Girl Talk - Night Ripper (Illegal Art CD)

I'm just another blogger contributing to the internet-wide worship of Gregg Gillis' Girl Talk project, specifically his "Night Ripper". I say specifically "Night Ripper" because I haven't heard anything else the man's done and I really don't have any desire to. If somehow you haven't heard of the premise behind all this, Gillis has essentially constructed 16 pitch-perfect pop songs by sampling...other pop songs. I mean seriously, no shit, balls to walls, this is rad. I'm sure it's clear to you know that I'm a sucker for a good gimmick, but "Night Ripper" exceeds mere gimmickry and lands somewhere in the realm of unbridled brilliance ala John Oswald, Negativland, Dangermouse, et al. I'll keep this write-up to a minimum because (a) I don't know how to write about pop music (ahaha just kidding...I don't know how to write about any music) and (b) everybody else has already done it already better than I could. Basically if the notion of an absurdly catchy, borderline surreal mash-up plunderphonic pop/hip hop album (95% of the predominant vocal samples come from hip hop songs) doesn't appeal to you just by reading this, you're a lost cause and I want you out of my life. That said, onto the review.
Ciara, Boston, Ludacris, Fabolous, Ying Yang Twins, the Verve, Slim Thug, Oasis, Arrested Development, Webbie, Young Jeezy featuring Mannie Fresh, Genesis, Ratatat, the Boredoms, the Five Stairsteps, Eminem. George Benson, Slim Thug, T.I., Lil' Wayne, Chicago, Crime Mob, Three 6 Mafia, Manfred Mann, Bow Wow featuring Ciara, Paula Abdul. Mariah Carey, James Taylor, Ludacris, 50 Cent, Timbaland, the Pixies, Young Gunz, Nas & Puff Daddy, D4L, Weezer, Buckwheat Boys. Dem Franchize Boyz, Dr. Dre, Positive K, Paul McCartney and Wings, Juelz Santana, KRS-One, Aerosmith, Nelly featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Big Gipp, Smashing Pumpkins, the Main Ingredient, Paul Wall featuring Big Pokey, Alicia Keys, Phantom Planet, The Clipse.
X-Ray Spex, Fall Out Boy, Trina, SWV, Public Enemy, James Brown, Lil' Wayne, Young Jeezy, Nirvana, Young Jeezy, the Pharcyde, Elton John, Notorious B.I.G., Beyonce, Juelz Santana. Ying Yang Twins featuring Mike Jones & Mr. Collipark, LL Cool J, Michael McDonald, Warren G. featuring Nate Dogg, Missy Elliot, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jefferson Airplane, Juelz Santana, Steely Dan, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, Sophie B. Hawkins, Panjabi MC, The Game & 50 Cent, Better Than Ezra. PM Dawn, DJ Shadow, David Banner, Nine Inch Nails, Pharrell & Gwen Stefani, Cassidy, the Game, Junior M.A.F.I.A., En Vogue, 2Pac featuring Snoop Dogg, M.I.A., Digable Planets. Amerie, M.I.A., Naughty by Nature, Black Rob, Hum, Kanye West featuring Adam Levine, Pilot, Salt-N-Pepa, George Michael, Bell Biv DeVoe, Ludacris featuring Nate Dogg.
The Notorious B.I.G., Public Enemy, J-Kwon, Billy Squier, Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg, Frankie Cutlass, Black Sheep, N.O.R.E., Fatman Scoop, Donnie Iris, Chris Brown featuring Juelz Santana, the Waitresses, Lady Sovereign, Nikka Costa, Mark Morrison, TLC, Daft Punk, Busta Rhymes, the Black Crowes. Busta Rhymes, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Gwen Stefani, the Rentals, Missy Elliot. 2 Live Crew, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Hall & Oates, Ciara featuring Missy Elliot, the J.B.'s, Sonic Youth, Missy Elliot featuring Fatman Scoop, Phil Collins, Peedi Crakk, Black Box, 2 Live Crew, M/A/R/R/S, Whispers, Mike Jones, Seals & Crofts, the Emotions. The Emotions, Purple Ribbon All-Stars, LCD Soundsystem, the Breeders, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, DJ Funk, Britney Spears, Wreckx-N-Effect, Elastica, Ciara featuring Ludacris.
The Black Eyed Peas, Paula Abdul, Annie, Chris Brown featuring Juelz Santana, Kansas, Boyz II Men, Kelis, J.J. Fad, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, M/A/R/R/S. Madonna, Andrew Gold, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, Three 6 Mafia featuring Young Buck, 8 Ball & MJG. The Smashing Pumpkins, Three 6 Mafia featuring Young Buck, 8 Ball & MJG, Laidback, Fleetwood Mac, 69 Boyz, Folk Implosion, Technotronic. Aaliyah featuring Timbaland, D12, 2 Live Crew, Pavement, Wings, George Kranz, Ying Yang Twins featuring Pitbull, Trillville.
Thanks to Wikipedia for contributing to my extensive research for this project.


Erik Amlee - Afternoon Dream (Mandragora/Fire Museum Records CD) / Paradise Camp 23 - oTo (Mandragora CD-R)

Erik Amlee is a name I'm not tremendously familiar with, and you might not be either, but I suspect you'll be hearing it more and more in the coming days. Not to say I'm the first on the bandwagon - apparently Amlee has been creating psychedelic in one form or another since the late 80's. Cracked, Voodoo Mechanics, Paradise Camp 23...any of that mean anything to you?? Well those are the guises under which Amlee operates, sometimes solo and sometimes with a revolving door cast of contributors. And that's not forgetting that in his "spare" time Amlee also operates this Mandragora Records label and the Weirdsville! WebRadio internet show. Phew. Dude's busier than a pretty busy dude who has a lot of things on his plate. Anyway like I hinted at before, Amlee's raison d'etre is hitting on psychedelic notes in all their forms - and nothing shows that finer than these two very diverse albums. The first is obviously Amlee solo, and you could probably tell from the cover art that it's riddled with sitars and acoustic guitars - classic psychedelia, no? Paradise Camp 23 seeks out the trip in other, darker corners, and seems particularly interested in the drone as drug of choice. Hey, whatever it takes to get you to the other side is a-OK by me.
A couple years back Erik put out two solo sitar CD-Rs which received some pretty heavy praise from the likes of Foxy Digitalis and Aquarius Records and all those good folk. So "Afternoon Dream" appears to be the culmination of those efforts, the first true blue debut sitar recording. And I must say, it's quite nice. Most interesting about Amlee is that he's entirely self-taught. So suffice to say he doesn't bend any hour-long raga classics, but what he does throw down winds up working well all the same (plus they're all improvisations, so you gotta sling some credit there). The first track "Pulse Quickens" is a wonderfully-delayed 10-minute soupy sitar workout, with Amlee playing patiently and letting the notes drift off into orbit before he returns his fingers to the strings. "Entering the Mist" sounds like its title as Amlee juggles (that is, overdubs) guitar and sitar into a very peaceful and perky ditty. The same technique is repeated for "Organic Sympathy", a track that benefits from a seemingly rough (or at least unpolished) production job, microphone in the middle of the room style. "Float Upstream" is another lone sitar number and sounds probably as Eastern as Amlee is ever going to get. He says he's got no professional sitar training but I'm hesitant to believe it after hearing this one. The penultimate "Melting Trees" is almost surprisingly harsh, as Amlee plays rough with his heavily-effected sitar, forming thick and caustic webs of brazen muddled trance, surely the psychedelic experience he's been searching for all this time. "Between Space" is the last track, and curiously enough it's the exact same length as the first track - 10:54. For the most part Amlee plays it quiet, though on the whole it sounds dirtier than the first one. There's quite a bit more activity on the strings but never so as to be disruptive - the perfect cut (and album) for getting down to some serious afternoon dreaming indeed. If you're fan of Six Organs or Emerald Cloud Cobra or Magickal Power Mako or John Fahey or Sandy Bull or Steffen Basho-Junghans or Ben Reynolds...well you've got nothing to lose with this one.
Paradise Camp 23 is certainly the harder act to get a read on. This is actually a reissue of their very first c60 all the way back from 2001. "oTo" has one track (titled "Theory Megatron", curiously enough) riding out at just under a half-hour. As I understand it, PC23 on this release is Amlee, his wife Aleda Jonquil, and a friend by the name of Nate Longcope. The inner sleeve of this disc boasts an impressive list of buzzwords accompanied by how they relate to the music - cubist, psychedelic, magickal, noise, multimedia, improvisation. I must confess I can't really hear much of that on here - cubist noise I think I could fathom though. Anyway the brunt of this CD-R is weirdo transmissions coming through from the other side as pitched through an 1800's ham radio, with various other stations being picked up and fuzzed out along the way - there's the clatter of percussion at one point, voices come and go, sometimes you can hear actual strings being plucked, looped soul samples (I think)...but it's all lost just as quickly as found in the foggy industrialish wash. Maybe I should search out the group's later recordings and try to figure out where they ended up but for the most part "oTo" comes off as slightly amateurish Nurse With Wound/AMM/Maurizio Bianchi clatter. And who knows, maybe that's just fine by these cats.
While there's nothing ass-blastingly new on either of these two discs, they're both nice enough efforts - particularly "Afternoon Dream" which I would recommend to anyone into that sort of thing without even a second though. I'll give a little leeway to the Paradise Camp 23 disc since after all it was their first and all that good stuff. Anyway the Mandragora site seems chock full of oddities you and I have never heard of and they're most all at low low prices, so I encourage you to skim through and see what you can turn up for yourself.


