Borbetomagus & Hijokaidan - Both Noises End Burning (Les Disques Victo CD)

I suppose I didn't really need to buy this CD. After all, I saw it when it happened. I lived through it once, and once was probably enough, all things considered. But for some reason I always find myself buying CDs of shows I already saw, and I'm not quite sure why - the experience is never the same, and isn't it better to leave certain things as memories instead of trying to relive them fruitlessly? Well maybe, but here I am with "Both Noises End Burning", a year and a bit after I saw the chaos unfurl before mine own eyes at the 2006 Festival International de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec. Borbetomagus and Hijokaidan, together on stage for the first and possibly only time. Two seminal noise groups from either side of the Pacific coming together to do what they do best - demolish. Borbetomagus is, of course, Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich on saxophones and Donald Miller on guitar, while Hijokaidan was, in this incarnation, Jojo Hiroshige on guitar, Junko Hiroshige on vocals, Toshiji Mikawa on electronics and Nao Shibata of Doodles on drums. I think the moment when all seven stalked the stage right before playing remains of the most intense and downright terrifying moments of my life. And then they started playing...
Junko's unbelieably shrill yelps into a microphone cranked up as high as humanly possible start the whole shebang, with the remaining six leaping in a second after, all setting out to make the loudest, most grueling piece of noise brutism ever laid to tape. Obviously it's lost somewhat in the translation to CD, but when sitting in the Victo Colisée, the only thought my remaining few brain cells could muster up was, "it's not really going to be this loud the whole time, is it?". Don't get me wrong - I've seen loud shows before. And anybody will tell you that a noise show in an impersonal, echo-ey coliseum ain't half as powerful as a noise show in somebody's basement where you're wiping the artist's sweat off your brow in addition to your own, but this performance singlehandedly proved that all wrong. This was far and away the loudest show I'd ever taken part of. It was loud to the point of obscenity. Or oppressiveness. Or ridiculousness. Whatever. But the remarkable thing is that they did it, from beginning to end, seventy-fucking-one minutes of non-stop, atonal wailing, in every possible sense of the word. Not once in the set is their the slightest hint of a pause. Sure certain players move in and out as they see fit, but the collective rage never stops roaring, which is truly remarkable. Listening to "Both Noises End Burning" is an overwhelming, completely exhausting experience, which makes it all the more mind-boggling to think that seven humans actually got up on a stage and produced this much noise at such a sustained volume for such a lengthy span of time. To discuss what happens musically is irrelevant, not to mention totally impossible - all seven members operate as one, like a Hydra attacking with numerous heads, and you're the unarmed Hercules at its mercy.
Unfortunately, as is always the case with live discs, the happenings of the original performance don't (or can't) carry over. Jojo's incredible rock star posturing, Sauter and Dietrich blowing water on everybody else through the bells of their saxophones, Jojo and Donald Miller's Spinal Tap-esque guitar duel, Miller shoving his arm into Sauter's saxophone to get his attention only to show him the time on his clock (and be shooed away for his efforts), Junko and Dietrich swapping microphones to somehow make her twice as loud and as deafening as she was when she started, and of course the group hug after 72 minutes of absolutely insane, mind-shattering waste-laying. Hard to imagine that here in this age there are still more boundaries to push and still more places to take the noise genre - a superficial, one-trick pony at face value. It's hard not to think of "The Challenger Deep" (the rather appropriate name given to the one track here) and its single-minded onslaught as some sort of next level in noise. Yes it follows a simple pattern that's been beaten to death by its own members back in the 70's and 80's - play as loud as you can as long as you can - but I can't think of an incident when it was fully realized in all its gruesome, snarling, exhilerating glory like it is right here.
All told, I don't know how quick I'd recommend the record. I don't want to put it out there as some sort of retarded masochistic noise endurance test, but I also wouldn't want anyone thinking there's more to it than a full-on face-wrecking atom bomb slugfest. If you've got ears, "Both Noises End Burning" is a landmark worth experiencing, if not enjoyed, at least once. You might not love it, but I can't see how anyone could hate something delivered with such unabashed honesty and conviction, which to me is what really hits home about, indeed, the whole shebang. Besides the whole head-exploding, heart-imploding, soul-obliterating, synapse-blowing, colon-erupting noise thing.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Various 7"s Round-Up

Had a quartet of recently released 7"s lying around that I thought deserved a listen, starting with the final two mailings from Not Not Fun's Bored Fortress 7" subscription series. Man, is it over already? All good things must come to and end and all that jazz. First plucked is Mindflayer/Deep Jew. Mindflayer you know because Brian Chippendale's the drummer, but Mat Brinkmann's the Other Woman in this duo and his contributions should not be overlooked either. Well it'd be pretty hard to overlook em even if you tried, because he's burying Chippendale in a chummy stew of synth/keyboard/tape/Speak n' Spell mucus throughout. I think I saw Brinkmann play live once and he hurt my face mightily, a feat repeated here whilst Chippendale thrashes away sounding almost mechanized by Brinkmann's gamma beams before busting out in the second half and heaving out a hearty percussion disembowelment like a Meshuggah tune reimagined by, fuckin', Tron. Providence noise rock goes instrumental grind? I can dig. Oh yeah I read that they make a lot of Dungeons & Dragons references in their names, but this track's called "Frizzle Fry 2", you can understand why the Primus ref is throwing me. Second side belongs to Deep Jew, who I know next to nothing about, but their info section of the insert claims their two tracks on the split were recorded in '08, so I like em already. Said two tracks - "Night Eyes 2" and "Cops Wet Pussy" - are freedback-doused firestorms of hardcore/grind/powerviolence/noise rock/I-could-go-on stew, totally trashed and inept and bareassed which is how I like it. Drums, guitars, vocals, possibly other things, all buried under the haze perpetuated by the lo-fi recordings techniques at work here. Reminds me a lot of early (read: good) Locust and, at special times, my personal faves World. If you like all that An Albatross and Genghis Tron stuff you should feel right at home with these guys, though this is way better, and probably even more enjoyable in the live setting than on record. I'd go see em. Probably

The aforementioned Mat Brinkmann also did the art on this Hototogisu/Hive Mind split, the final Bored Fortress entry for the year. So, uh, that's one degree of separation for you. The Hototogisu side is called "Full Prince Charles" and credits K.W. Jeter and a list of his novels for inspiration - who knew? Anyways, this track is one of the most aggressive shards I've come to know from the Bower and Bassett tandem, pretty much the polar opposite of early solo Bower Hototogisu records if you think about it. Keeps with the program brought on by Mindflayer and Deep Jew, though. You know the story by now - strings, pedals, and violence pushed to the point of overdrive with not even the slighest oasis in sight to catch one's breath. Strikes a chord somewhere between the Incapacitants and Tony Conrad's "Four Violins" on steroids. It may not be as imminently unique as those early Hototogisu records but it's still a nice enough wallop.
Hive Mind's side "Collapsed Shroud" is a simply yet effective boiler room drone with a lurking, churning foundation very much reminiscent of the lurking, churning foundation beneath Whitehouse's "Thank Your Lucky Stars" - I half expect to be verbally berated any minute into the record but I don't think Greh Holger is that kind of guy. Rather, he inflicts ominous warning siren electronics that trill in and out of audibility, serving not only a warning but I reminder that I need to listen to more Hive Mind stuff because I often forget how great it can be. Consider "Shroud" exhibit A.

Seagull's "The Conqueror Worm" (Ketchup Cavern One-Sided 7") came to me from nowhere looking pretty menacing; I was thinking it was either a noise record, a black metal record, or a Stephen O'Malley side project just from looking at the artwork. Turns out to be the first option, and a quick Googling reveals Seagull to be one Michael Piercey outta Vancouver, who's got an array of tapes and CD-Rs to his name, unbeknownst to yours truly. Ketchup Cavern sez "The Conqueror Worm" consists of "poorly-recorded static, roaring distortion (and some mysterious crackle added by the pressing plant)" and that pretty well sums it up. It's a straight-forward snarling drone, cavernous rattling and tectonic plate-shifting sensibilities abounding, which is nice enough but kinda begs the question why, as Piercey seems to be treading on sure ground here...though I could never say I know a man after listening to five minutes of his music. Plus I think I could get into it more stretched out over full-album length. So as long as it's competently performed (it is), who cares if it doesn't change my life. Slick black and white sleeve designs on this baby though.

