The Melvins - A Senile Animal (Ipecac CD)

What better time to to review the Melvins' new album, just as they land on the cover of this month's Wire? Wait wait wait...say what? The Melvins...on the Wire? I could see the Melvins on Terrorizer. Or the Melvins on Decibel. Or the Melvins on Rock-a-Rolla. But the Wire? Who knew? It's good to see them getting some big-time recognition at least, although you could argue they obtained such back in the early 90's when they were signed to Atlantic, but everybody knows that was just an example of the majors trying to make quick buck off grunge's back. But take a look at the other members of the so-called grunge wave and where they're at now. The Melvins' #1 fan in Kurt Cobain is dead. Layne Staley's dead. Andrew Wood is dead. Weiland and Cornell's careers are dead. Green River? Screaming Trees? Tad? L7? All done. And the Meat Puppets appear to be living only on borrowed time. It's almost incomprehensible that out of all those bands, the Melvins are the only ones still around and (most important of all) still relevant. And they still can't settle on a bassist, going through a Spinal Tap-ian amount before assimilating the bass and drums duo of Jared Warren and Coady Willis, collectively known as the sludge-rock outfit Big Business, for this release. The only two constants for the band throughout their tenure have been the eternally-identifiable Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover, drummer extraordinaire. And let's face it, Buzz and Dale look old enough to be the grandparents of the Big Business kids. But the Melvins made it work like they always do, and though the voice/guitar/bass/drums/drums unit may seem a bit unwieldly at first, it only adds to the Melvins' collective panache.
Despite never falling inactive, this is the first true new Melvins album since 2002's "Hostile Ambient Takeover", also released on Ipecac. They've spent their time in the meanwhile relasing best ofs (three, although I think they only had a hand in one of them), a retrospective book, a collaborative album with Lustmord, two with Jello Biafra, a live album, and various 7" singles, including a recent split with comedian Patton Oswalt. All told though, "A Senile Animal" doesn't exactly play through as an album album, per se. It's weird, but when I'm listening to it, I get a sense like it's a collection of above-average songs - a phantom greatest hits, if you will. The album follows a curious format too. Six songs average around the 2:30 mark, and the four are all close to or slightly above six minutes in length, and the album concludes with three of those four "epics" consecutively. I'm not really sure what to make of that, but I can tell you that all the tracks are just about as good as it gets from the Melvins in their non-fucking-around mode (and even then they're pretty good in that mode too). The opening "The Talking Horse" takes no prisoners as Crover and Willis lay down a blurring skin-slapping stomp while Buzzo and Willis double-up on vocals in almost choral fashion, admittedly off-putting at first but you get used to it before coming to enjoy it. "Blood Witch" joins anthemic verses with a stuttering guitar riff and sparse percussion trickery while "A History of Drunks" and "You've Never Been Right" are closer to punk rock in their approaches. Reminiscent of early Melvins (circa "Gluey Porch Treatments" and "Ozma") but obviously much more cleaner and intricate. "Rat Faced Granny" is a speedy whirlwind of double- and triple-time percussion and the cascading free jazz/metal conclusion segueing into the opening riff slides of prog/metal/punk web "The Hawk" is a real thing of beauty. On a couple of the longer tracks, the band harks back to the major label flirtations of "Houdini" and "Stoner Witch" (still two of the best Melvins records ever put to tape if you ask me). "Civilized Worm" lays out a sort of Westernish ambience such as on 1996's "Stag", and I hate to say it but "A History of Bad Men" is almost a direct re-working of the riff from Melvins-classic "Night Goat". I hate to say it because I think Osbourne would take offense upon hearing something like that, not because I think "Night Goat" is a bad song - quite the opposite in fact. "The Mechanical Bride" is a major two-step of vintage sludgy riffs and free-wheeling drumming and final cut "A Vast Filthy Prison" is practically a ballad - dig Osbourne singing (singing!) intelligible (intelligible!) lines like "the world is full of evil/now which of those are one of you" and "where is my one true angel/with the golden wings so open", without nary a touch of sarcasm in sight. As far as the Melvins go, it's downright soulful! Mellowing with old age? Well maybe but I know as soon as I say that, the band are going to put out "Colossus of Destiny Pt. II" and subvert everything everybody thought, once more.
Like I said before, as far as an album goes, "A Senile Animal" is good. As far as individual songs though, almost every one on here is a real jewel...but it just doesn't come off as a stone-cold Melvins classic like, well, every other Melvins album I've mentioned thus far - excluding "Colossus". I know, right? Some people just can't be satisfied. If you're already a Melvins devotee, there's a very good chance you'll like this one. If you're new to the party, start with the "Atlantic years" for Melvins at their pseudo-pop/punk/rock/metal prime, then check out their early days, then come around and visit "Senile". 'Cause, as they say, I can ford a red eed only street a wide a ree land.


Aaron Dilloway - Radio Nepal Vols. 1, 2 & 3 (Hanson Records CD-Rs)

Aw shit! And you thought Alan Bishop was the only one propagating foreign culture for his own personal gain! Hawhahawhahw I'm just kidding of course. I don't really give a shit about the so-called ethics behind the process of recording the sounds from afar and releasing them over here in America with no royalities being paid to the original artist. Mainly because I know if somebody recorded one of my performances from over here in the motherland, I really wouldn't care what they did with it. But then again I don't perform. So I don't really have to ever worry about such a situation. And that debate is getting into nerdy Wire "letters to the editor" turf. AND to be fair to Aaron Dilloway, these are just CD-Rs of various radio stations from over there in Nepal, so it's not like any one individual is being ripped off. Maybe you can make a case for Dilloway's Nath Family recordings, but those guys were hustlers anyway so my heart ain't bleeding just yet. But what am I trying to stir up trouble for? Let's just enjoy the sounds, Jack.
The three discs that comprise the "Radio Nepal" set (packaged and sold individually but you get a deal if you order all three from Hanson direct) each consist of one 45-minute track spliced and diced with all sorts of transmissions from a shortwave radio somewhere within Dilloway's reach in Nepal. It doesn't make any sense to talk about them in seperate terms since they're really three of a perfect pair, and since I listened to them all consecutively I can scarcely remember which disc contained what sound. A couple things are immediately striking upon listening to the recordings, the first of which being the surprising amount of English content on the stations being picked up. Not just in terms of the music (obviously I would expect American pop music to make it to the airwaves of countries not located on this continent) but the DJs and commercials as well...in particular this one astonishingly lame ratio station ad set to the tune of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best", wherein the radio station in question predictably claims to be...simply the best. Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" makes a brief appearance, so too does the Prodigy's "Breathe" (which I actually got pretty stoked for since I haven't heard that song in an eon but it didn't last beyond the opening few bars) and a Snoop Dogg song which I can't identify right away but can tell you that he's namechecking the Neptunes, if that's of any help. Oh yeah and there's a great part where Terry Jacks' "Season in the Sun" barely comes through the shrubbery of static, something that also plays a pretty integral role in all three discs. In fact, at times it's hard to believe that Dilloway isn't intentionally manipulated the pops and buzzes of the radio because they're sometimes so prolonged and so aggressive that they're not at all unlike an Aaron Dilloway solo set. They can also get pretty cosmic too, inflicting mass amounts of long-form bwoops and disruptions upon the songs they're supposed to be transmitting. What else is good? Well there's this bit that's too funny to not be purposely comedic...it's a jazz tune playing which gets interrupted by a supposed newsflash in which astrologists have been instructed to keep watch for any movement on Mars and that they'll be going to an interview with some space professor for his comments but until then they'll go back to the song...which they do for two seconds until the interview cuts in and the interviewer talks about being with the professor in a dark room with an arched ceiling and that's all we get to hear before it cuts out again. What the fuuuuu? Okay maybe you had to be there but I thought it was funny. Oh, and of course, I can't forget the main attraction of the disc which is, despite coming in shorter supply than I would've liked, the folk and pop songs native to the Nepali people and their radio stations. Well there's a pretty good mix, from dance-y pop songs that play on those foreign TV stations where you can text message in your vote to the video you like the most, to slow and deliberate tabla/guitar/flute/vocal sessions like all gathered around the hookah and such, to gentle acoustic female pop numbers which I would surely hate if they were in English and signed by Sarah McLachlan or something (do you have her in the U.S.?), to near-raucous instrumental jazz numbers, to funky Bollywood jamming...all seperated and often paired up with advertisements I could never hope to understand and the frequent, unsettling bursts of static that are in abundance throughout all three volumes. Safe to say that your average World Music Listener would not find much comfort in the harsh white noise cuts strewn about here but it's practically par for the course when you're shopping from Hanson and I'm sure some people wouldn't even notice it. Sometimes I envy some people.
Pretty bangin' if simplistic packaging job done on these babies, each one coming in a black cardboard sleeve with a wrap-around (vibrant!) red and blue sticker. Scissors couldn't even get the job done here, I had to get out the exacto knife, no shit. 3D glasses not included but recommended. As far as the content goes, you get what you pay for on these discs, which isn't really a major endorsement nor a statement of negativity. I mean, they're cool, but nothing here is going to blow your mind wide open and it's certainly not the kind of revelatory discovery that Dillowa's Nath Family tapes were/are. I wouldn't buy these expecting any Sublime Frequencies usurpation but then again it's not like that's what Dilloway was trying to do in the first place. An interesting enough listen and recommended if you've got the spare cash ($20 I think?)


Phlimm - Caffeine Withdrawal for Experts (Ack Recordings CD-R)

I'm sure there's already been lots of songs or albums recorded throughout history with the elimination or alteration of a constant in the composer's life. I, of course, can't think of any. Well I remember reading that Mike Patton of Faith No More composed "Caffeine" during a sleep-deprivation experiment and that turned out to be a pretty good song. But the back of Phlimm (a mysterious North Carolinan entity who goes by the Bond-ish moniker A)'s CD-R states "this project was created and recorded over the first four days of a heavy caffeine withdrawal". Does that imply that, like, A intook large quantities of caffeine, then quit cold turkey and recorded the results? Or what? Who knows...apparently A's experiment took place over the course of four days, with a track devoted to each day of the test.
I was pretty sure "Caffeine Withdrawal" would move along predictably, starting out calm and getting progressively harrier but that isn't really the case despite all the tracks managing to flow together somewhat coherantly. The first track/day is titled "A Doorway" and is the disc's longest track at 11 minutes. It does start off pretty droney with a near-soothing repeated guitar line ala a Red Sparowes or Neurosis build-up but then delves into a kind of Damion Romero/Hive Mind electronic/reverb-y pulse for the remainder of the tune. Day two's "They Will Hear Me" is the wildest deviation, building around a riff so excruciatingly cheesy it sounds like it was sampled from a club scene in a movie from the Blade trilogy, replete with pseudo-industrial flecks...think of Skinny Puppy and I probably don't have to say much else. "What Keeps Your Vibrations Low?" is a weirder jam that comes off like a noisier Aphex Twin or Merzbow at his least intimidating (maybe the Maldoror collaboration with the aforementioned Patton is a safe comparison)...it's never aggressive, it's just like a series of malfunctioning electronic units firing off occasionally under the watchful guise of a person...who happens to be undergoing caffeine withdrawal? Best is saved for last on "Dream Resonance", a kind of cross-pollination between Nurse with Wound or Coil's cold electronic nighttime ambience, Schnitzler modern-day synthesizer readings and the Clockwork Orange soundtrack played out blissfully (and, again, repetitively) over the course of the album's last nine minutes. "Dream Resonance", huh...lives up to the title's imagery for sure. Kind of a strange, tranquil ending to a strange and somewhat uneven album (or EP? It's only 34 minutes).
At the end of the day the caffeine withdrawal thing, while it may have represented something more to the composer, is little more than a gimmick. It's pretty easy for the listener to imagine a similar album being recorded out of the blue, with no self-imposed deprivations or anything of that sort going on. But still, if it'll get your album listened to, then more power to you right? Sounds like Phlimm (or A) has accomplished what he's set out to do with this release and that's A-OK by me...no pun intended.