Mutant Ape - No Bodies (Amorf 3" CD-R) / Damno Te - I Bury the Living (Amorf CD-R) / Olivier Pé - Percées (Amorf 3" CD-R)

The Amorf Sounds label recently obliged me by sending three CD-Rs my way from artists I am totally unacquainted with (well the names Mutant Ape and Damno Te rang some distant bells but that's about it). Woe to my ignorace! Anyway first a bit about this Amorf label, who are based in Belgium but seem to carry no geographical prejudice when it comes to putting out albums - Damno Te is from Canada, Mutant Ape hails from the U.K., and Olivier Pé is a Belgium native. All these jammers come in slimline jewel cases housing spraypainted discs and some pretty pixellated Photoshop-style artwork. As you do.
The internet tells me that George Proctor's Mutant Ape project has quite a few fans, considering he's put out records on Audiobot, Chondritic Sound, Obscurica, Brise-Cul as his own Turgid Animal label. The sounds on this 3" are pretty straight-forward harsh noise manifesto loaded with all kinds of industrial/power electronic ammunition. At least, that's what I hear. Every now and again a stern, William Bennett-esque voice undercuts the dark, swooping sonics intoning some kind of inaudible instructions. There's three tracks across 20 minutes with the opening "The Fall of White" taking up half that, and it's easily the best track. With that amount of time it's easy to find yourself locked in the blizzardy churn building up around your head. The drones weaving in and out of "sight" make for fine hypnotizing haberdashery. The other two shorter tracks are "Keep the Hate" and "When I Wraith", the former a phantom train peaking at cruising velocity with Proctor's garbled voice serving as conductor while the other reminds me of a way heavily damaged "Cut Hands Has the Solution", minus the screeching that makes the Whitehouse track so exhilerating. Suitably mutant for the name chosen and definitely a match made in heaven with that artwork.
Like Mutant Ape, Damno Te dabbles in both noise and labels, as he also runs the Titus record label. According to the Amorf blurb, "I Bury the Living" is dedicated to his second favorite black and white film (I'll let you guess what the title of the movie is). Judging from the noise Damno brings here, How Green Was My Valley is not the number one pick. Damno's M.O. is almost full-on harsh noise overdrive, scintillating analogue spike tones hurtling through the stratosphere exploding on contact with one another. What's curious about his approach is that Damno has this rhythmic side, where every now and then his noise whirlwinds break up into decidedly-abrasive beats and loops like a Throbbing Gristle or early Merzbow something-or-other. These moments are too few and far between (see tracks "Honegger" and "Trowbridge") though because for the most part Damno's sound is as black and white as "I Bury the Living"'s cover art and the movie which inspired it.
Unlike the other two, Olivier Pé's disc is not at all harsh...instead it's a rather nice, at times lovely, at times humdrum 20-minute flutter through field recordings, tape loops, non-instrumentation and a lot of other stuff I can't put my finger on. Across these five untitled pieces Pé does his best to conjure up the greats of the avant-garde scene - the filth and dirt of John Lomax's field recordings on track one, a muddled Harry Partch opera style droning on track two (and a very Hermann Nitsch synth sounding one on the next cut), Reich/Glass-infected skittery string-and-keys loops on the fourth and the other-worldly buzz and hum of AMM on the last. That's not to suggest Pé is a rip-off artist in the slightest because these all come off with their own flair (often mutating into something else altogether before the track's average five minute running time is up). And if he is a rip-off artist, well he's picked some pretty good names to have a run at. I could see myself putting this one on again in quieter moments; not when I wanted to be bludgeoned to death as I was on the first couple.
All that said these are pretty fine dishes if you're into that sort of thing, me I'm not so big on the formless noise but I guess that's my cross to bear. My only complaint/suggestion to the Amorf camp would be to work on that packaging because it's always nice to have eye candy to go along with what you've feeding the ear with if you dig my jive.


Damned Yellow Swans - Damned Yellow Swans (Fuck It Tapes CS)

Another day, another Yellow Swans release. At least that's what they tell me because I sure haven't been keeping up - the last Yellow Swans album I heard in its entirety was 2004's "Bring the Neon War Home", and although I did see the much-lauded "Psychic Secession" disc in the used bin of a local record shop, I passed it up for some reason...probably because I already had a fistful of other goods to purchase. Maybe it's the one that got away. For now though I've tuned myself back in to the realm of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Saloman by picking up this value-priced c20 done up right by the Fuck It Tapes label. The words I came across for this release had it pegged as every bit as vicious and delicious the "Damned" prefix would imply (they use a different D-word with every release dontchaknow). I was not let down - this is a pretty aggressive blat from two pretty spacey sounding dudes, at least that's the vibe the Wire peace gave off (and I mean it as a compliment). The tape art as you can see is particularly gruesome in keeping with the spirit of the whole thing, and is that a dab of goat's blood I spy off to the right? Well my head says it's nail polish but my heart won't have any of that noise.
What noise I will have some of, however, is what comes a-rushin' out of the speaker upon playback. Talk about your thick, ominous clouds of heavy dust-n'-smoke...all whirling and billowing and stinging your eyes and flooding your nostrils. The duo rattle out some kind of wretched aggro guitar/electronic thunder, sounding not entirely unlike Campbell Kneale's Black Boned Angel or one of the more drone-metal oriented acts on his Battlecruiser label. Picture some kind of cracked-lip heaving into a thousand ancient and rusted trumpets and now you're dabbling in the right ozone. Somewhere later in the track there's scads of tiny little squiggles popping out and dancing underneath the gathering fog - before too long it escalates into quite the white-hot screaming noise stew. Just the way mom never made it.
The flip is all the more wrecked, a complete sensory overload of crumpled black stasis. Lotsa waves of busted electronics pushed to eleven repeatedly raining down upon your tiny eardrums from the heavens, backed by a sinister freight-train-in-the-distance asteroid-hurtling-towards-earth rumble. Goes down easy for something that's so tough to chew. The coda is the drained/lonesome sound of the planet's apocalyptic groaning, total American Tapes ground zero effect. What's not to like?
This was a pretty good taster for what webs Yellow Swans are spinning as we speak, but like Irmin Schmidt once said, I want more. Unfortunately I don't know where to look - the "Swan News" section of their website is busted! So I'm pretty much clueless. And useless. What're you even doing here anyhow? What am I doing here? Sheesh...


U W OWL - Thorn Elemental (Phaserprone LP) / HsDom - VOMC / Southern Man & Pykrete - No More Love (Phaserprone CD-Rs)

When Jonas of the New York born and bred Phaserprone label wrote to me asking if he could send some stuff in for review, I didn't hesitate to accept. Because I'm a leech. No actually it's because a quick glance at the Phaserprone website revealed four very slick-looking albums that anybody should love to get their hands on. But I was completely unprepared for when the day came to crack open that box and unleash these four (I know I only listed three, more on that later) gems. I don't know if there's government money at work or if the Phaserprone guys were art students and have access to all kinds of fancy machinery but the packaging here is totally decadent - the CD-Rs come packaged in super thick, heavy cardboard gatefolds with letter-pressed art, glossy photos and really weird quasi-dot-matrix-style print outs and Xeroxes (and the CD-Rs themselves have some professionally-printed art going on too). The tape they sent is housed in a cardboard wrap-around with great silver inked artwork and the LP features more letter-press, more photos, and more inserts. I know it's ultimately the music that matters man but isn't it just a billion times better when it comes in such lovely, eye-pleasing formats? I think so.
The bizarrely monikered U W OWL released their debut LP "Thorn Elemental" last year, and as it turns out they're also the same guys who run the label, Jonas and Jochen. What's strange about this record is that it doesn't actually say the title anywhere, so I'm just going by what their website tells me. The first track on the first side is called "Black Flag" but actually reminds me a lot more of Black Dice circa their latest record. It's quite a bit bouncier than the dark cover art would suggest, although there sure are plenty of industrial/dark ambient shadows afoot. I could easily throw some rhymes over this track. Okay not me. But somebody with talent could. There are four more tracks on the side but it's not altogether clear when one stops and the other begins - or I just wasn't paying enough attention. Besides, sometimes it's more fun to just float along with their super thick bass throbs like mega-slowed versions of Coil's "Panic" or perhaps something from a non-shitty Skinny Puppy. At times the duo's synth and keyboard (and who knows what else) squelchs err a bit too much on the side of electro/goth pastiche for my liking, but that only really happens at the beginning. Near the end of the first side they're sounding like a strange combo of Wolf Eyes in their come-down moments (or their quieter phases like on parts of "Dread") and a psychedelia-laden shoegaze band by way of laptop. The second side pushes their sound a bit more "out there", with unplaceable samples, scrap metal, digital drones, moans and foreign alien jazz chants. I don't think "Thorn Elemental" would be at all out of place alongside bands like Supersilent and MoHa! on Rune Grammofon. I'm not in love with every part of this record at every time of the day but I think that's part of its charm - I certainly want to revisit it a few more times and try and crack the black magick code Jochen and Jonas are weaving here. The website and insert claims these tracks were selected from a series of improvisations spread out across the past few years, something which I'm altogether suspicious of (the improvisation thing I mean - these pieces often sound so coherant I'm beginning to wonder if the two U W OWL men aren't attached at the brain).
Jochen also moonlights in a solo project with an even more difficult name, HsDom. His album is called "VOMC" and doesn't sound at all far removed from the U W OWL record except I detect a bit more of a Fennesz or FM3 touch on the near-hour-long disc, specifically on tracks like "Seewege" and "HP Burning Hand". There's still a definite 80's Coil/Nurse with Wound vibe, but Jochen throws plenty of loops like the Aphex Twin/"Selected Ambient Works"-style dream haze found on "Eulen Flug" and "MOT/9,596,700" and the foggy busted rhythm break of "ASCii". The rest of the CD-R locates HsDom in a highly-digital and programmed lair, layering raygun sound effects atop looped dark ambient wing rides.
Finally there's a collaboration between two artists I'm completely unfamiliar with, the North Carolina/Berlin duo of Southern Man and Pykrete, also from North Carolina. The sounds here are quite a bit more difficult to place but the playing shakes out images of taking a bath in the vast outer space landscape, with various stars exploding and fizzling out around you and the gentle weeping of Pluto trying to get over its total scientific smackdown. "No More Love" is a bit too jittery to be classed as straight-up ambient but it sure has those tendencies. There's a lot of broken-electronic clatter cobbling itself together to form some kind of mutant, bent rhythm that the group cultivate for the duration of the track, before moving on to something new. The 9-minute "Apheresis Cathect" is almost catatonic as it shifts subtlely between dead battery gizmo gasps and gentle droning white noise dizzy.
As I mentioned before I also got a tape from the Phaserprone folks by Grasslung, who is Jonas of the U W OWL duo. The tape is called "Psychic Venom" and limited to just 45 copies, but there are two snags here - one, I couldn't get my animated GIF to work if I included the tape cover art (hey fuck you computers are TOUGH) and secondly, the website states this is a 45-minute tape but for some reason my A-side clicks off after about two minutes and my B-side features about five more minutes of sounds followed by a huge whack of silence. Now I didn't play around with the tape to find out if it was my set up causing the technical difficulties since I was already way behind on writing the review, but I'll definitely dig into that later. Anyway the roughly 7 minutes of action I did get were of an impressive, locust swarm/storm sounding throttle, considerably more noisy than anything else featured here. I would've liked to hear more, but alas it was not meant to be this time around.
I'm pleased to report at the end of everything that the audio on the Phaserprone releases lived up to the heart-warming packaging, especially on the U W OWL LP which is such a mysterious beast that I encourage you to buy one and then we can have a sleepover where we discuss it at great lengths and try and wrap our grey matters around it (you bring the popcorn). Also try and get the Grasslung tape so I can swap mine for yours when you go to the bathroom. Thanks.