First the Earth.Space Noise releases now this Nodolby 7" - I think Smooth Assailing and me are on the same promo lists. And they're beating me to the punch all the time! I digress.
The last curious 7" sent my way was Nodolby's "Axe Magnitude/Altered Beast" (Dokuro 7"). Nodolby (and Dokuro) is the work of Italy's Michele Scariot, and apparently the project has been active since 1998 though this is the first actual Nodolby release - and the first Dokuro release too. Or maybe I misunderstood and it's only Nodolby's first vinyl release. I don't really know. What I do, upon playing this here 7", is Jesus fuck it hurts. As if all the bent electronics, guitar abuse, "blasted synths and tape manipulations" weren't enough, "Axe Magnitude" had to have been mastered at at least 500% volume since I nearly blew out my speakers/anus upon dropping the needle. "Altered Beast", on the other hand, is a pretty great side of bombed electronics and fully engulfed guitar riffing that builds to a swell only to dither away into an even more fucked up squall of strangled trumpet yelps via Demis da Rold. Doesn't sound like a whole much else I can think of, so I like it, but just be careful with the volume when you first put the needle down. It's worth noting this is available in an edition of 99 black and 66 marble-amethyst, and comes in a lovely, thick sleeve w/insert. Dokuro's got a brand new release out too from Green Mine, a CD-R this time limited to 74 pieces, what might also be worth checking out. For now, I definitely recommend this one above all else.


Pulse Emitter - Progression to Desolation (Black Horizons LP)

First ever headline vinyl appearance for Portland's Pulse Emitter, whom you should recall from the "Portland" 3xLP set not to mention countless other releases, performances, and the such. The man behind the name is Daryl Groetsch, who spends his free time building modular synthesizers for abuse on said releases and in said performances. I've only heard two things from him so far - his side of the "Portland" record which I enjoyed and a Housepig CD which I don't remember much of. I do remember hotly anticipating this LP (from the eternally-reliable Black Horizons label) and I can safely report I was not letdown in the least.
Two sidelongs occupy "Progression to Desolation", both somewhere near or around the 20-minute mark for maximum zone-out potential. The first side showcases Groetsch's buzzing synthesizer tones weaving in and out of audibility like black jets droning across a darkened sky, with intensity to be ratcheted up every few passes. Later these fluctuating notes give way to a wire-thin drone that starts out straight enough but gets progressively destroyed as Groetsch pulles and stretches it into a number of shreds and strands, before revisiting the old ominous squelches of earlier. There's then some brief interplay between the various machines used to generate these sounds before a flush of white noise creeps through and fills just about every empty space in the piece with sonic obliteratum. The whole thing is something of a curious mix between Rafael Toral, Joseph Hammer, prog/kraut leanings, and The Thing soundtrack. Sign me up.
Like the first side, side two features drones that ebb and flow but rather than cycle in a perpetual disappearing/reemerging act, they remain a continous beam of uneasy sound, churning and gnawing with constant waves of analog gloom. Those oceanic swells worm around for nearly half the piece till an electronic sizzle breaks the trancem leading the remainder of the record into hushed, minimal-shifting drone turf very much more along the lines of an Eliane Radigue than the ear-busting noise skree one might be expecting from someone so closely affiliated with that kinda crowd. Nay, "Progression" is an admirable work, both of maturity and of restraint. Highly recommended, but limited to 300 copies (with a different painting on the front of each!) so don't dawdle.


Ex-Cocaine - Esta Guerra (Siltbreeze LP)

I've been on a mini Brian Ramirez kick lately: the fantastic Universal Indians "Monster Approach" LP and this year's Poor School "Voor Niets in Zijn" disc. Why not top it all off with the new Ex-Cocaine record, brought to the world by a label called Siltbreeze. Whole lotta morra Ramirez acion in the pipeline - a quick view of the Killertree website sees Plants, Ramirez/Pete Nolan, Ex-Cocaine/Yellow Swans and Poor School/Swords & Sandels epherma en route. What a time to be alive in '85.
If you somehow managed to miss out on Ex-Cocaine till now, here's a quick rundown: Brian Ramirez and Michael Casler are the duo behind the name and both utilize vocals, guitars, and percussion to stir up "plundering stoner folk jams" though they've been branching out from that a bit in recent days. Really, this was all documented on the "Keep America Mellow" LP, a Heavy Tapes release, and the just-out GHQ/Ex-Cocaine split 7", so you've not no excuse not to be knowing at this juncture. Despite being all new (to my knowledge) material, "Esta Guerra" is a pretty good overview of the ground they've dragged their feet over since they were birthed while offering up some new surprisings hinting at still more radness to come. Three pretty diverse songs occupy the first side of the record. The first, "The Warning", is similar to their side of the GHQ split - totally inept free-percussion sledging, beaten out by hand and stix in lo-fi, basement-tech glory, Bennink and Graves by way of Black Flag, blood is singing, you know. "Sun Before Arises" treads the turf of "America" w/ a woozy, discordant psych/folk wash, gorgeously rendered in sun-stained early morning laziness with the title being chanted in rather charming fashion - slots in fine alongside your Golden Calves Money Band, your Davenport, your Tower Recordings, etc., but with a bent that's all Ex-Cocaine and no one but. "The Tempest", finally, is a scowling square-off between Ramirez and Casler, one on guitar and the other on bass, sending out all kinds of mangled riffs in gnarled, barbed patches. At times they sorta congeal into shaky rhythms, but they collapse into sludgy compost just as quickly a la Gate.
The second side features a short piece ("The Sheafman") and a longer one ("With the With the When the One"). Both deal in sub-angelic guitar riffing, bruised harmonies, and wasted vocals - "The Sheafman" is a guitar-led sermon bolstered by tabla-style percussion while "With the..." is a colossal excursion in 60's psych riff carvings and 80's Xpressway/Shock junk rock moves, thick and hazy Rallizes vibes all over this one, albeit slower, methodic, and more fucked up. It embodies pretty well the general Ex-Cocaine ethos of lying out in the sun stoned out of your head with sweat and beer leaking out of every pore - sun blindness music indeed.
Overall - overall! - it's all pretty great slosh rock fro a couple of undisputed champeens though I think I still prefer the "America" LP. Hardly a fair comparison since "America"'s had plenty of time to settle and this one's the new kid that I have to spend more time with before I Really Get to Know It but shit, you can't go wrong with any of the Ramirez/Killertree filth in my book. Get to scopin'.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Herbert Stanley Littlejohn - 17th and 18th Century Works of Funerary Violin (The Guild of Funerary Violinists CD-R)

