Jesu - Silver (Hydra Head CD)

Hot off the heels of a banner year in 2005 with his Jesu project, ex-Godflesh and man of a billion projects Justin Broadrick returns with this four-song, 28-minute EP "Silver". Unlike the first two gravestones (a self-titled LP and the "Ruined" EP) from this outfit, "Silver" sees Jesu in full-band form with the addition of Diarmuid Dalton on bass and Ted Parsons on the sticks. In case you somehow went through the last couple of years without hearing what Broadrick was up to, all you have to do is imagine a breezier (but no less devastating) Godflesh with a thick coating of hope! And optimism! The music still retains the sludge metal bruisings of Broadrick's previous act, but with corners polished to a fine sheen of...silver.
Last year I read an interview with Broadrick in Terrorizer magazine in which he described Jesu as "pop music played at fuckin' 10 BPM". I thought that was a strange thing to say as even though Jesu was a lot more accessible than Godflesh, it still wasn't entirely listener-friendly. But now with "Silver" I think I see what he was getting at. This is more (way more) breezy and uplifting than any of Broadrick's metal projects to date...either the man has been listening to an unhealthy amount of My Bloody Valentine and Lush, or he's found Jesus (no pun intended).
The lead-off title-track is probably the most s/t-sounding Jesu we're going to get, with a gut-busting lead riff and Broadrick (staring at his shoes, no doubt) endlessly intoning the line "silver's just another gold". "Dead Eyes" infuses the dirginess of it all with Final, Broadrick's ambient/industrial solo project, so it comes off looking something like a (half-decent) Skinny Puppy crossed with Neurosis. The EP's highlight is probably "Wolves", with a slowed down somber electro-tinged guitar riff pouring hot and hazy lava over Parsons' monotone drum beat. Broadrick' himself is barely intelligible amidst the mire but the emotion in his voice says it all. But the real surprise is "Star", which sounds exactly like a 90's indie rock/shoegazer bedroom anthem coming from a guy who grew up listening to way too much Swans. Pure proto-metallic-pop euphoria.
Broadrick was a guy who seemed down and out towards the end of Jesu's run. Thankfully he appears creatively rejuvenated and has been in top form on all of the releases put forth by this particular project to date. Very curious to see where he takes it next...


No-Neck Blues Band & Embryo - EmbryoNNCK (Staubgold LP)

One of the best early surprises of this year was the news that the modern-day psychonauts NNCK were to be teaming up with latter-day psychonauts Embryo for an LP on Staubgold. If you've heard or saw anything the No-Neck Blues Band were responsible for in the past few years, you'll be solidly behind me when I say that they are one of the most interesting and creative groups currently out there (I mean that in both ways). The decade-old collective appear to be at the height of their creative unity. So it was interesting to me to see what kind of new ideas would flourish once I heard about this collaboration. And it does not disappoint.
"EmbryoNNCK" lasts about 45 minutes on record, but the tracks on here are all so tight and of single-vision that I have to wonder if the two groups weren't secretly practicing with each other for months straight, living together, driving each other to soccer practice, etc. I'm sure there's tons of tape left on the recording room floor, but still - these two units sound like they were made for eachother. It's as perfect a krautrock and New Weird America cross-pollination as one could hope for (sorry Acid Mothers Gong!). An absurd amount of instruments (probably communal) frolick and roll over eachother creating numbers ripe with jubilation and ecstacy. Tribal drumthumps, flutes, horns, gamelan (?), piano, marimbas, various noisemakers and even the ol' bass and guitars put in an appearance or two. "Die Farbe Aus Dem All", "After Marja's Cats" and "Five Grams of the Widow" are all pure freaked-out psych-cum-kraut-cum-pop perfection. Things remain all the more captivating when the group slow it down a touch on the distinctly Asian-sounding "Zweiter Sommer", with all its whistling and chanting sounding like something off one of those Sub Rosa "Tibetan Buddhist Rites from the Monasteries of Bhutan" compilations. The last song is a jammer in every sense of its 13 minutes with babbling vocals over a racing drum beat and plucked guitar and violin (?) lines.
All in all this album sounds like something 60/70's psych folkheros like Siloah and Cromagnon couldn't accomplish with all the acid in the world (not for wont of trying, though). "EmbryoNNCK" sounds like the absolute best lost, unearthed psych record not to be released in the genre's golden era. And that's the best compliment I personally can pay these dudes.