Jandek - Glasgow Monday (Corwood 2xCD)

I wish I could tell you the story of Jandek to pad this review out, but it's not like you don't know it already. So I'll lay the facts down bare - "Glasgow Monday" is Jandek's 47th release (fourth album this year), second double album and third live album. It's also a recording of his third show ever, culled from a performance in Glasgow on May 23rd 2005 featuring the classic "power trio" Jandek lineup which also has Richard Youngs and Alex Neilson. This time though they switch it up quite a bit - whereas the first couple of shows featured Jandek on guitar/voice, Youngs on bass and Nielson on drums, this time around Jandek is on piano/voice, Youngs is on upright bass and Nielson on "quiet percussion". Rather than the blues rock numbers found on "Glasgow Sunday" and "Newcastle Sunday", this album is an 85-minute long song dubbed "The Cell" with Jandek's ivory-tickling and stark narration obviously at the forefront. If you've ever heard the sidelong piano improvisation on 1999's "The Beginning", multiply that by about six and you've got a ballpark to work in, despite the fact that "The Beginning" is entirely instrumental. And also if you're familiar with that tune, you're probably wise to the fact that Jandek can genuinely play the piano, a trait he exhibits rather impressively on "Glasgow Monday". I've heard comparisons to Erik Satie, and while I'm no Satie scholar, I wouldn't call an accusation like that entirely unfathomable.
For the first few tracks (the first disc opens with "Prelude" and the rest of the songs are titled parts one through nine), it sounds like Jandek is playing solo, or with very little contributions from Youngs and almost none from Nielson. In fact, Youngs only ever really adds gentle scrapings and slight glints from his instrument - never any full-blown sawing or anything like that. Nielson for the most part serves up barely-there cymbal rubbing and chime/bell quivering (particularly on "Part Five", the disc two opener). Basically the duo are used to prop up Jandek's exquisitely lonesome surrealist monologues and gentle piano plodding. His words deal with a whole heck of a lot of subjects (mostly self introspection, being alone and asking "what do I have?") but never seem to hold any cohesion, which is probably par for the course. Nevertheless they tumble along beautifully and he never uses the atonal shout found mostly on his earlier albums so you're able to lock in and drift along with Jandek's hands and his timbre for the whole set. Played the whole way through, "The Cell" can be quite a beautiful, baffling, affecting piece...just like a whole lot of the other 46 Jandek albums.
If you're like me and tend to stick around for only the more notable points in Jandek's discography (the first acoustic ones, the acapella trifecta, the live ones, "The Beginning", "Lost Cause", the first albums from his second/"modern" acoustic phase, etc) then you definitely don't want to miss "Glasgow Monday". Youngs and Nielson's obscenely understated backdrops do wonders for Dr. J's desolate recitations - both vocally and on the Schimmel. And if you never got into Jandek or understood the appeal...then this just may be The One.


Paul Flaherty - Whirl of Nothingness (Family Vineyard CD)

Kind of hard to believe Paul Flaherty has been in the game for twenty-something years now and "Whirl of Nothingness" is just the second record he's put out all by his lonesome. His other solo album "Voices" came out on Flaherty's own Wet Paint label in 2003, but Family Vineyard have taken the reigns for this one and you may recall they had a hand in the Flaherty/Corsano duo's "Beloved Music" earlier this year. Ever since the late 70's, Flaherty has been blazing his own trail in the jazz genre, forever on the hunt for something called the Eternal Now, whether in tandem with the likes of Corsano, Randall Colbourne, Greg Kelley, Joe McPhee, Thurston Moore, Marc Edwards, and many others. I'm not sure if he's gotten any closer to his destination with "Whirl of Nothingness", but for everybody's sake let's hope he keeps on searching and keeps on putting out great records.
Family Vineyard have given this disc a real swell packaging job. First there's the glorious portraits of the man himself, on the front and back sleeves, which basically had me eating out of the palm of this CD's hand (?) before I even put it on. Next they've included a poem by the same name as the album on the inside as well as some ruminations and explanations from Flaherty. According to him, these eight spontaneous improvisations all came about on the evening of my birthday (!) last year basically because "something or other wanted to get out". Surely I'm not suggesting that Paul and I had some kind of mindmeld in which he was duly inspired to record eight alto/tenor musings for me, despite the two of us having never even shaken hands? Well no, but you live your dream and I'll live mine, okay? Actually the tone of these tracks is pretty heavy, as they are dedicated to "all the victims yet to come...and doesn't that include us all". Couple that with dramatic titles like "Sweetly Danced in Times of Hurtful Pleasure" and "Waiting to Be Lifted Onto the Flames" and you've got some real horn for throught here. Indeed, Flaherty's sax tone is just as urgent as his liners and his titles. Album opener "Compassion Lost and Found Again" is a somber waltz through Flaherty's usual topsy-turvy notes, finding him white-knuckled and purple-faced by song's end while "Blankts Wear the Naked Fear" is quicker to move into such territory. You can pick up Flaherty's huffing quite clearly like an intended bassline as he expels tiny machine gun blops through the speakers. On "Firetrance Lonely Heartache Still", Flaherty plumbs the depths of notes I haven't heard since the bullhorn went off on the Titanic when we clipped that iceberg and "Shattered Scenes of Blinding Burst" is a largely-strangled feathered wooze that charms me inasmuch as it physically attacks me. The last half of the hour-long session is where the best material is hidden though - Flaherty uses vocal improvisation on three of the four to great effect. His yelps, gurgles, whines and outright shrieking sounds quite like the muted screaming he hints at his liners vis à vis the world victims. "Sweetly Danced in Times of Hurtful Pleasure" is my favorite of the whole shebangabang, like Kaoru Abe laying down a sweet ballad - no matter how gently Abe may try to play the tune, it always comes across with torrid, impassioned fury and that's just the kind of note this track hits. "If You Step Back Far Enough...It'll Be All Right" and "Monsters Hide in Plain Sight Dark" both feature Flaherty working himself up into a fit, except the former features vintage Flaherty sax screaming and the latter features actual Flaherty vocal screaming. Right on! Final cut "Waiting to Be Lifted Onto the Flames" is another gem, mixing up golden syrup throat warbling with raw, stomach-rupturing shreds. Boy this Paul Flaherty, sure is a people-pleaser. Talk about something for everyone!
So now, obviously, solo saxophone records aren't always for everybody at every hour of the day. But let's be real - in thirty years time you're going to chomping at the bit for a reissue of this like you are now for any lost 70's side of Abe, Braxton, or Brotzmann. Don't be a sap. Buy now, and you can even take the cover art to the local photo shop and get it blown up into a beautiful poster to put over your bed while the sounds of Flaherty's disc scream you to sleep. Ain't that the kind of lullabye we all could use every now and again.


