Graveyards - Cemetery Open 2 (American Tapes 2xCD-R)

I'd heard various snippets and clips and murmurings about Graveyards, which is the free jazz project of Wolf Eyes' John Olson (on sax) alongside Hans Buetow on cello and Ben Hall on percussion - not to mention whoever else of Olson's bros are in town when the show takes place. I think, to date, all of the Graveyards recordings (on miscellaneous LPs, CD-Rs, and tapes) have been taken from live gigs...but don't quote me on that. "Cemetery Open 2" definitely is and it contains close to two hours worth of material spread across its two vintage-American Tapes-paint-job-style CD-Rs. As is usually the case with American Tapes releases, any info is exquisitely hard to track down, so I really have no idea where or when (or even with who) this was recorded. All I have to follow...is my heart.
Like I told you before, I'd heard some MP3s from various Graveyards outings, specifically jammers like "Monument Centers" and "The Galaxy Being". And they were all tremendous, actual factual free jazz romps. The first disc of "Cemetery Open 2" (one 46-minute long track) is not. In fact, it owes a lot more to Olson's Dead Machines project or some random American Tapes pseudonymical release than what I was expecting. It's almost like an electro-acoustic take on jazz. There's the odd sax skronk or drum clatter, but they're usually huddled between lengthy gaps of silence. Well it's not really silence. I imagine this was recorded to tape and as such you can hear the soft, droning whirr in the background the whole time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it actually makes for a pretty bitchin' groove. But one of the reasons why I liked the other Graveyards stuff I heard so much was because it wasn't another Wolf Eyes-related free noise ambient drone thing. It was jazz played by one of the guys who happened to be in Wolf Eyes, see? And therein lay the magic! Heck maybe I've got the wrong idea and should judge it on its artistic merit rather than what I "hoped" it would sound like. But unfortunately it fails there too, because really it sounds like three very capable musicians lazily reverting to a "de facto" sound because, who's gonna care? Well, I care (you have to picture me saying this with tears streaming down my face for the full effect)!
But I'm the patient type so I moved on over to disc two like any respectable person would. The first jam is a 22-minute piece and it starts off in much the same way as all of the first disc, quiet and shuffling around-like. Eventually the band actually start playing and it's quite a bit a more cohesive, which I'm digging. In fact Olson lays down some real smooth Ayler/Braxton solos while the rhythm section do their thing, which is a subdued, atmospheric type thing. This is more like a jazz/Dead Machines fusion which is what I was looking for. Unfortunately the band never kick out the jams, always keeping within the same sort of early morning hangover tone. Which isn't a bad tone at all. The next two are in a similar vein, with Olson pushing extreme loner winds out over whatever din Buetow and Hall are cooking up. The last piece is a short one in comparison to the others quarter-hour tracks (at 6 minutes) but it's a real nice one as the band play gentle, almost sing-song un-rhythms that shakes me in the kind of holistic way "Free Jazz" did when it comes down towards the end of the track. And just like Ornette, I'm sure Graveyards can eventually put their skulls together and come up with the real "Free Free Jazz" for the current-day noize heads.
I'm not really certain how or where to peg this, aside from the obvious calls like Sun Ra and the Arkestra at their absolute most spaced or, if I may be a bit more contemporary, John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakimura's "Cavern with Nightlife". If Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano are taking avant jazz in the new era to far out places, then Graveyards are also headed to the outer rim, albeit in a completely different direction. There are definitely some real flashes of something special here (generally all on the second disc). I'm not sure if Graveyards are ever gonna get to putting together the magnum opus I think they'd be capable of, but it sure would be nice to be around if they do. Or maybe they've already made it and it's buried somewhere in the American Tapes catalogue. I'll wait for the Impulse! reissue then.


Various Artists - Not Alone (Durtro/Jnana 5xCD)

According to the hefty liner notes packaged with "Not Alone", Jnana Records honcho Mark Logan came up with the notion of a benefit album for the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa upon reading a book on the very same subject. Rather than send a few bucks through the Red Cross like most of us might've done, Logan instead enlisted the help of Current 93's David Tibet and a whole host of kindred spirits to cobble together five massive CDs (as in, at least 70 minutes apiece) that read like a real whooz who of modern avant-garde, experimental, electronic and indie music. Then, after the costs of expenses, all the proceeds would be donated to the Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders foundation Although Logan explains in the liner notes how he basically tried to organize the songs in an order that "felt right", there really isn't too much cohesion to this set (although in all honesty, what do you expect when you're collecting mainly-unreleased tracks from 60+ artists?). On that note, rather than review the album song-by-song, which really wouldn't accomplish anything and be even more boring than my usual reviews, I'll do a selective run-down of the more interesting or note-worthy tracks. I'll also cool it with the hyphens while I'm at it.
irr.app.(ext.) - "Fly Away - And Then What?": Opens the compilation up with strange, kind of haunting loop of a conversation between a young boy and an older man, then delves into an acoustic guitar riddled with industrial drones and eclipsed with a lovely flute solo. I'd heard some irr.app.(ext.) before and didn't think it sounded anything like this...
John Contreras - "Brian": Current 93's cello handler turns in a thick and marvelously somber funeral march.
Fursaxa - "In Lieu Of": A lot more naked than some other Fursaxa recordings, this is built around Tara Burke's unique, angelical vocals and fierce acoustic guitar, swamped with dirty production like this was salvaged from a lost 45 somewhere.
Tom Recchion - "Sea World": Los Angeles Free Music Society-associte Recchion uses computers, electronics and an awesome tape loop to pursue his vision of perfect sound. I'm not sure if he's found it, but he must be getting close by now.
Matmos - "A Song for the Appeal": The Schmidt/Daniel duo put a whole host of instruments to work in a throbbing, funky track that kinda seems out of place amidst most of the other gloomy contributions. Regardless, it's a heck of a lot better than anything on their last record...
Keiji Haino - "Fleeing Panic-Stricken Shriveled Equal Temperament": To be honest I was kinda hoping for some vintage Haino acoustic balladry circa "Watashi-Dake?", but this is fine too. Remember his synth-only album "Uchu Ni Karami Tsuiteiru Waga Itami"? Cut six minutes out of that and slather a deliriously out-there flute solo over top and that's where it's at baby.
Allen Ginsberg - "On Another's Sorrow": A recording from 1995 with Ginsberg reciting a William Blake poem and contributing harmonium, also featuring Stephen Taylor and Stephan Smith. I won't spoil the recital for you as it should be heard for yourself, but the instrumentation and feel on this are very reminiscent of Tom Waits, good or bad.
Devendra Banhart - "A Sight to Behold": Banhart appears to put his usual high spirits on hold and delivers a quietly morose bedroom strum that is neither remarkable nor offensive.
Jarboe - "Mantra": Jarboe's contribution is wildly dramatic and over-the-top, which is probably par for the course and perfect for you if you're a fanatic.
L - "The First Flower People": L is Hiroyuki Usui, a Japanese musician who has played with the likes of Fushitsusha, A-Musik and Marble Sheep. Here he lays down an absolutely picture-perfect raindrop of acoustic folk psychedelia augmented by gentle percussion and birdsong.
Six Organs of Admittance - "You Will Be the Sun": This song is an early demo version of "Black Wall", which appeared on this year's "The Sun Awakens". So right away you know it's a winner.
William Basinski - "Because": Really not what I was expecting, given the Basinski output I already know ("Disintegration Loops" et al.). "Because" showcases dramatic vocals across a heart-shredding minimal piano plunk, and I'm not really sure what to think.
Vashti Bunyan - "The Same But Different": If you've ever heard Bunyan, you know what to expect, as this is a home-recorded demo from (I'm guessing) the "Lookaftering" sessions. Delicate and spectre-like.
Thighpaulsandra - "Star Malloy": The Coil contributor's track features none other than Jhonn Balance on ARP synthesizer and Sion Orgon on guitars, vocals and "audiomulch". It's all very reminiscent of Coil, although a bit too heavy on the histronics for my tastes.
Michael Yonkers - "Somebody": Michael Yonkers goes metal? No kidding, the riffing on this song is shit-heavy! And Yonkers' vocals are ballistic, going from high-pitched squeaks (actually he sounds more like Vashti Bunyan here) to drunken Morrison-esque shouting. Whoa.
Bevis Frond - "Someone Always Talks": Forgotten 80's psych rock legends dig into the archives and unleash this largely-acoustic rocker which errs a bit too much on the side of the toothy-grins that pollute most classic rock stations and could've been left "lost" in my humble opinion.
Antony - "Hole in My Soul": Count me among the few who don't "get" Antony. While he does have an admittedly remarkable voice, it's not something I'd necessarily listen to voluntarily, especially when it's coupled with a wholly grating piano...but what do I know, I'm not the NME.
Charlemagne Palestine - "Espoir Guerison": Okay so Charlemagne doesn't work best in the various artists format, but he does land the longest of all contributions at a whopping 8 minutes and 26 seconds. It's obviously an excerpt from one of his eye-opening and mind-wiping organ drone sessions, but curiously enough his entry is the only one in the entire booklet to not feature any background information so that's all I've got to go on. Nice, but nobody's satisfied after just 8 minutes!
Alex Neilson & Richard Youngs - "House of Constant Song": The guitar and drums and miscellaneous sounds duo of Neilson and Youngs both also sing on this charming, avant-folk number. I'm still not entirely sold on the Rick Youngs myth but a few more tunes like this and I'll get there.
Anomoanon - "Hit the Road": This is Ned Oldham (brother to Will)'s country/rock project, and it's a 2004 take on classic sides laid down by the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Skynryd et al. I can't say I'm a huge fan but I do like the obvious unpretentiousness and unironic air of it.
The Hafler Trio - "The Work of Washing": I'm not sure if this is taken from the album(s?) they did together, but "The Work of Washing" sees the Hafler Trio's Andrew M. McKenzie manipulating the voice of Sigur Ros' Jonsi Birgisson, although I wouldn't have known Jonsi was on it if I hadn't read the liner notes. McKenzie turns his vocal chords into a whitewash high-pitched drone that owes much more to machines than to
something human.
Marissa Nadler - "Judgement Day": Weighty title but an air-light song, with Nadler's fragile, ethereal voice snaking around a pushing acoustic guitar line. Maybe not Bunyan caliber, but nice enough.
Nurse With Wound - "Ubu Noir": I know that "Ubu Noir" is a Coil track, but the alien/mechanical vocals on this track are based around "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair" so I'm not too sure what's going on, but who cares. A tremendously excellent, desolate and detached droning robotic read-out. Words can't do this track justice.
Current 93 - "Sunset": I used to hate Current 93, I least I used to think I hated them/him (Tibet). But every track I hear in recent days knocks me flat, and "Sunset" is no exception. Featuring the current C93 lineu: Tibet, Chasny, Contreras and mixed by NWW's Steven Stapleton. No real surprises, and I'm all the happier for it.
Thurston Moore - "Sex Addiction": I've wondered how appropriate a title like that is for a compilation aimed at benefitting HIV/AIDS victims, but I'm probably over-thinking things. "Sex Addiction" sees Moore trying his hand at sculpting noise, clearly influenced by young'uns like Prurient, John Wiese, the American Tapes/Hanson crew, and so on. The song never reaches the brutal heights reached by the aforementioned dudes though, and sounds more like a casual experiment - a toddler prodding a loose tooth with his tongue, say. But if Thurston Moore is a toddler, well he's the tallest one I've ever seen.
Simon Finn - "A Crow Flies": Like Vashti Bunyan, Finn has recently resurfaced to join the current brigade of New Weird folk anti-heroes, and he fits in perfectly...although the mix on this one rubs me the wrong way, with Finn's vocals much louder than his acoustic to the point of sounding like they were recorded on a whole 'nother plane.
Thee Majesty - "Thee Seeding Ship": Thee Majesty is Genesis P-orridge and Larry Thrasher and apparently this was taken from a CD released in 1994 featuring spoken word from Genesis. So, uh, if I tell you this was for TG/Genesis diehards only, would you hold it against me?
Jim O'Rourke - "Naoru": Brief, solo piece for acoustic guitar, totally non-experimental O'Rourke at work here. Think of the more contemplative moments of Gastr del Sol and mayyybe...
Coil - "Broccoli": This is a song culled from a live Coil performance in 2004, and it begins with a slightly unsettling story told by Balance about his stepfather. But I guess it wouldn't be Coil if it wasn't unsettling. Anyway you probably know the track from "Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1" and it's not outrageously different, but tweaked enough to warrant a listen. It's definitely more in the vein of what the band hit on "...And the Ambulance Died in His Arms" though.
Ghost - "Daggma": Last track! Another live version of a previously-released song, this one is found on Ghost's 1999 corker "Snuffbox Immanence". It's a charming, woozy, headspin lead by a very Eastern-sounding flute twirl. The last two minutes of the song are entirely life-affirming. A fine choice to end the album.
And so (in case you forgot after reading all those), there's a summary of the some of the more notable album tracks, though certainly not a detailed one. In the interest of time (and not spoiling the whole album) I left off a whole bunch, some just as good and as not-good as anything I touched upon above. Anyway, I encourage you to buy this album yourself because not only is it for a great cause, but it only costs $24.99 U.S., pre-shipping. $24.99! For five discs of music! And with 75 artists, I guarantee you'll turn up some real gems here. Honestly, stop taking my word for it. Go buy it. So far, Durtro/Jnana have raised an impressive $12,000 U.S. for Doctors Without Borders, but I'm sure they could use your help. Stop reading and get out of here! The link is on the right side! Go!