Tool - 10,000 Days (Volcano/Zomba CD)

Five years ago Tool released "Lateralus". Five years before that they released "Aenima". Five before that they released "Undertow". What's the moral here? The fucking Olympics come around more often than Tool does. So, five years after "Lateralus" and we're due. The train arrives on schedule. And drops this from its cargo deck. First of all, right off the bat, let's talk about the packaging on this mutha. Tool out-do themselves with every album release, but here they've out-done most of the Western hemisphere. The gatefold-style sleeve folds out into stereoscopic lenses (!) and the idea is you prop up the album in front of your schnozz, peeping through these lenses, reading all the album info and looking at the artwork in 3D. Words can't justify how righteous it is to see Maynard James Keenan extending a glass of wine out of the picture and into your FACE.
But! Let's not judge a book by its cover. How does the music stack up? Well if you were a Tool fan before, "10,000 Days" shouldn't do anything to put you off the band forever. On the other hand, if you're one of those indie rock review sites (read: all of them) who get scared when songs start topping 6 minutes, it'll do little do sway you in the band's favor.
The whole shebangabang opens with the single "Vicarious", a prog rock heavyweight that is almost too reminiscent of the previous album's lead-off single "Schism". "Vicarious" packs much more epic bombast and contains a real master-blaster of an outro. "Jambi" follows and is another one of the "heavier" Tool selections (it may or may not also be named after a character on the Pee-Wee Herman TV series). These tunes match up admirably to, say, "Parabola" or "Aenema" from the Tool canon. Unfortunately the album's pacing falter's on the next two, "Wings for Marie (Part 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Part 2)". Combined they form a 17-minute moody dirge, presumably Maynard's magnum opus and ode to his mother, whose illness and subsequent passing were the inspiration for most of the album (she was sick for about 10,000 days prior to her death, apparently). Things finally pick up steam during "Wings Part 2" but the payoff isn't grand enough and the tracks only serve to grind things to a total stand-still after the first two quicker-paced tracks.
One of the weirdest songs Tool has ever done (and I mean "song", not stuff like "Faaip de Oiad" or "Disgustipated") is "The Pot" during which Maynard accuses someone of...being high. As you do. But it's also the most straight-forward track on the album and has "second single" written all over it. Also, it rocks.
After the mystickal chanting and screaming that consists of the filler track "Lipan Conjuring", shit gets karayzie with the duo of "Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)" and "Rosetta Stoned". This is, in no uncertain terms, by far the crowning achievement of the album and one of the best pieces of music Tool have ever put to tape. "Lost Keys" is an intro to the 11-minute "Stoned" and the muffled voice of a doctor can be made out asking a patient to speak up and explain what his problem is (not unlike Anthony Hopkins in the Elephant Man!). What would come off as lame and cheesy in any other band works brilliantly with Tool as Maynard launches into a baffling, comical, nonsensical rant about extra-terrestrials. Dig these "lyrics":
"Began at 2 AM, and after eating an entire box of Krispy Kremes, at my need-to-know post just outside Area 51 contemplating the whole "chosen people" thing when a flaming, stealth banana split the sky, like, wide open. I never expected to see it in a place like this. I do believe I spilled a diet soda or something right on my Birkenstocks. Then yelping holy fucking shit!"
Decidedly un-Tool like, especially considering the song ends with the line "goddamn, shit the bed" repeated several times. But it works, man.
But of the last three tracks, only the middle one "Right in Two" is a keeper, and another one of Tool's best to date. The final track (usually one of the best reasons for even listening to a Tool album) "Viginti Tres" is 5 minutes of noisy, ambient, soundscapes...but I'm told if you use an MP3-editing program you can stick "Tres" on the end of "Wings for Marie (Part 1)" and then play that mish-mash over "Wings Part 2"...and apparently this summons the ice goddess Shiva into raining destruction down upon the planet. I'll have to try it sometime.
As far as Tool albums go, this is a strange one. I would call it Tool's calmest to date, though that's deceiving as Justin, Danny and Adam are firing on all cylinders on tracks like "Rosetta Stoned" and "The Pot". It features some of Tool's best work, but also some of their weakest. Maynard's lyrics are probably the most literal they've ever been in Tool, and that can be a bit off-putting at times. But the good news is that we have five more years to wrap our collective grey matter around it. See you in 2011.