I try to stay away from the more ridiculous things Aquarius digs up, but the whole Funerary Guild story was too tantalizing to pass up, though I did manage to resist for a while. I didn't look hard but why does it seem like they're the only ones selling these Funerary Violin CD-Rs? Are they in cahoots? How deep does this Guild run? Whatever the case...I picked up what I guess is the newest one, and if you haven't heard the incredible back story, well let me give it to you in severely truncated form: the Funerary Violinist is, as you might have guessed, a person who plays a specific kind of music for solo violin at another person's funeral. The Guild itself was formed in 1586 by one George Babcotte and they were staples are funerals for at least a couple of centuries. So how come you've never heard of it? Well sometime around 1833, for reasons still speculated upon to this day, the first of multiple Great Funerary Purges took place - books containing the histories, writings, and sheet musics of the Guild went missing, paintings of and about Funerary Violinists were altered or destroyed, with the same being said for violins baring the markings of the violinists of the Guild. Essentially, any trace of this 200-year old musical tradition was to be wiped off the face of the earth. It's only as recently as the 1970's that the history of this fascinating and hither-to totally unknown sect of music history has began to come to light, thanks to the work of Rohan Kriwaczek. A violinist himself constantly in search of the "saddest music in the world" to play at his concerts, he was approached by an unnamed member of the Guild (active to the day, however marginalized) with the promise of the world's saddest music. Having earned the trust of the group, Kriwaczek has since began finally making this music and the history of those who made and make it available to the masses in 2002 - not without substantial resistance from those within the Guild, at first. To date he has issued a book about the subject and three CD-Rs - one featuring the recordings of Wilhelm Kleinbach, last of the practising Funerary Violinists (playing the works of arguably the greatest Funerary Violinist of them all, Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss); another compiling recorded works of Babcotte, Charles Sudbury, and Stanley Eaton; and this disc featuring the only known recordings of Herbert Stanley Littlejohn.
In 1954, a musicologist named Daniel Haughton came across a hand-written book of music called Various Works for the Performance of Funerary Violin, dating back to 1726. Haughton was aware of the Funerary Violinists and passed his findings onto Littlejohn, who authenticated the book as being one of the earliest known examples of written Funerary Violin music (much Funerary Violin work was improvised and hence not transcribed, you see). Two years later, Littlejohn set about recording the works - a suite each by Orlando Addleston (1681), Michel Meunier (1693) and Kaspar Ignaz Faustmann (1722), all with three movements apiece. Tragically, Littlejohn was never able to complete the recordings - he tripped over an elderly cat and fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck and fracturing his skull, before he was able to lay down the second movement of Addleston's suite and the third of Faustmann's. So what's left is only a fragment of what could have been - you might say a bitterly appropriate microcosm for all of the Funerary Violinists' work to date. All 22 minutes of Littlejohn's recordings are here, all bathed in a thick swamp of crackling dust from the years of abuse and poor preservation the original LP suffered. Littlejohn's violin is suitably morose and scratchy throughout, but on the Addleston pieces he leans into almost ebullient strands of high-pitched tonality - something Kriwaczek alludes to in his liner notes, stating "Littlejohn was renowned for [...] his playing's ceaseless enthusiasm and undeniable volume, both of which are much in evidence in these recordings, though at times perhaps a little inappropriately". The complete Meunier suite is a personal favorite, with Littlejohn's slightly off-tune and ragged strings transcending life and death by often working on mournful repetition and heart-wrenching melodies, though constantly shadowed by the grim spectre of the reaper himself. The two Faustmann movements are slower in pitch and sound considerably more deliberate, with Littlejohn dipping each note into a dull whine akin to the opening and closing of rusted iron gates. The limitations of the original recording devices, the medium, and indeed Littlejohn's own talent, all serve to push these recordings into the realm of the otherworldly, as if they weren't there to begin with. This is shattering, essential stuff that deserves to be heard after countless centuries of obscurity and ignorance.

I bought the book from Amazon (super cheap) to further research this musical phenomenon, but unfortunately I haven't been able to read enough of it to provide a suitable review. It's a beautiful-looking hardcover edition, some 200 pages in length, and contains just about all the fruits of Kriwaczek's hard work to date. A brief history of early Funeral Music is included, as well as a guide to the subtle art of the funeral march - from then, the book goes into depth about George Babcotte and how the Guild came to be, as well as chapters on some of the most prominent Violinist practitioners around - Littlejohn, Gratchenfleiss, Sudbury, Kleinbach, Eaton, and many more. The book details Mozart's rumoured association with the genre, the Great Funerary Purges and the Vatican's response to allegations of their involvement, and a general overview of where the genre, the Guild, and its practitioners are today. Also included are a tremendous amount of photographs, period pictures, sheet musics, paintings, and the like, each one helping to unravel at least somewhat the seemingly interminable mystery behind this age-old musical legacy unknown to all - until now. The only thing harder to believe than this incredible history going ignored and surpressed for several centuries is the fact that it was all made up.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Earth.Space Noise - Kassette Kvlt III / Kassette Kvlt IV (Earth.Space Noise CSs) / Cave Dudes - Damn Deer (Earth.Space Noise 3" CD-R)

Got a rad package in the other day/season from the Earth.Space Noise Research Laboratories containing two of their Kassette Kvlt tapes and a 3" disc from a duo known as Cave Dudes. The tapes were of particular interest at first glance, with their cases housed inside screenprinted cloth stapled together (which turns out to be an inside out Megadeth shirt. Nice!) with sexy cardstock inserts, paint spattered tapes, and all that other good stuff. Have a look. Paying obvious homage to black metal, the idea behind ESN's Kassette Kvlt series is, and I quote, "an ongoing tribute to the history and future of noise, featuring devoted worshiper's of noise in it's various forms, whom for the sake of noise have cast aside their ego's and proclaimed anonymity". So, they're not compilations as I had originally thought. They're full length noise tapes recorded specifically for the project, only released anonymously. I'm not really sure how going incognito is a way to pay tribute to the genre while keeping it sacred, but I'll leave that question to the philosophers. It's a neat idea, in any event. The Cave Dudes disc boasts a nice package too, colour printed foldover paper and cardboard...nice of the label to go the extra yard for the oft-maligned 3" format, instead of sticking it in one of those flexi sleeves with a Xerox slipped in.
"Kassette Kvlt III" is two great sides of sludgy, swirling, apocalyptic drones, grazed with occasional digital buzzing, bubbling, and burning. There are a couple of voices throughout - one which sounds like the guy reading the news on the car radio in every zombie movie ever, and another which is most certainly live and part of the action. And it's a woman's voice, no less. Atop all the smokey, charred rubble, this woman with the golden throat belts out impressive chorales and incantations in a language I can't identify, but for all I know it could even be English. Whoever she is, her enchanting, siren-like voice does a great deal to set this act (whoever they are) apart from the usual gang of drone/noise scientists without ever becoming an annoyance. In fact, it's the perfect contrast to the scorched earth soundtrack on which she lets her voice roam. I spose a near-enough comparison would be Diamanda Galas, although considerably more restrained and, well, obviously not. The music ain't all that harsh either, but the kind of snarling bile and extended somnabulism that reminds of maybe John Wiese's more contemplative sets, or even a guitarless Sunn O))), if you catch my drift. All I know is that if I had a hand in making this, I'd be way too proud not to slather my name all over it. So hats off to these folk for that.

"Kassette Kvlt IV" is also a coupla side long pieces sounding like solo synth/pedal/oscillator mayhem, all very well done and executed but pretty well by the books so nothing really sticks. The destroyed vocals looming over most of side one were a nice touch, and there were a few heavy sparks on side two that hinted at greater things to come, but on the whole I was underwhelmed. I'm sure you can recognize the irony in me saying it, but after a while all that kind of electronic napalm and scramble doesn't even register like it used to. Not even in terms of quality, but even in so-called harshness - it scarcely makes a dent despite such aspirations, unless you turn it up to 30 or what have you. I guess it's that whole bludgeoning to the point of desensitization thing, which I'm sure has a name and I'm too daft to know it. Heck, I certainly don't hate this or anything, but I just don't think it brings anything new to the table. Sometimes anonymity has it's perks, I suppose!