The Cherry Point - Black Witchery / Black Sand Desert - Choking on Grave Soil / Knurl - Scyamine (PACrec CDs)

I'm not sure if Phil Blankenship ever sleeps, in between playing and recording as the Cherry Point, maintaining the Troniks and PACrec labels, and putting out 10xLP boxsets...but he's able to do all these things rather extraordinarily. These three are the most recent offerings from his PACrec imprint, uniform in their monochromatic cardboard sleeves. How about we go in ascending chronological order, leading up to the most recent one?
As I mentioned not a few words ago, the Cherry Point is Blankenship's own solo project, and this disc is a compilation of a bunch of 3" CD-Rs he released in 2004 for Chondritic Sound, Fargone Records and Audiobot. According to Phil's website, these pieces were influenced by classic horror movies rather than classic noise albums, and I can dig that. First up is "Virgin Witch", the shortest piece at 16 minutes but easily the most abrasive. Blankenship sculpts a quivering tower of scorched-amplifier earthquake rumble, and it's one of those beasts that just keeps on eating and keeps on growing. By ten minutes in you're trapped inside a veritable blizzard of cable sparks, antenna eruptions and audio magma. And when you think about it, it's not such a bad way to go after all. Track two is "Devil's Witch", a real fluttery and blinking kind of opus. In fact it'll probably cause epileptic seizures if you listen to the full 20 minutes on your headphones, which is why I put it on the stereo and bask in its post-C.C.C.C. kind of gaping, holistic funeral bliss. Last of the sessions is "Season of the Witch". In it, jittery staticked electronics grapple with alien transmissions from Planet X, all in a bid to have their earth-cleansing vision satisfied. And something must've given, because the track slowly devolves into the kind of soundtrack you'd hear when a ceasefire is finally declared and all that remains is a vast landscape of broken-down machines and a smattering of thick n' heavy smog. Slick!
Black Sand Desert is probably best known to you and me as Greh Holger aka Hive Mind, for I believe this is his maiden voyage on a format that isn't totally misshappen and limited to 32 copies. Why the alias? Well you see Hive Mind traditionally put forth grotesque slabs of hell-sent drones, whereas Black Sand Desert is where Greh gets all the harsh noise tendencies out of his system. And no shit, this is ear-rupturing stuff of the highest order. The first of the two 14-minute-ish untitled tracks reminds me of the first time I had my nipples melted clean off by Masonna's "Frequency LSD", it's just that kinda power. Eventually it calms down (though not by much) and Holger begins sending cloud after cloud of furious locusts hellbent on all simultaneously driving themselves down your throat and through your stomach. Then his busted machinery starts emitting thick droning flatlines sent-up by ominous shots of lo-fi buzz and bubble. Just when you think you're out of the woods, the explosion the track has been teetering on occurs and splits your body open from the head on down. Number two is even more unrelenting, despite what the chopped-up static diffusions near the beginning would lead you to believe. You're shoved back down into the abyss just as quickly, with only Holger's dark, thorny bed of sonic hatred to cushion the landing. Best part on the whole jammer is about halfway through when what I think are vocals are added to the mix and shit just gets ten different kinds of chaotic. This is ass-blastingly heavy stuff, thick and buzzy and swampy and just the way I like my noise to be.
Knurl's "Scyamine" was recorded live-to-tape using the kind of demonical alchemical machinery that Alan Bloor's project has become so well known for. There are seven tracks, all titled with words you hope to never hear coming out of your doctor's mouth. In fact this disc helped remind me just how good Bloor is at doing the things he does. "Aloplasm" is chock full of mechanical rip-tides and hulking, mind-mashing amplifier blurps while "Entrosyme" and "Exteroceptor" follow in a similar tapped vein. The latter seems to ratchet up the tension as it juggernauts towards a closing, leading into the crippling stomp of "Perparaphy". "Aesthesia" marks a slight change in the album's direction, building up from silence to an enormous tower of white-noise blindness in a matter of seconds before loping back into the kind of groove laid out by the previous tracks. "Scyamine" sees Bloor pushing his electronic firestorm all the way into the red before stripping the sound down on "Panasomiasis". So this is the kind of under-current that's been worming its way inside my skull for the past 40 minutes? Cripes...I think I'm a serial killer now. The track, the album, and my hearing go out with a bang as Knurl's machines start to beg for mercy and form drawn-out robot screeches and moans and he finally puts them to sleep, at least for the time being.
The black-and-white sleeves these all come in are très apropos, because this is pretty bleak shit. But at the same time it fills me with a kind of inspired, life-affirming feeling. The kind that Albert Fish had when he heard he was going to the electric chair. Okay okay it's not that kind of feeling but what else can I say, these three albums are the kinds of treats that just warm me all up. I can't pick a favorite, they're all equally devastating, so buy one or buy all!


GHQ - Cosmology of Eye (Time-Lag CD) & La Poesia Visiva (Heavy Blossom CD-R)

It's been literally days since I last talked about something to do with the Double Leopards crew, so I got to thinking I should probably amend that. They make it easy on me, what with all the albums they put out. I snagged these two awhile back when GHQ were active, touring and whatnot. If you're not familiar, GHQ is Marcia Bassett (Double Leopards), Pete Nolan (Magik Markers) and Steve Gunn. All three wield axes (though some are electric axes and some are acoustic axes) and contribute vocals, while I'm led to believe that Nolan handles what little percussion there is here. "Cosmology of Eye" is GHQ's first ever official record, following up two CD-Rs, a self-titled one and another called "Hea". "La Poesia Visiva" was put out just a bit after "Cosmology", actually I think it might've been done specifically for the tour. Ride on.
"Drink the Good Moon" opens up the set, and it reminds me more of (instrumental) A Silver Mt. Zion than Double Leopards which I find to be wholly bizarre and disturbing. Seriously! Listen and you'll see. The hem/hawing strings, unsettling loner guitar warbling...the only thing diverging point comes from the yawned-out blisstatic vocal drones coming from the mouth of Mr. Nolan (I think). The title-track is a slow mutator, blurring and transmogrifying and uniting the heavens with the oceans...probably as DL as GHQ is ever going to get. "Drift - Void" is a constant bantering of repetitive acoustic guitar schlocking teamed up with some weightless vocals from Marcia, maybe? I dunno, I get lost. But the real diamond here is the 13-minute album centerpiece "Lie, Live, Make It" which I swear to god is what you'd get if you had Jack Rose playing on Skullflower's "Exquisite Fucking Boredom" record. Holy blistered stomping raga-romp. They coulda stretched this mother out into an album-length epic and I think I'd like it even more. Session concludes with "Black River Apples", a very Pandit Pran Nath/La Monte Young-influenced number, despite the lack of tambura. It's a pretty bare-bones joint, eschewing most distortion and effects for a singular repeating acoustic riff and more throaty intonations. Saving the best for last then? The first three short ones aren't total mind-rapers but the last two dial up supple sleep-slug psych-outs, real charming like.
"La Poesia Visiva" is the same length as "Cosmology", about 34 minutes, making me wonder if these couldn't have been crushed into one heavy frame. The first track (they're all untitled) is quite a bit different from anything on "Cosmology", much darker and more intense, building up to a rather hellish throb with muscles a-rippling and tendons a-bursting. Dig the amplifier explosion towards the end that almost throws the whole thing off a cliff. The remaining three tracks are softer, more akin to the last album...in fact I'm wondering if they were recorded at a different time than the first cut, but then again maybe not. They're kind of like the last track on "Cosmlogy", stripped-down barefoot acoustic ragas only with some much more funky tabla-ish percussion. Maybe a much more minimal Konono No. 1 crossed up with Cul de Sac or something like that. This album's "epic", track three, is a bit of a disappointment in its washed-out drumming and too-subtle psych rock moves, but I think I was spoiled by the other one. The last track is vaguely similar, but the harmonica (I think?) drone running through it makes me feel washed in the salts of the sea and it is a good feeling after all.
Both these albums are still available as far as I know, and worth investigating if you're all up in the DL's grill. I'm digging how these Double Leopards offshoots are adding different kinds of touches and ingredients to their vibes while at the same time retaining the DL spirit (like Religious Knives, for example). It's like a bunch of different branches from the same tree and all their fruits have some very sweet nectar to be sampled, and if that doesn't quell your sweet tooth for a few days then you can just buzz off.