Circle - Arkades (Fourth Dimension LP)

I'm not sure about Circle anymore. Circle used to be a sure thing for me. But now, I'm not sure. There was always a pretty stready stream of Circle releases and it was all well and good. But something happened with the release of 2005's "Tulikoira" (you may remember it as the NWOFHM album). On that particular record Circle weren't denying it any longer and completely embraced the prog rock/80's metal influences we only used to see flashes of. "Tulikoira" was a fun record, a bit over the top, but still a nice one-off. Or was it? Now every Circle joint ("General", "Earthworm", etc) seems imbued with a cheesy, hair metal take. Even the Pharaoh Overlord album this year was too much for me to handle and I hurled it aside unceremoniously (but then I was never a PO kind of guy). I understand the whole concept of bands evolving or dying, but this? And now here comes "Arkades", which does not bode well if the cover art is any indication. Is that a confederate flag? Aren't these guys from Finland? It's the kind of thing that just screams lame-o grinning-mouthed idol worship. But, as usual, I'm wrong. This is the Circle I know and love (well, know and like, at least). The LP is divvied up in classic jam band format, one 20 minute brainbomb per side. Both were recorded live on the WFMU radio station in New Jersey during Circle's 2005 North American jaunt. Side one's turf is "The Greatest Kingdom", a slow and kraut-y number featuring tribal drumming, spaced-out synth lines and frontman Jussi Lehtisalo freaked-out naked-in-the-woods hollering and raving. The track degenerates into a tripped out sonic ritual with the keyboard lines rolling mountains over and over inside your skull. Just when you think it's all about to scale itself down into nothingness, the drums pick up and a simple riff is repeated on the guitar. Some serious Trad Gras Och Stenar shit is laid down before the ethereal electronics take over and signal the side's conclusion. Hypgnotic!
Side two is "The Ghost of the Highway" and picks up where the A side left of with bubbly electronics and more mesmerizing synth lines + guitar. Everything's swirling around in the stratosphere for awhile, helped along by Jussi's gibberish/Finnish/gibberifinnish mumbling (which sounds strangely enough like Keiji Haino at his most complacent). I especially dig the weird ghostly chanting that comes filtering through at about the nine minute mark. Overall the side as a much creepier vibe than the last one which was positively jubilant, at points. The song slowly falls to pieces as the band fade out the last notes, surely to ride into the sunset on their Harley Davidsons or what have you.
This isn't Circle's best work (or nowhere near their most essential) but the band is definitely feeling it on these jams and that comes through loud and clear on both sides.


Melvins - A Live History of Gluttony and Lust (Ipecac CD) & Pigskin/Starve Already (Amphetamine Reptile 7")