Starving Weirdos - Eastern Light (Root Strata 2xCD-R)

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma of Root Strata did me the kind favor of sending off Starving Weirdos' "Eastern Light" reissue, a reissue of an album which I think originally came out on Root Strata as well. Although this reissue is limited to 150 copies so don't snooze. 150 hand-painted (well it looks like somebody threw paint in the general direction of the sleeves creating a nifty 3D "bevel" effect) cardboard-sleeved copies. I originally heard their name reading through the bi-weekly Aquarius Records list and I'll be damned if they don't have Archetypal Aquarius Records Band plastered all over them. I'm wondering how many kids started up their own basement freak-jazz stoner/boogie noise psych band just to get featured on the Aquarius list? Shirley a lot at this point. I mean, I know people have joked about it, but who took the first step? Could be these guys, they've got all the makings of such and by now you definitely don't need me to tell you what that means. Nevertheless if these guys aren't just a Masked Marauders Pt. II (and in all honesty I'm sure they're not) they're probably at least making a quasi-decent career from that first review. So who am I to say otherwise? Blaaarrrgh.
Apparently the Starving Weirdos bros (Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay are the core and they're joined here by Steve Lazar, Monica Chavez, Jon Pyle, Mike Whittaker and...Pete) have already recorded a dearth of material - ten albums and they're all good, they say! - which means they must have an extraordinary amount of time on their hands sine this one too is packed to the gills. Two CD-Rs, two hours of music. "Eastern Light" opens with "Plastic Gagaku", piece one of three. It's a slender shimmy of harmonica, percussion, and lots of homemade/unidentifiable sounds at least to mine ears. But geez it sounds so surrrious, a bundle of ominous clanging and thumping and gusty ambience. Like Campbelle Kneale hookin' up with Phil Todd and Steve Stapleton's the ump. Which is kind of not really a great thing because the duo (trio? quatro? cinco?) mingle around with various sounds but never latch onto anything specific and there isn't a single second of sound that sticks in your skull when it's all said and done. And to be quite honest it's not that much of a blast when it's playing, either. Same for "Sea-Foam at Midnight", doling out all kinds of jangling bells and guitar and forrestrialisms that aim for No-Neck but fall considerably short and into the realm of "makin' music because we can". And combined with a CD burner, that's double trouble. 25-minute closer "Quiet Shit" (and you thought the other titles were good) takes a long time to get going but finally melds into a kind of Cluster/Maeror Tri synthesis before swerving off into some jungle rhythm terrorist assault and then into aimlessly plucked strings and then into some kind of wind instrument that I can't lay a finger on...man the whole first disc sounds like an unedited session of "what happens when we play instrument A and instrument B together" that's best left for an audience somewhat smaller than the 150 copies allowed. It's got me longing for the warm strands of Keith No-Neck's wispy beard instead.
Disc two has two tracks: "Recital Hall" clocking in at 44 minutes and "Bro-In-Out" at 21. The former doesn't have quite enough solid ideas to justify its length but still winds up being my favorite with some awesome kraut/horn jamming wherein the group finally pull off their most convincing New Weird American impression to date. They keep up a pretty tremendously-understated tribal-style Pyramids/Gong/Alan Watts flair throughout, indeed a heavily baked firewood-romping atmosphere that doesn't smack of pastiche or anything of that sort. It's the kind of track you could put on loud and go about your daily business to as the tune works its way into your psyche. I approve! "Bro-In-Out" is almost aggressively obnoxious for the first ten minutes with a pummelling keyboard drone duking it out with an overly-loud flute for top billing amidst errant strands of guitar dissonance...but then gets playfully enjoyable for the last ten as some toy instruments frollick amongst cavernous echoes like rainbows shining through cathedral ceilings and something close to a tambura or a sitar charms my heart through and into the closing ambience...all that said I wound up enjoying almost all of the last disc and almost none of the first, so it's a good thing I'm a patient man or I could've written off SxWx quicker than you can say John Moloney's your uncle.
I'm pretty sure Jefre sells his Root Strata products pretty cheap, so if you feel like this is your thing than you probably haven't got a whole lot to lose. I myself would spend my money filling out my collection of bands that probably had a huge influence on these guys because there's only so much of this kind of music a dude can take. Well, this dude at least. You young'uns out there might have a better chance of hanging out with the Weirdos for the full two hours...I'll content myself to try and "pop" the gobs of dried paint on the sleeve in the meantime.


Ira Cohen - The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (Bastet/Saturnalia DVD)

I'm not planning on turning this into a movie-reviewing blog or anything but I think "The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda" has strong enough ties to the kind of musical content habitually covered here to make it a logical review choice. And if you don't agree, buzz off. Esp. since Ira Cohen's "Thunderbolt" is as much visual as it is auditory - can't say it'd be totally the same experience if Angus MacLise's stunning soundtrack was absent. I was initially very very very skeptical about buying this DVD based on the price alone - $30 U.S. ($35 Canada! And $40 anywhere else!) is pretty goddamn steep for what appears on the surface to be little more than a 20-minute film. But oh how wrong I was.
First, the meat of the meal: "Invasion" itself. The film opens with a sepia-tinted 10-minute intro seemingly disconnected almost completely from the remainder of the feature, depicting many half-naked woodsmen and women zombieing around playing instruments, burying eachother, digging up dirt, getting covered in mud, and all sorts of other prehistoric antics your mother told you not to do. The soundtrack at this point is like of a Herzog film, with stuttering tribal percussion and gentle in-the-distance wailing courtesy MacLise's Joyous Lake ensemble (featuring Tony Conrad, Henry Flynt, Helly MacLise and Loren Standlee among others). To the unitiated, it'll look like a bunch of naked hippie freaks. Heck that's probably what it looks like to the initiated too, whomever they may be. But in due time an actual title screen appears for "Invasion" and it's off to the races. A bunch of people lounging around in some sort of club scene/opium den (the Court of the Golden Emperor, sez the DVD booklet), all decked out in fantastically lavish costumes. There we see equally-fantastically-monikered characters the Majoon Traveler (Cohen), the Methedrine Cardinal (MacLise), and Lady Firefly (???) mingling about, sharing between themselves unrecognizable objects and odd ritualistic exchanges. It's interesting because first Cohen attacks our eyes with the colorful imagery already on screen, and then twists and bends it even further with the assistance of his patented Mylar Chamber (I won't explain it here but it isn't too different from what it sounds - imagine yourself as the girl with kaleidoscope eyes and you'll be on your way. It also helps to remember the influence Kenneth Anger's films had on Cohen). It's a double-whammy of retinal blasting and it's impossible not to enjoy every minute. After a quick cut the "Opium Dream" act ends and I believe "Shaman" begins, which takes place outside and goes from being almost entirely unaffected to swamped with mylar confusion, shapeshifting hues and scarcely recognizable shapes like trying to look through a crystal twenty feet thick. At this point the soundtrack of flute, tambura, hand-coaxed percussion, tapes and voices starts to reach a fever pitch as the final act "Heavenly Blue Mylar Pavilions" is launched and lives up to its ambitious name, drowning all forms in a dreamy, ecstatic blue melted-chrome aura that slowly creeps from the screen entirely, taking your third eye with it. Incredibly, intensely, impossibly fascinating bordering on total life-alteration. It must be seen to be believed and thanks to Arthur magazine's Bastet imprint, now it can be.
Even if the DVD came with nothing else but the feature film I'd have walked away happy, but we live in the age of the "extra" and this baby's no exception. I didn't have time to check everything out but I did scope the beautiful slideshow juxtaposing stills from the movie against Cohen's poem recitals. I instantly felt like I wanted to close my eyes and let Cohen's strangely soothing tone lull me to sleep but at the same time I didn't want to miss a single mind-boggling slide. You also get to watch Cohen's "Brain Damage", which according to Bastet is a new film created from never-before-seen 16mm outtakes and a soundtrack from Mahasiddhi - a name given to a collective comprising Cohen himself, Petra Vogl, Dave Kadden, Kevin Shea and Will Swofford. It's longer than "Invasion" at 30 minutes and a lot more incoherant, which I didn't think was at all possible. There was usually something to hold onto during "Invasion": not so with "Brain Damage" as lengthy stretches frequently pass with nothing immediately identifiable crosses paths with the viewer's eye. It's still great fun (and the poetry recited helps too) but not as eminently gripping as "Invasion". Also included is "Played for Real", a 15-minute documentary (okay documentary is way too strong a word) directed by Raphael Aladdin Cohen that shows just how far out Ira is as well as a preview/trailer for the Cohen-produced "Paradise Now" and alternative soundtracks to "Invasion" from Sunburned Hand of the Man and Acid Mothers Temple SWR. I haven't had time to listen to AMT's yet but Sunburned's is straight up ruling, possibly one of the best Sunburned tracks ever played (and you can get it independently from the film as a Three Lobed CD called, fittingly enough, "The Mylar Tantrum". The DVD also comes with a 16-page booklet featuring photos and text from Cohen, MacLise, Allan Graubard and Ian MacFadyen. Whew! And I thought it would be "only" the movie...
If you're like me and you've been sitting on the fence regarding the "Invasion" DVD, make the jump. Seriously. There aren't too many films around I'd shell out 35 clams for but I'm glad I did for this one. I'm still not sure why it had to be as expensive as that, but what're you gonna do? Totally, strongly, furiously, adamantly, persuasively recommended and the be-all end-all of the term "psychedelic" as far as I myself am concerned.


