The Emerald City Debacle Vol. 1 Subscription Series #2-4 (Debacle Records CD-Rs)
Seattle-based Debacle Records seem like a pretty newish outfit, but they've already got the Emerald City Debacle Vol. 1 subscription series to their name, which furthers my notions that someday in the future, everybody will have a subscription series on the go. This is volume one of the series, consisting of 12 full-length CD-Rs dedicated to "show[ing] that the Seattle underground is one of the most beautiful and bleak music communities around". Seems like a pretty heady venture if you don't have any of the Big Names as selling points; at least, most of these names are pretty unfamiliar to me: Red Squirrel, Physical Demon, Dull Knife, Walrus Machine, (A) Story of Rats, Broken Penis Orchestra, and more. I'm no geographer either though so I'm not about to suggested who outta the Seattle area they could've included instead, so I'll just let it be. Sam Debacle shipped me editions two, three, and four which is to say Physical Demon, Wind Swept Plains, and a split from Ivory Lid & Wesley Borden. The first one (Red Squirrel) is sold out, and the others are available for $6.50 each PPD if you just want a taste instead of a subscription. Neat.
Physical Demon have this and a self-released 3" CD-R to their name, and they're a trio of Gordon Greenwood, Dustin Kochel, and Tim Nelson. This, that is to say, is called "Anklyosaur Generator", and is a single 41-minute experiment in computers, electronics, effects, and the like. The first notions include thick, droning subcurrents undercut by choppy, amphibious glitches and hiccups...then synthetic thunder claps and static bolts rain heavy grit over industrialized sound swathes. Elsewhere, there's a roaring lo-fi drill colliding with the sound of exploding comet fall-out and even some thinkspots that don't put the boots to your ears nearly so much. Unfortunately for the most part the sound they've come up here is largely faceless - nothing ever sticks and impresses for too long. It's all just kinda "there". Sonically it lands somewhere between Maurizio Bianchi's "S.F.A.G." and the American Tapes/Heresee crews (particularly Nautical Almanac I find) at their best moments. I'll even grant them a few moments of what could be considered musique concrete-inspired splash. On the surface there's a lot going on, but I'm not convined it's gelling.
Chad Allen is the man behind Wind Swept Planes (or, ...Wind Swept Plains... if you're as dramatic as he is) and "The Rose; Prickliest of Thorns" is his contribution to the Emerald City Debacle set. My initial impression from careful study of Chad's photo in the liner notes was that he'd be putting together a set of home-recorded folk jams and I don't think I could've been more right and wrong. These seven tracks are certainly home-recorded, and they've certainly got some folk lick to them...but shit it's a weird album. For instance, Allen spends nine minutes on "Thorn of Salt" absolutely massacring something that I don't even think qualifies as a legitimate musical instrument...it sounds like he's playing barbed wire with a hacksaw more than anything. What's even more curious than the "music" is the gibberish vocal work Allen lays down throughout "Salt" and on the one-minute "Home" - something of a cross between Capt. Beefheart, Mike Patton, Tom Waits, and Lord Worm. Despite these double-take inducing oddities, he can also lay out a real charming - if not slightly off-kilter - sonata as proven by the accordion(?)-led "Sweet Red" and closing "Pool of Petals". This would undoubtably be your favorite weirdo outsider record if it was released in the 70's, but since it came out some forty years after the fact you kinda have to adjust downwards for, uh, musical inflation...but I wouldn't be ashamed of slotting "The Rose" alongside loneliest, weirdest solo records like those by Gary Higgins, Mark Tucker, Ed Askew, Bill Holt...worth an investigation, if not into the music then at least into Allen's present state of mental health. And that should be a compliment.
Ivory Lid & Wesley Borden are equally responsible for the fourth and final entry (from my batch, at least), "Feeding Friendsy". In fact, they're so equally responsible that they alternate tracks here, which I always felt was an underrated method of arranging a split. And despite having never heard a note from either of these guys before, this split works in the strangest of ways. "Feeding Friendsy" combines Wesley Borden's despondent, post-rock-influenced electronic ambience with Ivory Lid's take on IDM-or-whaddeveryacallit-these-days that gets downright poppy for a good part of the time. Dig especially tracks like "English Never Felt So Good" and "Interactions with a Perfect World", which chops and contorts the female-spoken title against a fuzzy, dreamy electronica (dare I say) beat with much success. I have to question whether or not this Ivory Lid person (one Demetrius C., apparently) is famous yet and I'm just living in a bubble. I know that the whole ambient/techno ship sailed in the 90's, but his tracks are just absolutely flawless, if not the most original thing in the world. And Borden's tracks are just as competent, offering brief snatches of gentle, Kompakt/intr.version-type crinkly, warm, glitchy, electronica wash - "Lazy Not in Love" and "Cephalic vs. The Organ" are great examples of this. I guess the two (or two of the) sides of current-day electronica/techno/what have you are on display here: the formless and the not-so-formless. It might not be exactly my bag, but I can't deny how incredibly well put together the whole thing is. If this was on a label with better distribution, it'd shift a dizzying array of units. Or, at least, more than the mere 100 it's been alotted. If the description (and MP3s below) sound like your game, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
In fact, it'd be pretty tough to be disappointed from any of these at $5-6.50 a pop. And as the "vol. 1" would imply, there are indeed plans for a volume 2, which means twelve more samplings of the strange Seattle sound that's around these days. Stay tooned.
Physical Demon - Anklyosaur Generator (excerpt)
Wind Swept Plains - Twining Twixt
Wind Swept Plains - Aphids of Blood
Ivory Lid - Interaction with a Perfect World
Wesley Borden - Lazy Not in Love