Kolumkilli - Cyprus / Thames - Volume VII / Wapstan - Thunder of the Tundra (Pasalymany Tapes CSs)

Maybe you know the Montreal-based Pasalymany Tapes label from their AIDS Wolf "Freedom Summer" cassette. Maybe you don't. Either way, the scoop is that they recently released a quartet of long-awaited tapes from various Montreal-based heads. Unfortunately I can't find the fourth one (Black Chicklets' "Slow Quease") so you'll have to deal with a review of the three that I could track down. OK?
Kolumkilli is one Iain McMaster who got his start (and still gets his tunes started) with pure scorching guitar drones, but now he's piling all different kinds of things on top of said drones and it just makes for a sweeter, blissier experience. Iain is totally at the top of his game on this tape, spewing out power previously only attainable by seeing the man himself perform live. The A-side bears the deliciously-monikered "No One's Grieve Under So Many Lids", a beautiful side-long run and a complete spectral float through delayed and effected guitar and voice but mainly bells. Those heavenly heavenly chimes! Chintzy, jangly, hallucinatory, haunted, you name it and that's where you'll wake up. But the true mayhem is reserved for the title-track on the flip, a serious whopper of old and new coming together in maximalist drone fusion nirvana - Cale and Conrad's 60's drones hitting the pitch with the best parts of your pals in Double Leopards and the Skaters. Tough to pick apart this jam, it's all blue smoke wafting through my ears at this point. But if the aforementioned bands are your bag or you just feel like being bugged out to the tip, you gotta get up in this holistic teepee swathe. Iain's live shows legitimately ruin and I've yet to come across a soul who didn't have their eyeballs blown through the backs of their skulls - pick up this hot note and try on a sample for yourself. Bummer it's only a c26 - I could use a cTwelve Billion of this.
Thames is the joint project of Blake Hargreaves (Cousins of Reggae, Dreamcatcher, etc.) and Alex Moskos (Unireverse, Et Sans, etc.) and this is actually the very very first time I heard the fruits of their collective labour (I missed out on that lucrative 5xCD-R they did awhile back, unfortunately). "Volume VII" seems to be a continuation of the damaged-synth/analogue/reel-to-reel/drum machine ethos I've heard they fritter around with on their other releases. Side one has hugely deformed mechanical belches and grooves, oft noisy but always lo-fi. Little machine gun supernovas work the lead on this track as it slowly locks into a kind of Einsturzende Neubauten/Throbbing Gristle-played-at-the-wrong-speed chug, aided and abetted by various hidden vocal stumbles. The B side is divided into a couple of tunes, the first one more of a rambunctious screamer, like a metal machine version of Cousins of Reggae. It's not too bad. The other song sounds like quite a bit of guitar noodling, more muffled voices and various clicks and scratches. It almost sounds like it's about to explode into something grandiose but instead just deviates back into the churning electro scrape that we heard way back on side one. It's none too bad but at 30ish minutes, maybe a bit too long.
Last but not least is Wapstan, aka Martin Sasseville who specializes in self-proclaimed "hypothermic drones". He also runs a very prolific label called Brise-Cul, and has put out releases by Kolumkilli, Roxanne Jean Polise, Oscillating Innards, Black Mayonnaise, Luasa Raelon, and others. Most immediately striking about Martin's "Thunder of the Tundra" tape is the cover art - a burly, glum-looking, battle-torn viking jerking off. No shit. The picture comes courtesy Matt Anderson who also goes by Crank Sturgeon, so now things make a bit more sense. Anyway this c30 is subtitled "landscape sounds to scare gods" which is actually surprisngly accurate once you hit play. Both sides are definitely hypothermic drones, with the first one almost alarming in its single-mindedness. If you've ever met Martin, you'd understand why it's hard to picture him comitting to a single-note drone for such a long period of time. But he does, and the result is a very atmospheric, dark ambient-cum-Sunn O))) piece. It sounds like unsettled weather rolling across a frozen snow-encrusted plain...much like the title. The other side has a bit more activity, with Martin cautiously turning knobs and generating some kind of weirdo spaceship sounds before putting the resonance up around 11 and leaving you with nothin' but tape hiss.
Of course you might call me biased because I know a couple of these guys in real life, but since when has that ever stopped anyone, myself included? Carlo at Pasalymany has definitely stepped it up with this batch of releases, and it was well worth the time it took to get them in my hands. I'm not sure what the odds are of one procuring any of these outside of Montreal, but that's not my problem! Check the Pasalymany website on the right side, maybe they can help you out - I just listen to them.


Ashtray Navigations - Four More Raga Moods (Ikuisuus CD)

I don't have the time nor the money to try and keep up with everything Phil Todd's Ashtray Navigations put to tape, but every now and then I like to pick up one of their more hotly-touted efforts to try and get a read on what going on over there in the United Kingdom. I'm happy to report that I'm just as clueless as I was when I started listening to their stuff, but the sonics sure are nice! "Four More Raga Moods" is I guess a follow up to "Four Raga Moods" which Phil Todd put out on his own Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers imprint some time ago. I haven't heard that release, so I don't know if this is an actual sequel or what. What I can tell you is that there are in fact four tracks (or "moods" if you prefer) and it's the fourth release on the seemingly-upstart Ikuisuus label, based in Finland. They've also got releases from My Cat is an Alien, Uton, Family Underground, Ming, Taurpis Tula and other likeminded heads, either now or in the near future.
The first track has a pretty ambitious name for a three-minute track in "History of Psychedelia", opening up with some various field recorded-sounding sounds and leading into a rather lovely acoustic guitar duel (raga?) between Navigators Ben Reynolds and Jarvis, with Todd himself adding a slew of delays and effects to the mix. It's a delirious ghostly bog theme and I only wish it could've lasted longer. The other three tracks make up for that though. "Hey Sunflower Motherfucker" is another real beauty of shimmering and soaring guitars, one which really tugs at the heart stringsi f you're in the right mood and defines epic moments in film history and such. The kind of glittery gloop Todd lays down (it's a solo joint according to the liners) is just all different kinds of inspiring - especially when shit starts getting out of control with a few minutes to go in the 10-minute ditty, U.F.O. blips coming through the haze and some obscenely damaged percussion rips in the background. I fully approve. The amazingly-titled "Pete Nolan Effect" does in fact feature Pete Nolan (Magik Markers, GHQ, Spectre Folk, etc), as well as regular Navigations contributor Melanie Delaney, Ben Reynolds and Phil Todd. The first ten minutes of the half-hour number come from behind a wall of static, like someone's recorded the band playing as well as the sound of whatever else was going on outside at the same time. The result is the effect you get when you put a record on and fall asleep so you're listening to it half-consciously. It's also quite charming to hear the little plunked keyboards from Delaney drifting in and out alongside whatever Todd is milking out of the thousands of machines he uses (one of them is the Barbie Karaoke Machine apparently). The rest of the gorgeous, sprawled track sees even more baffling sound effects layered atop Nolan's heavily-effected guitar glaze...hence the title. The foursome hit on a great "sound of instruments melting" vibe that I could just spin for hours on end no doubt. The last one is a 20-minute piece called "And the Profit and the Loss", featuring Phil Todd on guitar, voice, and various electronics along with Chris Hladowski on magic boujouki and voice, Matt Cairns on digeridoo and voice and one Alex Neilson on drums, voice, and I can't read what else he plays. Phew. It's a slow-moving slab, secreting all sorts of crazed Eastern aromas with drones and chants and shamanistic bells and what have you. Kind of reminds me of the last track on the new Six Organs album crossed with one of those "Secret Museum of Mankind" compilations. Either way it's a brilliant, description-defying murky wallow, perfect for all late night extravagances in the confines of your bedroom.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting too much from this album. After all anybody who's read a Volcanic Tongue update can tell you that Phil Todd and his crew drop at least a few new releases every month. So how good can they be, right? There must be some kind of quality compromise, right? Perhaps, but if that's true than I wouldn't know it - the last Astray Navigations disc I reviewed was great ("A Monument to British Rock") and this one is just out-of-this-land incredible. Maybe I just got lucky with these two, but now I'm definitely going to have to keep stricter tabs on what's being released from the Ashtray folk (which stresses me out terribly). Also helping this CD's cause is the beautiful artwork and layout - the cardboard digipak-style case folds out to reveal four panels of mind-altering Crayola/cut-n-paste art that fits the music like a glove. Talk about eye candy as well as ear candy! Definitely one of my favorite records of the year thus far, you'd do well to give it a listen.


The Dead C. - Vain, Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works 1987-2005 (Ba Da Bing! 2xCD)