Robert Piotrowicz - Rurokura and the Final Warn / Xavier Charles & Robert Piotrowicz - /// (emd.pl/records CDs)

(Note: according to the label the name is indeed "emd.pl/records" and not simply "EMD". The appropriate changes were made below)
I don't know who emd.pl/records is. I didn't even know I had given them my address but I must've since a package containing these two CDs showed up one day. It was hard to glean much more information from the CD packages too - which are very extensively and excellently rendered but a bit short on the information side of things. Part of the emd.pl/records mystique. The fact that they're releasing records by Polish noise/electro-acousticeer Robert Piotrowicz and the ".pl" in the URL leads me to believe that they're operating out of Poland, but the jury's still out. As you can see I chose to use the images from their website that demonstrate the creative (and sometimes maddening - the CDs keep slipping out!) packaging emd.pl/records put to work for them and their artists, since a simple full-on cover shot of the albums probably wouldn't have done any good. But at least with those you can kinda see how it all works. The Piotrowicz solo disc is the pink one held together by a flexible textured plastic case while the collaborative album comes in the cardboard package, completely blank except for three small white slashes on the reverse side. Very curious indeed.
Robert Piotrowicz is a name I'm not immediately familiar with although he has performed with such names as as John Butcher, Kevin Drumm and Zbigniew Karkowski. "Rurokura and the Final Warn" appears to have a vague concept to it, with titles like "The Initial Speech", "4th Floor Meeting with Detailed Instructions", "Last Broadcast of Public Speakers" and "The Final Warn" (there's only four songs), although I'll be damned if I could figure it out since the only talking Piotrowicz does comes throgh his synthesizer and "electroacoustic devices", apparently combining his synth and an electric guitar into some kind of bastard machine. "Talking" is definitely the right term though because "Rurokura" has the unmistakeable sound of living breathing organisms behind it, as if the composer is communicating with natural extensions of his own mind and/or body. I'm sure just about everybody's heard an electronic album that left them cold, but this one is quite the opposite. "The Initial Speech" brings on repetitive, plodding electronic percussion not at all unlike Daniel Menche's recent efforts or Merzbow's "Merzbeat". If you're anything like me you'll be nodding your head along in due time with each successive beat until it slowly dawns on you that you're no longer headbanging to anything in particular because the sounds have all bled together and there isn't any discernable rhythm, just a long-burning stew of microtonal scourges and sounds like a crowd in a panic. "4th Floor Meeting" and "Last Broadcast" are both urgent, frenzied approaches to synth-based noise and rapidly instilling a feeling of being trapped inside a metal junkyard during the midst of a hurricane. Album closer "The Final Warn" plays out a lot like the scenes in Silent Hill (the games or the movie, your pick) where the city alarm goes off and there's that eventual descent into the true depths of terror, namely the kind of depth where you're worrying about Pyramid Head not tearing the skin off your naked body. Am I right? Of course I am. At 11 minutes it takes up almost a third of the album's running time but its well worth it as it gathers together a ferocious roar and by 10:45 (or so) you're starting to think that maybe getting your flesh ripped off isn't so bad in comparison - but then it cuts off; the siren fades, the sun comes back out and all's right in the town again. For now at least.
The "///" collaboration between Piotrowicz (on synth and guitar( and Xavier "Don't call me Professor X" Charles (on vibrating surfaces and CD player) is only a single 22-minute track but seems to last for so much longer due to all the sounds that are packed inside. After a brief and intelligble "spoken word" performance that sounds like something from Schimpfluch-Gruppe, there's on-rushes of static acid rain, electro/metal skull scraping gestures, gaps of decaying feedback drones, makeshift percussion and strumming, samples/found sound clips, and a lot of electronic and noise marring/wounding throughout...the chorus of applause at the track's end came as a surprise to me as I figured with all these sounds they surely must've edited down and compiled a longer set. But apparently not - it was all played live on July 26th 2003 as the emd.pl/records website will attest to. They've also got a Charlies/Piotrowicz video posted which I'm going to have to check out to see if I can figure out just how the heck they're doing it.
If the fellas over at emd.pl/records continue on course with high-quality releases and exquisite packaging, it's no longshot to say they'll be name-checked among the greats in no small time at all. Even with these, their fourth and fifth releases, they're carving out a pretty hefty niche for themselves in both departments of the eye- and the ear-catching. For now, definitely one to keep an eye on and worth investigating if you're feeling adventurous.


Peter Brotzmann, Marino Pliakas & Michael Wertmuller - Full Blast (Jazzwerkstatt CD)

I'm not really "abreast" of the "current" "jazz" "scene" or anything so I tend to find out about a lot of jazz release some months (years) after they've come and gone. This Brotzmann/Pliakas/Wertmuller disc must be recent though since it says "recorded February 6 2006 at LOFT in Koln" right on it. So I'm on the ball for once, kinda. What I don't know is if this trio is a regular one - I know Brotzmann's played with Wertmuller before and maybe these three hit it off live with a degree of regularity but I'm pretty sure it's the first time they've ever laid down an album together. And if that's the case they need to do it more often because "Full Blast" is total domination, start to finish. 5 untitled tracks over 45 minutes - perfect enough to enjoy just enough but be left wanting more. Brotzmann plays alto, tenor, and tarogato. Pliakas playes electric bass. Wertmuller plays drums (does he ever). I cry myself to sleep. Let's do it.
Right from the git-go the chips are on the table with Brotzmann immediately laying down sloping mountains of the post-Ayler blowisms you'd never mistake for anything else, while Wertmuller adds the kind of frantic/restrained combo drumming one might expect to hear in a band like Ruins. Pliakas is the blue blood coursing through the veins of the unit, steering the band in every direction from speed-reading through and on to molasses lullabyes (but usually only for a brief instant). Brotzmann's upper-register gasps sound like a chihuahua with severed vocal chords and double up at rapid pace as the first track comes to a close, only to segue perfectly into a tense bass rumble from Pliakas to open untitled number two. Pliakas' dizzying rhythms remind me of Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal which is especially bizarre considering Thordendal plays guitar. But I find this whole disc to have a very "metal"-like atmosphere throughout...then again Brotzmann's always been more metal than half the jokers in the genre anyway. The pulse builds over the course of that track and the next, during which Brotzmann is constantly hurling out giantic spitballs of brass intensity while the rhythym section continue their rapid-fire flaring until track four begins and I piss my pants with fear and excitement because the trio lay down the sickest riffing (it can be called nothing else but) this side of Last Exit...it actually sounds a lot like Lightning Bolt, just to give you some kind of idea as to how furious it really is. The rest of the 15-minute ditty is spotty, as in sometimes aggressive and sometimes laid back but always interesting. The three interplay beautifully with Wertmuller's snare rolling bouncing off Brotzmann's sax-speech which in turn is kept moving along by Pliakas' bass. Brotzmann gets his turn to shine (as if he isn't already adding his massive thumbprint all over the music) with a brief but beautiful little solo in the fourth track before handing the reins over to Wertmuller who opens track five with an unbelievably explosive percussion solo. Shit is frantic. But Wertmuller turns it almost down to zero so Brotzmann can get a few quiet words in on the tarogato (I believe) before switching back to the sax and all three jump back in for the last few minutes as if to add the final exclamation point to a gripping, high-octane, ball-breaking set. "Full Blast" is as apt a record title if there ever was one.
It's hard to find much information on this disc, and Jazzwerkstatt (loose translation: jazz work statt) website isn't helping things much for you and me by offering all their information exclusively in German. But next time you're in whatever fine location it is that you usually buy compact disc albums, if you stumble across this one bearing signature Brotzmann cover art and reading "FULL FUCKING BLAST"* in big red letters, pick it up and I guarantee you won't regret it.
(*Note: may not actually include the word "fucking")


Hototogisu & Burning Star Core - Hototogisu & Burning Star Core (Drone Disco CD)

You may recall "II" was reviewed a while back, so here's part one which came out a few weeks AFTER part two. Bizarro world. Apparently the Hototogisu (Marcia Bassett, Matthew Bower) and Burning Star Core (C. Spencer Yeh, Robert Beatty, Trevor Tremaine) big band trimmed the fruits of their jamming down to two hours and then split that into a portion for Bower and Bassett to release on their Heavy Blossom label (which they did, and I reviewed it, so and try and keep up!) and the other half being released on Yeh's Drone Disco imprint (that's this one, got it?). Contrary to "II" though, this volume is actually a real CD much to my general surprise/enjoyment/arousal. And it looks nice too! Comes in the much under-used black polycase with a family portrait style cover (and a floor plan insert as to just where everybody was working from) as well as a randomly selected pin bearing the mug of any one of the five participants. I got Robert "Don't Call Me Warren" Beatty, or is it Tremaine? I can't tell/remember. And I'll keep buying copies of the CD till I get a full set. Just kidding. Or am I?
If you remember my other review of "II" (or maybe if you heard it yourself) you'd know it was a massively suffocating slab of Hototogisu-slanted drone. Well, to these ears, volume one sounds a lot more anchored down by the Burning Star Core trio, benefitting especially from the one-man rhythm section of Trevor Tremaine. It's almost too easy to lay down the first of five untitled tracks as an early Skullflower outtake but that's often the case when Bower gets involved with any unit involving percussion...so instead I'll say it's the Magik Markers' obliterated rhythms infected with Sleep's perpetually-stoned time-keeping...but it still reminds me of "The Idiotsburgh Address" which can only ever be a good thing. The second track pits Bower, Bassett and Yeh's wind-tunnel string section scream against a near-marching band crunch laid down by Tremaine, enormously reminiscent of Sunny Murray circa "Spiritual Unity" with brash noise-dom replacing the brass ponderations found on said disc although it really doesn't sound so difference when you think good n' hard about it. On this and the following track, Beatty's like a sprite (albeit a sprite with a gearbox strapped to its nipples), sprinkling down whiffs of Cluster/Lothar and the Hand People/Hawkwind electronic/Moog vibes wherever he sees fit or unfit. In fact when the third track gets going at about the six-minute mark, it sounds not at all unlike Acid Mothers Temple in third gear: swooshing synth chirps, thrashing drums, fuzz-tinged guitar overload and a curious bassline that somebody's gonna have to explain to me since there's no bass player on the album. Go figure. The next twelve minutes that comprise track four all sound like the come-down of that explosive trek, or a field recording of the razed turf where the factories and buildings responsible for the creation of this music once stood. There's a final four minute coda which could be called the Spencer Yeh show since his violin is slobbering all over Tremaine's 4/4 beat and the omnipresent torched amp/abused guitar drone echoing forever through the halls...it doesn't even end, it just cuts off. Like the music has always existed and will continute to exist regardless of a small thing like recording boundaries...or time for that matter.
If you didn't like "II" then I can't see you buying this self-titled effort but rest assured that they are two completely different (okay maybe not completely) different) beasts and I find that this one has a much more accessible sound. Also the Drone Disco CD is probably going to be a lot cheaper than the "II" CD-R, so it's not like you'll be out a fistful of cash all over again. But it gets my seal of approval so you know it has to be quality. I don't give those things out to ANYONE you know. Just anybody with their own CD-R label who uses spraypaint on a regular basis. Kidding, kidding. It only seems that way.