Cave Dudes is a duo of Bob McCully and Kevin Hainey. I don't know Hainey from a hole in the ground but I do know that McCully operates under the Women in Tragedy moniker, and I'll take this time to relate an amusing Bob McCully story from my personal archives. He played here (as Women in Tragedy) sometime in June and as he was up onstage doing his noise thang, he had to stop the performance and ask if anyone had some sort of battery or something that was apparently crucial enough to stop the show dead to ask around for it. That wasn't the bad part though (since I felt kinda bad) but in the general scramble to get the man a battery, he remarked into the microphone (with a half-smile) "this is tragic" to which someone in the audience shouted out "Bob in Tragedy!". Which was highly amusing to me at the time, though probably somewhat less so to Bob himself. Anyway he went on without the battery and finished the set; it still sounded pretty good but probably wasn't what he was going for. Anyway I assume enough batteries were on hand when McCully and Hainey laid this 17-minute slammer down in August '06, because it's very good from second 001 all the way through. McCully here plays "keys, loops, effects, guitars, vocals" although I couldn't discern a single element of voice here, while Hainey does "loops, guitars, vocals". I wish I could say that it was "the kind of barebones acoustic pasting you'd expect from a duo named the Cave Dudes!" but with all that electricity being used, I hardly think it'd be fair. Still a pasting though - the first half works up a spacey power drone atmosphere through sizzling, mechanized guitar riffing, dissonant blooping and beeping, and oddly percussive strikes which I guess may be the loops referred to in the sleeve notes. It sorta sags in the middle, leaving the (intentional) impression that the two have run out of steam and/or ideas, only to roar back out of the gates, first with sickening blats and then with a colourful stream of over-the-top keyboard ecstacy which is when the track really takes off. Indeed, it's when the Cave Dudes flip out and let loose at their most primitive (aha!) that they're at their greatest.
I guess my favorites are pretty well outlined here, "Kassette Kvlt III" is a gem and the Cave Dudes are far from slouches themselves. Now I'm even more inclined to check out the first two Kassette Kvlt editions - low risk, high reward!


Religious Knives - Luck/In the Back (Heavy Tapes 12")

No rest for the wicked, right? Like, I thought I was going to be caught up with the Religious Knives happenings till their new LP but I just saw that they went and put out yet another 12" after this one - "In Brooklyn After Dark/The Hand". Would've been nice to get that one and talk about it here too (since this 12" leaves me with only about 15 minutes of music to discuss) but what're you gonna do. I'll just wait for the new record, whenever it comes about. I also passed on the "Remains" No Fun CD of a while back, but that's because I think I already own just about everything it collects...though that's never really stopped me before. I also gotta say that I'm feeling this new Table of the Elements style logo/packaging deal, though "Luck/In the Back" keeps it real with typical (if you could ever really call it that) Maya Miller doodles on the back sleeve. Weird trend going on with the albums discussed this week and their monochromatic, text-only LP covers...I hope I can find a similar one tomorrow and keep the streak alive.
So of course Maya Miller is present here, you know Mike Bernstein is as well, and you may have even known Mouthus drummer Nate Nelson was in the fold too, but did you know they're now a four piece with the addition of Todd Cavallo on bass? Yup, looks like a set lineup too, but for how long is anyone's guess. Last I saw them, RK were just a trio with Nelson only having recently joined and they slayed (slew?), beating out all sorts of salaciously structured borderline-tropical jams what murdered the sweet spot. The two tracks here aren't quite as jovial, but they're still grand in their own rights. "Luck" is a supreme slog recorded apparently not long after the group was involved in a car crash, which may explain the title depending if you're an optimist. It's largely driven (no pun intended) by Maya's synth and Mike's extraordinarily morose melodica lines like a wounded loon crying out from the other side of the lake. Nate's drumming remains steadily in the funereal sentiment and by the time Bernstein steps to the mic to deliver the distantly hypnotic refrain of "I waited too long/but you never did come", I could be bowled over by the gentlest of breezes. Really, really great track that easily stands along the best I've heard from the group, duo/trio/quartet/whatever. It reminds me a lot of the theme from Midnight Cowboy, which is also nice.
"In the Back" is more immediately aggressive, with synthesizers (and guitars?) pushed into the red forming an abrasive pulse over which Mike and Maya trade buried shouts and drawls. The overall effect is very much similar to the suffocating miasma pursued in Ramleh's classic "Eightball Corner Pocket" track, minus the acoustic guitar and the U.K.-accented screaming. And also throw in an incessently pounded drum beat a la Neurosis on "Through Silver in Blood" and you're nearly there...wherever there may be.
I'm curious to see if any tracks from the new Religious Knives 12"s will see re-release on the LP. I can't speak for the TMU 12" but both of these pieces deserve an audience greater than the smallish print run this Heavy Tapes record will afford it. Particularly "Luck", which flattens me no matter how many times I play it. You could either play the waiting game and risk missing out completely or play it safe and snatch up one of these. You'll just have to ask yourself one question...

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Consumer Electronics - Nobody's Ugly (No Fun Productions LP)

First new Consumer Electronics recordings since 1993, surely a cause for celebration. CE is, of course, Philip Best, he of Whitehouse and Ramleh most notably. Seems like a particularly busy year for best with this, the recent Whitehouse "Racket" LP (which I've yet to get a hold of), and numerous scheduled live dates which may or may not ever be fulfilled. Not to mention the Susan Lawly Whitehouse vinyl reissue project...hopefully all this activity means even more Best and Bennett (who produced the two tracks on this LP) action(s) to look forward to in the near future. Particularly on the Consumer Electronics front.
First of the sidelong epics is "Black Cotton Wool" and it's tremendous. I wouldn't be surprised if Best was hidden away working on just these 15ish minutes of music for the past 15ish years because it's just tops. Something like an eternal build to an unattainable destination, Best layers endless platforms of ominous noise menace alongside wails of exploding synthesizer scream like jagged faultlines splitting rocks apart. Think somewhere along the lines of the first murder in Suspiria played in a loop and the sound of a thousand eagles being sucked into jet engines. Simultaneously hulking and intimidating, yet equally liberating and exhilerating...it's a total blast, really.
Contrary to "Black Cotton Wool", "Grubbing" sounds a lot more like a(n extended) Whitehouse track, and is more singular-minded compared with the dynamics of the former. The track is built around a long-form crackling synth warble that's pretty much dead-on with the squelching fragility heard on Whitehouse's "Dumping the Fucking Rubbish", but with Best dotting the skyline with comet tails of stretched and contorted electronic ripples. Best's, er, 'troubled' synth belches out an almost percussive slop that lends an oddly rhythmic bent to the proceediungs, as if they weren't already disorienting enough as it were.
You might think it's curious that neither of these tracks bear the mark of Best's distinctive voice, but that's apparently a Whitehouse-exclusive trait nowadays. Though word does come that new solo Best vocal tracks have been recorded and will see the light of day after the release of "Racket", but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens with that. I feel I should also make mention of the two insanely sturdy cardboard slabs sandwiching the actual LP; to whom do I send the medical bill for my brand new indirect scrotal inguinal hernia?


Astral Socializing: Recent Neil Campbell & Related Round-Up

It's better than the "Campbell's Soup" title I was gonna go with. Maybe. Neil was kind enough to send in a recent batch of CDs and CD-Rs he's been involved with, two from his mostly solo Astral Social Club project and two reissues on his brand new Music Mundane imprint, one by him and one not so much by him.
For at least a few years now, Mr. Campbell's been putting out CD-Rs of his homespun experiments in terror under the guise of the Astral Social Club, with most being limited to 100 or thereabouts, all titled simply "#1" through to "#12" as of this writing. They're all packaged in the same way too - I.D. stamp on an otherwise plain CD, solid colour cardboard sleeve with "the" ASC photo pasted on, often with its own colours altered. I guess you can look at each one as a snapshot depicting whereabouts Campbell is musically, though the lack of any recording information or dates makes that much hard to confirm. "#11" (Self-released CD-R) is a mix of traditional Astral Social Club/Neil Campbell-favored celestial loops, swathes, shimmers, sparkles and just about any shiny word you wanna pin on the free form emissions. Tracks 2, 6 and 7 (always untitled) showcase this side best, a side you've already probably come to know deeply enough if you've been following Neil's work in the Vibracathedral Orchestra, least of all his solo outings. These are, however, mixed in with a couple of darker splotches - 1 and 3 contain more shadowy dronings and rhythms like overcast taking hold of a previously sunny day, while 4 and 5 appear to meet halfway between, mixing heavenly radiance with substantial rackings of murky, watery squelches suggesting a brand of total cerebral submersion in the ocean's deep in lieu of the clouds above. Which is to say that these particular tracks hint at something a touch more insidious working way down in Campbell's guts.