In his section of the liner notes, Nick Cain says, "I came to the Dead C. late [...] around February or March 1992". Well Nick Cain, have I got you beat with this confession. My very first actual factual physical encounter with a product from New Zealand's own Dead C. came in 2006, some 14 years after Cain made his discovery. It wasn't the first time hearing them - I had downloaded "Trapdoor Fucking Exit" maybe a year or two ago, and it was all well and good...I just never really got around to buying any (the curse of the internet, right?). However that changed recently with a few "warehouse finds" of albums previously thought to be out of print, "Harsh 70s Reality" and the aforementioned "TFE". I quickly assimilated those into my tastes and decided to hold off on scouring for anymore. Why not just wait for this tantalizing collection? And the absurdly low price of $10 ($9 in some places!) made a lot more sense to me than scoring some early 90's Dead C. side on eBay for a mint, right? Right. So basically all this to say that I'm probably the least qualified person on the planet not named, say, Ted Nugent, to be reviewing this. But when has that ever stopped me? I know what I like and this is the sweet note indeed.
The "Vain" set flows chronologically starting at the start: "Max Harris" is the first song from the first Dead C. record (1988's "DC503") which teeters on the brink of total detonation for the entire five minutes, followed up with two more numbers from '88, "Angel" and "3 Years". This is arguably the most cohesive side of the Dead C.'s work, although the casual music listener might take issue with the use of such a word to descibe the rough-hewn, frayed out-rock sounds heard hear. The closest comparison I can draw to their sound in their early stages is like a cross-pollination of the Broken Flag crew with early Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney et al. (of course the latter acts all came about after the fact, but I'm just trying to find a foothold here). 1990 brought the "Eusa Kills" LP on Flying Nun, represented by "Maggot" and "Glass Hole Pit". The former buddies up a lumbering repeated drum roll with Michael Morley heavily treated, nasal voice whereas the latter is a rambling ditty that could land the Magik Markers in serious legal hot water if anybody ever tried to pursue said fact. Splitting the first disc almost perfectly in half is the 11-minute eternal orgasm named "Helen She Said" (from the Siltbreeze mini-LP of the same name), benefitting greatly from the lo-fi rhythm n' blooz stomp of Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats alongside squiggly, frazzled guitar. Morley's lethargic, almost ambivalent voice and lyrics are just the cherry on the top. The second half of the song spirals out into a beautifully blissed guitar exorcism, the same kind of mark Sonic Youth were aiming at (and hit) on "Expressway to Yr Skull". The band's psuedo-live album "Clyma est Mort" is showcased via the fantastic noodle-busting syndromes "Highway" and "Power", preceding the b-side to Forced Exposure's "Power" 7", that being "Mighty". In 1992 the band took a serious turn for the great with "Constellation" and "T is Never Over Pt. I & II" from "Harsh 70s Reality", the latter track omitted from the CD version of "70s" that floats around...just another reason why you need this. The hulking jagged noise guitar flailings that would become their trademark are tuned perfectly to the sky on the "70s" material. This disc ends with "World" from 1994's "World Peace Hope et al" on Shock. If you ever wondered why people called the Dead C. (among other things) precursors of what's now known as post-rock, here's yr history lesson.
The second spinner (there's MORE?) sees TDC all spread out like, laying down classic sidelongs left right and center like it's no thing. "The Marriage of Reason and Squalor" (also from '94) is a slow-burning comet of deep space mythos which is utterly fitting for the alien sounds is brings forth. They carry the same interplanetary ethic over on the tracks from 1995's "The White House" - "Bitcher" and "Voodoo Spell" - which are equal parts drone, noise rock and psychedelia. 1997 LPs on Siltbreeze "Repent" and "Tusk" are repped with a track each, "Repent IV" and "Head", respectively. Both are massive outward-reaching jaunts averaging 11 minutes apiece. "Repent IV"'s acoustic guitar running beautiful lines under a screaming current of feedback is just about too perfect for words while "Head" brings together TDC's old, "rockist" approach and sews it up with their current penchant for blown-out amplification - dig the relatively steady drum beat and Morley's vocals up against fantasically damaged guitar molestation. In 2000 the Dead C released a self-titled album formed out of tracks they laid down across a span of three years; "All Channels Open" and "Tuba is Funny (Slight Return)" are selected from the lot. The first one isn't all that entertaining to my ears but the second one straight-up rules. I think I remember reading somewhere (the Wire?) that it sampled Maher Shalal Hash Baz, but I'm still not sure if I was being given the ol' wind-up there. Whatever the case may be, the infectious, druggy bassline attacks my dopamine receptors with great zest and it's a feeling I can get down with. The next year the Dead C put out "New Electric Music" and the 10-minute horror stroke of "Repulsion" is taken from that. A particularly exhilerating performance from drummer Yeats, even if you can't hear much of it. Finally 2003's "The Damned" also gets the one-track treatment, and that is "Truth", an excitable take on noise rock in the 21st century outfitted by the masters themselves.
In case you didn't get the message, there's a whole lot to like here. Whether you're an old pro (come on, you can't tell me you have ALL these songs already in your collection) or a relative newcomer to the fold like myself, you just can't miss with this compilation...and at 5 clams per disc, you can't afford to miss it either. You've already probably got Aquarius or Fusetron open in other window - just add it to your cart and you'll feel much better in the morning. Or worse. Worse in a "feeling better" kind of way. You know?
And if the stellar music wasn't enough, "Vain, Erudite and Stupid" comes with an action-packed booklet featuring not only words from Cain (not to use that as a selling point or anything), but excellent tales from Seymour Glass and the always-entertaining Tom Lax. And there's some pretty cool photographs. And Bruce Russell himself walks you through each and every track selected for the comp. And - my favorite part - there's a killer Dead C-as-cartoon characters doodle printed on disc one. Don't make me buy it FOR you.


Leviathan - The Speed of Darkness (Viva Hate Records LP)

The very first release on the fledgling Viva Hate Records, and it's a doozy. It may not be the new Leviathan album, but any chance I get to hear Wrest on wax, I take it. "The Speed of Darkness" is actually Leviathan's side of a 2003 split with Iuvenes, but since this blog wasn't around back then, let's talk about Wrest bay-bee (let's talk about you and me/let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be/let's talk abouuut Wrest). Before I get on to the content I must say this album has some fantastic cover art, even though it didn't originally. The first pressing of this LP (in the spring, which I never ever heard about) saw an atrociously pixellated cover, apparently. The first pressing also came on 150 white vinyl and 400 red vinyl. This second pressing is available on 200 clear vinyl, 466 dark green and an "book edition" of 25 which I know nothing about. My only complaint is that the sleeve is thin and flimsy, kinda like the sleeves on those new Ya Ho Wa 13 reissues which is a bummer. But it's their first release so how harsh could I possible be?
Since this was originally half an album, it's understandably short - about 22 minutes of music stretched across two sides of vinyl. Side one begins with the quaintly-named "I Miss Watching You Die", a hypnotic and buzzing Burzum riff joined by a deliberately paced rhythm section and vintage unintelligible Wrest snarls. There's a great double bass/"Dunkelheit"-esque keyboard interlude followed shortly by a maniacally angry freakout. "Pondering the Wealth of the Stars" is a crude and washed-out gallop notable for a particularly deranged vocal exhibition by Wrest, hinting at either deep mourning or at least severe psychosis. Latter half of the track falls in a surprisingly "rock" territory instrument-wise. The side closing "Fossils of Hope" is a succinct number, raging and relentless and about as true a headbanger's ball as you're ever going to get from Leviathan.
"S.W.O.L." commences the second side in explosive fashion. Industial clangs, noise, black metal and hellish screams collide and pull apart conjuring up an impressively dark din. The last cut is "Your Army Awaits" which features more bludgeoning drumming and inhuman vocal terrors. There's a bit of a haunting/ed keyboard ditty in the middle of the track and again as the song's coda, painting a dramatic coat all over the song and subsequently the album.
If you were already hip back in 2003 and scored this material when it was originally released on the Iuvenes split, you probably won't find much interest in owning it again unless you're a true diehard. But if you missed out and were only going to get it just to hear Leviathan's side, well that's where this record comes in handy. The Viva Hate Records website hints at a potential third pressing once the current stock runs low, so you should have enough time to save up your allowance and do some splurging while you wait for Wrest's third long-playing opus, due eventually on Moribund Cult.


Avarus - II (HP Cycle LP)

Who are HP Cycle, and where do they get off putting out amazing records? They first came into my peripheral with last year's Shackamaxon LP, but they've also done recordings by Richard Youngs with Neil Campbell and Alex Neilson, LSD March, Ceylon Mange and an older one by Finland's Avarus ("III", the precursor to "II" I imagine). Alls I can tell you is that they're based in Toronto and they know the score. Any domestic label that puts wackos like Avarus on wax so I don't have to pay crazy import prices is A-OK with me. The only thing I can tell you about this particular slab is what's printed in the lower right hand corner of the back sleeve: "Avarus II played in Turku, Finland 2004". Well there you go.
I can't even being to guess who's on this disc, or how many of the Avarus players participated (I think they're up to 9 members now or something?) but if you've ever heard one of their albums you have a pretty decent notion of what to expect. Side one begins with an ambling, noodley string instrument being scraped and plucked, slowly morphing into a hypnotic dubby bounce with quiet electronics being shot off in the background. Ten minutes in a more ominous tone takes hold, advancing like dark clouds over bizarre tape loops and sound effects. Occasionally you can hear someone talking, but I don't know if it's an actual band member or coming from one of their machines. The side takes a very druggy sweep with that same weird rhythm chugging alongside the sounds of tremendously zapped tapes n' things. I think there's a bit of flutewerk towards the end as every starts winding down and the wheels fall off. It's hard to envision this being played live, I suspect some post-recording studio fuckery but who's to say.
The flip opens up with the group playing over a weird psych pop/hip hop??? beat, again accompanied by various unplaceable sound effects, harmonicas, and god knows what else. There is a brief spurt of applause though so maybe this is live? Anyway it quickly cuts to more bass/electro gizmodgery, homemade/damaged instruments and the sound of things running in reverse. The last half is a pretty apocalyptic sounding post-war panorama with an aggressive-sounding flare and a dog barking in the distance. No, literally. It ends with a rather impressive showing from a toy keyboard.
I've never seen Avarus live but I'm sure it trumps hearing them on record, especially a record as nondescript as this (although I do remember particularly liking the tUMULt 2CD quite a bit). For all I know though, this could be one of the Avarus dudes in the studio with some tapes of a few of their gigs chopping them up and reworking them. Then again maybe Avarus is like the Magic Kingdom. You just...gotta believe.