Tony Conrad - Joan of Arc (Table of the Elements CD)

All right! New Tony Conrad! It's a good year. And there's (supposed to be, at least) a new Pandit Pran Nath disc on its way to my homestead as I type this! So despite what may be La Monte Young's best efforts, some of this music is making its way to the people. Just kidding La Monte (I can't afford a lawsuit). Of course this new Tony Conrad isn't really NEW new Tony Conrad, it's just never-before-heard Tony Conrad which is just as good (better?) as far as I'm concerned. "Joan of Arc" was recorded in 1968 as the soundtrack to a Piero Helicer movie of the same name which seems to be permanently AWOL, at least to the best of my knowledge.. It's a solo pump organ improvisation lasting 64 sweet minutes and is accompanied - as you can see on the cover - by stills from Ira Cohean's '68 film Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda, which I also hope makes it to my doorstep someday.
It's difficult to come up with very many things to say about such a single-minded release, so I'll try and keep it short without being too verbose. There are a few things which jump to my mind at least a quarter of the way into "Joan of Arc", the first of which is the juxtaposition Conrad creates (however intentional) between the searing white pitch of the instrument and the brooding darkened tones which eventually take over almost completely. It's like listening to moonlight, if you can dig that. Like curling up on the grass in a field and letting luminous beams flood into your ear. But just as their is a juxtaposition with the result of the keys Conrad plays, there's also one audible in the grander scheme of the recording - not only can you heard the organ's final output but you can also hear the sounds it takes together. For example, Conrad's foot on the pump organ pedal often evoke a rhythmic spirit in the organ's drones that you didn't know were there until you heard the methods used to conjure them up. And then it all locked into place in your head until the foot-tapping went inaudible again and you were left to find your way once more. The composer's fingers also play the role of spectral tour guide, dancing around and sounding a bit like small rocks dropped into vast oceans, but they don't stay for long either. Of these external factors, however, the biggest compliment to "Joan of Arc"'s sound is the lo-fi tape recording it was committed too...it doesn't sound at all cleaned up and that's the way it should be. Apparently Conrad considers "Joan of Arc" one of his favorite pieces and I can understand why he'd be hesitant to alter it at all, even in the slightest way. I don't know if I prefer "Joan of Arc" to the violin works I've heard from Conrad...it's certainly a bit less...high strung? No pun intended, it just comes off a lot more mellowed, but of course that's the nature of the chosen instrument. If you like Charlemagne Palestine's organ drones, you should know where you're heading with this one and you know you're going to love it just like I did. Plus, the Con-man's stuff isn't always readily available at bargain-bin prices, but this one is as cheap as any other respectable CD you'll find and well worth the investment. Here's hoping Conrad's Audio ArtKive imprint provides many many more goods in the near future.
It's so easy to call any kind of drone music boring, just out of reflex if for nothing else. But when you truly listen to a record like "Joan of Arc", the opposite becomes true - it provides an hour's worth of entirely stimulating, intriguing, organic music. And if you can't hear that, well I just plain feel sorry for you. Put it on your stereo, turn it up loud, and never fall asleep.


Fun From None: Live From the No Fun Fest 2004 & 2005 (Load Records/No Fun Productions 2xDVD)

Man, Carlos Giffoni's annual No Fun Fest is hard enough work just attending, let alone filming. I went to my first one this year and on the way down a friend mentioned how no matter how good the line-up looks, there are some points during the night when you just want to get the fuck out and go home to a quiet place to get some sleep. Craziness I thought...the line-up is killer and it's gonna rule all night long. Right? Wrong. So horribly wrong. Don't get me wrong: I loved the experience and had a great time, but you do indeed go through those brief periods,onslaught after onslaught of noise where you just want out. Which is why I have to immediately tip my hat the "Fun From None" filmer, Chris Habib. To be up close and on the spot in the wake of so many brutalizing noise acts is true warriordom, and something you might not be able to appreciate unless you attend the Fest yourself, which you should. Habib uses various filming/editing techniques here, some are enjoyable and some I could do without. I'll explain a bit more as I go but I will say that the problem occurs mainly on the first DVD (the 2004 Fest) than on the second one (that'd be 2005). You can see the full list of bands on the DVD here but I've got most of them covered down below. The acts are given anywhere from 2-3 minutes to 9-11 minutes and sometimes that's more than enough...especially when you try and make it through in one go.
For example, the very first set of the first DVD gets things off on the wrong foot as To Live and Shave in L.A.'s glitchy beatbox noise improv and Tom Smith's impressive range are present but are totally thrown-off when juxtaposed next to the strobing camera Habib uses, like an assembly of still photos. The camera interferes a great deal with the music's flow ergo preventing total enjoyment, but on the other hand I've never been a great big TLISILA fan either. The trend continues on with Alan Licht's 1970, a quartet featuring Licht, Chris Corsano, Matt Heyner and Tamio Shiraishi. This time, the sounds the group conjure up are awesome. Licht nails down a near-metal riff and his compatriots throw on free rock/jazz loops making for a terrifically catchy, interesting, accessible, almost Lightning Bolt-esque noise burial but the same strobing camera prevents you from seeing Corsano (or Heyner for that matter) going completely bonkers, which pretty much sterilizes the visual effect. So for me "Fun From None" gets off on the wrong foot but redeems itself for the remaining while by doing away with such tomfoolery for all the remaining acts. Favorites include Wolf Eyes (in the Olson/Young/Dilloway line-up I'll remind you) executing an ass-blasting version of "Black Vomit", building up a teetering electronic menace before exploding in typical Wolfeyesian fashion with the riffs and the shouting and the fist-pounding and what have you...there's also the Dylan Nyoukis & Carlos Giffoni duo shot in grainy black and white and focusing mainly on the players' hands, Giffoni's twisting knobs and Nyoukis' bowing something. Nyoukis alo covers vocals that turn into full-on recitals still managing to be completely inaudible which is okay because Giffoni seems to be headbanging to sounds that nobody else is hearing...them two is working on a whole other wavelength. Hair Police continue the trend of impressing me live and failing to do as much on record, where drummer Trevor Tremaine steals the show as he is wont to do and Mike Connelly (barely recognizable with well-groomed hair and clean-shaven face) opts for more punk rock-ish shouting than the terror shriek he seems to stick to lately. The Double Leopards' set is a powerful heads-down/rumps-out titan based as usual around vocals, samples, guitars, turntables and various other suitcase electronics. It kinda sags in the middle when you can start picking out individual voices like they're totally not congealing together but all legs start moving near the end and the result is nothing short of astral. I'm not sure why Habib didn't apply his footage trickery to a more abstract band like the Leopards instead of more rock-oriented ones like the first two where it pays to be able to see what's going on? Didn't really care much for Kim Gordon & the Sweet Ride or the Ranaldo/Hooke/Miller trio, so apologies in advance to the Sonic Youth crew.
DVD two will see no complaints from me on the visual side of things, in fact this DVD contains by far the best direction and editing from Habib yet. Case in point: the 16 Bitch Pile-Up set that lives up to the band's name as it becomes totally impossible to tell performer from audience member in this rare basement showcase. Habib's also layered two seperate camera angles on top of eachother and added a swirling pink aura to the footage resulting in a confusing and charming watching experience. I think the 16BP set also holds the records for most attempted copped feels at a noise gig. A particular instance in which the visual experience trumps the auditory one is during the Magik Markers set. The clip is played back in slow-motion which seems to somehow sync up perfectly with the Markers' set because they sound like a 78 being played at, say, 16. But I've never really been one for the MM sound and they didn't sway me here, kinda hard to get past Elisa's desperate yelping but that's one man's opinion. Amongst the heavy rulers include Prurient who underwhelmed me in 2006 (after having seen him play live before) but rocked me to my core on the DVD, succeeding as possibly one of the only artists to translate the sheer brutality of their attack from the live setting through the tube...my ears were ringing and I didn't even have the volume up. The Nihilist Assault Group is usually Richard Rupenus (of the New Blockaders), Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient) and Ron Lessard (aka Emil Beaulieau) but since RRRon was visible at the side of the stage taking a decidedly scholarly approach to noise-watching, I have no idea who the third man is under the mask. I have a feeling I knew at some point but the knowledge has escaped me. Anyway for their set they had two men in masks and suits going hogwild on a table full of instrument clutter (mixers, contact mics, turntables...and crushed beer cans) while the third member sat on a chair in front of them sipping wine. I fully approve, and the set was ridiculously good too. Let's see, what else? The deck was loaded on disc two. Brian Sullivan was the nexus of two great sets, once with his own group Mouthus (who always slay in the live setting, don't even act like you don't know that) and as the guitarist in Carlos Giffoni's Death Unit, also featuring Chris Corsano and Trevor Tremaine. Macronympha on this occasion was Joe Roemer, Dominick Fernow (again) and who I assume to be Dominick's then-girlfriend in bondage gear standing around. This was one of the more talked-about sets of the Fest. Dominick slapped on a messy whirlwind of brutal marble-noise'd aggression while Roemer molested massive amplifiers, Dominick's girlfriend, and everybody's ears. And there was lots of shit thrown around at the end which just made it even better! It was good, but it had nothing on Macronympha circa this year let me tell you. And of course I could never go without mentioning the DVD (and festival? I don't remember) closers, noise heroesBorbetomagus. Every time I see/hear/look at them their position as legends is further solidified in my noggin and this set was no different, total powerhouse double-sax/guitar combo from Sauter, Dietrich and Miller. Extended techniques included water lolling about in the horns and bell-pressed-against-guitar-pick-up for maximum blast but sadly no tubes or bells together, maybe that all came earlier in their performance. A sweaty and devastating end to an equally devastating (and potentially sweaty, sure) DVD. I wasn't blown away by the Dead Machines as Tovah Olson's bird call screeching was just too much after the previous 75 minutes or so of noise; the pre-metal Jazzkammer duo of Lasse Marhaug and John Hegre were astonishingly humdrum and it often seemed like even the performers themselves were waiting for something interesting to happen; Heathen Shame (who were rather popular last year but entirely AWOL this year) generated an impressive sound for being a mere trio on standard rock-instruments but didn't go anywhere in particular with it; and Giffoni's Monotract outfit which is too deeply rooted in no-wave to be of any real interest to myself. But I hate to end on a downer so I'll reprise my statement from before: s sweaty and devastating end to an equally devastating (and potentially sweaty, sure) DVD.
Having said that, though, obviously not everything was a knock-out but that's bound to happen when you have so many different artists and you factor in personal tastes. I probably don't need to recommend this at all...if you're even aware of its existence then you probably own a copy and that's just the way it should be. My main gripe, however, are the promised "MP3s of all performances and selected iPod videos". If I pop disc two into my DVD drive I can access the iPod videos but no MP3s...there are, however, M4A files which seem to play video as well, but (a) they're read-only and (b) a single 9-minute song translates to about 100mb and I'm not about to start converting them. So, uh, what gives?
Man, hard to believe it's almost time to start planning a potential No Fun 07 roadtrip, and the No Fun website confirms that details on next year's lineup will be posted as December draws closer...could this be the year Masonna is finally delivered unto the U.S. despite rumors of retirement? Exactly how many bands will John Olson manage to play in this time around? Will you ever get a good vantage point during the basement sets? Will Borbetomagus be forced to pinch-hit yet again thus completing the unprecedented No Fun "triple crown"? Will you finally spend so much money on records that your family stages an intervention? Stay tuned!


