaint seeing as how the sounds are awesome, but just sayin'.
Moving onto the Anatomize disc on Kendra Steiner, "Systems" focuses heavily on bells/chimes forming a rather pleasant archway to enter into the album. However, Rousay follows it up with "Tissue" which is a bit testier from the get go. Some of Anatomize is made up of compositions for percussion (rather than live improvisations) and "Tissue" appears to be a good example of that side of Rousay as it features stereo sweeps of cymbals and multi-tracked rattling chimes. The latter effect appears on "Bent" as well as Rousay appears to be dueling with himself creating quasi-melodic rim rolls that come at you from both channels. "Interactome" finds Rousay attacking his drum head with just his fingertips and it's sweet fuckin' music to my ears.
Taking a page out of the Hollywood playbook, Rousay reboots "Most Broad" as "Most Broad: For Two" with Svetlana Zwetkof in tow, contributing layers of vocals. The more spartan, abrasive version on Blip gets my vote but it's interesting to it hear it re-worked as a duo piece. "Aloof: Voice, Drum, iPhone" takes a long, goofy detour into a zone of vocal drones, sporadic percussion and a choir of iPhone ringtones including that 'reactor meltdown alarm' one laying down the back beat. The stellar title track closes the disc as Rousay clanks, rattles and rolls into the sunset.
Blip sold out it's initial run but lucky for the world, there's a second pressing (well dubbing) of the cassette. Buy it here. Anatomize dropped last month on Kendra Steiner Editions and can be purchased here. Both get my vote.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Toarch - This is Me [Bill Murray Tapes]

From Dallas, TX label Bill Murray Tapes comes This is Me by Toarch, a brief 3" CDr and zine combo release (8 minutes/24 pages). It features a zine filled with photos of serial killers and occasional text, while the disc is intended to provide a soundtrack while the zine is leafed through.
I'm not up on my serial killers, or at least their faces, so without the label description I may not have known the ugly mugs littering the pages belong to serial murders (other than a couple pages which makes things pretty explicit). The intent of the zine is to contextualize the serial killers differently (from "glorification from Goregrind bands and such") and to reveal their vulnerabilities. Some pages achieve this better than others (namely the text accompanying a face relaying the common everyday enjoyment of listening to the radio and reading newspapers). Though I'm not necessarily familiar with serial killers' portrayals by Goregrind bands, so it's quite possible I am missing the point. That said, your mileage will probably vary based on how interesting you find violent white dudes.
Aurally, This is Me is heavy heavy heavy on the low frequencies. It's hard to make out exactly what's in play, it's likely electronic in origin (perhaps with a filter cutting out all but the bass frequencies). There is a certain texture, however, that seems like it could be a bowed bass (electric or otherwise) perhaps that's the source material before electronic processing. The track isn't particularly dynamic over the course of its 8 minute run time but it does have presence, which was its goal in the first place as it is supposed enhance the readers experience with the zine. But if you're one of those sonic texture hounds like me you'll probably dig it.
If you're interested the disc/zine is available from Bill Murray Tapes

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Blues - "Sings the Blues" Vol 5 [No Label]

Who love da sax, baby?
It's amazing how much the concept of the cassette tape has changed in the decade plus since I discovered underground tape music. At one point, a release like "Sings the Blues" Vol 5 used to be what you thought of when you heard "new tape release." A tint of green spray-paint and a hand-cut b&w text printout crammed into the spine. Now the assumption is pro-dubbed, high-quality artwork with a 50/50 chance it's shrink-wrapped. Neither is better than the other and the presence of both makes for a healthy tape culture. Still, it's nice to get a "throwback" once in a while particularly when it's as enjoyable as this.
The Blues is Marissa and Max and they both play saxophone. If you don't like saxophone--and nothing but saxophone--you will not dig this tape. The volume number suggests Marissa and Max have been at this for a while and I think it shows.
I love saxophone but even I am a bit apprehensive when I come across a homedub tape of a saxophone duo. It could be fucking great but it could also be a couple jackasses who can't play, squealing ad in finitum. Thankfully, Max and Marissa can play, and they can play together. Not sure if these are complete improvisations or semi-rehearsed but either way the duo seems to get each other. Sometimes they double each other, sometimes they spiral off in their own directions but they always find their way back. The style is certainly free but they're more Coleman than Ayler, pushing back and forth between consonance and dissonance, rather than basking in sheets of dissonance alone.
One of the unique features of the tape is there are bits conversation left in before or after they play. It's not meant to be funny or weird or ironic--with the exception of the tape's final moments. It's just brief bits of candid conversation, sometimes even about getting set up to record. It's nothing intrusive but adds some warmth and intimacy to the experience. Sounds to me like the material was probably recorded via handheld recorder (you can hear wind blowing by the mic at times) which furthers the sense of sound temporarily occupying an environment. Plus, the first track is titled "Our bodies are the Germs logo." You gotta love that!
Now, the real shame of it is, I have no idea how someone can obtain a copy or otherwise hear this. All my internet searches have proven fruitless and there's no contact info on the insert. This is a really great tape if you have the taste for it, so I recommend you snag it if the opportunity ever arises. If anyone has leads on how to track down a copy, contact me or leave a comment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Marshmallow Staircase - Gunfighters [Summersteps]


At the risk of offending one or many of you, I think the name The Marshmallow Staircase kinda, sorta, you know, sucks. (Though it does sound delicious.) I wasn't too sure what a band called The Marshmallow Staircase would actually sound like--the whole Western visual theme only compounded my confusion--my first inclination was cute electronic pop or something like that, then on second thought it seemed more like a psych band that jammed out to Puf 'n Stuf projections. I was wrong on both counts (though the second was closer) and I'm actually happy I was.
This tape is pretty sweet and The Marshmallow Staircase's sound is in the vein of Chrome, Six Finger Satellite and Brainiac, though more lo-fi, more krautrock, more blown out and with way more bass. And to be honest, the world needs a lot more bands with that DNA.
Thick, swaggering basslines rule the day, seemingly mixed higher than the vocals and every other instrument. Unorthodox, but a move that pays off as Gunfighters manages to feel muscular and slick at the same time. While the kraut-y basslines cut through the synth lather on the jams, The Case snakes little instrumental interludes around the songs sans rhythm section, such as the phenomenal organ-led ditty "Creepy Street" which segues into the rollicking blast of "The Diplomat" forming one of the cassette's pinnacles. Gunfighters closes on a high note too; "I Wanna Be Your Stranger," is sort of a Brainiac covering The Stooges or The Animals type of affair. They dial back the heavy fuzz to rock a lean organ-driven, future-60s jam with oscillations drizzled all over the goddamn place.
Sweet tape, I dig this band. Grab it here!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mea Culpa

My apologies to the readers and those who sent me music over the past few years. I took a detour into grad school and that didn't leave much time to focus on other things, quite obviously including this blog. I'm not exactly sure how much time I'll be able to dedicate to this endeavor on a regular basis, but the goal will be to achieve regularity even if it is limited. In the good old days, I spent hours and hours working on a single review (not that you could tell) and, unfortunately, that just isn't feasible anymore. Instead, I'm going to work on practicing restraint and keep reviews much shorter in the hope of actually writing more reviews. There is lots of good shit out there (or more specifically, in my apartment) deserving of a few words and my aim is to write a few for as many records as possible. Concision should always be a goal anyhow.
I'm going to start writing when possible, as well as exhuming some unfinished drafts I started years ago, and hopefully have some reviews out in the next week or two.