OM - Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain LP)

I know I'm late on this one, but in keeping with yesterday's stoner metal album review, I thought it'd be a good time to slip the new OM record in. OM is bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, both formerly two-thirds of the legendary Sleep. The final piece to that puzzle, guitarist Matt Pike, went and sped things up with his new band High on Fire. Well Cisneros and Hakius took some time off, and when they did return decided to go more towards the opposite direction. If Lemmy Kilmister is the godfather for all that High on Fire comes from, then it must be Terry Riley for OM. As showcased on last year's debut "Variations on a Theme", the duo developped and even larger penchant for cyclical riffing, vocal intonation, and all around heady spiritual vibes. So basically an extension of the Sleep M.O., then. I wasn't blown away by "Variations" (maybe I was expecting "Jerusalem 2: Electric Boogaloo") but it was good nevertheless. My only complaints were that Al's vocals were just a bit too unrelenting and wore thin over the course of 45 minutes, and that he tuned his bass to sound so much like a guitar, that they might've well have gotten a guitarist to join the fold. Thankfully, both these minor grievances are corrected here.
At 16 minutes, "At Giza" occupies the first side. Immediately you can tell OM have shifted gears and hung up the idea of merely being "Sleep without the guitarist" - there's a heavier, psych ritual sound that was absent from "Variations", which surely comes from embracing "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" in lieu of "Sweet Leaf". Cisneros' vocals follow his bass smoothly, tumbling alongside the gnarly, unfurling low-end lines, and they don't annoy a single bit this time around. He's dropped the grungy snarl used on "Variations" in favor of an airier, shamanistic intonation. It's too easy to get lost in the soft, head-nodding trance-inducing smoke "At Giza" billows out, and the side is up before you can say "OM".
And side two belongs to the 17-minute "Flight of the Eagle", very similar to the preceding track except it calls for a bit more activity on the kit from Hakius. It's percussion-driven much in the same way that "Jerusalem" was, although nobody's beating the skins like they're trying to cave in the skull of an elephant here. Cisneros is just as wordy on this tune, but again his vocals are so onomatopoeic that they compliment the music just fine. The band is thoughtful enough to include a lyric sheet so you can get in on the chants yourself, but Cisneros is on a whole 'nother trip and I prefer to let the words roll off my body like sweet teardrops from the stars. I think I like the first side a bit better, but it's like trying to pick a favorite son, you know?
Part of the reason why it took me so long to get this was because I wasn't fully into "Variations", or as into it as I thought I'd be. I'm glad I made the jump through. Even though it's only been a year, "Conference of the Birds" is a way more mature and fully-formed work. I understand all's not quiet in the OM camp though and they've dropped two splits, a 7" with Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance and a 10" with David Tibet's Current 93. Or maybe it's a 7" with C93 and a 10" with 6OoA...I dunno. Either way they're in the mail as we (?) speak (?) and once they land in my meathooks I'll tell you all about it and we can be dancin' in the burial grounds together.
I understand the vinyl version of "Conference" is temporarily sold out but is expected to be re-pressed if it hasn't been already...and it's easily obtainable on CD (also from Holy Mountain).


Electric Wizard - Pre-Electric Wizard 1989-1994 (Rise Above CD)

Just what the title says, this CD collects material from the three bands led by current Electric Wizard frontman Jus Osborn that would eventually become Electric Wizard: Eternal, Thy Grief Eternal and Lord of Putrefaction (in reverse chronological order, curiously enough). In case you weren't aware, Electric Wizard are essentially the modern-day kings of stoner metal as we know it. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not big on a whole lot of "traditional" stoner rock and metal, but the Wizard do things to me that very few other bands in the genre can - and I'm not ready to attempt to put into words just what that is yet. The music on this disc can basically be split down the middle: the days leading up to the formation of Electric Wizard (when they were called Eternal) and sounded a whole heckuva lot like Black Sabbath, Trouble, St. Vitus, the Obsessed, Pentagram, et al. Then the other half (two earlier bands - Thy Grief Eternal and Lord of Putrefaction) showcase the band's extreme death/doom indulgings, baring very little similarity to Electric Wizard as we now know them.
So basically the order of the bands works backwards - we go from latest incarnations to earliests. Eternal start off the disc and it's with "Magickal Childe". The title is a not-so-subtle Hendrix homage but the music is straight-up heavy metal thunder, with production so terrible than when the band picks up speed, everything starts whirling into a swampy muck around your ears until you can hardly pick out what instrument is which. Of course, it's a perfect fit. There's a really great psychedelics-soaked guitar solo on here and I'm guessing that's where Jimi comes into play. The second song should be familiar to anyone listening to this album, because it's Sabbath's "Electric Funeral", played pretty faithful to the original only with the distortion honked up to 11. It's better than the Pantera cover, so thumbs up from me. "Lucifer's Children" is almost 10 painstaking minutes of wretchedly slow, deformed blues riffing and stomping. If Blue Cheer turned the air to cottage cheese, Eternal are in the process of rotting said cheddar. But eventually they rely on a trick perfected by Sabbath (in the song Eternal just covered, no less) by stopping everything, playing a zippy guitar lead, and then thrashing about like the total dopesick maniacs they'd have to be to write this shit. Talk about a bruising. Eternal's last track is "Chrono-Naut (Phase I-IV)", a 16-minute gut-busting epic which I believed they revisited in 1997 as Electric Wizard on an EP of the same name...but I haven't heard the EP so I can't compare. This is about what you've come to expect from an Electric Wizard epic, although it's slightly more free-wheeling and country rock influenced than say something darker like "Weird Tales" (from EW's classic "Dopethrone" LP).
So despite Eternal taking up the lion's share of the album, we still have two more pre-EW phases to investigate. Thy Grief Eternal introduce themselves with "Swathed in Black" and "On Blackened Wings" which bear a striking/startling resemblance to doom or death/doom more than anything. Gone are the Skynyrd-tinged leads and solos, in their place comes grim, raspy vocals and bludgeoning drums. I'm reminded more of bands like Cathedral, Grief, Iron Monkey and Disembowelment than any stoner metal outfit of the day.
Finally, Lord of Putrefaction, the first of the pre-EW collectives. They're a bit like a mixture of the last two bands. They have the death-y vocals of Thy Grief Eternal coupled with the psychedelic/stoner metal leanings of Eternal (and, later, Electric Wizard). It's strange though, the first track "Descent" and "Wings Over a Black Funeral" sounds like a death metal band or a grindcore band slowed down, but not a Sleep/Corrupted-esque crawl. Like Napalm Death if they smoked way too much weed. "At the Cemetary Gates" actually reminds me of a breakdown in a hardcore song I heard somewhere, which I'm sure is not the kind of thing they were shooting for but hey. "Dark Prayers" is a bit more traditional doom styled, drawing easy comparisons again to Cathedral and the like. You can still hear the embryonic seeds of Electric Wizard embedded deeply in LoP's sound (at least, moreso than with TGE who are almost straight up doom), but you gotta listen closely.
Despite there being a couple of pleasant surprises on this disc, I don't know if I'd strongly recommend this to anyone who isn't already a huge Electric Wizard fan, because all the Wizard material I've heard certainly trumps it. Nevertheless, it's nice to hear where the band were coming from and they definitely display a wider array of influences than I would've originally given them credit for. If you've not been inducted into the cult yet, all the Electric Wizard albums were recently reissued with bonus tracks (on vinyl and on CD) so I encourage you to hunt those down - especially "Dopethrone" - before you do anything else. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the new album that they're supposedly writing and recording for as we speak.