Envenomist - Abyssal Siege / Roman Torment - Skin Game (PACrec CDs)

Oh, why not? PACrec yesterday, PACrec today...let's keep the flow going, huh? Hey I could've spread these out over today AND tomorrow and believe me I was tempted to. Unfortunately I know nothing about either of these acts and both CDs are pretty short (30 minutes apiece) so I figgered it better to sammich them together right here right now. Upon doing no real research whatsoever I can safely say that Envenomist is David Reed aka Luasa Raelon though I'm not entirely sure what the reason is for the name change. I'm guessing Luasa Raelon is the harsher of the two projects but I wouldn't know since he cancelled the one time he was supposed to roll through my little villa. And Luasa Raelon CDs aren't exactly in popular demand here, at least not that I can see. Roman Torment meanwhile is a duo featuring Jeff "The Bewitscher" Witscher and Evan Pacewicz, Los Angeles bros and members of cults named Impregnable and Deep Jew (the former) and Moth Drakula (the latter).
Earliest catalogue number goes first and that'd be Envenomist's "Siege" which is split into four tracks averaging about nine minutes each and catalogues through a largely synth-driven dark ambient territory. Very much like the pivitol scene in the classic Monkey Island 2 when you catch a ride in an open coffin down a hazy green swamp to end up at the witchdoctor's house. Actually, that's the most perfect description for any sound I have ever come up with in the history of my life. But if you're looking for something a bit more conventional (or haven't played MI2, in which case I don't even think we should be talking) I would describe the Envenomist sound as very much influenced by early industrial/noise acts like Nurse with Wound, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock or S.P.K.; cleaned-up Broken Flag droning basement piss; and a cross-pollination of current noise/drone excavators a la Hive Mind, Sunn O))), [the user], or Aube. Which is all pretty good if not terribly unique...still an interesting enough listen and there's certainly many other, worse ways to spend your money.
Roman Torment's "Skin Game" meanwhile gets right back to the harsh noise commonly found on the PACrec imprint...this album contains remasters of tracks from earlier releases "Black Spring" and "Bewilderment" plus new doses though I would never be able to tell you what's what. If you may allow me to get metaphorical again for a moment here I'll remind you of the Greek myth wherein Zeus chains Prometheus to a rock and sent an eagle to devour his regenerating liver over and over for some thirty years. "Skin Game" is kinda like that except it's thirty minutes instead of thirty years (though it may feel that long to some). Basically what I'm trying to you - if you'd let me finish - is that "Skin Game" is little more than a violent, repetitive, damaging assault and that's a compliment in the fullest sense of the word. I think part of the reason I got into noise in the first place was from listening to grindcore and wondering if music could ever get any faster. One document I would surely present in my argument titled Yes, It Can is this disc from Roman Torment, truly a chef d'oeuvre of furious and fierce fireworked fracas destined to curdle blood and inspire wanton acts of brutality amongst all those who pay it significant enough attention. Reaffirming and recommended!
Truly a stellar offering from Phil Blankenship's ship this time around but you and I have come to expect no less. The Romero and RxTx discs are amongst the best I've heard and the Envenomist is no slouch either. At under $10 a pop, you'd do well to invest some time and money in them too. And I swear I'm not on the payroll either - they're just that good.


Damion Romero - Negative (PACrec/P-Tapes CD)

Traditionally PACrec CDs have dropped in bunches and this new November onslaught is no different...but I decided to focus my energies on Damion Romero's new one tonight and hand in my report on the other two (Envenomist and Roman Torment) at a later date. Gotta spread the love around. Romero was last featured in these "e-pages" as part of the incredible "California" 10xLP set, and if you're still not knowing, is the brawn (and possibly the brains!) behind highly influential/destructive units like Speculum Fight, Slug and Astromero. I do believe this is Romero's first solo release of the year but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. And, like seemingly everything Romero touches on, it's a co-release with his own P-Tapes label - number 31 to be exact which might indicate that it was recorded some time ago since P-Tapes are currently up to number 67 or so.
"Negative" is one thirty-minute long piece that opens with the sound of falling rain and passing cars but gets disrupted rather quickly by a few blitzkriegs of distorted sound, drop-outs and static rushes. A slow rumble forms on the horizon and pretty soon Romero builds up a wavering electro-drone terminally disturbed by occasional gasps of static, feedback and varying transmissions. And all the while if you listen hard enough you can still hear the rain in the background...I think. As I've found in a lot of Romero's work, there's a bizarre affecting sense of humanity behind his machine-made drones that's hard to explain. It's like if you gave somebody a set of instruments exactly the same as what Romero played and instructed that person to recreate what's heard, it wouldn't sound a thing like what you hear on "Negative". It's like sneaking along underneath the harsh tones found on the surface is a whole other set of compositions and ragas coming into play, just out of reach to everybody else but still managing to alter the listening experience vastly. It's like raiiiiyaiiin on your wedding day, it's a freeee riiiiide when you've already paiiiid. You know? No, you don't, but you will when you come to your senses and scope this one out. Dotted throughout the lengthy piece are occasional blurts of electro/synth gabber and blather, buried just enough so they cause more intrigue than annoyance (although there are a couple points when the sound cuts out altogether and promptly resumes as if the CD were skipping and maybe Romero's fucked up noise towers have just that kind of effect on the wimpy devices called upon to reproduce his tunes). By far the best part of the whole journey is the end (as is usually the case) but I mean that in no way as a slight or anything like that...but when the burrowing roar diminishes and the rain/car engine combo once again fills your headphones it's like a wash of relief, knowing you made it out on the other side safely and can't wait to take the ride again. In fact you could almost make a case that Romero's sound is like traffic itself - all identifiable sounds partially obscuring other identifiable sounds.
If all this sounds like a load of balderdash to you, then I can only say that you'll understand when you hear it. And if you don't, play it again. I listened to "Negative" four times in a row and never once didn't enjoy every minute of it. And not in the lame masochistic sense either that's sometimes attached to noise releases...heck I'm hard-pressed to even call "Negative" noise despite the fact that it so obviously is. It's just so excellently composed, as the finest so-called noise always is. If you find yourself staring at the massive PACrec/Troniks catalogue trying to figure out what to order, start with this one. Then add anything else because you really can't go wrong anyway.


Yellow Swans & Birchville Cat Motel - Birchville Cat Motel & Yellow Swans (Important Records CD)

Important have made a career out of being on the ball and that's exactly where they are with the release of the first collaboration between California (by way of Portland)'s Yellow Swans aka Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman/GMS and New Zealand's Birchville Cat Motel aka Campbell Kneale. Though the art for this release looks archetypal of Kneale's tacky wallpaper slipcases for CDs released on his own Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label, this one actually comes in a cardboard gatefold replete with interior artwork courtesy Kneale himself. Both the tracks here were recorded in New Zealand in 2005 in person - Yellow Swans don't do no mail-order hook-ups. It's the real deal or bricks, brother.
If you twisted my arm until it hurt I would probably have to tell you to stop, and then say that in the tango of these three gentlemen, Kneale leads on track one and the Yellow Swans take the helm during track two...that's just the kind of vibe I get. "Terminal Saints" is the first one, and at half an hour long it's more than a stomachload. For the most part it's tinged with the kind of shrieking, supernova guitar calls that Kneale has come to make his signature, backed all the while by fringy spiked electronics and vocals from the Yellow Swans duo. At times Kneale's guitar sounds like something really rusty and huge like a massive church bell or something being swung back and forth, and at other times like a brilliant purple gamma ray from outer space, and still yet like the feeling of melted white light sliding down your throat. Gabe and Pete meanwhile spurt out lots of harsh, drawn-out and burnt homemade-electronic zig-zagging, like you know they do effortlessly by now.
"Marble Carcass" is the other, shorter piece but at 21 minutes still isn't an easy pill to swallow. It starts off angrier and messier than the other piece, with Kneale adding all sorts of psychedelic squiggles over the Swans' ferocious din, sounding the closest to a "Love and Noise"-circa C.C.C.C. as I've ever heard, maybe like a 21st century version even. They even ratchet up the noise quite a bit and get to a sound somewhere between several steel chains being stuck in a blender and a barfing robot. Hell yes. Safe to say this tune reminds me a lot more of the "psychic" side of the Swans than the first one, although I think I preferred "Terminal Saints" more if I had to pick. It's just so much more immediately...identifiable, I suppose.
Cool disc on the whole, and it'd probably appeal to fans of both genres though I'd categorize the sound as being "Yellow Swans with a BCM influence" rather than the other way around. It's all good though, and all tiding me over until the much anticipated/dreaded Birchville Cat Motel/Matthew Bower slobberknocker drops...when-the-fuck-ever that'll be.