To be honest, I never really pictured the Melvins as a "retrospective" type band, or as a band simply content to look back upon what they've accomplished in their career. But, here we are, listening to the Melvins doing their classic 1993 album "Houdini" live in its entirety. In all fairness to the band, the idea spawned from the All Tomorrow's Parties festival folk as part of their Don't Look Back concert series. So King Buzzo, Dale Crover and newly-recruited bassist (well, for this album anyway) and Buzz's Fantomas cohort Trevor Dunn got their shit together, recorded two run-throughs of the album and picked the best of the beast. I have to say when I put the album on I was still expecting a classic Melvins put-on. Like it was actually just a reissue of "Colossus of Destiny" in disguise. But nope, it's the real deal. And it's amazingly accurate, which I guess demonstrates more than anything the band's respect for their own material, no matter how "un-serious" a group they may come off as.
The set opens up with "Pearl Bomb", unusual since that's actually the second-to-last track on "Houdini", but who says a band can't switch things up? Then they launch into "Hooch" and "Night Goat" and shit is ON. The songs don't deviate much from their studio album counterparts at all, with the exception that Buzz is still making up the lyrics as he goes. So if you learned to sing along with whatever gibberish he came up with in 1993, you can throw most of that out the window. Many of the tunes benefit from a thicker, heavier production. "Sky Pup", "Honey Bucket" and "Lizzy" stand tall in particular, packing double the proto-sludge metal weight. "Set Me Straight" features one notable change as it's now cut in half and merged with the straight-forward rocka "DCH", which sounds like it might be a cover but of what I'm not sure. The band has also decided to switch around "Cop-Ache" with the pummeling "Honey Bucket" (the former is now track six, the latter is now track 11; it was the reverse on the studio record). Either it's to pack an extra punch towards the end of the set or purely an aesthetic choice, who knows. Alternately, "Hag Me" is now the penultimate track (and slowed down to an even more sluggish degree) and leads into the epic finale "Spread Eagle Beagle" (aka the noisy track) which, surprisingly, sounds a good deal like the studio version for all its randomness. If you used to skip out on "Houdini" early before this one came on, "A Live History..." won't change your opinion on it...or any other "Houdini" tracks for that matter. It's nice to hear the material presented in a slightly-skewed format after spending a possible 13 years with the original, but this is mainly a treat for diehards and any casual Melvins fans (do those exist?) should stick with the original.
The Melvins also recently pressed up the "Pigskin/Starve Already" 7" for their two-night stand at the Juxtapoz arts festival, two versions with different packaging for both nights. Of course, both sold out in a hurry and both are now available on eBay for the low price of your mansion or Texas. So I'm cheating here and reviewing MP3s, but cut me some slack. The A side is "Pigskin" which is the Melvins (although I'm not sure if it's the Buzz/Dale/Big Business configuration but I think so) and it rules so hard I want to cry sweet tears of lead. It's a total poppy, rocky, poppyrocky song that only the Melvins can pull off in such cool fashion. Sonic-wise it's not too different from the less-experimental tracks from their Lustmord collaboration, mixed in with a bit of "Stag" and the Ipecac Trilogy. Either way it sucks that it's only two minutes because you really need to have it on repeat for about twenty times to get a handle on the brilliance at work here.
"Starve Already" is not "technically" the Melvins, but rather King Buzzo on guitar with Haze XXL on bass and Grant Hart on drums. It sounds like something from "Houdini" played backwards underwater, except it's not played backwards and definitely not coming from your swimming pool. Dig? Not as great as the first side but shit, it's done enough to get me stoked for the first new, full-on, Melvins-only, no-collaborators, balls-to-the-wall ALBUM in way too long.


Wolf Eyes - River Slaughter (Hospital Productions 2xLP)

More heavy transmissions from out the basement of Jammyland, New York. This one is the long-awaited double LP debut from Wolf Eyes, whom you are bound to have encountered by now. "River Slaughter" is cobbled together from reworkings and revisions of two earlier, limited-run Wolf Eyes CD-Rs: "River of Haze" and "Human Slaughterhouse Demos". Unfortunately those discs must be two that got away because I can't say I've got them amongst my Wolf Eyes collection, thus I'm not able to tell exactly how much material has been given the ol' once-over.
If you've ever bought a few random Wolf Eyes American Tapes CD-Rs in your day (especially more recently), you might've realized they don't quite compare to when Wolf Eyes put in appearances on other labels. Maybe they're just trying harder, I don't know. But I do know that their prior releases on labels like Hospital, Bulb, Heresee, Important, Polyamory and Sub Pop (natch!) count among my favorite Wolf Eyes discs, while I'm usually less interested in the weekly American Tapes jams. Maybe that, coupled with the 2LP format, have already gotten my expectations up unrealistically high for this one, but I must say I felt slightly let down. Another "thing" I have with Wolf Eyes is they tend to lapse into slow, druggy, sludged-out crawls like a doom metal band with electronics. The band are by far and away at their strongest when Olson's fists are pumping and Nate is losing is shit on the mic. That rarely takes place here; these four sides are all slow-burners of the highest order. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing I guess, but the band are capable of a lot more. All sides boast occasional stretches of silences interrupted with blats and blasts from various damaged electronic goods, or (my favorite part) on side one when Olson gets out deranged duck calls across the waves.
The flipside to that starts out interestingly enough with a few minutes of roaring, monster rushes of white noise and metallic guitar riffing. Unfortunately the band takes a vacation for the rest of the side and it's filled out with the kind of lo-fi electric musings that build up to nothing at all.
The next side (I think we're up to side three now) is most notable for Nate Young's processed shrieks totally buried underneath a black wall of destruction followed by more silence and quiet rumblings. The noise picks up again briefly towards the side's conclusion, but it doesn't particularly satisfy. The fourth side is the least active of all, sounding more like the most strung-out of Dead Machines skree. The whole side basically functions as a coda to the set, and it does the job accordingly.
Wolf Eyes definitely have not "lost their touch" with this release, it just got away from them a bit. There's certainly some great material to be found across these 60-odd minutes, but I think it could've easily been cut down to a single record. Oh well, whatever Wolf Eyes do I'm always curious to see what's next...and we'll all probably be finding out within the week anyway.