Terje Isungset - Igloo (All Ice CD)

Ice: who knew? Apparently Terje Isungset has been working in the field of ice music for a few years now (the liner notes boast that the first recording of ice music was by Terje in 2002) and this seems to be his magnum opus. This CD was recorded at the world-famous Sweden Ice Hotel in February 2004 with Isungset on ice percussion and Sidsel Endresen on vocals. According to the CD innards, Isungset also plays iceofon, icehorn, iceharp, whirling overtone hose and he contributes vocals on some tracks. But the important thing here is that 100% of the sounds were made straight-up with nothing more than frozen water. So what better antidote to these muggy days of summer, then?
The album starts out promisingly enough with the title track, a frosty drag through frozen tundras with what sounds like ice/snow being crushed and crunched, and Sidsel Endresen adding some very Bjork-esque crooning. Later on in the track Isungset finds a pretty groovy if subdued rhythm with his ice crushing that kind of reminds me of Matmos' "A Chance to Cut" album (which made use entirely of hospital sounds). "Song" is a tuneful little ditty again featuring Endresen vocals but this time teamed up with the iceofon...a xylophon made out of ice, one presumes. It actually sounds exactly what you'd expect an icy xylophon to sound like, but strangely distant and alien at the same time. "Morning" is a very minimalist re-visit to the ice crackling and crunching of the first track, with Endresen's voice blowing over top like a cold wind. "Floating" and "Ice Beauty" are both album highlights, featuring amazing organic sounds from the whirling overtone hose and iceharp, probably the most lush and fully-formed sonics the album has showcased yet. It actually sounds a bit like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor/Do Make Say Think/Sigur Ros warm-up (is "warm" up the right term?). "Iceman 2" sees Terje gettin' all personal with various moans, hums and breaths muffled by what I hope is a very warm parka while "Hymn" is a solemn affair with gently plucked iceharp and scattered, chanted vocals this time from Endresen. "Mammoth" and "Bird" are both kind of jarring in that they're much more filled with activity than anything else thus far, the former featuring sounds so wild they must be processed and the latter sounding like Daniel Menche's "Concussions" album if you replaced all the fire and brimstone with...well you know what by now. Album closer "Wisdom" is an all-encompassing jam featuring some of the best and most cohesive instrumentation on the entire album as well as Endresen singing in the very forefront.
"Igloo" is a very curious album. As far as the music goes in terms of "songs", the album is not a total grand slam. It's a lot more interesting to play the disc while constantly reminding yourself that these are all sounds made from ice, and little else. So if you dig "sound experiments" by guys like Aube and the aforementioned Matmos, you should find enough meat here to hold your interest for a couple of listens. But on the other hand, some people just might see this as a mediocre ambient/electronica album, which it very well might be taken for if one was listening to it not knowing about the album's background. It reminds of Pink Floyd, and the conundrum they faced making the album that would eventually become "Atom Heart Mother". They were planning to make an album that sounded like it was played with real instruments, but was in fact entirely played with household items fine-tuned to sound like their musical counterparts. But in the end, they said, "if you're going through all that trouble to make something sound like a guitar...why not just use a guitar?".
Also, special credit must be given to the packaging of this release. The jewel case comes in a thick, opaque, die-cut sleeve and the booklet is made of transparent vellum. The coup-de-grace for the art though is the little vial of actual water inside the jewel case. Inspired!


MV & EE with the Bummer Road - Mother of Thousands (Time-Lag 2xLP)

Matt Valentine and Erika Elder have been hoisting the freak-folk torch in the Tower Recordings long before Wire cover features and running your own CD-R label came into the picture. And the torch was set down for awhile, but it's up and running and blazing prominently on "Mother of Thousands", MV & EE's first truly major self-defining (and available) release in this configuration that also includes the Bummer Road (Mo' Jiggs, Sparrow Wildchild, Nemo Bidstrup, Tim Barnes and Samara Lubelski). Unfortunately I myself have been pretty ignorant on all things Tower Recordings-related, so I'm just jumping into the game real late here. Anyway, no time like the present to get educated, and what better way than with a session involving two huge saucers of vinyl and the genre's godparents.
I guess the laziest and most obvious comparison to current scene luminaries would be Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice or Bardo Pond. But MV & EE do it differently, playing honestly and straight-up for the whole hour-plus, riddled with a huge folk, psychedelic and blues influence (the second LP is devoted entirely to classic blues tunes covers). The set opens with "The Joyous Within", a wholly mind-altering soup of clarion calls, tripped-out drones sprinkled with a touch of ukelin, I guess? But "Cold Rain" is much less adventurous (and all the better for it). Despite the title, the sun-washed acoustic guitar line gets me all tropic-like inside and before too long I'm singing my heart out with Matt and Erika, even if I don't know the words. So I just make vague, lilting, humming noises. My dog seems down with it, so who cares what YOU think! "Beautiful Mountain" is similar, though doubly-delightful and even more audaciously catchy. "Anthem of the Cocola Y&T" sees Elder and Valentine turn the reigns over a bit more to the Bummer Road, who take you on a long, strange, kraut-y journey filled with pools of left-field instrumentation slopping up against a repetitive folky acoustic wandering. A+ 1+, as my elementary school report cards used to say.
After the brief, harmonica-ized "My Love for You Has Turned to Life", the group return to classic hippie field jams with "Sunshine Girl", which turns an unexpected turn into darker pastures with clouds looming overhead and thunder a-rumblin' in the distance...but that all gets washed out of the sky with a proggy electric guitar solo and all's well again. "Canned Heat Blues" is an ultra-dusty basement folk revival coasting along nicely on the strength of the MV/EE duo's voices, while "C.C. Pills" is another mostly-psych/prog jam dominated by the Bummer Road (but Valentine's vocals steer the ship every now and again). Think Virgin Insanity setting up shop in Amon Duul II's coven with Fraction sitting in...maybe. First record closes with "Sun Shine On Us All", a bit foggier and more distant than the title would suggest but very nice all the same.
Like I said before, the second record is all classic blues reworkings, some versions of which have been milling around inside the MV/EE canon for quite some time now. The group do meditations on Mississippi John Hurt's "Pay Day", and stretch it out into a 15-minute walk through the uncharted cosmos with harmonica, wild-ass electric guitar, bells and whistles and the whole kit n' caboodle coming together and pulling apart like tectonic plates. There's a mean wind blowing, and these folks are the ones conjuring it up. "Banty Rooster Blues" comes from Charley Patton, and though it's definitely not as zonked as the prior, it's still got the band's indelible stamp all over it. Erika Elder handles the seducingly lonely vocals on this one perfectly, and the smudgy, near-crumbling production values on this one aim it right at the soul just right. There's a brief take on what may or may not be Sonny Boy Williamson's "Dissatisfied" before they launch into the 24-minute epic "Death Don't Have No Mercy" by the Revered Gary Davis. The first ten minutes are devoted to a floating, wayward Sun Ra-style grave-haunt and moves seamlessly into a near-acapella Elder singing the song's lyrics from wayyy under the covers. Another psychedelictric guitar firestorm, a reprise from Elder, and you are (unfortunately) at the finish line.
I know, I know, the freak thing is getting oversaturated these days, but you shouldn't need me to tell you that these dudes are the real deal, and if you didn't manage to secure any of their other private press CD-Rs and LPs, then all aboard right the hell now with "Mother of Thousands". Valentine, Elder, and co. have, as expected, but an entirely refreshing and welcome spin on an aging genre and have done it on their own terms...which is always the best way to do it, right? Right on, and here's the proof. Dig it!


Various Artists - Aryan Asshole Records Compilation Volume One (A.A. Records LP)

Well now we're talking! A.A. Records is, of course, Nate Young of Wolf Eyes' own record label, and undoubtably the most elusive of the bunch (the bunch being American Tapes, Gods of Tundra, Hanson Records, etc). In fact, I think this might be the first A.A. release that you don't have to actually be in Wolf Eyes to hear. So that's a plus. It's also a plus if you, like me, have been drooling over the gorgeous 7" lathes Nate has been doing as of late. They were recently compiled into a box set, but the price was just a little bit out of my range (although you may recall from an earlier review I managed to snag the Religious Knives one, which is included here). But don't feel bad if you did spring for all the lathes, because this compilation only includes snippets; a window into a wholly trashed universe to be sure.
Bloodyminded's cuts are first, and their contribution consists of a couple of live songs, one from their first 7" and another one called "Porn Lords", if I'm not mishearing. If you've ever heard Bloodyminded's marriage of electronic/harsh noise and punk rock vocals and ethos, you know what you're getting into. I think the banter between songs is actually longer than what they play though...
Next is Wolf Eyes who present a super-wasted kind of jam, with Nate going from muttering to deranged howling that actually sounds like Wrest of Leviathan, believe it or not. The Throbbing Gristle-tinged scrapes and dronings make for a mind-crawling backdrop.
Around here I start getting confused, because Wolf Eyes' track drops out and another one starts up which I think is Aaron Dilloway, despite the fact that's actually listed after Graveyards on the sleeve. Go figure. Whoever it is has a horrendous backwards gutter-wrenched motorcar driller sputtering along until it takes off at full flight, totally up and down the expressway to and of yr skull.
After that's done there's some cracked lightning being highlighted by a delightfully mournful sax run, so this must be Olson's free jazz project Graveyards. There's a beauty of a part where Olson unleashes a low-soaring horn drone and the original lathe's groove starts locking up, drawing it out even longer. At least, I think it's the original lathe doing that. There's some more locked-groove sputtering around the end of the track, but it sounds more like a coda to the Graveyards bit than Dilloway, who was slated to play next...but then the Religious Knives' boggy ritual begins, so I think I'm right about him playing earlier. Finally Hive Mind sets up a sickened, wavering slab of textured drone, real vintage-like. There's a nice little wind tunnel completely boring a hole in the heart of the song until it swallows everything up...and the best part is that it ends in a lock, so you can just let it weasel into your noodle and that's how the paramedics will find you.
Side two begins with the Moonlanding. I can't tell if this is anyone's "project", or just a name given to a bunch of records of...well...the moon landing. All your favorite jams are on here, including "that's one small step for man" and "the eagle has landed"! What else can I say? Well I can say I'm glad I didn't shell out $25 for this one...
Damion Romero's track begins with a mighty noise blat and then splinters off into an inoffensive drone. It hangs around a bit, then heads on out. And that's that. Dead Machines play a very familiar kind of syncopated head-creep, with Olson's sax once again stealing the show/my heart. Pretty damaged and scuzzed up, and that's saying something. C. Spencer Yeh's Burning Star Core do delicate, throbby drones with all kinds of patterns crossing and interweaving and all that fucked up Zen shit like you do. Pretty nice. Then there's Mike Connelly's Failing Lights, which is a remarkable imitation of a vacuum cleaner if I've ever heard one. But it does kind of suck you right up and that's what a vacuum cleaner does, right? Right...Charlie Draheim's track is a muted, distant airplane hum which I could probably get into if it lasted longer than 2 minutes. But it doesn't, and I'm sorry for that. Raven Strain is at the bottom of the order, and he does the team proud with a high-pitched radioactive scraping and whistling doubled up with super-messed and distorted vocal hauntings. Luckily this one isn't locked, as I think it has the potential to drive a person insane.
I think all the tracks here lose a bit of their "specialness" when ported over to the LP compilation format, but that's a silly bitch of a complaint and I know it because I was clamboring more than anyone to lay my ears on these. On the other hand, I now feel more inclined to hit up distros for the very last copies of the Graveyards, Wolf Eyes, Dead Machines and Hive Mind lathes because I'm all intrigued to hear the rest of what they have to offer. It's worth noting though that the record sleeve does a nice job reproducing the lathes' art in full glory, so even if you never get the chance to hold one in your hands, this really isn't such a bad consolation prize at all.