Textured Bird Transmission / Thirdorgan / Bjerga/Iversen (Dead Sea Liner CD-Rs)

I had to massively truncate the title for this review because there's no way I could fit all the artists and their lengthy album titles in there. Please forgive.
I received an impossibly slim package in the mail the other day from an address I didn't recognize, and thought maybe I was getting a courtesy shipment of a looseleaf sheet from somebody. Turns out it was even better than looseleaf - it was three CD-Rs from the newly minted U.K.-based Dead Sea Liner label. At present time they have five releases available (the two I'm missing are by Cel and Another Enough Chairs) with jams from Mutant Ape, R.S.R., Release Helen Rytka and Deep Sea Creature in the on-deck circle. And they all cost a tawdry 2 pounds, which is like $4 American or so. The CD-Rs are all uniformly packaged, with the disc envelopped in a heavy cardstock paper kinda reminiscent of the Double Leopards' "official bootleg" skull CD-R series. Of the albums I received, there's one artist I know, one I don't, and one I'm vaguely familiar with.
The first ever Dead Sea Liner release is under a name I've neve come across: Textured Bird Transmission, with the album title being "Purple Weighted Pellets of Despair". It turns out that this is the nom de plume of DSL honcho Allan Upton. His disc begins with the kind of slow-motion fade in that would have Francisco Lopez reaching for the fast forward button. I thought it was total silence when I played it on my stereo, but listening now through headphones it turns out there was actually a low-key ambient drone going on the whole time. Around the four minute mark the rumble starts taking an even larger shape, gathering tiny flecks of detritus as it floats weightlessly through the cosmos. This is very, very reminiscent of Hermann Nitsch's "Harmoniumwerk", although with a bit of a 21st century update. I'm also reminded of that Warner Herzog film I saw, Wild Blue Yonder...not just the soundtrack but the numerous wide-open other-planet deep blue sea scenes. As the piece wears on it gets more rough and frazzled, but still follows a pretty impeccable trajectory culminating with a rather head-expanding finish that sees a bright lasery supernova implosive finish. Very nice! And at close to half an hour, it doesn't drag.
Thirdorgan is the evil I know, as I saw him play a gig last year or the year before or something. Although I don't really know who "him" is as there was just one guy playing the show but the Wikipedia page says that Tutumimoto Takshi and Nakamura Yoshio ended the Thirdorgan project in spring of 2006 after 16 years of activity. Well, that's a downer. So I guess this, "Satanico Pandemonium", would probably be one of his/their final recordings. It sounds a lot like what I remember other Thirdorgan stuff sounding like - incredibly digitized blurts, static washes and glitchy mayhem. "Intro" begins with that line from Dawn of the Dead about hell being full and the dead walking the earth, which leads me to believe it's going to be followed with some gargantuan death metal blast, but instead the sounds that come out of my speaker sound like a dial-up modem throwing up all the numbers it had ever crunched in its lifespan. Then the four movements of "La Sexorcista" commence, all similar in their matrix attack. The album's built around the 22-minute centrepiece "La Sexorcista B", which showcases Thirdorgan's trademark reworking/deconstruction of a female Japanese singer's pop song. The pure digital overload may grate after 40 minutes and it's never loud or offensive enough to prove an endurance test for the hardened noise listener, but the loopy circuit board tinkerings are disorienting enough for me to make sure this is nowhere near the stereo after the bottle's been passed around.
Bjerga/Iversen is the name I'm kinda familiar with because they (Sindre Bjerga and Jan Iversen) run two Norwegian record labels themselves, those being Goldsoundz and TIBProd. After doing some research it turns out they also have a shitload of releases done under their duo moniker, much of them put out in the last couple of years. This particular release is dubbed "In Broken Dreams the World Still Keeps Turning", and was recorded from a concert they performed in the Netherlands this past March. Like most new-drone groups of the day, their instruments vary wildly but I think they rely heavily on keyboards, synths, guitars and a multitude of effects pedals (which doesn't really narrow anything down, does it?). Anyway "In Broken Dreams..." is an eternally slow, almost glacial slide through ambient sounds conjured up by whatever they can get their hands on. Sometimes I'm reminded of the fantastic sounds of nature from Ariel Kalma's "Osmose", the more subdued moments of My Cat is an Alien, or Growing. Later in the set they get a bunch noisier only to drop into moments of near silence, later to be punctuated by grotesquely warped sounds coming off like alien howls. It's kinda like flipping the dial around on Planet X, hitting all sorts of gobstoppingly bizarre Conet Project-esque stations. Almost makes me wish the lengthy ambient intro was eschewed entirely for this.
So there's three unique releases from an interesting young label, one I'd definitely like to keep my eye on of these are any indication. If you wanted a recommendation, I personally think the Textured Bird Transmission is a real winner. The other two didn't knock me out so much but I could easily see myself returning to "Purple Weighted Pellets of Despair". Plus, even though I'm typically wary of U.K. labels due to the ridiculous conversion rates, 2 pounds per disc is a very reasonable demand all things considered. Can't say no to that now can you?


Hell/Vorkuta - Split (Stygian Shadows Productions CS)

One of the finer pleasures in life is scoring obscure black metal tapes on the cheap from local stores and/or distros. This one I picked up at the same time I got that whack of Sunburned stuff from a local shop I'd never been in before. It also helps if you, like me, don't really know a whole heck of a lot of black metal (I like to choose them based on the cover art and, if I recognize it, the record label). It turns out this is a split between two Hungarian bands, released by a record label who also appear to be based in Hungary (or, at least, they sure do release a lot of albums from Hungarian bands). Each band contributes 2 songs (roughly 10 minutes per side) and the cassette is limited to 150 copies, hand numbered.
The imaginatively-monikered Hell take the grandstand first with two tracks that originally appeared on a June 2005 demo CD-R. The band is comprised of Angmar on vocals, M on guitars, Noctis on bass and Khrul on session drums. Additional vocals are also provided by a Doktor K, but I must say in the two run-throughs I had of the side I was oblivious to the fact that there were two singers (and to the fact there was a bassist, but that's black metal for you). "Summoned in Blazing" and "Flames of Sacrifice" are both (as you might've guessed from the titles) fiery romps through Burzum-influenced BM, although far more treble-y than anything Varg ever laid down. Much like their name, the music Hell put forth isn't terrifically remarkable, but they pull off competent black metal and that suffices for me. They've got this kinda bizarre guitar twangy thing going on with the first track that was somewhat ill-fitting, but I did dig the brief outro that concludes the side; a wash of dark ambient glurge and distant screams.
Vorkuta's side was also recorded in 2005, but unlike Hell, they've contributed brand new tracks: "Black Winter" and "Journey in the Night". Vorkuta are Blizzard (vocals), Inmar (guitar and bass), Martin B. Hellspike (guitar and bass) and Nihilist (session drums). The band also has a bit more history than Hell, having been around since 2002 with quite a few splits and demos already to their name. It shows - Vorkuta's tracks are much more intricate and better-composed than their A-side counterparts, and a step faster too. They sound kinda like early Darkthrone, although with not as much punk influence. Again, nothing outrageously unfamiliar but delivered with impressive wherewithal. "Journey in the Night" is the winner of the four songs, notable for it's crushingly stomped drums and horrific, guttural vocals on Blizzard's part. I'll definitely keep my peepers open for more from these guys.
At the end of the day I think what I enjoy most about this release is the bangin' cover art, which you can view in all its glory up there and to the left. It suggests something about hell and souls and suffering and all the lovely things good black metal is traditionally about. Coming soon: more obscure "found" BM tapes for me to dash off quick blurbs about!


Flaherty, Corsano & Yeh - Slow Blind Avalanche & A Rock in the Snow (Important Records LP & CD)

To what do we owe the pleasure of having these two fine, fine outings dropped upon us simultaneously by the always-on-the-ball Important Records label? I don't know, but gloryoski and praise be to whatever and whomever. As you might know by now I'm pretty much a sap for anything bearing the name Chris Corsano or Paul Flaherty, but when you add Burning Star Core's own C. Spencer Yeh to the mix, PLUS liner notes from the forever-entertaining John Olson/Johnny Coors...well now you're a man who's after my heart/guts.
The LP confounds me off the bat because Important's page calls it "Snow Blind Avalanche" (which would kinda make sense and give me an arsenal of Black Sabbath references to work with) but the LP jacket most definitely reads "Slow Blind Avalanche". I have scrutinzed it many times over and deemed it so. Anyway whatever the case is, it's limited to a print run of 1000 copies with the first 200 coming on snow-white vinyl so chop chop then. It also comes in a lovely gatefold, which gets even more points from me. But it's the music that really shines - no, I mean it! The A-side is a 20-minute slammer called "Human Suffering", and with a name like that you know you're going to get punished. The trio get up a full head almost from the get-go with Corsano's trademark loping/jumpy skin hits, Flaherty blowing all kinds of obnoxious loops like a spider monkey with epilepsy and newcomer Yeh heaping on thick and violent violin sawings. Every now and then he (Yeh) hits on some more melodic notes but for the most part it's like he's cutting through rotund cables of metal licorice. Somewhere in there he (Yeh again) even gets a solo showcase and plays it very minimal, but effective. Flaherty and Corsano make their return slow and deliberate with all three eventually engaging in a kind of gentle sleepsong. Mr. Flaherty's solo is all different kinds of beautiful with Yeh creeping up in the lower left-hand corner. It's not long before the triumvirate relaunch their attack full force, which is of course another beautiful thing.
The B is split in two. The first track "Ice Ducklings" opens with Yeh's throat undulations and Corsano's tiny kit scramblings. Leave it to Flaherty then to blow the motherfucker wide open with some tremendous wailings - Yeh keeps pace by notching up his vocal jabberings, coming across as impressive as they are comical. Lastly, "Abstract Poverty" is like a more condensed version of the first side, with Yeh back on violin and the group firing on all cyllinders until the needle runs off.
I'll try not to talk too long about the CD, because Olson's liners have me beat on all counts (the catch is you have to buy it to read em - hah!). "We Have to Check Your Equipments for Bombs" is the opening salvo and they bloody well better because the explosions are being set off like there's no tomorrow on this screamfest. It opens kinda surreptitiously with Flaherty and Yeh bouncing good vibrations off one another, but they all quickly decide it's showtime and embark on a 20 minute journey to the limits of human endurance. It's like - I can't even - fuck it...just fuck it. The magnificently titled track two "Do You Have Any Prurient Releases?" is notable for a minor vocal war between Flaherty and Yeh, with Yeh going total spaceship-dwelling maniac style. "Dirty Firetrucker" is brief and powerful, like this power trio's wizened take on full-on death metal. I think this is where Yeh winds up hacking his way through his spleen. The penultimate "Sixteen Waltzes in Seventeen Seconds" is a group effort but Corsano stands titan-tall, flattening anything in his path with the kind of ridiculous, speed-addled rolls and thrashings he's made a name on and the album closer "Swamp-Like Heartache" is a real curveball, with all (?) members joining uvulas in a free-for-all tongue and spit ridden growly showdown made evermore creeped by Corsano's distant clangs. Like a church scene in the most classic of zombie movies. What a perfect, weird, perfectly weird finish to a couple of maxed-out sessions.
If you've only got enough money for one of these, I'd have to recommend the CD but that's only because you get about 15 more minutes of music...but on the other hand hearing these three on wax is a temptation too great to deny. But let's be real - I think I should just join a Flaherty/Corsano street team and get it over with. I shouldn't even be reviewing these, too much bias. Come on though, everything they've laid mitts on is just too impeccable, too filled with blown-out thrills. If the day ever comes that they should thrown down a wrong note, well I don't want to be alive to experience it. And you've got my word on that!