Agoraphobic Nosebleed - PCP Torpedo/ANBRX (Hydra Head 3" CD+CD)

Agoraphobic Nosebleed are extreme, not just in the musical sense of the word but in the literal sense as well. How else do you describe a band who in 2004 dropped a 21-minute, 100-song CD? Or, who originally released "PCP Torpedo" in 1999 on the little-appreciated 6" vinyl format? So Hydra Head has decided to do us all a favor in not only reissuing one of the grindcore band's classics, but packaging it with a remix CD (which, as far as I can tell, is all new material). What's funny about this reissue is that Hydra Head have again adopted for an unconventional format (3" CD) for the album. And why not? It's only 7 minutes long. No sense wasting all that extra CD space. If you know ANb's brand of hyperspeed grind mayhem, you know what to expect. Alternating screamed and growled vocals from three different band members over head honcho Scott Hull (of Pig Destroyer fame)'s ridiculous drum machine programming and maniacal shredding. Total blink-of-an-eye rapid-fire beatdowns. Best cut here is when Hull's Godflesh fanatacism comes to the forefront in the shape of "Doubled Over", which is an apt title if there ever was one. The difference between this track and any given Godflesh one is that this one lasts but 49 seconds.
The other funny thing about this reissue is that the supposed "bonus" remix disc is almost eight times longer than the actual album. Featured here are artists you'll recognize (Merzbow, Vidna Obmana, DJ Speedranch, Justin Broadrick, James Plotkin) and some you won't (Submachine Drum, Hellz Army, Drokz, Auek, Jansky Noise). Some of the artists have zeroed in on one specific ANb track to remix, while others have (presumably) used the whole album as their source material. The big names fare best and the winner, of course, is Merzbow who was born to remix grindcore if his "Agorzbow Merzbleed Mix" here and Discordance Axis remix are to be believed (and they are). Vidna Obmana do a good job tainting ANb's blood with their slooowed down dark ambient textures, conjuring up Burzum's ambient albums in the process. James Plotkin focuses mainly on the vocals for equally chilling and bruising effect in his "Phantomsmasher Mix" while Justin Broadrick really makes ANb sound like Godflesh in the "Flesh of Jesu Mix" - though that's to be expected. If you had played me this song blind I probably would've accused it of being an above-average atmospheric sludge band, since there's so many of those around nowadays. Drokz's two remixes, Hellz Army, Substance Abuse and Dev/Null & Xanopticon's remixes all infuse grindcore with drum (drill? powerdrill?) n' bass with varying degrees of success...best bet are the furious Substance Abuse mixes. If you heard Venetian Snares' "Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole" EP, you have an idea of what's in store.
This is a nice reissue effort by the Hydra Head label but I'd skip it over unless I was a huge Agoraphobic Nosebleed freak (and if you are, you already have this on vinyl I bet). The remixes are a nice touch, but they're not enough to warrant a purchase on their own merits. If you're new to the band, start with that 100-track EP ("Altered States of America") I was talking about earlier.

New Blockaders, Thurston Moore & Jim O'Rourke - The Voloptulist (Hospital Productions CD)

Whoa. As if it's not enough that we're getting some new New Blockaders material, Richard Rupenus has brought along with him two or three fellow noize-mongers in Thurston Moore (on the first track) and Jim O'Rourke with Chris Corsano (on the second track). Unfortunately the disc is only 21 minutes in length, so whatever's gonna happen that's supposed to seperate my testacleez from my body needs to happen in a hurry. The first ditty (named after the title track) isn't a particularly enthralling affair, although it does weasel its way inside your noodle after having it on long enough. Think a less-active "Reductio Ad Absurdum" and you're kinda in the ballpark. I can't really tell exactly what Moore is contributing to this one, it's not his standard guitar/amp noise fare in any event. The other number is "840 Seconds Over" and is aided greatly by the appearance of (who else) Chris Corsano. Corsano plays jumpy, skittery skins all over the hotbed of electric activity provided by Rupenus and O'Rourke. It's a pity that this is the shorter track because I could easily listen to an LP's side or two of this and not get bored. I'm also a bit disappointed that a meeting of these individuals only produced 21 minutes of recorded output (with the first track being mostly a dragger), when surely they have a whole lot more to offer. Then again I really don't know how this was recorded, mail or studio or what. I'd recommend a "record store rental" - ask the clerk to put it on and enjoy it while you're there. If you really think it'll provide you and your family continued enjoyment once you get it home, by all means, pick it up. The LP version is coming out shortly on Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label, and everything sounds better on wax, so wait for that as well.