Spektr - Near Death Experience (Candlelight CD)

If there were some kind of a contest for a band to have the most non-descript biography ever, Spektr would surely be the front-runners. "This should not be seen as a gathering of two humans playing music, for it doesn't simply stand for "music" but a real Communication between an incarnated being and vibrations coming from a non-manifested paradigma where the Essence of what has suffered thousands of incarnations and names wanders eternally through the halls of it's last breath."? All I wanna know is who plays what, man! Luckily I have the Metal Archives to tell me that Spektr is a two-piece from the fertile black metal grounds of France (that's not irony). I've heard their other album "Et Fugit Intera Fugit Irreparabile Tempus (No Longer Human Senses)", and it wasn't terribly mind-blowing...actually it was kind of a weird, sloppy mess. I think they've gotten their shit togethre on this album, though. It's still weird, but much tighter and more composed.
"Near Death Experience" opens with "The Violent Stink of Twitching Terror", an 8-minute industrial blackened slab of sonic harshness and hatred if there ever existed one. There's kind of a long, droney intro and then it implodes into a series of drum rolls, unintelligible vocal samples, and molten-metal guitar. It's kind of fragmented though, and often stops when you expect it to get going and vice versa. Nevertheless it's a good indicator of what to expect from the rest of "Experience" - a bizarre, off-kilter, noisy, blackened industrial excursion ala Anaal Nathrakh or Axis of Perdition (when they were good/before they discovered Silent Hill). Track two's "Astral Descent" proves this was no fluke, as my headphones are practically wimping in pain trying to keep up with everything Spektr is throwing into the speakers (spekrs?). It's probably the most straightforward and easy-to-grasp black metal song the band play on the whole album, and it leads right into "Climax", a four-minute ambient drone interlude (so I guess the title is ironic then?). Think maybe Whitehouse circa "Thank Your Lucky Stars" and some of the lesser-known bands on Campbell Kneale's Battlecruiser imprint. It paves a nice path for the album centrepiece "Phantom Reality", which is again totally harsh, brutal, and swampy, but a bit of a chore to wade through at almost 10 minutes. "Visualization" is another sort of interlude, although noisier and weirder than the other one with a mutant female (?) vocal sample and all kinds of screeching dark ambient/power electronics over top. It's times like these where I pose to myself a classic philosophical question: are Spektr a noise band playing metal or a metal band playing noise?
"Whatever the Case May Be" is certainly strange, but for a different reason altogether. It actually does start out like "Deleted Scenes..."-era Axis of Perdition or Ulver's more experimental side, but then there's a quasi-jazz drum beat and I just don't know what to think. Slowly it disintegrates and comes back anew with a bit more of a metal flair - they even find a couple minutes near the end to toss in some more of that vitriolic black metal they do so well. And though "Disturbing Signal" is only two minutes, they also manage to squeeze some jamming in there, bookended by the now-trademark drones and electronic clatter. "Unio Mystica" is the final interlude-ish jaunt before the last track "His Mind Ravaged, His Memory Shattered". It actually reminds me a lot of the very first song, but even more distorted and skewed. There's a pretty steady polyrhythm of sorts going on, but the ever-shifting electronics, guitars and vocals buried way down in the mix make it a touch of a headspinner...of course then there's the part where everything drops out for a second and comes stampeding back a thousand times more wrecked, and you start to imagine if this could be the sonic equivalent of looking into the eye of the basilisk...or something.
So! In short this is a Spektr who are much better than I remember them previously, but they've still got flaws - the first and last tracks on this album are great, and there's definitely some good stuff in the middle ("Whatever the Case May Be" and a good portion of "Phantom Reality"), but it doesn't all hold together so well. Maybe it's just my general distaste for dark ambient seething through, but I could do without the constant pauses for sometimes-not-so-quiet contemplation. Anaal Nathrakh's "The Codex Necro" still reigns supreme over this black/noise genre for now, but if these two dudes keep their noses to the grindstone, then there's no telling what the future may hold!


Boris - Dronevil Final (Inoxia Records 2xCD)

If you haven't grown the slightest bit weary of Boris' pastiche by now, you're a better human than I. It seems like every couple of months the band are trotting some kind of expanded, revised, updated edition of one of their albums, tacking on a few minutes of extra music so their diehard fanbase will buy it. And they do. Heck so do I. Although I myself try to draw the line at just one version of an album (and believe me, there are people who own all four versions of "Mabuta No Ura", all three versions of "Pink", both colors of the "Solomon" volumes 2 and 3 vinyl, etc.). The gimmick Boris have gotten into of releasing albums with different music based on which edition you got was fun at first, but it's become incredibly tedious and a strain on the poor Boris fan's wallet. I guess you could say they've learned well from the Sunn O))) businessmen.
"Dronevil" was a double LP released by Misanthropic Agenda in 2005, limited to 1000 copies. Actually I think the black vinyl was released in a pressing of 1000, but there was an even more miniscule pressing on grey (beginning to understand my frustrations yet???). I remember signing up for the Misanthropic Agenda mailing list and checking every single day to make sure I didn't miss out. I wound up getting one, and I remember it wasn't particularly cheap either. But now, alas, that's all for naught as Japan's Inoxia Records label (home to most Japanese Boris releases) have re-released it on digital form, and I don't think it's limited at all unless I'm totally mistaken.
Although to be fair, this re-release isn't entirely unwelcome. For starters, the band have added two brand-new 20-minute tracks to the beginning of each disc, "Loose" on "Disc Drone" and "Red" on "Disc Evil". And they sync up too. You see, the deal with the original "Dronevil" was that you were supposed to play each LP simultaneously on two record players. Kinda like what Brutal Truth or the Flaming Lips were tapping into. And it's probably a lot easier for folks to scrounge up two stereos than two record players. The discs can also be heard seperately if you like, which adds up to 2 full hours of back-to-back music...but it's just not as fun.
As I said before, the new tracks "Loose" & "Red" start off the album, bandying about guitar drones that have much more in common with post-rock than doom metal. It's nothing too heady until you get about 12 minutes in and the band start showing their colours when "Red" kicks into gear. It still sounds a lot like sludge metal with a heavy post-rock influence ala Isis, Neurosis, Pelican et al. Although I guess that is what a perfect synthesis of "drone" and "evil" would sound like, though.
The combo of "Giddiness Throne" and "Evil Wave Form" play next (the three tracks on disc one are of almost equal lengths to the tracks on disc two, so basically there are three tracks when played together). It follows in the same aesthetic forged by the previous tracks, with a long drone circa Boris & Merzbow's "Sun Baked Snow Cave", except this one absolutely erupts into a noisey, heavy stoned/stoner metal freak out. Imagine the most crushing moment of their "Flood" album played by the band when they're in full-on "Pink" mode and you have a decent enough idea of what to expect...although it's still going to hit you pretty hard, I guarantee it.
The last set of tracks is "Interference Demon" and "The Evil One Which Sobs". There's a guitar riff played delicately over a squealing drone that sounds like the afterburn from the last track's jet engine take-off. It's more like the intro to "Flood" than anything else. And, like the other two, it explodes into a massive, fuzzy guitar riff and destructive, awe-inspiring drumming. The shoegazer Boris found on "Mabuta No Ura" wouldn't be a bad comparison, but with a bit more of a metal edge. Eventually the band lock into a Sleep/"Jerusalem"-esque groove with plenty of psyched-out guitar soloing over top (kinda like their "Heavy Rocks" album or their constantly-reworked track "A Bao a Qu"). It fades out into a lovely little drone with an acoustic (!) guitar working the coda.
This is a really nice set. In fact, I wish it wasn't so I could hate it more. Wouldn't it be a lot easier to be a bitter asshole if Boris albums weren't usually so great? Oh well...having said that, if you were one of the thousand or so who missed out on the 2LP the first time around, I'd strongly recommend this one. Boris weave pretty much all their styles together here (and the discs work incredibly well together too). On the other hand, if you've got the 2LP, I'm not entirely sure I would recommend this unless you were a Boris diehard (in which case you don't even need me to tell you anything; you've already ordered it). The bonus tracks are good, but not as good as what was already on the records...it's yr call, mate.
And I swear to god if the next time I talk about Boris on this site is when I'm reviewing something like "Feedbacker Mega" or "Akuma No Uta: The Director's Cut", then I'm really going to be out for blood.


Loren Connors - Night Through: Singles and Collected Works 1976-2004 (Family Vineyard 3xCD)