Clear People - Clarity (Manhand CD-R)

I picked up three CD-Rs recently from the Sunburned Hand of the Man troupe, but I think this was the only one released recently (at least, the sheet that comes tucked inside the cardboard envelope says 2006 whereas the others appear to be from last year). Clear People are Don Harney, John Maloney, Robert Thomas featuring Dave Bohill on one track. The photocopied insert features track titles and other such pertinent information with an inspiring shot of two Sunburned dudes in action, and there's also a mylar insert printed with an Octavio Paz passage. I won't even try to find the relationship between the quote and the music. I mean c'mon, it's only Sunburned Hand of the Man. Don't play that shit.
I'm not one to traditionally make such sweeping statements, but I must say that the opening 25 minutes of this hour-long affair (aka the first 5 tracks or so) are a total wash. Whenever you see somebody hating on Sunburned in a letter to the Wire or on an alternative music message board or something, they inevitably describe their music as sounding exactly like what you hear in these 25 minutes - tireless, vocal spatterings and "improvisations" like a 14-year old kid with Down's syndrome and a copy of "Pop Tatari" (on "The Blow Me Down Syndrome" and "Inner Circus"), humdrum keyboard/sound effect noodling (on "Clearance" and "Lingo"), repetitive and minimal percussion drummed out on various seemingly "found" objects (on "See-Thru Serenade" and most other cuts), and so on. It's basically like a bad Sunburned cover band, or maybe a parody. And maybe that's the kind of trip these dudes are on now. Again - I'm no analyst.
Anyway just because it's only the first half hour that stinks doesn't mean the group "finally find their feet and create the most epic, throat-throttling, mind-fermenting, penis-pumping sounds ever to grace man's ear". They just start making music that's a lot more pleasing to listen to. "Transparental Guidance" is a rather riveting quasi-jungle tune that inspires more ass shaking than head shaking, as is the title track although you've gotta put up with a lot of left-field gristle to get to the meat. "Limpid Grease" is a bit of a stretch at 11 minutes, and harks back to the album's opening in terms of incompetent "what happens if bang this against this" business, but eventually the group hit on a real funky beat which could just be a sample lifted off a computer for all I know. They've even got the sound effect that plays when I finish copying a DVD in there so you can't tell me this is all backwoods hippie improv with a straight face. "The Diamond Gland" is promising enough with a beguiling Konono No. 1 style waltz which could stay on for the rest of the album and find no qualms from me, but it takes off two minutes along into two more minutes of some looped sound effect of a girl crying. Also known as the most annoying sound ever invented. "Rambo, I'm Bleeding" is also sure to grate at 9 minutes, with a super lo-fi bongo rhythm and one of the four members delivering indeed a strangled plea to Stallone's creation. "Purity Supreme" revisits the beat found on "Limpid Grease" and couples it with the same bizarre vocals found on the previous track, and works rather well if you ask me. Album closer "Charity" marries duck calls, guttural throat improv and meowing into some kind of bizarre musique concrete stew. It somehow feels appropriate, as concluder. Go figure.
The Sunburned Hand of the Man crew and all who sail with them seem to take much delight in angering their would-be audience who know them as nothing more than the supposed flagbearers of the New Weird America scene, particularly by taking expectations and turning them on their heads...or by taking those expectations and moving so far out with them that they also manage to totally alienate anyone who actually does enjoy a large portion of what they do. The only logical explanation I have for "Clarity" is that it was recorded under the influence of a tremendous amount of intoxicants, and it was released because, well, why not? There are brief sparks of the kind of greatness Sunburned have been known to exude at times, but nothing worth investigating if you're not already a diehard. Although I will say that I did give the other two albums I picked up - "Live in Shit" and "Puppet Heaven" - a cursory listen and they sound a whole lot more enjoyable and more "traditional" than this disc (probably because they were actually done under the Sunburned moniker though)...sooo all's not lost, right?


The Cherry Point - Night of the Bloody Tapes (Troniks CD)

This CD from Phil Blankenship's harsh noise project (and record label) actually came with the three PACrec discs I reviewed not too long ago, but I've only gotten around to reviewing it now. Just so you don't think my blog is a front to get you to buy more Troniks/PACrec releases or anything of that sort (though it might as well be!). Like I've said before, I used to be majorly down on all current American noise projects, finding little or no interest in anything I heard. That is, up until I heard the "California" box, which did a great deal towards opening up my narrow little mindset. So it appears to mine eyes that Phil's labels seem to be leading the way for current noise acts, and every time I hear something from them I continually get walloped upside the head with some straight-up education. And, like the saying goes, knowledge is power (electronics?). And school's in session!
I really liked "Night of the Bloody Tapes" before I even put it on, namely because the back cover features Phil holding a cat (awww!) and on the inside sleeve he sends out special thanks to obscure horror movie titles (namely Return of the Aliens: Deadly Spawn and Shriek of the Mutilated). Not to mention the little blurb about the album on his site lists about 15 horror film titles that are "essential viewing". I have seen exactly zero of these movies, but I still think I get the point. So Phil has constructed this horror movie homage out of material he recorded for long gone split tapes with bands like Ahlzagailzehguh, Black Sand Desert, Luasa Raelon, Nkondi, Andy Ortmann, Pedestrian Deposit, The Rita, and so on, and it was also mastered by one mister John Wiese, so you know it has to be quality, right? And it is. If you've ever liked anything from the Cherry Point's oeuvre, this has to be straight up your gullet. The CD is split into quarters, each untitled track averaging about ten minutes playing time. And I don't want to say all the jams sound the same, because that doesn't sound very complimentary, but they do. Or, at least, they all work within a very strict framework, which is A-OK by me. Each cut boasts an electric maelstrom of amps and pedals and laptops and lord knows what else pushed way past the red, through crimson, and into utter blackness. Every now and then your ears might pick on something buried way down deep in the pit of the chaos, like the wind howling or shutters clattering but who's to say if Blankenship actually put it there or if it's just your mind trying desperately to rationalize the sounds it's being bombarded with? Actually all this aggressive brainstrobing and psyche-bludgeoning does remind me of one movie, though it's not a horror movie. It is called Hell, and it's this scene where the portal back to the real world takes center stage and these bright, shapeless lights sorta congeal and split again, causing the kind of effect this album might have if you left it in your stereo and had the repeat button jammed down. Unlike the movie, although this album certainly might teleport you to hell, there's absolutely no guarantee you'll be brought back.
If the idea of being violated sonically for 40 minutes gets your rocks off...well you're probably already familiar with the Cherry Point and I needn't waste my time on a recommendation. If your like your noise in glitchy spurts with plenty of pauses for breath-catching, you should probably seek your thrills elsewhere. This album gets its claws around your throat immediately from the get-go and refuses to let up until the very end. Hey, wasn't that how Michael Hutchence died? Listening to a Cherry Point album? Man what a fine way to exit.


OM/Current 93 - Inerrant Rays of Infallible Sun (Blackship Shrinebuilder) (Neurot 10") & OM/Six Organs of Admittance - Split (Holy Mountain 7")