Ashtray Navigations - A Monument to British Rock (Memoirs of an Aesthete CD-R)

Was it just me not paying attention or was Phil Todd aka Mr. Ashtray Navigations M.I.A. for 2005? I thought the project was shelved for the time being, yet he's seems to be all over the place in 2006, starting with this, a massive double-disc blow-out in celebration (?) of British Steel, baby. The lineup here consists of Todd, Alex Neilson and Melanie Delaney. This is the kind of loopy, shamanistic vibe brought on by the likes of the Vibracathedral Orchestra and Sunroof! at their airiest...two more British bands, must be something in the water. The first disc opens up with three consecutive short numbers which are all just fine for setting the tone (and by setting the tone I mean bandying you around the head like a sparring partner) for the monolithic "Alex and Ben Communitas" is a ritualistic syrup so heavy it sounds like it's threatening to bring down the reel-to-reel it may or may not have been recorded on. The rattling of bells and hallucinatory synth (?) and guitar (?) punctuate celestial droning that brings to mind Hermann Nitsch at his bloodiest. If you can make it through all 25 minutes without falling into a narcotic-induced coma you get to try your luck again as the 20-minute "The Slither Season" comes around the bend. A playful acoustic guitar leads into full-on/full-off jamming from the trio at various intervals with the fog of (suitably) poor production constantly looming over the group.
The second disc is organized a bit differently, with two lengthy tracks at the beginning and end of the album and four smaller ones sandwiched between the two. The first song is slower and more deliberate than what we heard on disc one but no less captivating, with a black swampdrone providing a foreboding undercurrent for Todd (or somebody's) acoustic guitar work. The piece gradually moves forth with mesmerizing effect until everything peters out and the mist dissipates. "Cassette Redemption" is the most intriguing of the shorter bits with what sounds like a flute running dizzying lines over a sitar drone. "Gnomeleft" and "A Volumn" both sound like Sunroof! at their most damaged. The last track is "How Can I Hand You a Diamond?" is similar in spirit to the first of this disc, in that it's sparse and eloquent. More synths and more guitars occupy the first half until Neilson comes storming alive in the majority of the remaining ten minutes to ease the tension with some parituclarly punchy drumming. The harmonium-esque drone that dwells beneath the song's surface for the track's duration builds to a deafening climax and then before you know it, it's all over. If Phil Todd really did spend the last year in hibernation, then it's a crime. If I really did spend the last year completely ignorant of the releases he may have put out, then it's a bigger crime. If someone doesn't pick this up after the intial pressing of 100 sells out and reissue it on a double CD for all to hear, then it's the crime of the century.

Various Artists - Terrastock Six (Secret Eye CD)

The sixth Terrastock festival took place in Providence, Rhode Island this past April. Unfortunately it happens to fall in between the No Fun Fest and the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, which would put a triple-whammy of drainage on my finances. Considering that Rhode Island is quite a ways further from me than New York or Victoriaville, I had to pass. Which was a huge drag because the festival line up was stellar. Nevermind the other bands slated to play Terrastock; just looking at the artists appearing on this disc is enough to make my mouth water. The Magic Carpanthians Project, Kemialliset Ystävät, Major Stars, Fursaxa, PG Six, Black Forest/Black Sea & Larkin Grimm, Avarus, the Spacious Mind, Paik, Kinski and Bardo Pond. Are you serious? Talk about a who's who of modern-day psychedelia, which is the other nice thing about this compilation of exclusive tracks - not only is it a great companion piece to the festival (or a consolation prize if you couldn't attend) but it reads like a primer for what's going on in psych these days. If you find last year's "Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box" and "Gold Leaf Branches" overwhelming, there's no better place to start than here. Early 90's scene luminaries Bardo Pond and Major Stars put in strong appearances with the Pond laying down a 12-minute sludgy apocalypso which is only slightly marred by Isobel Sollenberger's occasionally-grating vocals. The burdgeoning Finnish psych scene is given ample room here courtesy tunes by Kemialliset Ystävät and Avarus (probably the best cut here, a thick and noisy number that sounds like an AM radio being attacked by a guitar). Black Forest/Black Sea and Pail contribute two songs that bring more to mind post-rock and shoegaze than Amon Duul, with the former being almost disturbingly reminiscent of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai mash-up (probably not something the band members would care to hear). Fursaxa is enchanting as always with a wonderfully dew-drenched gypsy tale, PG Six's brief instrumental acoustic guitar and piano duet is almost too quietly ecstatic for its own good, while the opening number from the Magic Radio Carpathians Project continuously baffles me, stretching out in every possible direction over the course of 11 minutes yet never seeming to reach a final destination. Meanwhile Sweden's Spacious Mind layer whispered vocals and haunting guitar melodies over backmasked drums and Kinski's play an ambitionless drone that serves as little more than a distraction. So overall aside from a couple of missteps (which is bound to occur on an album that's 66 minutes long and as diverse as this one is), "Terrastock Six" the album is a real winner, and hopefully you're not too late to snatch one up seeing as how it's been a long time since the last sleeping bag was packed up from that weekend in Providence and these were only limited to 500 copies.