Thought I'd bookend this week with two recent releases from the Family Vineyard label, the first being the Flaherty/Corsano album and the other being this, a collection of rarities from American folk hero Loren Connors. According to Dr. William Ferris' essay in the 24-page booklet, there exists over 9,000 recorded hours of Connors' music. Hard to believe that this 3-CD set only covers such a tiny sliver of that, but alas it does. I'll freely admit I don't know much about Connors' previous output - I've heard "In Twilight", "Portrait of a Soul", the recent "Sails" and "The Lost Mariner" with Darin Gray. But "Night Through" provides an ample overview of the Connors' catalogue's underbelly, which is to me is even more interesting than seeking out and purchasing his "best albums" one by one.
The first disc immediately demonstrates Connors' relationship with the blues by leading off with his take on Robert Johnson's "Come on in My Kitchen" from 1976. You can hear Connors humming along as he strums, sounding as old as he is today. The tracks from the 1986 "Ribbon o' Blues" 7" and the 1993 "Mother & Son" 7" are very similar and akin to the Connors many of us are familiar with today; introspective and delicately played. "Saiorise ("Freedom")" from the "Five Points" 7" (1994) is a keeper: a dark electric guitar solo, ever-so-fuzzy and totally harrowing in its sadness. The two 7"s that follow (1996's "The Stations of the Cross" and 1995's "Deirdre of Sorrows") follow in the same meditative style bringing to mine more early Keiji Haino than any Fahey or Delta blues. The never-released "Battle of Clontars" double 7" closes out disc one, featuring a spoken word from Connors' partner Suzanne Langille. The songs start out quietly and contemplatively but seem to grow angrier, with the last track a dense, spikey electric piece...it's not loud, just jarring in juxtaposition with the other tracks.
Though disc two also opens up with a Robert Johnson number (1981's "Betty Mae", featuring Robert Crotty on guitar and vocals), it pretty much picks up where the other one left off. Though the title track and the cuts from the "Exile" 7" a subtler, Loren engages in a real blown-out bluesy epic with "The End, the Afternoon,t he Light", parts one and two (from 1995). The tracks from his 7" splits with the Azusa Plane and Roy Montgomery plug along in the same vein, equal parts Jandek and Eric Clapton. The rest of the disc is filled with various odds and ends from the late 90's/early 00's, some unreleased and some taken from compilations. Highlights are the stirringly beautiful "For NY 9/11/01" (recorded a month said date), the extremely tranquil whines of "Moon Gone Down", and "Peace", a 1959 recording of Loren's mother Mary Mazzacane singing in church.
The third and final chapter is the most intrigued, split almost in half with the first part being compilation tracks and the last half being various, mostly-recent unreleased Connors tracks. It opens with one of my favorites from the set, "Why We Came Together" again featuring Langille on vocals (it actually sounds like a conversation between her and Loren), and it's a real pity it isn't any longer than 1:38. A huge anomaly to the theme at work is the inclusion of a 15-minute piece by Connors' "rock group" Haunted House, from a 2000 CD-R single. And now that I think about it, I have heard the Haunted House self-titled album on Erstwhile, but that was long before I had ever even known the name Loren Connors. This is considerably better than anything I recall hearing on that album, with Loren and co. indulging in over-the-top psych/blues rock excess. It's nice to see that even the most respected and untouchable of modern guitar gods can still get down with it when the need arises (dig the picture of Haunted House in the liners if you don't believe me - don't they just look like the happiest batch of kids about to unload a serious depth charge of pure rock fury?). Haunted House's "Only When You Sleep" is also included, but it sounds a lot more like Loren solo than the aforementioned jam. And, like I said, the set closes off with never-before-heard solo Connors cuts, each one daring to be more beautiful than the last. "Star of Bethlehem" (parts one and two) has a remarkable purity in it that holds the power to move mountains, as do "Stars" and "Night in Vain". There are three untitled tracks that effervesce and crackle with a soft, glowing light and the "For Miles Davis" duo that completes the album. They're as delicate as anything else on the collection, but brimming with speaker-shaking tremolo, like he's has forced Miles' spirit awake and he's jamming alongside Connors on ghost-trumpet. A lovely way to end a lovely compilation.
Listening to this makes me think that it's almost kind of criminal the way Loren Connors is virtually ignored whenever someone lists the pantheon of truly great guitarists of our time. Here's hoping this set (complete with a mastering job done at the hands of Jim O'Rourke and an expansive booklet featuring background information on every single track here) helps garner Connors the attention and respect he so desperately deserves.


Sir Richard Bishop - Fingering the Devil (Latitudes CD) & Plays the Sun City Girls (No-Fi 7")

You and I both know Sir Richard Bishop from the Sun City Girls, but he sure has been making a name for himself in solo flights, particularly this year. By my count he's already self-released "Vault" volumes one through three and "All Strung Out", in addition to these two. Not to mention he had a hand in the two new Sun City Girls records that came out this year, and we've only just hit the halfway point of the year! It's hard to keep a good man down, they say, and Sir Richard is definitely a good man. I first came across his solo playing on Locust Music's "Wooden Guitar" compilation (alongside contemporary acoustic adherers Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans and Tetuzi Akiyama). I was actually surprised at how well Bishop could wrangle a guitar. Not to say that the Sun City Girls aren't virtuosos in their own rights...but I just never woulda thunk it. Maybe I was expecting something weirder and more tongue-in-cheek ala brother Alan Bishop's Alvarius B and Uncle Jim projects. But nope, Richard plays it rather straight, even when he's covering his own band's tunes as seen on the 7".
"Fingering the Devil" (I'm not entirely sure what to think of the name) starts off blazingly with "Abydos", a brief Spanish-flavored steel-string speedster. The 7-minute "Dream of the Lotus Eaters" follows that up, and it's every bit as dreamy as the title would hint at, and Richard lets the track expand and fill up the silence on its own terms, blossoming into a delicate little sonic flower. "Romany Trail" is slightly quicker, and Richard's fingers dance around the strings quick as a whistle, but nothing too savage. "Anatolia" is bursting around the seams with a flamenco flair, bringing back around the pace of the first number. When I go on a journey across dirt paths with my hobo stick resting on my shoulder, I want this song playing in the background (and preferably an over-top camera so I appear just a bit bigger than a dot on a massive landscape - you know?). The title track is content to ravel and unravel fibres of steel symphonics...Bishop plays fast but the track is still at a slowed pace, and the dichtonomy is quite something.
This album is CD-only, but if it wasn't, "Spanish Bastard" would definitely kick off side two. It's very similar to the album-opening "Abydos" - an astonishingly quick early Fahey-style face-slapper. You can almost hear Bishop's skin getting caught on the strings and tearing before he pulls them away on into the next melody. "Gypsum" works similarily, another quick one (in length and in the way it's played). I wouldn't have any trouble believing that there were two guitarists on this one, but there ain't and that's the facts. Two longer tracks close out the album, the first being "Black Eyed Blue". Coming in at 8 minutes it starts off with morose, repeated refrains but Bishop starts changing it up soon enough, switching styles like a record being played at alternating speeds. It's both poppy but sinister, cheery but foreboding, and it ends with another raucous digit-slicer. But it's peanuts compared to the 14-minute "Howrah Station", where Richard seems hell-bent on blowing all the competition out of the water with his blindly fast fingers and sounds. First the hyperspeed ragas come out in blurts, then all at once as Bishop dives into the conclusion. It sounds like the most frenzied, cymbal-crashing/guitar-smashing closer to a prog-rock odyssey, but then you snap out of it and realize it's just one guy with an acoustic guitar and he's improvising. Really, what more can I say?
The "Plays the Sun City Girls" 7" is pretty straight forward, as SRB tackles two SCG cuts culled from a July 24, 2005 date in Newcastle. The tracks are culled from the Girls' classic "Torch of the Mystics", with the A-side being the intro to "Space Prophet Dogon" coupled with "The Vinegar Stroke" (despite being just labelled "Space Prophet Dogon" on the record), and it's not entirely unlike the album counterparts only Rick gets a bit more furious with them...especially on the B-side's version of "Esoterica of Abyssynia", which wails on all different kinds of levels. Holy shit do his fingers fly on this one. It sounds almost like white noise spilling out of the speaker but every now and then there's a twonk of the original riff to keep you anchored. It's great, but just as a side dish.
The 7" is still available through various distros, but it's limited to 500 and awfully cheap so it probably won't be around forever. The Latitudes CD, unfortunately, seems to be sold out entirely (it did come out way back in March or April though). In fact I think the only readily-available Bishop albums are "Improvika" on Locust Music and the much-lauded "Salvador Kali" on Revenant. I'm sure someday in the future all these limited editions will be cobbled together on a collection, but until then we'll just have to twiddle are thumbs in anticipation...


Vodka Soap - Un Chand Pyramdelier (New Age Cassettes CD-R) & Pan Dolphinic Dawn - Pts. I and II (Beniffer Editions 7")

Here be two solo outings from the members of San Fran nu-drone overlords the Skaters, the first one under Spencer Clark's pseudonym and the 7" by James Ferraro. I read recently that the duo have put out 20 releases since 2003, though I'm not sure if that includes their oft-elusive solo projects...still, pretty incredible how they just keep trucking along putting out limited edition after limited edition. You figure after three years they'd spring for an LP pressed up a thousand-fold, yeah? So I wouldn't have to kill myself trying to get my hands on their music, yeah? But alas, it's not to be, for now. These are (or were) actually two of the more easier ones to secure as of late, as there are definitely more than a few copies of the 7" around and I think the Vodka Soap CD-R even went for more pressings, if you can imagine. So you might be in luck if you snoozed n' loozed the first time around.
We'll start out with the Vodka Soap CD-R, fresh off an absolute scorcher of a Volcanic Tongue review (hence the additional pressings, I guess). Sometimes I fear them folks dole out the hyperbole too quickly - a crime which I would never be caught guilty of - but they're on the money with this, the best Skaters-anything I've laid my cauliflower ears down on. Not that I've heard much, but you know what I mean. There's actually 13 (untitled) tracks here instead of one big one like I expected, and the average running time is about 3 or 4 minutes each. Sometimes they run together, sometimes they don't. And when they don't, they're usually broken up with a weird tape-squeal that kinda breaks up the meditative flow of the whole affair.
It actually does start off in a way that's reminiscent of the duo's side of the "Caliofornia" box, but with a much heavier, sludgier, ritualistic vibe going on. As is usually the case with Skaters-related work, there's a lot of subtle changes and shifting, as the album glides from movement to movement. Sometimes you can make out Spencer's slurred vocals, sometimes you pick up some wild rainy underground tribal percussion, or what sounds like a plucked banjo? Everything comes and goes before you have time to put a finger on what's happening, and coupled with the druggy fog the album bestows upon you...well you haven't got a chance. Outside of the Skaters, it's tough to pull comparisons for this. I'm reminded of Hermann Nitsch, Tony Conrad, maybe even Glenn Branca at times alongside contemporaries the Family Underground, Hototogisu, Grouper, and Mouthus at their slowest-motion jamming. I'm not sure how Spencer did it but this sounds almost exactly like an ungarbled version of the album's title would sound to me - "a chandelier pyramid".
The Pan Dolphinic Dawn 7" features a happy dolphin on the front and a swastika on the back, which might throw your grandpa for a loop. The dots in each quadrant would suggest to me that James is using it in the spirit of Hinduism (where it means something quite different than what we would immediately think of). There's also some strange prose on the back and even Google can't help me with that one. I did turn up a nice page for Boogaloo Sam and the "popping" dance technique, so I'm just going to assume that's what this whole thing is based on.
The 7" is in a similar vein to Spencer's CD-R (so you can see why the two make beautiful magick together) albeit a bit more stripped down and bare-bones. Side A is a deliciously low slice of droned-out breeze the kind of summertime jam that makes me think of Blue Cheer as much as it does, say, the Double Leopards. The flip is more of the same; dense, yawning bluster and dark clouds bearing down on a Sunday sermon. It's all well and dandy but it deserves to be stretched out end-to-end on a 12" - this kind of gobbledygook begs for a lengthier format.
So okay, yeah, sure these two are good and I'd never kick em out of bed, but I'm still waiting for the Skaters to go legit and put out something even remotely available and epoch-defining. C'mon, these dudes can move 500 copies of an LP no sweat (okay, some sweat). I mean, there's only so long you can go toiling in CD-Rs and cassettes with print runs rarely exceeding 30 copies before someone calls your bluff. But don't worry, it won't be me. As if I had the stones for that.