As promised, this be the review of the two new splits from Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius' OM, one with David Tibet's Current 93 and the other with Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance. Chasny also played on the last Current 93 record, but not on Tibet's side of the split so unfortunately I can't wrangle that angle of Six Organs/six degrees trivia to my journalistic advantage. The OM/C93 split has been in the works for quite some time now, at least I remember hearing about it near the beginning of the year (or maybe it just seems that long ago). I remember thinking, along with many others, "Current 93?! Sharing sides with OM?! That's just too zany!" but maybe it isn't, the more I think about it. After all, OM do work within that ritualistic mysterio headspace that Tibet seems aboard (especially after reading that recent Wire piece). So what if he didn't cut his teeth in filthy punk rock clubs playing heavy, down-tuned stoner metal riffs to strung-out teenagers in EYEHATEGOD shirts? Or...maybe he did! Maybe there's more to this story than we're privy too! I have it on good authority that David Tibet played in the early formations of Brujeria's lineup...all right I've completely lost track of what I was trying to say, so onto the music hmm?
OM's side is "Rays of the Sun/To the Shrinebuilder" and finds them exactly where you expected/hope they would be, still churning out their fabulous brand of post-Sleep fuzz and lurch. Al Cisneros' intonations are still kinda mile-a-minute in that galloping drawl he's taken as his own. I have to say sometimes I still think the music would benefit from the subtraction of a few wordy passages, but other times I do dig tumbling along with the prose (which are printed on the back sleeve along with Tibet's lyrics - handy!). A little less than halfway through the side the tempo switches up, which I guess explains the song's division into two titles. It's a bit slower but not by much, and it does let up enough for a heart-pounding bass solo before the duo bring that beast around full-circle and grind it to a halt.
Current 93's track is a sidelong effort by the name "Inerrant Infallible (Black Ships at Nineveh and Edom)", though the lyrical divisions on the sleeve suggest it's divided into tiers. It's interesting to note that the C93 lineup is shorn down to just David (on electric guitar, electric bass and voice) and Catriona MacAffer on bagpipes. Tibet works up a repetitive down-tuned guitar riff almost as quickly as he lends his unique voice to the fray, and although it's a bit offputting at first (particularly if you're not a Current diehard) it's very easy to be charmed by. It's kind of like Tibet is some kind of likeable goblin who regals you with epic tales of who knows what, and I really do mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Where else are you going to be serenaded with lyrics that reference both Jhonn Balance and Reese Witherspoon? Either way, the music serves as more of a kind of medium for Tibet to get out his poetry, which seems to me to be the opposite of OM, who sound like they work the onomatopoeic values of the words they choose around their rhythms. Whatever the case may be, it's just as easy to lose your head in the steam pressure cooked up by the guitar/bagpipe combo of Current as it is in OM's doomy funk, and for that I cry "success!".
Neurot have pressed this 10" on five different colors of vinyl, with green and blue being the domestic versions and clear, purple and red being the overseas (and more expensive) colors. Mine's green for the record, which I think is the "standard" one anyway.
The OM/Six Organs of Admittance split is only pressed on one color, onyx black, but why should you let that impede your enjoyment? OM's side is "Bedouin's Vigil", the bonus track found on the Japanese version of their "Conference of the Birds" album. It's nice for us non-Japanese to be able to hear the song without buying the LP all over again, so I approve of this little recycling job. Especially when the track is as ludicrously heavy as this one is. Talk about a bulldozer; Cisneros' bass strings must be literally hanging off his guitar while Hakius beats the everloving shit out of his mammoth-skinned kit. I wasn't sure if OM could work in the short format, but these 4 minutes prove it, hands down. Cisneros does some more rambling, but no lyrics this time around.
Chasny's side is "Assryian Blood" and starts all kinda quiet and contemplative but you get the feeling that something ain't right when that big electronic synthy sound tears through your speakers/soul. But it reverts back to a gentle acoustic guitar and some ohhhmm (coincidence???) chanting and you think just maybe it'll be okay, if only you could shake those paranoid buzzes and squelches. But just then Chasny explodes out of who the fuck knows where and lays down an outrageously scorching electric solo that's sure to wilt all the daisies in your garden. Holy mother of pearl. Check your stool for blood after the groove runs out.
So the music is all well and super on this one, but my only small complaint lies in the packaging, which kind of makes the whole thing look like some radio-only promo 7" (what's with that typeface). Nevertheless, I'm picking nits again. They could've packaged this in my grandmother's coffin and I'd dig it up just to get at it. So I digress. I always do.


Miscarriage - Miscarriage (American Tapes/Hanson/Gods of Tundra/Chondritic Sound 1-sided LP)

All right! So I guess the site and, by associate, myself are temporarily back in action. For how long? Stay tuned! But for now I managed to put together a brief review of a brief LP from Miscarriage - the collective name given to the unholy unification of John Olson, Mike Connelly, Aaron Dilloway and Greh Holger. Miscarriage is a whole lot catchier than "Wolf Eyes & Hive Mind", you see. This is from the second pressing of the LP, with the first being in an edition of 200 (fifty copies per label). This new pressing upped the ante to 400, 100 per. So there's plenty of hot junk noise love to go around. The one I'm reviewing is from Greh's Chondritic Sound pressing, which is on luscious Robitussin Red vinyl. The best part about a one-sider of course is that after you're done playing it you can flip it over and do eggs and bacon and what have you on the unetched side. If you're fast enough, it'll still be scorchin' hot!
The Hanson blurb for this bad boy describes Miscarriage as "the band that shouldn't have happened - and kind of didn't". I don't know what that actually implies, but I'm of the opinion that these four should most definitely be allowed in the same group again - this side kills. It starts off a bit like a less rock-informed "Black Vomit", or maybe one of the songs off the upcoming "Human Animal" that's been played live. It's a bit like Olson trying to fist-pump to Holger's open-ended pits of electrodrone. Eventually the quartet slide into raw, sheer electronic burn territory, sounding evermore like a perfect synthesis between the noisy Wolf Eyes jams and Greh's Black Sand Desert outing(s). The track pretty much occupies the kind of niche Wolf Eyes have cut out of the genre and made entirely their own in recent years - it couldn't possibly be anybody else. It gets even better and more fearsomely brutal as it rolls into a close with Dilloway (I guess? Since Nate's not on it I can't hear these noises coming from the other dudes but I've been wrong before) throwing up strangled gasps and gulps, chewed up and spat out by whatever wrecked machines they've got processing the vocals. I instinctively reached over to put the needle down on the B side, but alas it was not to be. So I made breakfast instead.
My research/Googling tells me that these guys have recorded once before, on a 3" CD/1-sided LP compilation for American Tapes called "The Dream Has Ended" (although maybe it was another split release). By now it's undoubtably long gone. Bummer. And all those inspirational speakings in elementary school taught me to keep the dream alive? Well you can do so today, right now, by hurrying up and getting one of these. I think they're all packaged different for each label, so why not buy four? And then rock it like a double LP? Come on, it's not like you have anything better to do...


Emerald Cloud Cobra - Genou (Self-released CD-R)

I'm not sure if this is an actual release under the Emerald Cloud Cobra name per se, because the only identifier on it is in fact "Genou". But on the other hand, a quick Google search reveals that this disc has gotten some local radio adds under the ECC moniker, so who am I to stir the pot? Whatever the case may be, the sounds on here all belong to Montreal's Emanuel Côté who is Mr. ECC in the flesh. You may recall Emerald from his gob-stopping 2005 jammer "The Siren Seed of Shadow" CD-R on Finland's Outa, and after that "Red Rayon Flower, Night Beneath the Sea" on Foxglove. I have heard neither. So please, bare with me. However I have seen him play live a number of times so maybe I can use that to my advantage. From what I understand though, the material found on "Genou" is a bit different that ECC's usual excursions, which often find him all over the proverbial map exorcising various spectres through the use of guitar, sitar, keyboards, synth, various percussion tools and whatever kinds of noisemakers are kicking around at his feet when he decides to lay the tracks down. Alternately, "Genou" is built largely around Côté's sitar, synth, and haunting, effect-riddled vocals. It's also EP-length, as opposed to the other two which ranged from 40 to nearly 80 minutes.
The songs found on this disc are a lot like what Côtéplays live, in fact I specifically remember him playing several of these during the shows. One of those several is the album's lead-off track "I Find No Other" which bandies around a very memorable mutant synth (I think) line in the company of a majestic keyboard sweep. Add in a curiously dark ambient-sounding drum machine and Côté's muddied and slurred vocals (sometimes I wonder if there are even lyrics or if he's just sort of pushing sounds out of his lips) and you have ECC's recipe for success, at least on "Genou". These songs are all generally in this vein, although you can give or take an instrument here or there. That being said though, it's not because of laziness or unoriginality - Côté has chosen to work within a specific framework for this short release and totally wraps his claw around that mother perfectiously. "Calls My Hunger" is more sinister-sounding number, with Côté singing in some sort of demonic microphone-in-throat whisper and playing his sitar with the strings dragging down and scraping the floor. At least, that's what I think it is. I'm never sure exactly what's going into the pot here. "Her Past Was There, Her Pain is Gone" is another live staple, featuring Côté's ghostly, barely-there warbles against a coursing synth backdrop, while "Lia" sees his words at their most intelligible, but still hazy enough to just slip out of your grasp. There's a great part halfway through where the song grinds to a halt and a bouncing, almost Residents-style carnival keyboard spook takes over until the finish.
All the best stuff on the album is tucked away at the end, starting with the brilliant "Revelation Falls Apart", the best ECC song ever to curl its way around my grey matter. Côté's sitar takes front stage here, leading the way down a startlingly bright, sunshine-cracked path into the heart of India. I can't get over how catchy this tune is, I must've played it at least ten or fifteen times prior to writing this review. The last three cuts are all live ones, starting with "Introduction" which isn't really so much an introduction as it is another astonishingly catchy sitar-walloped gem. "Instead of Minding" showcases Côté's deft skill on the pungi, which I'll be the first to admit I'm a huge sucker for while album-closer "No Faces, in the Sky, No Faces" is kind of a downer in comparison to some of the album's more jubilant moments, even dragging down its spunky harmonium (?) melody into sounding morose and depleted.
As I think I said before, a lot of people are doing a lot of "borrowing" when it comes to psych revival these days, but Côté and his Emerald Cloud Cobra project manage to hit an entirely new string of hither-to undiscovered notes, often sounding as much an accomplished pop singer-songwriter as a dusty dirt-road traveller scooped up by Alan Bishop for a Sublime Frequencies outing. It's like if Alexander "Skip" Spence or Syd Barrett had a baby with Ravi Shankar to the tune of...I dunno...Xiu Xiu? But, you know, far better. I'm grasping for straws though because I'll freely admit I can't think of anything out there doing something similar to what Emanuel Côté brings here. Well actually I think I can - his other two albums. I better get cracking on those. You, in the meantime, need to find a way to procure this. This dude is so retro he doesn't even have a Myspace (if you can imagine!) but he does leave an email address at the bottom of the CD-R sleeve so here it is.