Think About Life - Think About Life (Alien8 CD)

Okay okay, stop me if you've heard this one. There's this three-piece band out of Montreal who create brief, energetic, angular indie pop songs and feature brazenly flamboyant artwork as well as a guest appearance from rapper Subtitle, all on their debut album released by Alien8 Recordings. So I find the parallels to the Unicorns a bit unsettling. Sue me (to be fair, Subtitle never actually appeared with them when they were called the Unicorns...but you knew what I was getting at). But I can't hate a band based on similarities I've drawn up (though I've been guilty of worse) so I've actually listened to Think About Life's album in an attempt to see if there's more to these guys than what meets the eye. The answer is "not really" but that's not really an insult. Think About Life operate on a plane of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. The write-up for the album on the Alien8 website totes this as not much more than a breathless, exuberant party album, which is exactly what it is. The lyrics are largely expendable and just barely do the job of filling in the spaces until the next zany synth breakdown or noisy guitar lick. The formula works best on the opening "Paul Cries" and "Commander Riker's Party", when the trio's only concern is getting you out of your seat. Less successful is "Money", a 5-minute long bummer party that becomes even less interesting once it finally gets going. Subtitle's appearance on "What the Future Might Be" is very good, rapping his way out of the swampy mix he's been (intentionally, I presume) buried in. The album closes with "The Blue Sun", another dreary number that doesn't do the album any favors. Listen a bit longer after that and you get a very "Baba O'Riley"-inspired secret song! I commend Think About Life for keeping the album's running time to about thirty minutes long - anything less would be unfulfilling, anything more would be obnoxious. And the best compliment I can pay the band is that their album held my attention longer than the Islands album did...but I digress.


Whitehouse - Asceticists (Susan Lawly CD)

Say what you will about Whitehouse - and a lot of people have said a lot of things about them over the years - but don't say they've lost their touch. "Asceticists" is as brutal and as aggressive as any album Philip Best and William Bennett (and friends) have come up with since their conception in the 1980's. This album comes on the heels of an infamous Whitehouse North American jaunt, in which they wound up cancelling or no-showing every date minus a handful. So don't say they've lost the ability to stir shit up, either. But nevermind the band's inability to keep a show - "Asceticists" rules. And forget all the bottom-feeding laptopaphobic bedroom noise acts who'll tell you otherwise - because Whitehouse rules. This album comes off in sorts of a sort of spiritual companion album to 2003's "Bird Seed", which is also one of the best Whitehouse opuses to date in my opinion. Every song is pretty much a lifetime dose of electronic hatred and metallic anguish in a 5-minute portion. Prepare to be verbally and sonically berated into submission. And with the album clocking in just under a half-hour, there isn't even time to catch your breath. Best slabs on here are "Killing Hurts Give You the Secrets" (surely a sister act to "Cut Hands has the Solution" off "Bird Seed") and the epic "Dumping the Fucking Rubbish". The two tracks feature vocals from both Bennett and Best, and the former commences with Bennett's intonations giving way to a snarled rant from Best accompanied by an intimidating drum beat that continues until it can go no more and the track collapses on itself. The latter is a complete bludgeoning of Best's rabid screaming over more sick industrial beat(ing)s and ends in the most cathartic and anthemic way possible, almost like a punch in the stomach before being led into the song (and album)'s quiet coda. Anybody who refuses to buy a Whitehouse album "out of principal" is a sucker - they don't know what they're missing.