Religious Knives/Zodiac Mountain - Split & Workbench/Black Quarter - Split (Self-released CD-Rs)

All right! Since the Double Leopards appear to be on a semi-hiatus these days, we're treated to more music from the duo of Mike Bernstein and Maya Miller, who you may remember from my Religious Knives write-ups a couple of weeks ago. They appear under the Knives moniker on the first disc here (along with Mouthus' Nate Nelson on the sticks), opposite Zodiac Mountain. That band is also an off-shoot of more popular groups, as it features James Toth aka Wooden Wand and Clay Ruby of Davenport.
Despite being listed second on the back of the sleeve, Zodiac Mountain actually play first, covering the traditional dusty cowboy raga "I Know You, Rider", made famous in these circles by the Grateful Dead. Both men handle guitar and vocals on the 17-minute long track, and I don't know Clay Ruby's voice but I'm venturing a guess that Toth's voice is in the front and Ruby is harmonizing. The two take their time moving slowly through various sun-parched badlands, messily wrangling their guitars until you can just barely hear the original chords being played. The vocals are low and distant, and it makes for a very atmospheric punch to the tune. Their guitars get increasingly restless as the song wears on, which lends itself to some pretty zonked-out moments of desert-induced hallucinations. I was hoping for a bit more of a rock-god "Freebird" endless epic and a bit less rambling and noodling, but I like it all the same, especially when they bring it back full circle for the finale.
Religious Knives' contribution "The Train" is a continuation of the temple-minded drone found on their No Fun Productions LP. I guess I'm a bit spoiled from seeing them live because they ripped it up on a whole 'nother plain of existence that I wasn't even aware of. The show was even further "out" than their recorded output, so it feels like a bit of a step backwards in some ways. Maya's organ playing drives the piece, while Nate adds some soft, mostly cymbal-based percussion and Mike handles vocal chants and guitars. There isn't a tremendous amount of deviation to the song, and what you hear at the start is almost what you'll hear at the end, with the notable exception of the organ changing pitches at times. If you liked the kraut-influences of the No Fun LP and want some more of that sauce, look no further.
The core members of the Knives split down the middle with Mike Bernstein's Workbench project handling one song on the next split and Maya Miller's elusive solo outlet Black Quarter doing the other. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out which person does which track, but I think the sound of coins (quarters???) hitting the floor at the beginning of song one is a tip off that Maya's "Bird Breath" goes first...but I might be wrong. There's some airy vocal droning in here but it sounds too androgenous to my ears to be a dead giveaway. The song is kind of all over the joint, but it's mostly anchored about keys and organ (which sounds like Maya's bag), sometimes hammered and sometimes delicately carressed. There's a kind of sad beauty about all this, and I'm reminded a lot of early Jandek at times (in spirit rather than in sound), crossed with Vashti Bunyan at her most down-n-out (now I really hope this isn't the Workbench track). But still, even those don't do the uniqueness of the song justice. Only complaint is that at 24 minutes, it starts to become a bit oversaturated...a nice 15-minute jam would've left me wanting more, and that's the way it should always be I think.
On the other hand, Workbench's "Aphid War" is even longer, coming in at just under a half-hour. There's a lot of droning and subtle shifts going on throughout, which kinda makes me think of Eliane Radigue or Coil's "CoilANS" album. In fact there are lots of thick, industrial-tinged tones throughout, being reshaped and revamped every few minutes or so. It's a nice thing to put on and let wriggle into your head for thirty minutes, but I don't think I'm ready to call it dinner party music yet. This could easily pass for one of the obscure, one-man basement projects on American Tapes or Hanson Records.
I'm not ready to call either of these the best artifacts anybody involved has ever laid hands on, but they're nice and fun (and I believe they're tour CD-Rs, so what more do you want?). I have yet to hear Zodiac Mountain's "Come & Gone" 2xCD-R, but I hear lotsa good things, so maybe that'd be a better place to start...and the Religious Knives folk have an LP coming out sometime soon on Troubleman Unlimited, so I recommend waiting for that.
Also as an aside, I'm not sure if these are Heavy Tapes releases. They look the part, but they've got no label identifier on em, so I'm leaving it blank for now.


Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano - The Beloved Music (Family Vineyard CD)

To date, drummer Chris Corsano and reedsman Paul Flaherty have released four albums in their "duo" configuration, with "The Beloved Music" being the most recent of them. They also released the "Last Eyes" and "Steel Sleet" LPs last year, as well as the spiritual sister to this, "The Hated Music", as their debut in 2001. In between all those sessions, they've been appearing on record or on stage in various formats with Greg Kelly, Steve Baczkowski, Thurston Moore, Matt Heyner, Carlos Giffoni, Nels Cline, Wally Shoup, and many others. According to David Keenan's liner notes, this set was recorded live in Louisville, Kentucky in May 2004 on a bill with Kris Abplanalp and Pete Nolan.
The cover shot of the two dog (?) skulls posed head-to-head does a poor job of describing the Flaherty/Corsano ethic, making the two titans seem like they've got their tusks locked in an epic battle like two members of the same herd grappling for supremacy. On the contrary. Though the duo's sound is ferocious, complete with wild eyes gnashing jaws, they work together exquisitely and the musical interplay between them is something to behold (belove?). The first track "The Great Pine Tar Scandal" displays this almost immediately, starting off with a loner duck call from Flaherty's sax and some rambled percussion from Corsano...soon enough the two meet on a common ground and lurch forward together, with the drumming getting increasingly frantic and Flaherty blowing massive squalls that could almost be taken for guitar feedback. Only two minutes in to the 12 minute track and they're already going at it with a full head of steam, Corsano's bashing his kit like an agile caveman and Flaherty spooling constant threads of wildly free, post-Ayler sax mutations. There's a total testicle-clenching moment halfway in where Corsano takes a powder and Flahery is left hurling sax superballs at the wall, and make no mistake that the balls are definitely to the wall. Corsano hops back on the train and the two ride it out on and on into the night, with guns a-blazin' all the way home.
Number two is "A Lean and Tortured Heart" which opens with a 6-minute solo performance from Corsano, starting out slow but soon bursting into all different directions, by way of Rashied Ali, Hamid Drake, and...Mick Harris? I'm sayin' it. Flaherty comes storming in and drops some not-so-delicate blots over Corsano's dinosaur-footed stomps, before a brief pause and a proverbial brick shithouse's worth of brain-flattening greased-lightning energy. At ten minutes in (the song's halfway point), Flaherty does another solo jaunt, more controlled and bass-y than the one from the previous track, lulling you into a state of false security and allowing Corsano to romp all over your psyche when he does return with a snare-rush so powerful it'll nail you to the floor. No shit. They do this a few more times before the track's calmed conclusion, flying in and dropping out either together or one at a time, but the trick only grows more entertaining with each successive usage.
The final track of the triad is "What Do You Mean This is a Dry Country?" probably the noisiest and most rambunctious track of the album, which says a lot considering the workout the other two just gave me. It's also the best example of the mind-meld that invariably occurs when these two get together, as they work almost exclusively in tandem the whole way through. Flaherty abuses his sax to the point of submission as it almost sounds like it's crying for mercy, while Corsano punctuates its screams with heady, flatlining bass drum wallops. The duo conjure up a veritable whirlwind of musical fury, the kind that'll have the room spinning and you seeing stars in no time at all. It's a wonder the two can even keep their feet on the ground while playing it. Corsano spends most of the middle of the piece on some alone time, having a furious go at his kit and barely relenting before Flaherty rejoins and helps push the song along into near white-noise territorial bliss. The wooing and applause at the end of the track can't even begin to do the set justice.
It seems increasingly rare in these jaded 2000's we inhabit to come across music that is passionate, honest, and (of the utmost importance) unironic. Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano, while still maintaining a sense of humor (see the baseball-referencing "Pine Tar Scandal"), have managed to pull off all three almost effortlessly. I've heard people call the duo's music "post-hardcore jazz" and I guess that's about as fitting as anything I could ever come up with. Whatever the case may be, I call it intense, exhilerating, entirely unique and absolutely essential.


Various Artists - California (RRRecords/Troniks/Ground Fault 10xLP)