Joe Colley, Jessica Rylan & Kevin Drumm - Pure (Musica Excentrica MP3s)

There's a bit of a self-evident redundancy in reviewing a release from a net label, in that you can just go to the site and download it yourself and make your own judgement (which I encourage you to do). On the other hand it gives me a break from panicking about which release I'm going to try and talk about today, especially on a Monday. But don't worry, I wouldn't talk about a release consisting solely of MP3s if I didn't think it was quality - and I do! And dig that line-up...how could it not be? Moscow's Musica Excentrica seems to have a good thing going for it with this release, another split from Philip Samartzis and CD-R (isn't that like calling your band "the Band"?) and a compilation of similar sounds I have yet to investigate. Seems like they're on a monthly release schedule so far which makes them worth adding to your bookmarks for a revisit every time the calendar changes. The three recordings on this disc all apparently took place in a Moscow club, at least I think that's what can be gleaned from the descriptor "the result can be listened as hard, but rather charm liveset, that took place in Moscow DOM club". Each artists contributes a 12-minute track that is impeccably recorded to say the least (if they are live, it's impossible to tell) and delivered unto you in a very respectable 320 kbps CBR bitrate. Pristine chapel, baby.
Joe Colley starts the set first with "Pure One", a slow, thorough exploration of some kind of organic static and birdsong, which may or may not be entirely mechanical. A long rumbly drone underlies almost the entire track with slight touches and deviations along the way, like glitchy noodling or a ruffled, windy growl. The track approaches near-catchiness when a gentle repetitive clicking sound plays over a heavy swathe of earwax-evicting drone, forced to stop and start over again continously...like one of those wind-up toys you crank and crank only to clamp your fingers shut and watch it struggle pathetically against the force created. Or like forcing a record to go against the groove on a turntable. Whichever, I don't know and probably never will know.
A lot of people have used terms like "deeply personal" and "voyeuristic" to describe Jessica Rylan (aka Can't)'s pieces for home-made synsthesizers and voice, but for "Pure Two" I prefer to stick with a phrase like "fucking terrifying". There's a softly resonating sine wave strobe resonating constantly backed with some other noises that seem to break through to your psyche, becoming more and more human in the process. Pretty soon the strobe picks up in intensity and Rylan drops this totally unexpected bombshell of an anguised cry out of nowhere that scares the shit out of me no matter how many times I hear it. It reminds of the first time you me or anybody saw Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy" video when they were an impressionable youth, or what they thought they were getting when they bought the ParaPsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative's "The Ghost Orchid - An Introduction To E.V.P." album. Rylan's cut plays out in a fashion similar to what you'd expect if one of those E.V.P. ghosts tried to record a song from the other side. Truly one of the most stressful, worrisome, nerve-racking pieces I've heard all year and certainly the best I've heard from Jessica Rylan to date (though I'm no scholar).
Lastly is a much anticipated track from noise demi-god Kevin Drumm who seems to hate releasing things almost as much as he seems to hate playing live. Excluding a limited-run cassette last year, Drumm's last full-length was in 2003 and you don't need me to tell you that that's a lifetime in terms of noise releases. I guess somebody somewhere somehow got him in a place with recording technology with an instrument in his hand and he delivers rather well I think. I have no idea if he's using a guitar or laptop or what here, I'm inclined to say the latter but I have to think the former's involved. "Pure Three" starts out pedestrian enough with a few long-form tones, menacing drones and disarming groans before Drumm shakes things up and produces a series of juttery deviations in his perpetual droning faultline. Slowly but certainly the drone gets harsher and angrier and more frayed around the edges, turning into a snarling horned behemoth. Drumm continues to add layer after layer of dense, white-noise throb eventually coming full circle with a sound that characterizes being locked and left to starve inside an electrical chamber. Definitely works best with the volume turned way up, like all Drumm does.
Kudos to Musica Excentrica for turning this loose and keeping it free no less, because it certainly would be music worth paying for (and again for presenting it in high-quality bitrate files - us sticklers appreciate!). If you want to access the page for downloading "Pure" directly, you can do so by clicking here, and either downloading the three songs individually or altogether as part of a WinZip archive. I could really take a shine to this net label stuff, especially if all the releases are as top-shelf as this one.


Conrad Schnitzler - Trigger Trilogy (Important Records 3xCD)

By now you don't need me or anybody else to tell you about Conrad Schnitzler because he's been name-checked by every band, label, zine and blog from here to Timbuktu. You should also probably know him because he joined Tangerine Dream and helped them rule the world, then formed Kluster (who in turn formed Harmonia when Schnitzler left), and finally Eruption before retiring with his name firmly etched into the trophy awarded to the man who starts up the most awesome krautrock groups and then leaves them. Ever since his semi-withdrawal (at least from the public's view) in the 70's, he's kept busy by recording reams upon reams of material, typically with the synthesizer and piano. The "Trigger Trilogy" 3xCD is compiled from said reams although for whatever reason dates are omitted, probably at Schnitzler's request. So it's kinda hard to put the sounds, as good as they may be, into any sort of context. Nevertheless! Schnitzler has divided them up into three types, one per CD: Solo Rhythmics, Mix Solos and Con-Cert. What do these three wacky terms entail? Read on and keep reading to find out, faithful reading reader!
Disc one (or rather Trigger One) is Solo Rhythmics, and sounds pretty well close to what the disc's title would indicate. Essentially there are 14 tracks (unidentified except for their running time), and each one sees Schnitzler picking out a rhythm from his synthesizer and looping it for 3-5 minutes. They almost all invariably wind up catchy if not a bit cold (due to the nature of the machine, that is) but the more you listen the more you're able to imagine them as the foundations to pop songs (either from the 60's or from today) just with everything else removed...no words and no other instruments to get into the way. Just pure and tonal sound. The loops range from the cosmic, spacey, psych/kraut stuff that was such a huge part of Schnitzler's tenure with the aforementioned bands, to downright techno/IDM-ish near-beats that predate stuff like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Kruder & Dorfmeister by god knows how many years (and could easily double for the beats found on certain electronica-tinged musicians' releases like Bjork or Tricky). They're not all entirely gripping all the time but it's difficult not to at least be impressed by Schnitzler's bare-bones approach to music and sound.
Trigger Two is dedicated to the Mix Solos, or "Free Concert Mix Solos" as Schnitzler himself terms them. They're kind of hard to describe (I've read Schnitzler's wordy description several times and I'm still not sure I get the full gist) but basically he sets multiple rhythms and notes into motion and allow them to play off eachother, sometimes arrhytmically and sometimes not, tangling and untangling at will. Schnitzler uses the word "chaos" to describe the sound of these metallic tones colliding but in reality it's much more pleasant than that - in spite of the composer's best efforts the sounds here come off very coherant and downright infectious at times. Just about all of the eighteen songs bleed into one another but are all very individual...like a mini-opus that congeals within a rather brief timeframe before subtly shifting into something else all together. In my opinion some of the best material found on the whole set is right here, as Schnitzler's tones veer from sinister to cinematically epic to almost pre-natal noise to delicately weaved ambient super-structures. I may not understand the methods but the effects of the results are undeniable and prove just why Schnitzler is more than worthy of all the recent attention he's receiving.
The third and final Trigger is Con-Cert, wherein Schnitzler makes live mixes of his own recordings, layering and mixing tracks together to produce different synchoronized sounds (and from the amount of work Schnitzler has put to tape, an undoubtably limitless supply of possibilities). Kinda like a Schnitzler plays Schnitzler plays Schnitzler type thing. An even greater diversity is presented with these tracks, though they all do a good job of sounding intensely ominous for whatever reason but can recall anything from the last Dead Machines LP to Clint Mansell's "Requiem for a Dream" soundtrack to Thomas Koner to Lothar & the Hand People to...well you get the idea. It's tough to pinpoint favorite tracks since they're all untitled but there's a section mid-way through the disc where it sounds like he's working with some kind of xylophone/gamelan and lends a totally skewed/evil cartoonish vibe like a bizarro Alice in Wonderland or what have you...also great are the rapid-fire rhythms near the end invading cloak and dagger style into the recesses of my skull. In particular the last three tracks add up to nothing less than devastating, and are a perfect way to bring this excellent set to a close.
Important are to be thanked for bringing these recordings to light, and especially for making them available at such a low price (as most Important stuff tends to be)...$23.99 for three hour-long discs means even the most amateur of Schnitzler (heck, early electronic music in general) fans can indulge without feeling the slightest pang of guilt. Also worth mentioning is the eye-ripping design job courtesy Seldon Hunt, a name you might know from equally well-designed Sunn O))) products. All three beautifically-rendered CDs come in their own jewel cases with a glossy insert...my only complaint, like I said, is the total lack of any pertitent recording information (as in dates, or equipment used, and so on) but a pretty small one in the grand scheme of things. Even so, very highly recommended.


Graveyards - Fuck Marks (Fag Tapes CS)

My never-ending quest to get a handle on Graveyards has inevitably led me to eBay, where I picked up this cassette at a decidedly non-eBay price. Actually it was one of those instances where I left a bid and completely forgot about it until I got an email saying I had won. Which can be a double-edged sword because a lot of times I bid on stuff and hope I lose so I won't have to actually pay anything but can at least say I tried. Don't ask, it's a psychological thing. Anyway...this tape comes in an edition of 77 and is in fact probably still available from various outlets but you'll have to check that out for yourself. Comes with a Xeroxed insert and the tape itself is spraypainted pastel purple. Nice!
"Fuck Marks" opens with some dusty clustered percussion feels and shortly thereafter a few drunken sax loops...I think there's also some kind of lo-fi electronics (probably courtesy John Olson, if it's anything like on "Unmarked Graves") that sound like globules shifting underwater and rain droplets connecting with exposed live wiring. Pretty soon Olson jumps back in with some near classical jazz/film noir lines and speaks in a tongue reminiscent of Steve Lacy circa "Paris Blues", although maybe that's just fresh in my mind since I was listening to it recently. Hmm..."Paris Blues for the Night People"? Why not.
The other, longer side demonstrates more chamber-style cabaret creep-outs with a constant metronomish clicking and sparse contributions from all three members. I think there's a touch of Wolf Eyes to be found here as somebody's wielding a reaper's gong, though I couldn't tell you if it was in fact Olson or perhaps Ben Hall since he's on the kit and all. There's certainly some tense vibes coming through loud and unclear from Hans Buetow's cello, and later on some raspy sax throat like dull withdrawals. The trio lapse into a set of heavy-thinking near-ambience as they're more than prone to do, all set to that perpetual clicking before the brass comes alve once more for a few brief gasps. Then Buetow jumps in as active as I've ever heard him play, working up a mild fever on the cello while the other two drop back to give him plenty of room to maneuver. Later on he and Olson engage in a nifty back-and-forth before all hands, legs and mouths are removed from the instruments and the tape runs dry.
I'd estimate the tape to be a bit under half an hour, all told. Personally this is one of the best Graveyards documents I've heard to date, up there with the aforementioned "Unmarked Graves" as top pick. I think Graveyards are perfect for the cassette format, or at least a format more condensed than a double LP or CD...but what do I know. Dammit Jim I'm a doctor, not a docto-oh wait yes of course!