For the most part, "#12" (Self-released CD-R) abandons the glimmer of prior ASC outings and moves into considerably more bent experiments that mine ears perceive to be possibly more laptop based. Dig, for example, the isolationist sunken-tone trawls of track 5, led by heavily-mangled vocal incantations, as well as the destroyed rock forms on number 3. Weirdest of all perhaps are the swirling, disorienting breakbeats and choppy rhythms found on track 7, scraping turfs usually touched upon by the likes of Venetian Snares. Venetiancathedr- no, nevermind. Two tracks return to the sun-kissed, starry-eyed crystallizing sound as aforementioned, both with their own curious twists - glitchy, Fenneszian buzz of track 4 and what sounds like a looped recording of a seal with bronchitis barking, a baby laughing, and audience chatter set against a truly lovely, dreamy, piano note tumble. The burst of applause at the end that jars you out of the tracks' hypnosis is almost an annoyance, because I would've been happy hearing those notes for another 20 minutes.
I haven't sifted through all of the "#1-#7" MP3 CD-R Neil included (and I don't know much about #8-#10) but if they're all as diverse as these two, sounds like it'd be hard to go wrong with whatever you can grab. Mind you, unless you're desperate to trace Campbell's musical development every step of the way, I can't imagine owning a full set is truly necessary. I'd definitely recommend picking up at least a couple for a rousing/drowsing good time.

"SOL POWR" (Music Mundane CD) is a reissue of various Neil Campbell recordings (under his own name) that have cropped up since 2000. It contains tracks from a Lal Lal Lal 12" and a Gold Soundz 7", as well as one that was previously available as a techNOH download. The seven tracks that bookend the album (1-3 and 7-10) are the Lal Lal Lal sides and form their own little cocoon around the rest of the record - starting off with the gentle seaside glisten of "Buoy Sounding in the Porth" and moving through the slowly-ascending 10 minutes of "SOL POWR" onto the shuddering synth loop of "Fizzy Gristle", layered with white beams of sonic photon and jangly, cosmos-gazing belches. "Faint Raindow Over Mud Field" and "Middenship" start the final section of the album, both quiet and restrained pieces with the latter doubling up on what sounds like an oud and a harmonium to subtly moving effect. "Scandinavian Disco Connection" closings things off, but probably not with the bang like one might expect given the title - rather, it's an ambient wash in the vein of Tim Hecker, Machinefabriek, or FM3. Sandwiched in between these two sides are a couple of Campbell's more rambunctious works ("Rolling Exploding" and "Fuzzjaw/Dub") along with another exceptionally lovely, low-key pulse in "Sky Full of Love". If you were looking for a kind of Neil Campbell primer, or a place to dip your toes in, you'll find "SOL POWR" to be a blessing. The fact that it holds up on its own as a coherant record rather than the mishmash of tracks it really is is just icing on the cake.

Stewart Walden's "Cucumber Sandwich" (Music Mundane CD-R) was originally "released" in 1992 as a c90, and the quotes on "released" come because it was actually just passed around to Walden's friends and such. It's been reissued here for the first time with a split-stereo mixing job by Campbell. You might know Stewart from his membership in A-Band with Campbell, Richard Youngs, Jim Plaistow, and many others. Apparently now he goes by Stewart Keith and is playing once more with the recently re-formed A-Band, but that's all news to me. And all I can tell you about his "Cucumber Sandwich" record is that it's presented as a single 45-minute piece, recorded entirely on Casio SA10...which is really remarkable when you consider the dizzying array of sounds Walden spits up over the course of "Cucumber" - needle scratches, mock explosions, church organs, field recordings, gunfire, conversational chatter, 8-bit MIDI glurge, and I have no idea how much of it is real and how much is imagine or conjured up by the spell Walden's weaving. It's a tough record to pin down - it's noisy, but it's not a noise record. It's messy, but most certainly not sloppy. Walden strikes a fine balance between out-there electronic demonry and instant composition, recalling everything from Christian Marclay and Otomo Yoshihide to Xenakis and musique concrete to RRRecords' "Recycled" series, Merzbow's tape works, and the Los Angeles Free Music Society. It may be a touch long at 45 clicks but at least it's never boring. And even then, you could always take a couple trips through using just the left speaker and a muted right one, then switch. The possibilities are endless! Well I suppose 3 isn't endless at all, but you know. Considering this was recorded back in '92, it represents a pretty important and hither-to unknown cog in the early goings of the whole A-Band/Campbell/Youngs/Wickham-Smith/etc contingent. If you find yourself gobbling up those recent No Fans compilations with great vigor, you can't afford to miss this one.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums


Matta Llama - Matta Llama (Mad Monk LP) / Owl Xounds - Teenagers from Mars (Mad Monk/Colour Sounds Recordings LP)

I love it when two records converge upon me and I can match em up in one post. Killing two birds with one stone is my business, and business is good. I bought the Matta Llama LP on a whim some time ago, while Adam Kriney was nice enough to include the record from his Owl Xounds project along with the La Otracina CD I touched on not too long ago (and another LP from his Colour Sounds label that I hope to get to soon). Mad Monk is responsible for putting both these out, that being the label spearheaded by James Jackson Toth aka Wooden Wand. They also put out that D. Charles Speer I keep hearing about and maybe some day I'll have to look into it. For now, these.
All I knew/know about Matta Llama is that it's a four-piece featuring the excellent artiste Arik Moonhawk Roper on bass. I don't usually buy records just because someone in the band does really good drawings, but I felt compelled on this one. They keep things pretty mum because I can't find out who else is in the group for the life of me - all I can tell you is that they're based in New York City and this, their debut LP, was recorded at the No-Neck Blues Band's Hint House. What's to be found is a curious set of spacey, free rock improvisations courtesy guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, and sometimes vocals. The tracks bandy lazily about from bleary-eyed keyboard/drum plods ("Egypt Chic") to wah-riddled guitar-led, uh, sleepjogs ("Thetan Cruise"). You see, even when the group is pulsing forward as on "Cruise", the sounds are still permeated with an early morning stoned daze that prevents anything from getting too riotous or out of control. I don't even know what to think of the final shouted freak-out piece "A Sky Blue Screw", somewhat Sunburned and somewhat Sun City with lurching bass & drums a la Electric Wizard, doused with the occasional guitar bolt.
Two pieces occupy the B and they're both lengthy explorations in communal harmony vibes, maybe lifting the odd trick or too from the No-Neck book but with more of a discernable psych rock/krautrock structure. Sharp guitar beams wail over "Chortling Crystal" while Eastern ur-rhythms dominate "A Deepening Sky", led by exceptionally tight drumming from, well, whoever. These guys remind me a lot of Blues Control in the way they both borrow heavily from the acid-fried masters of yesteryear and push those sounds way out into the cosmos and the cornfields; I'm hoping to hear more from this weird alien genre skew, if not from these cats then from some other set of heros. All in all the lo-slung free rock moves of Matta Llama's LP call to mind a favorite passage of mine, which I think sums things up in suitably vague fashion: "Sometimes you wanna get higher / sometimes you gotta start low / some people say they gonna die someday / I got news, you never gotta go..."