I got this ungodly behemoth like two weeks ago, and only now have I finally made it through all 20 artists on all 20 sides. In the meantime I feel like I'm writing my master's thesis on it, with my pad of scribbled notes and late night calls to acquaintances for their comments and suggestions (just kidding about that last part, I don't know anybody ridiculous enough to spend their money on this...but I'll be convincing them in due time). This is, of course, the long rumored first installment (I think) of a proposed series of noise box sets for each state, put together by Phil Blankenship/The Cherry Point, who also runs the Troniks label.
Fortunately, I'm not familiar enough with Californian noise to complain about what's been left off. And actually, I've been dreading writing up this thing because, to be perfectly honest, I am not terrifically interested in most "American" noise, or bands from the RRR scene and what have you. I'm also generally not that huge of a noise fan, aside from the more "popular" acts for the most part. But there were enough artists on here to get me innerested, so I guess you'll just have to deal with me abusing the words "electronics", "amplifiers" and "Merzbow" like it ain't no thang. So here's a few words about each side, done in the order I pulled them out of the box. You can read up on who the artists are on yer own time, clownskull.
Joe Colley - "Obstacles" I should've looked at Mr. Colley's side before I threw it on, because I found myself eternally locked in a crackly, EAI-style barely-there drone. Finally I got the plot and moved the needle, hitting some clicking and whirring electroze, buzzing up in your inner ear workings. Next one I think garbled field recordings and found sounds, then back to the whir. So I move it again and find a sinus-cleansing sine wave that quickly turns messy and...loops back around into the other groove? Holy shit I'm lost. It's a maze. And one I'll have to spend more time with, because I dug what I was digging up.
Damion Romero - "Monde Brutal" Play loud or you'll miss out on the best parts entirely. Romero's sick, lo-fi urdrone is punctuated by sound drop-outs, like in the most classic of film scenes where a bunch of co-workers are in an elevator when the power goes out. Add to that a bunch of throbbing, metallic scrapings with some horrible unidentifiable sounds and Romero's cooked up a fanciful feast of controlled mayhem. It makes me want to dive under the covers and never come out, if I can be real real for a second.
Gerritt - "Cali Mega" The first truly harsh dose of house-toppling sounds. "Cali Mega" rips from speaker to speaker in a wash of static heavy metal. If you still have the volume at 11 for the Romero side, you're gonna pull your groin lunging to turn it down for this one. There is a seriously torrential fiery downpour, rippling and crumbling a thousand times over itself. I was thinking of a wordless Masonna, and I don't compare just anyone to Masonna I'll have you know.
R.H.Y. Yau - "Point of Seperation" One of the few sides to feature anything besides a URL and a location on its label, Yau boasts that "no animals were harmed" during this recording. So you know it's on, right? Is it ever. I have no doubts that, played in the presence of the right/wrong person, Yau's vocal atrocities would have them puking in no time. At least, it sure sounds like he is. Like, whoa. If I can steal a line from Achewood here, this is like Chewbacca trying to lose weight for the prom. Unbelievably depraved vocal incantations coupled with lightning bolt electronics. Keiji Haino on steroids? The shit Mike Patton wishes he had the cajones to attempt? Maybe. The ending needs to be heard for yourself, I'm not gonna try and touch it with mere words.
Sixes - "Sluthunter" Arguably the best title of the box. There's some pulsating drones, thin breaths of static like sheets of paper shredded endlessly plus a helping of extra-terrestrial vocal jabbering. This piece is sinister and slow-evolving, but not the most gripping. It'll wreak havoc on your needle though.
Control - "The Strong Enslave"/"Your Fate"/"It's Come to This" First cut is the phantom train from one of the Final Fantasy games that we all had nightmares about back in the day...running you down from beyond the grave! Psyched-up, Prurient-esque steel ions flying through the stratosphere. Second is a bit of industrial noise vermin, kinda like the lighter parts of C.C.C.C. mixed with the heavier ones of Whitehouse (shouted insults not included; there are vocals but they're so effected I can't make out a thing). Last track is deceptively quiet, dropping into meteoric blasts of wonked-out cold fusion. Finally putting to bed the eternal question "what does your voice sound like underwater at night?".
Solid Eye - Live at WFMU, September 13 1998 - Wasn't really expecting this, as I've never heard of Solid Eye before. Freaky, bog-people-bithed swamp muck psych, complete with weirded out loops and samples. There's a strong kraut/hippie vibe to this one, kinda reminds me of what the current heads over in Finland are doing a la Avarus and Kemialliset Ystavat. A bizarre, experimental, freeee romp through high water, and another one I'll have to revisit.
The Skaters - "Wind Drapeing Incense" I haven't heard Skaters member Vodka Soap's epic "Un Chand Pyramidelier" CD-R yet, but this is what I imagine it sounds like from that rave Volcanic Tongue review. Heavy underground ritual vibe, lots of thick and sweetly-churning layers. Pulsing and flowing like a river of bluud, just the way I likes it. But then there's a shift and it kinda sounds like the song is being played at 45 rpm instead (but it's a different piece, I checked). Imagine yourself attached to the belly of a jet at take-off and then streaking through the black skies. Then there's another shift of sorts and the Skaters crew throw a curveball, plunking down some crazy, sludgy, hazed-out Middle Eastern-tinged pop line and a voice intoning who the heck knows what over and over. Then that cuts out (all too quickly) and the duo's urdrone returns, similar to the first but with a definite Cairo-esque undertone. There's some wretched, Marianne Faithful-style vocal crankings on another wilder and more open piece. The whole side ends with another weird snippet, like a foreign gospel or something. I'm totally baffled and in love; I'd lick the wax but I don't like spicy foods.
Moth Drakula - "In Heaven Everything is...Fine" Fractured screaming feedback piercing a low basement rumble, reminiscent of analogue Merzbow or maybe Bastard Noise. I think I hear a woman screaming in terror under all this. Some dapper noize skree, bubbly foaming rinse, burned-psyche ethos, broken transistors, garbled vocals, cut-ups, sonic shapeshifting...it's all here, and it's all just dandy. Nothing mind-rapingly new but it's executed flawlessly so you'll hear no complaints from me.
The Cherry Point - "Live at Camp Blood 7.11.04 (w/Ronnau)"/"Live at the Smell 10.22.03" Not sure who Ronnau is but him and Mr. C. Point make a fine tag-team Legion of Doom style with an insta-harsh howling blast of windy feedback. The second piece is a denser harshness than the former, but no less biting. It's bright, sharp, and pointy, and it's sticking into your ribs. By the end of the side it sounds like a waterfall of luscious noise love eruptions.
John Wiese - "Diamond Harmony" Noisy feedback blasts skewered by digital bloops and patches of silence. Sounds like vintage Wiese to me, which is always a good thing. It's totally all over the place. Hollow yelps, holographic drillings, walkie-talkie alien static, high-pitched attacks and shatterings...I think their might actually be multiple tracks on here but I think it's like trying to capture the illuminated moments of a strobe light. Regardless, it's a real blazer.
Open City - "Dusty Sweets, Bit Parts" Rolling, sloping drumming a la Hella w/weirdo guitar fuckery over top, like a teenage Nels Cline Singers...or Masada with a musical saw play the works of thee Magik Markers. Or a Residents/Supersilentt instrumental mash-up. I'm still not sure what to think, all of this is just so very overwhelming.
Spastic Colon - "Post Expulsion Euphoria" Minimal, lo-fi skrapingz, alien blips and creeped ambience, slowly forming into a strangely stoned electronic hospital-emergency-ward scene. I think I can hear some broken toy gizmodgery and blanked transmissions, various peculiar noises...gives this thing a total loner vibe. I'm sticking with the hospital scene on this one, that's definitely where it puts me (not literally...okay maybe).
Oscillating Innards - "In Situ" Opens with broken-up vocals and screams before exploding into an all-out ripper of mangled vox and electronics. Kinda reminiscent of Prurient, or actually a lot of basement RRR bands I've come across. White-hot and unforgiving (except for the concluding bout of silence), but nothing radically new to my ears. I think this dude's been around for an age though so it's probably the other bands I'm hearing biting his style. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Amps for Christ - "Black Eyed Susan"/"March of the Mountain"/"Tel Aviv"/"2 Inches per Hour" I guess AfC is the wild card of the set? The first track sorta sounds like...well...AfC going noise. "Black Eyed Susan" commences with weird hippie chants and wails under a glitchy machine loop and some scary-soundin' atonal horns. "March" bears a flute (right?), an acoustic, and a sitar. Fahey-esque appalachian romper stomper. There's a spoken word/prose bit about birds and flesh that leads into the last track, which is a very nice, shakey, watery drone. And there's a magnificent violin soaring over the rushing lake. The side has its ups and downs, but dude just rocked a 7.7 on Pitchfork so it's money in the bank!
Yellow Swans - "Untitled" One of the harsher, more intense Swans tunes I've come across, but just as tripped-out as their best material. It sounds like crazed vocal insanity, bright colours bouncing off the walls of a tiny jam space. Real slick, no-frills burn courtesy damaged electronics gasping for air before finally sputtering and dying. The heat is on. Toward the end there are some great, loose-ended psychedelic shards blasting off into a billion directions all at once. Worth all the pretty polly in yr pockets.
GX Jupitter-Larsen - "Alluring" - Guttural, lo-fi noise/drone a la less harsh and more dense rumbling, or maybe the albums Aube has done with chains and stones and the like. I really can't find much to say about this one, except that it probably goes down smooth at 3am.
Rubber O Cement - "Pineal Thyroid Glam-Choroids" More gizmo/effect-laden weirdness, cut-up found sounds, mysterious noises, synth + keys...harsh buzzes and metallic diffusions working their way up into a cosmic vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately either this side seems to wear on way too long or it's my patience and ears that have taken too much of a beating...I don't think so though, not like I played the whole box in one sitting. Just not my cup of joe, then.
Xome - "Carburetor" Hot-wired electro infusion, staticky and throbby. There's a fun part where the track goes fading out, almost like it's running away scared...only to come zooming back in with renewed alarming fury and force. It's kinda Merzbowian, circa "Amlux" maybe. Squiggly and ferocious, all comparisons aside.
Tralphaz - "The Engine"/"The Wake" Well believe it or leave it, this is the last one. Already? Time flies...seems like just fifteen minutes ago I was chatting up that Randy Yau side, but now it's probably more like three hours. Anyway. The Tralphaz side is a super-loud n' harsh, dialed up, swords a-slashing and lords a-leaping epic feedback roar. There's a bunch of sustained tones, occasionally interruped by frantic splotches of noise-making mayhem. Later on an oddly drowned vocal snippet joins the foray and soon it sounds like every amplifier in the world is overloading...that all breaks off into a longer batch that sounds like silence, but as soon as you turn it up to check it out your face gets melted with a supremely spiked feedback stab. What a fine way to close out the festivities.
Phew! We're done! Hey, nobody said this would be a picnic. Reading all that stuff, I mean. Listening to the box was no chore. On the contrary! It's like when you pay for something, and you're proud that you own it. This is the kind of release you want to tell strangers about, climb up to your roof to yell about, take out ads in the newspaper for, etc. I mean, come on - twenty sides of vinyl in a heavy black box for the low, low price of $75 postage paid in the U.S.? That works out to $7.50 per record! And like I said, take it from me - you don't have to be a huge noise freak to enjoy all sides (but I'm sure it helps). There's something here for everyone.
Complaints: I realize the label kept the packaging to a minimum to avoid any additional costs, but something informing the listener on a bit of background of each of the tracks contributed here would be a big help. Also, it's probably just the way my tastes are oriented but the box seemed to be front-loaded, and all the truly great stuff was over with in a hurry. I think next time I'll play all the sides in reverse order and see where that gets me.
Best of the best: Skaters, Yellow Swans, Joe Colley, R.H.Y. Yau, Gerritt, Damion Romero, Solid Eye, the Cherry Point.
Start saving up for: Michigan!