Sunn O))) & Boris - Altar (Southern Lord 2xCD)

Probably thee most highly anticipated doom-related release of the year, the inevitable meeting between drone metal titans Sunn O))) and Boris. They've toured together and put out eachother's releases (okay more like the Sunn guys put out Boris releases) but never appeared in recorded form together until now. It's been about slightly less than a year since the initial announcement of the collaboration, and in the meantime both bands' popularity has increased considerably, particuarly Boris who have somehow become Pitchfork Media darlings and are now apparently the metal band that it's "okay" to listen to (if your playlist usually consists of Of Montreal and the Shins, for example). Expectations, you say? What's all this about expectations? In the end it didn't really matter what showed up as the final product, it'd still sell tremendously well in whatever format the labels chose to release it (I believe there's a single CD version, this double-disc version featuting a bonus track with Earth's Dylan Carlson, a forthcoming triple-LP release and a Japanese issue on the Inoxia Records label - and don't forget to buy the shirt!). Everybody wins! Well, if you're in the band and getting a cut of the profits I mean.
So what did wind up on the disc? Well, an interesting mix to say the least. This album is inherently disappointing. You can't not be disappointed by it. The two names together sounds like a match made in heaven, but the reality is that the two bands don't need eachother - and they know it. In fact, the only time when all five members play together unabated is on the opening track "Etna". For the remaining five tracks, a multitude of guests are called upon to attempt to add some flavor to the mix. It smacks slightly of desperation, but I guess they had to try something right? And if "Etna" is what an hour's worth of just the five members going at it would've sounded like, the guest appearances were probably for the better...not to say it's a particularly bad track, just rather uneventful. It sounds like a track from Sunn's "00 Void" or "Flight of the Behemoth" albums with Boris' Atsuo throwing some drum fills over top. Aside from that, it's all formless and never gels despite lasting close to ten minutes. Atsuo appears again on the next track playing gong and bowed cymbal alongside Bill Herzog on upright bass. Again, nothing remarkable and essentially a recreation of sectors already mined by dark ambient/industrial heads like Lustmord, MZ. 412, Vidna Obmana, and so on. Kinda reminds me of "Sin Nanna" from Sunn's "Black One" - inconsequential at best. "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)" is undoubtably the track that'll catch most people's attention, simply because it sounds so foreign to the drone metal omniverse (well I could see Boris leaning in this direction but certainly not Sunn). It starts out very similar to something from Earth's "Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method" album, with a somber drum beat and dissonant guitar plodding alongside a melancholic piano until Jesse Sykes's vocals come in and set the tone for a dramatic, mournful drone-turned-pop-song anthem. You'd really have to hear the track yourself to understand how alien it is, but it's safe to say the over-the-top delivery and lyrics will either strike you as touching or hilariously absurd (I've heard more than few people dismiss it as "pussy metal")...I'm somewhere in the middle leaning toward the former. What can I say, I'm just a hopeless romantic. A song like "The Sinking Belle" is probably the last thing that I would've imagined when I pictured a Sunn/Boris collaboration, so hats off to them for that I guess. The following "Akuma No Kuma" is essentially a reimagination of a guitar-drone epic played out on synthesizers: Sunn's Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley, Tos Nieuwenhuizen, Troy Swanson, Randall Dunn and Matt Dettmer all play various Moogs and synths while Atsuo takes the reins on the drum kit and Joe Preston (Thrones, ex-Melvins, ex-High on Fire) and Steve Moore and vocoder and trumpet touches, respectively. The results are like a severly-digitalized early Sunn or Boris piece, although I never would've guessed there were so many people playing on it if I hadn't read the liner notes. Seems like the same thing could've been accomplished with just one synth, but I guess that takes the fun out of everything. Atsuo's drumming is probably the high point but otherwise the track isn't nearly as noteworthy as one would've hoped it might be. Boris siren Wata adds her vocals (for the first time ever!) to a track on "Flied Eagle Mind" which I'm convinced is a veiled reference to 70's Japanese psychedelic fuzz rock obscurists Flied Egg...well, in title mainly, not so much in approach. Sure the track features a bunch of fuzz from the guitars of Wata, O'Malley, Takeshi and Anderson (in addition to still more synths from a bunch of the players mentioned above) but Wata's endless intoning of the word "dream" until it stretches out into a ghostly whisper does absolutely nothing to recall Deep Purple knock-offs from overseas. The guitars build with consistent urgency throughout the track until they're finally about to burst wide open...but the track cuts off before that can happen. About the only point in the whole hour's worth of material where the two bands finally approach the form you were expecting/hoping to hear is on the last track "Blood Swamp", and it's one of the most simplistic: take Sunn's hulking bass-y drones and add in a generous helping of Boris' psychedelic rock tendencies screaming over top (aided by ex-Soundgarden axeman Kim Thayil and Tos and Rex Ritter's Moogs) and you finally have a Sunn O))) and Boris song that doesn't sound like too many cooks spoiling the kitchen, or a futile exercise in experimentation for the sake of it. On the other hand though, I'm not so sure an entire album of this would've held up over an hour...because then people would've asked for more and we'd be back at square one.
By far the best bang for your buck is found on the bonus "prelude" disc "SatanOscillateMyMetallicSonatas": a single song bearing the title "Her Lips Were Wet With Venom" and also bearing Earth mainman Dylan Carlson's incredible workmanship on the six-strings - I'm telling you he's a stroke away from genius if he isn't there already. Carlson totally works everybody over by sending out huge gobs of the country-tinged spark he's made his trademark since returning with last year's "Hex". Not since Jon Catler's work with La Monte Young's Forever Bad Blues Band have I heard drone and rock coming together in such convincing fashion (then again one doesn't hear drone and rock coming together much at all). It's hard to write a whole summary on despite its half-hour length but I'll just say that even if you decide to skip over the album that you must download this track if you have a remote interest in either band. Most ballerific shit ever.
If you're a big enough Sunn O))) or Boris fan, you've already got this. If you're on the fence, well I'd say there are much better albums to check out from either band (the "White" albums and "00 Void" for the former and "Flood", "Feedbacker" and "Absolutego" for the latter) but if you've got those then you might derive some enjoyment from "Altar"...just don't expect it to be the be-all end-all drone metal magnum opus that it was (unintentionally) built-up to be. I guess expectations can be a bitch; I'm sure if this wasn't announced a year in advance and just slipped out one day by Southern Lord then it'd be easier to appreciate...but often it just sounds too unfocused. "Sinking Belle", "Blood Swamp" and of course "Her Lips Were Wet With Venom" are all bright spots though, and I wouldn't mind seeing the two groups having another go at it together in the future either. Also, kudos to Southern Lord on a top-notch packaging job...the CD sleeve is a sturdy cardboard double LP-style gatefold with raised lettering and a full-colour booklet affixed to the interior...and each disc comes in its own LP-style mylar slipcase which is another nice touch. I heard the 3xLP is coming out in February and it'll surely have an equally tasteful design job to match.


Mutant Ape Curates the Jams Part 2

Back again with the second and potentially final part to Mutant Ape's box o' horrors...there were a few things I couldn't get around to, a cassette, a few CD-Rs and the DVD-R if I remember correctly so I'll have to hold onto those for now. Hopefully I'll be able to revisit them at another date but I think three evenings spent with all these noise releases would be enough to send me to an early grave. That said, onto the jams!
First up is an eye-catching-in-all-the-wrong-ways cassette from legendary the Japanese noise unit Government Alpha - "Undercliff" (Turgid Animal). Dig: the tape comes wrapped in paper inside a spraypainted milky-white (ahem) case, itself in between two pieces of paper with some certifiably raunchy drawings, and all that sealed in a plastic baggie with a teabag thrown in for good measure. Whoa. Truly befitting the Government Alpha asthetic too. Sounds are pretty vintage Gov't Alpha fare although I don't remember him (Yasutoshi Yoshida) playing up the high-end so much on previous releases. Both sides are trademark static walls with the occasional detectable computo/matrix barf. It's mostly just straight up metallic storm-level blasting, trading into the upper registers more often than my eardrums would like. An impressive, exhaustive listen and definitely sounds as hideous as it looks. Recommended, as all Government Alpha stuff usually is.
The other tape came in similar style packaging, paper in a baggie with shards of broken records enclosed. The release in question is Fecalove & Gagagaruga's "In League with Baudo" (Turgid Animal). This is a collaboration between two Italian artists I've never heard of, and their collective modus operandi is laid out pretty plainly on Fecalove's MySpace: ""In league with baudo" is two microphones running through a cheap mixer and various pedals , for a horrible harsh noise assault. "Anti-Bongiorno" [the B-side] is microphones running through the same mixer but without any effect pedal..feedback feast !". Amen. If I thought the Government Alpha tape was rough, "In League with Baudo" totally peeled my ripe brain from the inside out. The first side is a bit more diverse, as the two (or more?) go from blistering amplifier overload to yawning synthy shrieks to piercing sine wave tonalities to heads-down sheer pedal abuse to laid-back bowel-eviscerating drones. But then they start to settle into grooves, opting mainly to drive you insane with more high-end frequency bombings. I felt like I had swallowed a thousand fire ants and they were trying to chew their way out. Limited to a meager 10 copies and I've got one of them so best of luck to ye!
Despite having a name that inspires hatred, Coco and Fiend Friend's "Dedicated to Sal Baccaro" (Turgid Animal) is a pretty solid 3". Song titles like "Surf Hitler Teenage Cock" (I think the last word is cock?) don't do anything for me either, and indeed that particular song is a pretty lame noise-rock thing that I'm not going for. But the other two tracks ("SS Love/Beast in Heat" and "Bone Fried") are considerably harsher and better. They both lock into some supremely sludgy loops of dark static and other synapse-exploding sounds but the latter won me over by playing what sounded like an extra-harsh and fuzzy version of the riff from Sunn O)))'s "Gates of Ballard", not to mention some near-Orthrelm style shredding...all amidst huge towers of noise bluuur.
Also on the 3" format is Feast of Ishtar's "The Gypsy Curse" (Turgid Animal), who look more like a noise band (at least judging by the cover of another FoI CD-R I was sent) ala Bloodyminded or Hijokaidan. I don't have that CD-R in front of me but I think I remember a dude playing a guitar, and maybe even a drummer. And there's even a picture of a guitar neck on the reverse of this disc's cover. But what's weird is how this CD-R sounds nothing like what I'd expect a noise band (if that is indeed the case) to sound like. No discernable instruments here, just more effect pedals and microphones and mixers and the like. The first track sounds like a pretty poor live recording that's lost all of its impact by putting it on recorded media, but the other cut is a real wallop to the face, like slow grinding gears being pulled apart and forced back together again. Not bad, but nothing worth writing home about.
Last 3" is Love Letters' "Lowered Expectations" (Turgid Animal), featuring a track called "Black Dreams" and another called "Drunk Tank". First one isn't nearly as grim as I've would've expected, with lots of cartoonish feedback screech, various planet-destroying sound effects and a low rumble that builds as the jam wears on. "Drunk Tank" is pretty similar but sees the addition of some gargled throat excocisms while still maintaining a sound like a billion U.F.O. transmissions being intercepted at once. It's only harsh if you're turning the volume all the way to the right, which you should be in any case.
Rough Sex Quartet/Mutant Ape/Fecalove - "Cock Fiddler Nite" (Turgid Animal)" is a compilation/split CD-R from a 2006 show the groups had in Newcastle. It seems to play in reverse order with the headliners going first, because Rough Sex Quartet's track is 35 minutes long (compared to Mutant Ape's 18 and Fecalove's 10) which is a shame because it's a total bore in every sense of the word. Like many live noise documents, everything gets lost in translation as what was probably originally a semi-intriguing set sounds no more eventful than listening to the hum of your dryer. That's really all there is to it. Mutant Ape's track is better as one long harsh noise opus that actually benefits from the rough slipshod live recording because it sounds even more frazzled and tattered. Fecalove's set is as far-reaching as the collaborative cassette reviewed above, with lengthy journeys into either droning stratospheres or head-puncturing feedback investigations. Nice enough but doesn't really make up for the snoozefest that the other 60% of the disc is dedicated to.
A quick Google search confirms my suspicions that Filthy Fecal Mutants' "Smell the Stench" (self-released) CD-R is in fact the collaborative work of Filthy Turd, Fecalove and Mutant Ape. It just would've been too weird if there was actually a band called Filthy Fecal Mutants and they were totally independent of the other three acts. There's two untitled tracks here, a 35-minute and a 25-minute one. Both come off pretty muffled, like there members are operating under a thick fog and/or smokescreen. Works to delicious effect! Someone's hammering on all kinds of keys that emit weirdo siren echoes and lends a total psychedelic C.C.C.C. vibe to it that I can dig in all kinds of ways. Plus the title reminds me of Smegma's "Smell the Remains", and that's a good omen. Otherwise a bit too long for my tastes but it would make great music to sleep to, since all potential for bone-shattering harshness is dulled via the production...and that's a good thing, in this case! Also, dig the Shakespearian lambasting I turned up while doing my Google search. I'm sure there's some kind of tie-in or parallel I could draw but...nope, I got nothing!
Lastly is Progeria Youth's "Dirty Disease" CD-R (Turgid Animal), which comes packed in a slim-line DVD-style case. There's eight tracks boasting questionable titles like "Hate Crime Youth", "The Will to Survive" and "The Attack of the Minority Groups" which make me feel like I'm listening to a Skrewdriver record but NAWW I don't doubt PY's legitimacy. A couple tunes dabble in lo-fi basement loner dark ambient turf and that's cool, but the rest are all "old-school harshness" which I can dig...the group (?) says on their website that this disc harks back to early Richard Ramirez, and I can dig that. Some pretty impeccable morsels of angry-sounding spiked electionics, you know how the game is played by now. Not sure what's up with the freaky midget-looking dude on the cover...cool release though.
Phew, another evening draws to a close and I made it out alive. Like I said before, I missed out on a lot but I'll ideally be able to revisit the ones I had to leave out but it's been non-stop harsh noise for two days straight and I'm pretty sure I'll have blood in my stool tomorrow morning. Not that you needed to know that. Thanks to George Proctor aka Mutant Ape for sending all these treats in, and I just may kill myself if I ever see another package like it again. Only kidding.