Owl Xounds (nee Owl Sounds) are, at least on this occasiona, a trio of Adam Kriney on drums, Gene Janas on upright bass, and Mario Techtern on saxophones. Kriney cites the Misfits as his greatest influence, which I guess helps explain the title. And really, Owl Xounds need no introduction for mass annihilation (ahaha!), since you surely know 'em from the record they did with Arrington DeDionyso or the much-lauded "Toxic Raga" LP. "Teenagers from Mars" is another wrecking bawl of whatever kinds of 00's jazz buzzwords you can lay down...post-fire, post-ESP, post-free, post-al, it's everything and more. On opener "The Afflicted Interest", Kriney and Janas stampede forth, heads down and jaws clenched, while grizzled knower Rechtern ripsnorts his own path via insanely tight, skronked heaves. After a near-meditative start on "Our Motives Are Subject to Change", the trio soon return to more hellish wailing, first in the form of Kriney/Rechtern, then Kriney on a great solo, then back to full group for a soulful exit. "Collide a Scope and the Whistle of Doom" is the final piece for the side, rife with gentler/more tense experimenting akin the more knuckle-dragging moments on "Topography of the Lungs"...whereas the rest of the earth-beating while I'd slot em not far from Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog Quartet. Then again, I never claimed to be a jazz scholar.
"X-ounds Memory" occupies all 20 minutes of the flip, with Rechtern sitting back and allowing for free interplay between the Kriney/Janas rhythm core. When they do reconvene, Kriney sticks briefly to the bass drum allowing for a sludgier feel, but soon moves to full-on cymbal smashing and limb flailing. And so it goes - I won't spoil the rest because you should really hear it for yourself but the give-and-take the trio hit on as they slowly dodge and strafe their way toward the climax is exhilerating. Special mention must be made to Rechtern's incredible horn mastery, as he owns this record from start to finish and his temporary bandmates are more than happy to accomodate him. Not to suggest it's a one-sided affair here, not in the least. These three finagle around like they've been on a rigorous practice schedule for years, and have made a good record all the more great because of it. Dunno man, I can't explain it so I'm gonna stop trying, but you'll know it when you hear it. It's not just talent, it's something else at work here. Fuck it, you tell me.


La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela - 31 VII 69 10:26-10:49 PM/23 VIII 64 2:50:45-3:11 AM (Ne Glasba CD-R)

Not gonna spend a lot of time on this one but I think you should at least know that it's out there, possibly available only through Keith Fullerton Whitman's Mimaroglu Music Sales shop, which is where I got it from. Totally illegit Slovenian bootleg issue of this classic LP from 1969. Copies of the original pressing of 2,800 are still available through Young's website, but for those of us who don't have $301 to spend, the mysterious Ne Glasba has surfaced and, much in the vein of Creel Pone before him/her/them, made available a great recording that was pretty much out of reach for a good 99% of the listening population.
"31 VII 69 10:26-10:49 PM/23 VIII 64 2:50:45-3:11 AM" is also known as "the Black Record", and features two side-long pieces that accompany the two dates that make up the record's title: "Munich From Map Of 49's Dream the Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals Ornamental Lightyears Tracery" and "The Volga Delta from Studies in the Bowed Disc". The first one is a pretty barebones recording featuring "only" Young & Zazeela's voices and a sturdy sine wave drone (via Young), and it still manages to be one of the most remarkable things I've ever heard in my life; Young's constantly-in-flux voice rising and falling and climbing to extraordinary peaks with Zazeela's more flat, more anchoring strands weaving in and out, either backing Young's or melting through unaccompanied. It could be, and I say this with few reservations, the most heavenly profound sounds to reach my ears in the history of my life. Or it's high up on the list.
"The Volga Delta from Studies in the Bowed Disc" is in stark contrast, containing considerably darker sounds than the celestial lift-off of the previous side (track). On this, Young and Zazeela simultaneously bow a four-foot steel gong, coercing brief glimpses of harmonic radiance from the instrument amongst lengthy, shifting, mechanized tones and reverberations. Dave Smith's helpful "Following a Straight Line" Young reader describes the piece as "[being] concerned with sustaining chosen sound elements with double-bass bows. It sounds a bit like distant aeroplane engines with certain pitches booming through above the rest" and that puts it as good as anything I could say. It almost sounds like night where "Munich" is day, providing an eloquent contrast that continues to resonate deep in one's blood long after the final seconds have ticked off.
The quality on both pieces is rather good for a CD-R bootleg - there's some gitchy static on the first, but it doesn't interfere too badly. The second sounds muddled, but it's hard to tell if it was recorded that way in the first place or it's a shoddy transfer. Considering all the art from the vinyl edition appears to be reproduced here, from the front and back covers to the LP labels, I'm assuming this was sourced from the LP (or a copy of the LP) and cleaned up afterwards, but I really couldn't say for certain. Whatever the case, I'd take the $15 I paid for this over the $301 version MELA sells and not think twice about it.
I'm not gonna get into the hows and whys of the whole thing, but it really is a borderline tragedy that recordings as incredible and as moving as this are still squirreled away in the vaults, some 40 years later (or more). Those of us genuinely interested in hearing them are restricted to low-fidelity MP3s, bootlegs like this and the "Der Zweck Dieser Serie ist Nicht Unterhaltung" 4xCD...or not hearing them at all, unless we should be so lucky as to catch a Young installation or be able to visit the Dream House in person. For now, it'll have to do.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Ashtray Navigations - Four Raga Moods / Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes (Revival CD-Rs)

Ashtray Navigator Phil Todd not-so-recently sent me two quasi-new discs from his absolutely-new Revival imprint which, as the name hints at, is a vehicle for Phil to reissue old Ashtray Navigations sides that have since fallen by the way side. Which is somewhat ironic I guess because "Four Raga Moods" and "Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes" are two of the more popular, or well-known, early Ashtray releases. According to the helpful tidbits on the backs of the sleeves, "Four Raga Moods" was originally released by Phil's own Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers in 1997, while "Pearls" saw release first in 1998 via Solipsism and then again in 2000 on Betley. Both these new Revival editions are limited to 100 copies each, and come housed in slick bootleg-style cardboard sleeves with glued on glossies and Xeroxes. The stamped CD-R labels are a sexy touch too.
I think I only ever heard bits of "Four Raga Moods" but I never heard it in its entirety, only its spiritual brother "Four More Raga Moods" from 2006. Whereas "Four More" is sloshed in vibrant Day-Glo colours and practically spilling over with druggy psychedelic excess, "Four" is almost a polar opposite. Or at least taking similar techniques and applying them in a whole 'nother fashion. There are indeed four untitled tracks here, the first of which clocks in at a monolithic 41 minutes. Compared to more recent Ashtray indulgences, it's downright minimal, based around what I'd approximate to be harmonium, guitar, cheap percussion, field recordings, effects pedals, violin...but never all at the same time. The only two general constants are a hazy pool of tape buzz and static and a woozy handdrum rhythm, beyond that it's caution to the wind. At times it sounds like Phil's trying to communicate a greater whole through an impenetrable wall of static, like a busted Walkman picking up alien satellite feeds or a shortwave radio station occuring just beyond the limits of your dial. Only in the dying few minutes of the song does a glorious wash of chime and guitar cut clear through the woozy dissonance, and it has me thinking the whole thing was recorded not at all as a joke, but maybe with tongue planted squarely in cheek. Whatever the case, it's a nice enough voyage once you reach final destination, but not one I'd be keen on taking often. Sandwiched between that opening behemoth and a 20-minute closer are two shorter tracks, both cut from a similar cloth. It sounds like field recordings form the basis of these two as well, with wind as the premise for #2 and rain for #3. Layered atop these earthly sounds are hulking, mechanical loops like steam engines constantly lurching forward (#2) and haunting, droning tones that twist in Phil's hands to reveal their multiple, luminous sides. The last track, in contrast to the mostly-minimal moves of the previous three, is all over the place initially - quick jump cuts of synthesizer chirping, conversation snippets, laser beam crashes, and the like, before settling into an ominous industrial oscillator rumble with a thick, juddering drone that might incite vertigo in the unprepared. I know my nose was bleeding, but the gentle folksy acoustic guitar/weather channel duet tacked onto the end plugged it up real good.

"Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes" comes a year later, but retains many similar elements to the aforementioned release, not to mention currently Ashtray activity. It's a single 48-minute piece moving through roughly three acts. The first takes up about the first 20 minutes and is similar in form to the first track of "Four Raga Moods" - a sprawling background of ambient shimmer and gloss over which a multitude of junky equipment is used and abused, most notably a set of tiny bells and chimes that sounds a lot a mess of cymbals being played by ordinary household silverware. Phil's Psychedelic Breakfast, if you will. Later the snarl of Phil's guitar sparks begin to take over like storm clouds brewing over a lazy Sunday, only to dissipate entirely into "act two" - crumbling guitar quakes rubbed out over a warbly resonance resembling either church organs as recorded from just outside the huge double doors that'd lead you into the cathedral, or the later stages of "I Am Sitting in a Room". Whatever the dosage, it's real great and affecting and as the final chords of the guitar start to dissolve, I've already begun feeling seperation anxiety, like I don't want to abandon the weird n' warm cocoon spun for me. The final ten minutes see a final shift wherein the reverbing mush from the previous is retained except crunchier threads of guitar near-riffage take hold to bleach and cleanse the mind, recalling similar later and not-so-later-day moves by Birchville Cat Motel or Richard Youngs. Heavy.
These early works from Phil Todd are certainly more difficult to make it through than the full-blown acid-stained charges he's been leading more recently, but that doesn't make em any less rewarding. You could argue more for the opposite, in fact. It's great to have these early documents available once more (I hope represses are in order once the initial 100 runs are off the shelves), as they're not only great for tracing the leaps Todd and the Ashtray Navigations project have made in the ten years since, but they're also real good listens. A history lesson that's both educational and fun? I can dig it.
Phil asked me to mention some specifics in case you're looking at picking up one or both of these, to which I'll gladly oblige. £6 in the U.K., €10 in Europe, $14 for the rest of the world, postage included, and you can Paypal to ashtraynavigations (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums


Demons - Life Destroyer (A.A. Records CD-R/CS/DVD-R) / Video Madness IV (A.A. Records DVD-R)

Last Suoni batch was from a show I didn't even get to see, as I had to take off early (same night as Michael Flower, for the record)...of course, I did get in some shopping, and picked up these two audio-visual treats from Demons, the newish group featuring Wolf Eyes' Nate Young and Steve Kenney on audio and Alivia Zivich on visuals when applicable. I've only ever heard the Demons/Hatred split tape A.A. put out a ways back and whatever may have appeared on the lathe compilation LP, so I was keen to check out the visual aspect to the group, especially having missed out on the first (much-lauded) Video Madness DVD-R.
The "Life Destroyer" box consists of a tape (in its own case with full art, no less), a CD-R, and a DVD-R, and there's a good bit of meat to chew on - the tape's about 20-25 minutes, the DVD-R's 20, and the CD-R's 35. Nothing to complain about there, though after getting through it all I wish it was longer because it's all so very excellent. The tape features two side-long pieces from Nate and Steve, "Sick by Water" on side A and "Life Destoyer" on the flip. "Sick by Water" boasts a totally sinister Outer Limits creep/snarl forming an enchanting, oscillating near-dub synth groove as the track's foundation. Huge, drawn-out noise scrawls and bombings git slathered over top via junk electronics, tweaked synths, and who knows what else. It's way more zonked than 'm making it sound though, trust me. This whole side is as cut out of its mind as the dudes who laid it down when they laid it down, if you can dig that. "Life Destroyer" is even more of a downshift in comparison, but its slow-building dark ambient grind didn't spellblind me the way it would've if my tape deck was not, in fact, a piece of shit, but alas I had to do a lot of start/stopping and fast-forwarding to get it to play right which killed the mood somewhat. I did hear enough to know that it was much looser in structure (e.g. no rigid loop forming the basis) and posed a lot more sonic threat by way of suffocating drone and sinewy circuit board squelches. More disparate, more abyssic, more alienating...more fun.
The CD-R has three tracks averaging out to 10 minutes per. The two that bookend the disc, "Early Year" and "Smoking Homes" both feature the kind of spacey, sci-fi dissonance that marked "Sick by Water", ghoulish, dreadful tones soundtracking post-apocalyptic visions of scorched earth and blood-red skies. The middle track "Hellstorm" lives up to its name a hundred fold, a throbbing, noisy, block-rocking track that seems to owe more to 80's punk and early black metal than to 60's synth records. It bowled me over contiuously for its entire duration and I'd go back and start it again once it ends in a heartbeat, that's how ridiculously infectious and straight-up rockin' it is. I knew I got my money's worth for the box as soon as I heard this one track, that's how much I dig it. So too should you!
The "Life Destroyer" video is a 20-minute clip featuring an extra-morose organ-tinged, frayed electronic buzz for a soundtrack. The embryonic film & light manipulations revolve around a shape/color-shifting blob that eventually explodes into a transmutating hyperprisms, gemstone glimmer, cold supernovas, and a whole lot of "else". The Demons track in the background dips into weird crescending near-prog synth loops and combine with Alivia's visuals to create an ultra-hynotic effect on the viewer. Later on the audio takes another turn for the strange and, kinda like what the tape did from side A to B, is far more chilling and isolating while the glowing static orbs on the screen make me think of Videodrome...which can't be a bad thing neither.

The "Video Madness" is also about 20ish minutes long, with three seperate tracks - first two from Demons and the last by Hatred (Nate solo). The first two, er, chapters see Demons' brand of churning synthesizer (going for the record on number of times I use "synth" or a variation thereof in one post) vitriol paired up with Alivia's visuals, in these instances looking like neon cobwebs pulling together and apart in a darkroom. I'm no student of the film so I wish I could describe her techniques at length but I'm pretty much clueless, safe to say they're far out and beyond my tiny realm of understanding and that's good by me. The third chapter sees more mind-engulfing, subtly psychedelic circle/spiral altering while the last one or two are insane black/white/red strobing nightmares under a great urban warfare/industrial insurgence crawl featuring somebody thrashing away at a drum kit much in the same way the screen thrashes away at your eyes. Not very highly recommended for epileptics or anyone coming off a full bag of Cheetos, but no finer way to maul a few synapses for anyone else. I know it seems like I just said something like this (cause I did) but these are definitely a couple of my favorite buys all year. I can't recommend the "Life Destroyer" box enough as it's covering all the bases. The "Video Madness IV" DVD, while featuring the better visuals, is a bit on the short side as a standalone. However, both are still available through the A.A. website, where you can also check out some preview clips of the "Video Madness" stuff so you'll at least know what to expect. Somewhat.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the "Life Destroyer" CD-R


Pasalymany Tapes Round-Up

I love brevity and Carlo delivers it in spades on his new batch of Pasalymany Tapes (and one non-tape). Three new items, sure, but none topping thirty minutes in total length. That's how it's done: leave em wanting more, go out on a high note, "stick a pumpkin under its arm and call it the Headless Horseman", etc. Pasalymany always manages to dredge up and bring to light the raddest, baddest sounds of Montreal's local what-have-you scene and this batch is no different, repping three generally-new and underdocumented formations and projects.
Death Drive is the duo of Katherine Kline (Dreamcatcher) and Leyla Majeri (Yomul Yuk) and this self-titled cassette of theirs was originally released as a CD-R some time ago. This new issue tacks on a recording from a 2006 gig dubbed "Strawberry Jam Slam Strong 2006" that I may have seen with mine own eyes, because I know I saw em play at least once in my life. It was pretty good, and the track is pretty good, so maybe it's it. Whatever man. There's three songs on the first side with names and all but they kinda bleed into one another and I'm hardly astute enough to divvy them up so I'll just tell you you can expect shaky electro/synth dissonance married with tribalistic drum plod. 80's Wahrnehmungen industrial destruction meeting the Not Not Fun roster circa oh-seven plus additional circuit board damagery a la '00-'02ish Wolf Eyes/Nautical Almanac puke. There's the odd clip that comes out sounding like what's injected into Dreamcatcher tunes every now and again but for the most part that funk (I said funk) is totally absent. No mosh no core no trends no friends but you can get away with that when you call your band Death Drive. Second side (incl. the aforementioned live session) is more noise-based with only occasional percussion jumps and rattles, all in all a very enjoyable slice from the no-wave/noise DIY basement scuzz, and a very quiet one too...I had to wind my volume knob up to, like, fuckin', 18 before I heard anything. And then I spent the rest of the tape worrying if they were gonna explode outta nowhere and send me to an early grave. I was spared. As you may have guessed.