Acid Mothers Gong - Live in Nagoya (Vivo CD)

As the name suggests, Acid Mothers Gong is the inevitable meeting between krautrock kingpins Gong and present-day torchbearers Acid Mothers Temple. Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Josh Pollock make up the Gong side whereas this particular Acid Mothers Temple configuration is Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi, Tsuyama Atsushi and Yoshida Tatsuya, which I believe falls somewhere in between the lineups of the Cosmic Infero and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.. The meeting of these two goliaths came to fruition at a show in 2003 and these are the resuts - an hour plus psychedelic blow-out of epic proportions. Hey, it's not every show you get to perform with your idols (or is it? An Acid Mothers Gong "Live in Tokyo" disc is scheduled to follow), so AMT were going to have to make the best of it...which they did. The Acid Mothers leave behind the heaviness of their more recent releases ("Starless and Bible Black Sabbath", "Anthem of the Space", etc) and set the controls for the heart of the milky way with smooth, free-flowing jamming not unlike early Gong records. When two bands understand eachother as well as these two do, perfect synchronization doesn't seem to be a challenge. The first four tracks average fifteen minutes apiece, the last of which is "Lady Lemonade", a variation on an Acid Mothers staple. All four start out slow and pick up a full head of a steam before coming to a riotous conclusion. The final three cuts are shorter with even more breathless freakouts, as if the band are cramming those same fifteen minutes of jamming into a much tighter space. If your CD shelf is already overflowing with Acid Mothers Temple releases you can maybe afford to let this one go, but for the unitiated or those curious to check out what a combination of these two bands on the same stage can offer, it comes highly recommended.

Chris Corsano - The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp CD-R)

If this were the realm of prog rock, Chris Corsano's debut solo album would be nothing less than the definitive word on concept albums revolving around cricket. But alas, prog this is not. Progressive, though? Surely. I've yet to encounter anyone that doesn't like Corsano's drumming, be it in his duo with saxmaster Paul Flaherty or bringing the noise as a part of Thurston Moore's Dream Aktion Unit, or providing a sturdy backbone to wispy folk records by the likes of Six Organs of Admittance and Dredd Foole. And "The Young Cricketer", spanning some forty minutes, does a fine job at demonstrating Corsano's remarkable diversity from behind the kit (and outside the kit, as Corsano also employs a variety of instruments - musical or otherwise). They're all listed on the sleeve; dig "baritone & saxophone mouthpieces with plastic tube and/or funnel and/or shower attachment apparatus", for example. This all adds up to an entirely frantic and exhausting workout with limbs a-flailing and skins a-beaten. I once heard someone remark that Corsano drums like he's running late to catch a bus, and this CD-R does nothing to put that charge to bed. It will, however, only add exponentially to his ever-swelling fanbase. This is a homemade CD-R on Corsano's own label so I don't exactly know how limited it is, but I wouldn't dawdle. In any event I understand he has a new one coming up/out in case you snoozed and loozed.


Merzbow - Turmeric (Blossoming Noise 4xCD)

Masami Akita "returns" (okay he never really goes away) with one of his best blasts in recent memory, which is really a big compliment for me because I'm a fan of pretty much anything he puts out. But this one is something special, and not just because the limited edition version comes in a Merzbow lunchbox (don't even bother - wayyy sold out). Whereas 2005 saw Merzbow increasingly embrace his rhythmic side previously hinted at in the "Merz-" series of albums ("Merzbeat", "Merzzow", etc), this one goes the other way entirely. All four discs of this hulking behemoth feaure low, scuzzy, sludgy pulsators that will either rock your block or have you wimpering in terror. Most cuts generally feature something to anchor the piece - the sound of thudding drums or samples of Merzbow's chickens, for example. Then Merzbow builds tons of black forest layers atop these foundations to create an impressive, intimidating throb. Perhaps it's because the majority of the songs are titled with a "black" prefix ("Black Bone", "Black Blood", "Black Flesh") but this comes across as the most menacing Merzbow album in quite some time. If you thought last year's flirtations with IDM and techno put you off Merzbow for good, spin a couple of songs from "Turmeric" and see if you don't reconsider. It's not the harshest or most abstract Merzbow recording ever, but I'd at least consider it one of his most mature and well-composed.