Mutant Ape Curates the Jams Part 1

So there's a picture of all the music George Proctor (of/aka Mutant Ape) sent my way recently, something I've been trying to get my head around ever since I opened up the box. Unfortunately I won't be able to get through it all in excrutiating detail (heck I could just open up a new blog dedicated solely to this package) so you'll have to deal with my semi-random selections, with more to come tomorrow. For this first edition I selected two tapes, four CD-Rs and two 3" CD-Rs. I'll try and do roughly the same thing tomorrow with the inclusion of a DVD-R. Exciting times! Even if I have no idea what any of this stuff is. Some is from Proctor's own Turgid Animal label, and some is not. All of it is vaguely disturbing.
First tape was a good one to start off with as it was Mutant Ape's "Recycled" cassette (RRRecords). In case you somehow don't know the shtick, RRR boss Ron Lessard dubs whatever noise is handed to him on these reused tapes from obscure/dollar bin artists. It's basically a rite of passage for every noise musician on the planet and I think it's actually a law that you're not allowed to be in the noise mafia if you don't have a Recycled tape to your name. True story. Two side-long tracks appear here and don't remind me much at all of the other Mutant Ape product I reviewed, "No Bodies" on the Amorf label. The sounds here are more hollowed-out malfunctioning Cessna engines, dotted with occasional synthy strokes and almost passive-aggressive slow burning. There's also a few nice, lengthy stretches of fluctuation oscillations...the perfect nod-out yowl. The B-side is a bit more dynamic with Proctor switching things up more frequently and the A-side seems to wind down but catches another wind and gets born again into a more high-pitched and somewhat calmer affair. It's kinda eerie in a way, but pales in comparison to the run-off from the original recycled tape...it's some dude speaking in this monotone voice about punching "asshole scum" and how some bully he got into a fight with when he was a kid died of leukemia 9 years after the storyteller punched him out. Ooookay. Now I've got the urge to hunt that down. I gotta hear the whole story!
Other tape of the day is Institut's "Epidemics" (Unrest Productions). Both sides feature multiple tracks, ranging from a lo-fi metallic grumble with mumbled male vocals to needly hypnotizing feedback repetition to mini A-bomb detonations occuring in the distant sunset...it's all pretty nice and pretty easy to get lost in, although I'm not so sure he/she/they (it sounds like a they) would take to kindly to such a compliment. Unfortunately as soon as you latch onto something, Institut have already moved on to the next thing. Bummer. But a nice little tape nevertheless.
Romance - "Live 2006" (Turgid Animal) is a 3" CD-R culled from a buncha (three) dates the group had in what I'm assuming to be their native U.K., and was probably a lot more aggressive in-person, particular in a couple of shots in the opening cut where the noisician (?) goes idle and then proceeds to tear the pubic hair from your body in one furious swoop. As far as the group's sounds it reminds me of a more P.E.-oriented Merzbow, what with all the jump-cutting...unfortunately once you subtract the banter and the ultra-annoying loop that takes up the last five minutes of the album, you're not really left with much meat at all. Feels more of a favor to a friend than an actual release.
I had to hear Cryptic Weevil's "Come Out" (Turgid Animal) 3" CD-R because it purports to be a re-working of Steve Reich's seminal tape piece of the same name. Indeed it uses the exact same "I had to open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them" sample that Reich works with although Cryptic Weevil takes it a bit all over the map: looping the phrase over itself (like Reich did), speeding it up, slowing it down, reversing it, and throwing it under a train of effects. In the second half Weevil seems to be "playing" over the loop and at times your ears have to search for it but it always seems to rebound in that endless rhythm of "come out to show them". A novel idea but doesn't really shed any light that Reich failed to when he composed it in '65 either.
Cracked Dome's "Mutilated Horizons" (Turgid Animal) CD-R certainly makes good on the group (individual?)'s name's promise...there's two tracks here, one called "The Slow and Endless Dissection of All False Gods" at 63 minutes and one called "Elimination Procedures" at 5 minutes. The first one rules. I'll admit it gets kinda long in the tooth with about twenty-minutes of empty-skull zombifying ambience, but once it gets going there's just no looking back. At about the half-hour mark the intensity meter starts working its way up as the track gets ever more so aggressive and angry, until a total tidal wave of harsh, thundering rumble takes over and never stops sounding pissed...I mean seriously it's like one big buildup where every time it gets to the level you think "it can't possibly get any more louder" and, of course, it does. Around 50 minutes in it's the total breaking point, with screaming electronics tearing across a blackened sky backdrop as your face melts off and clots in a small pool at your feet...the high-pitched frequencies that conclude the track sound like sirens from all over rushing to the scene. Total aces. Oh, the five minute track is some brief harsh exploder thing that really didn't even need to be included. Highly recommended!
DirectBrainStimulation's "Post Zombie Coma" (Turgid Animal) CD-R is one of the few included with some actual info, such as "noise by Rick Winn and Brian Jenkins". That still doesn't tell me anything about them but at least I know it's two dudes named Rick and Brian. Their CD-R is comprised of one 42-minute cut and it's pedal to the metal the whole way...nobody gets any room to breathe here, not listener nor performer. Their furious harshisms remind me a lot of most Japanoise I'm familiar with, specifically stuff like Government Alpha or M.S.B.R.. Can't think of much else to say about it but those who dig it fast n' loud will have no complaints (well, I have just one - that name!).
A CD-R I was especially looking forward to hearing was Kylie Minoise's "Micro-Budget Perversion" (Turgid Animal), particularly because I've heard so much about the name in question. To be honest I was expecting some kind of goofy Load Records pseudo-noise trash but Kylie (who is one guy, to the best of my knowledge) serves up the goods and serves them up loud. I could feel the wind from my speakers hitting my eyeballs when I put this one in. Similar to the DBS disc above, this is one half-hour anger management course but outdoes everything in terms of over-the-top volume, bordering on near-Masonna territory. Like the last one, it too reminds me of Japanoise in terms of sheer unquenchable thirst for brutality. Not too much changes from minute to minute (or from 10 minutes to 20 minutes even) but that's not really the point either. Intense! And also recommended!
Last on the docket is a band I don't know from a label I do know, and that's The Sunken's "Toasted Victims" (Obscurica) (with a great cover). I think one of the dudes from the Sunken is also in Cracked Dome, or something like that. Who the hell knows. The sounds here vary wildly: microphone and turntable abuse, guttaral and shouted vocal sounds, lo-fi groans and chiming keyboards, subterranean/cavernous bass droning, B-level horror movie SFX, and a whole slew of other things I can't bear to mention. It doesn't always click for me (I'm not so much a fan of the vocals) but when it does, it's great: "Zombie Heroin" (featuring Pulse Emitter) is the harshest Wolf Eyes tracks Wolf Eyes never wrote, "You'll Go to Your Grave Because of Me" threatens suffocation with sheet after sheet of static fury and the high-pitched noises in "Reaper's Lunch" will make you jump out of your skin, especially in contrast with the rainy ambience that starts off the track. One thing I'm not a fan of (and a personal pet peeve in anything noise-related) are the goofy track titles...the ones I listed before were good enough but "Lou Ferrigno Fabric Tear" and "I Don't Like Video Games"? Boomtown Rats for Generation Y it ain't. Nevertheless...quality release from a label who always deal in quality and/or baffling releases.
I think that's all the noise I can handle for tonight, and maybe for the rest of the week even but tune in again tomorrow and I'll put the rest of Mr. Ape's records to bed, and then I can start figuring out how to store the ones that come in baggies/clear plastic folders.