Metis Yeti is a guy named Fred Savard whom I only recently had the pleasure of meeting, and actually this is the first thing I think I've ever heard with his name attached to it, though I'm eager to get on this Sunken Skulls deal he has going with Carlo and other local area cellar-dwellers. For now I'll settle with "Dear Despair", a cassette he cut live in Verdun that has me chompin' at the bit for more. First side is "Iranium Uranium", a good side of trashy synth noise skree and general amplifier inferno that makes the jump from good to great when this weirdo chanting/singing female (maybe?) voice is dubbed in right near the end, lending a sense of alienation and intimidation to an otherwise downright mean piece. "Smoking While Pregnant" is the B-side and it's more hellish electronics burn with super-slogged processed vocals dragging the sludgy noise stew down further into the mud. Somewhat reminiscent of Prurient's "Pleasure Ground" record though less harsh and more...obfuscated. Worth whatever penny you're paying for the awesome first side alone.

I always have a hard time putting into words any of the insanity the Rivers and Mountains/ Ste-Sophie/CD Esoterik (that last one is not a band name but imagine if it was) crew dole out and Le Sentier Lumineux's self-titled CD-R is no exception. LSL I think is Francis and Jacob primarily of Ste-Sophie but also many other units, with Francis playing sax and Jacob on drums (according to the picture on the back), but it's really not what you think. And when I say it's not what you think and you think it's something else, it's not that either. Apparently this 20-minute jam was recorded live on Quebec City radio, but it sounds like this version was picked up by alien satellites and re-encoded before being flipped back down to earth. First of all, the sax doesn't even sound like a sax. I've played it three times and I can't figure out if it's the fidelty of the recording making it sound so skewed or if it's actually being processed. Or if it's being played through one of those long tubes and filled with water like Sauter/Dietrich styles. It sounds like someone's strangling a puma, basically, while Jacob beats the everloving tar out the kit pretty much non-stop...every time he comes around to the snare (three hundred times a second, appx.) it sounds like how being hit in the face with a boxing glove feels. Special mention must be made of the shouting match that occurs between the two when the instruments go full stop, which just fucks you up even more since you're still busy trying to dig through this overwhelming assault in the first place. Post-jazz, post-fire, post-heavy metal thunder, this is on a whole 'nother plane. Also, there's birdsong pretty much throughout. What? Yeah, me neither. 'Scuze me while I kiss the sky.
If you still haven't taken my advice and stocked up on Pasalymany goods yet, you really don't have an excuse anymore. Quantity and quality abound (and I assure you I have no vested interest in any of these cats, they can rot on the street for all I care! But they make good records). There's even a new Cousins of Reggae CD-R for you to get a claw on before it's Tip of the Tongue fodder and keep your eyes peeled for Rivers and Mountains, Sunken Skulls, Nonhorse and Wapstan later in '07 (maybe).

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the Le Sentier Lumineux CD-R (Death Drive and Metis Yeti samples available through the Pasalymany Tapes link to your right)


Michael Flower - Returning to Knowing Nothing (Self-released CD-R) / The Michael Flower Band - The Michael Flower Band (Manhand/Flowerhouse CD-R)

As part of the excellent Suoni per il Popolo festival that took place here in Montreal last month, I was able to catch the Michael Flower Band not more than a day after Graveyards had played. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much else from the festival since all the good stuff seemed to take place when I was working, but what are you going to do. No way was I gonna pass up a chance to see Mick Flower, much less Mick Flower's band (featuring the likes of Sunburned Hand of the Man's John Moloney and...uh...Mick Flower). Times were bright, and before the show I made sure to scoop up the CD-R issue Mick himself put out of his recent "Return to Knowing Nothing" LP on Qbico and a Michael Flower Band CD-R. All this before they'd even played a note! Needless to say they were great and I became a major league fan of Flower's right off the button, reaffirming my decision to pick up these two documents.
It isn't that I missed out on the Qbico LP issue of "Returning to Knowing Nothing", it's just that the CD-R was 10 bucks cheaper at the show and I was on somewhat of a budget. Besides, it comes really dressed to the nines - pro-printed CD-R hanging out in an oversized "textured" cardboard foldover w/colour silkscreenings on both sides. Can't hardly complain about any of that. And now I can tote it with me wherever I go! So there's that. A lot of the talk around this record drew comparisons to the Theatre of Eternal Music et al; Young, Conrad, Riley, Cale, MacLise, even Pran Nath. It's all beautifully, beautifully true, but not at all in a treading-worn-ground way. Flower grasps the 60's freeness by the horns and rockets it into the 21st century and wayyy beyond. Tracks like "The Window is a River" and the 10-minute scorcher "FFR #1 (For BS)" feature Flower pulling golden throat Nath-style ragas, but doused in a wailing mix of keyboard, flute and guitar (the former) and sitar, shakers, syrupy percussion and horns (the latter). It actually carries a pretty heavy Vibracathedral Orchestra sentiment on these "busier" tracks, despite it being the work of one man alone. "Octave #1" blasts through with ecstatic guitar runs filtered through a hazy Eastern vibe and "If Your Light Goes Out..." is like Edip Akbayram playing along to the endlessly resonating drones from the Dream House. "Antlers and Whiskers" is a thick, electric drone probably making (over)use of the electronic shruti box I saw Flower use at the show, way over the top in sweaty-heaven drone bluster and sensory overload. I can practically feel the incense smoke clogging my nostrils. Best yet (as if I could choose between em) is "3pm 28_08_05" - Flower's guitar strings clanging and resonating like high-tension electricity wires over a tambura-like drone and wet, hand-slapped percussion that manages to straddle the fine line between ominousness and sky-reaching euphoria...I'm willing to settle for the latter, as this whole disc tossed me a ways up into the stratosphere and kept me a float for a solid half-hour, give or take...and made me want to start it all up over n' over again when it was done. Back when I talked about Ashtray Navigations' "Throw Up in the Sky/With Fine Clinking Magnets" LP from the same Qbico batch I said it would take a real heavyweight to dethrone it from being the best of the bunch...well, a challenger appears! This is easily up there for tops of the year so far...but then again, so is the Ashtray record.

The Michael Flower Band is generally but not limited to Michael Flower on guitar and John Moloney on drums, and as far as I can tell this is the first recorded work under the MFB banner. I'm assuming/hoping bigger things are in store, because this CD-R is woefully brief (17 minutes) but most definitely deserves to be heard by a larger audience. Or, at least, fleshed out into a full-on LP and delivered unto the masses. When I saw em, Flower was doing his own guitar improvisations until Moloney joined in and beat the skins to death at which point Flower lost his shit and it was jammed into the red sun, but there's a more laidback approach across these three tracks, and certainly a different sound. On the opening "Mode #2", Moloney lays down a pretty steady course for Flower to generally piss all over, which means that it works great. Moloney (of all people) is the glue here and Flower has tons of space to kick his spindly soloing into the next vortex, taking brief respites to pick at his strings like a chemist determining a precise formula before he reverts once more to an out-and-out attack. On "Balinese Falsehood" (as probably on "Mode #2 as well), they've either multi-tracked a sludgy, guitar loop or are playing along to it pre-recorded, but it dominates the jam with its low-slung, viscous tone. Flower sticks to high-tonal chord choking and Moloney beats out a repetitive rhythm - the whole thing is a little bit like Earth's "Tallahassee" fused with Skullflower's "Exquisite Fucking Boredom" - you know I approve. "C'est Ca!" is a minute of post-jam come-down noise/vocal wasting that, really, is neither here nor there. Even after seeing em play together in the flesh, this still defied my expectations and wound up sounding pretty great, even if it's a bite-sized morsel. Stay tuned though, I'm sure there's more to come from these two.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums