Susan Alcorn - And I Await the Resurrection of the Pedal Steel Guitar / Bryan Eubanks/J.P. Jenkins - Split (Olde English Spelling Bee LPs)

A tag team of sexy new Olde English Spelling Bee LPs made their way to me recently. You may recall the label from their fairly recent, handcrafted, split LPs featuring Mouthus/Cousins of Reggae and Yellow Swans/Grey Daturas. I'm sure they've got a couple more to their name too, but I dare say these particular editions are their most triumphant turns to date. Not only do they make for good eye candy on your shelf, but the sounds have been heralded from here (well not yet, keep reading) to the high seas. And I understand that's a pretty important thing too.
It's a given at this point that you've heard all kinds of good things re: Susan Alcorn's newest long player, "And I Await the Resurrection of the Pedal Steel Guitar". And rightfully so. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in (having heard, I must admit, none of her prior works) but "And I Await" is an alarmingly unique brand of lap steel (didja guess?) worked tunes from this Texan songstress, definitely not in the way of virtuostic ragas I was readying myself for. Which is not to say, of course, that Alcorn isn't talented or doesn't know her way around the instrument - very much the contrary in fact. It's just that the songs here (all solo) are filled with such a vast amount of intense spaciousness. Solitary notes are plucked and Alcorn lets the sound tumble up skywards over itself to dissipate in the air before making so much a move as to the next one. There's so much breathable space in fact it's hard to tell the difference from when she's playing a lengthy, continuous piece (the 16-minute title track) and when the shorter, individual pieces on the B-side begin and end. However, "And I Await" never even borders on the mundane. Alcorn has a knack for weaving such intricate and compelling yarns that it's impossible not to find yourself hanging off her every chord, waiting for the next one to hit. The end result is a personal, almost clausterphobic listen of an ordinary lap steel guitar transforming into some kind of spellbinding musical storybook, wrapping the listener up in a delicate cocoon of worrisome/hopeful Americana mesh. Think the desolate sensibilities of Houston, Texas' native son Jandek (with whom Alcorn has apparently collaborated?) and a soulful, dusty, psych/folk bedroom set from Houston-cum-Austin, Texas' Charalambides (longtime champions of Alcorn; Heather Leigh Murray in fact received her first pedal steel guitar from Susan herself)...add maybe a touch of Hisato Higuchi and his great "Dialogue" disc from last year and that's as close as I can pull it. Do yourself a favor: hear it yourself. The 750 pieces these are limited to come wrapped up nicely in a heavy gatefold with beautiful hand-rendered notes from Susan detailing the stories and inspirations behind every song, which is about the only thing I won't spoil for you here. But at 750, these aren't going to be around forever either.

Now I thought after Susan had gone and laid down an exquisitely tranquil atmosphere in my bedroom that these two miscreants were gonna come along and ruin things with their hip noise music but I was wrong again! Oh sure Bryan Eubanks (he of Collective Jyrk cohorts GOD) plays electronics on his side, but it ain't like that. "Multi-Key Coming" is a side-long black hole, a singluar pulsing drone birthed out of some kind of homemade synth modulator no doot, quietly but persistently quivering like the Blob with a hard-on, or thereabouts. As soon as the needle hits it's nary impossible to wrench your head away, much like Susan Alcorn before, 'cept rather than charm and intrigue this one just straight up gnaws through the brainstem and into the minds of all those it comes into contact with. All I can say is turn it up real loud because that's where all the action takes place in this concrete slab of noise minimalism. For fans of Hive Mind, Zbigniew Karkowski, Yellow Swans, Damion Romero and sweet, sweet death.
Jean-Paul "J.P." Jenkins' side, "Rough Metaphors", is all guitar based, but again not in the matter you'd probably anticipate. It's a long n' weird slab of barefoot around-the-house acoustic guitar improvisations (I may have heard a sitar?) played in generally loose and sparsh fashion with all kinds of background clatter and oddities to make you wonder just what the hell was going on when this was laid to tape. J.P.'s style is pretty all over the place, with Derek Bailey as the prominent figure but Fred Frith, Keiji Haino, Loren Connors and Eugene Chadbourne all springing to mind when drawing comparisons. Which is to say it doesn't sound like much else, at least. On the other hand, I can't help but think it sounds kinda slapped off 'cause it isn't always an attention-grabber, and it's also got a heavy sense of "well, what should I do next?" experimentation to it. And I spose that could be a bug to you if you were in a hurry. I dunno, I'm conflicted on the whole, maybe I need to spend more time with it. I do like it as an offset to the Eubanks' side, it's so different it made me forget what record I was playing - I caught myself trying to remember if I was on side one or two and if I had another side left to go before I realized it was a split and I'd already heard Eubanks' stone soup. This one's limited to 300 all told and has individually screened covers, not to mention an innard xerox that registers a 10 on the "what the fuh" scale.
As of July 2007 there were supposed to be two new OESB's to speak of, one from PussyGutt (?!) and another from Squim. Dunno if they came and went already, I don't think so, so those'll probably be worth paying mind to as well.


Ettrick - Feeders of Ravens (Not Not Fun LP) / GHQ - California Night Burning Dreams (Not Not Fun LP & 3" CD-R)

Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue. Well actually the GHQ vinyl is kind of a smokey blue marble thing, so maybe something blue. Britt at Not Not Fun was kind enough to send the Ettrick record to me an age ago, but it never showed and it was determined to be lost out there forever in the Canada Post wilderness. So Britt was cool enough to send another, and at the same time I put the money down for the new GHQ outing, so here we are (and we'll be here again once I sit down with those Mudboy and Family Underground stax, whoooiee). If you've been reading for longer than a month you know what a big fan I am of Ettrick's two-man black metal (okay okay I'll preempt you, "in image only" - now exeunt)/jazz stylings, and, well, I think I missed out on the last couple of new GHQ items so it's always good to catch up, especially when it's an edition as sexy as this one is (w/bonus 3" CD-R!).
I've been waiting on "Feeders of Ravens" for an age, ever since I heard it was in its larval stage, and after they steamrolled so hard on prior discs like "Infinite Horned Abomination" and "Sudden Arrthymic Death", they really would be hard-pressed to top themselves. And to be perfectly honest, I preferred the long bouts of those records compared to the morsel-sized portions divvied up on "Feeders". As you may know, Jacob Heule and Jay Korber both pull double duty on saxophones and drums, so "Feeders" sees them in all possible configuraitons. On introducer "You Will Taste the Teeth in Our Mouths", "The Horn Gjoll" and "Corpse-Strands", all damage is dealt via the horns, which are throttled half to death and skronked in all sorts of evil, screaming manners. The choked notes gobbled out on "Corpse-Strands" are most admirable and the pure fire-breathing intensity of the other two is impressive as well, I think I even heard the shock-therapy vocals of Abruptum's IT mirror through on here, but that's about as close to grim as it got (which is still pretty good in my book). The all-drumming track, "Demon of Filth, Demon of Woe" is a furious session which sees J. and J. knocking out stomach-knotting machine gun shudders, a sheer brute force cage brawl if there ever was to be one, whereas the remaining three selections stick to the "conventional" format, one on sax and one on drums, though I'm not so far advanced in Ettrick 101 to tell you who's playing what. "Sky-Bellower" plays right after the all-horn intro and knocks you flat as soon as the drums come storming through playing all sorts of ridiculous, blastbeat rolls. "Contriver of Evil" starts at high energy and then works into a curious sort of jazz kink, 'specially where the drums are concerned..."Raven Harvest", the album closer, begins with both men screaming bloody murder before the kit is taken hold, first by one, then by both, jamming out an extraordinarily fat slab of post-Graves/Ali/Jackson/Zorn/Sauter/Dietrich heave. Now don't get me wrong, these tracks slay and slay hard, but it almost sounds like this should have come before the marathon bouts of their previous discography, you know? I wouldn't not recommend it of course; if you can't get a handle on the CD-Rs then this one's definitely worth your time. If you've got the CD-Rs and a tight wallet, there might not be enough new tricks here worth your time. But on the other hand, Jesus Crow does this shit sound hot on vinyl. So there's that.

Speeching of going back thru time, this new GHQ release kinda does the same thing to me. I haven't really kept up with them too much lately but when I last saw them I thought they were kinda pushing out into more song-oriented turfs like Religious Knives, ex(?)-Double Leopards brethren, were going. So either I'm wrong or they've taken a turn for the severely dissonant. I was pretty sure GHQ added a new members like a bassist recently, but I couldn't find anything in a haphazard Google search to back that up, so it's definitely the trio of Marcia Bassett, Steve Gunn and Pete Nolan here. "California Night Burning Dreams" compiles a coupla live recordings (two from Sacramento and one from Eureka) while the CD-R does the same (Seattle). On the first selection from Sacramento, Marcia's heavily treated guitar sends out vast plains of white sand sound over which Steve sprinkles out crystal clear acoustic notes, perhaps at a level way more lucid than I've ever heard from these cats. Pete plays pretty solemn at first, limiting his contribution to a rousal of chimes, before slowly sprucing things up with a miltant march as Gunn's guitar strings slosh around like the flab hanging off Robert Johnson's heart. "Eureka" cuts in and presents darker overtones via downtrodden, languid phases from Gunn and gauze-wrapped droning vocalizations courtesy Nolan. Slowest of em all is the remainder of "Sacramento" which occupies the flip. Resuming the glacial burn of its predecessor, it focuses primarily on Marcia's tapestry of fuzzed-up gristle and Nolan's stoned plods through the vaguest of pentameters. Gunn, for his parts, adds occasional six-stringed tickles before stepping up full-time in the end to take it all out into the great nothingness. Funnily enough though, the "Live in Seattle" 3" might be the real crown jewel here, a terrific 13-minute stretch featuring an all-encompassing swirl from Marcia's guitar and black hole tearing electronics and Gunn's subtle guitar phases eventually fleshing out into a woozy, tangible stasis. Add in to that Nolan's subtle, stabilizing drumming, what sounds vaguely like a harmonica, chimes, and blissed-out, buried vocals from Marcia at her most Zazeelian, and you're fucking afloat, dude. Special mention should also be made to the mindblasting all-over collage cover art, and the sexy blue splatter vinyl job, totally making this package one worth a serious look, as if the sonics weren't already tempting enough. If you missed the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't GHQ Sloow Tape, here's yr solace.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Two Bands and a Legend - Two Bands and a Legend (Smalltown Superjazz CD)

I can't sit on this one any longer, it's too hot. Too fuckin' hot. Even if I don't know the second thing about jazz. And refer to any jazz with a muscle as "Brotzmannesque" ("Ayleresque" if I need to fulfill racial quotas because generally everything I review comes from suburban white kids with a CD burner). I just can't risk not letting any other humans on the planet not know about this jewel. Two Bands and a Legend, more than worthy of the brash name they've chosen to bestow upon themselves, consist of just that: free jazz/garage rock hydra The Thing (feat. Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love), psychedelic avant rock outfit Cato Salsa Experience (Cato Thomassen, Bard Enerstad, Christian Engfelt and Jon Magne Riise), and the legend, Joe McPhee. Who's gonna argue?! Turns out though this isn't the first time these two bands and one legend got together for some serious heaving. They had a record in 2005, also on the Smalltown Superjazz label, under their assumed names, called "Sounds Like a Sandwich". I musta missed it. This one came out in April, and now they've got a new EP out too: "I See You Baby". So before these guyses collective oeuvre gets any bigger, let me tell you a bit about this self-titled effort, easily one of my favorite records of the year already.
If you know The Thing, you know their bag is covers, covers of decidedly non jazz standards. The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, PJ Harvey, Led Zeppelin that sort of thing (but also Don Ayler and James Blood Ulmer, among others). That sensibility is brought to this record as well, with only two of the nine tracks attributed to members of the collective. The record starts off with PJ Harvey's "Who the Fuck", led by a huge bass drum stomp (from either Nilssen-Love or Riise) and Gustafsson and McPhee's horns following along with the shredded guitar wrenched out from deep within the Cato Salsa ranks. Cato Thomassen lends strained, distorted vocals, his shouts of "who the fuck! you trying to be!" struggling to worm through the brute force of the garagey swagger spewed forth by everyone else's instruments. Next, their cover of the Sonics' "The Witch", is led initially by Ingebrigt Flaten's improvised double-bass stretching, but rapidly congeals into an absolutely bombastic, face-slapping (and instrumental) take on the garage rock mainstay that truly has to be heard to be believed. Gustafsson breaks from the pack as the intensity increases to deliver a heaven-splitting sax flip out, with the final wind-up of the track sounding like the build up to a heart attack. The band's cover of "Louie, Louie" starts out similar to "The Witch", only it's the horns and a lot of wailing vocals serving as the introduction, led by Gustafsson and McPhee, and when the first recognizable notes of the tune are howled through, it's like a religious experience - and then the song starts, propelled by Nilssen-Love's absurdly heavy hand on the kit, that casts the song in an entirely new jazz-meets-sludge metal-meets-punk rock light. In his effusive liner notes, Thurston Moore declares this track the best shellacking delivered unto Richard Berry's standard since Black Flag did it in '81. Again, hard to disagree. When they detour into off-the-charts improv only to seamlessly launch back into the song's chorus a few minutes later...Jesus fuck. The real stroke of genius comes in the band's decision to follow up such a blasterpiece with Mongezi Feza's "You Ain't Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know Me", probably as close to smooth jazz as these dudes are ever gonna be, and it's a total swooner with McPhee's soulful lead, Thomassen/Enerstat's deft tropical guitar touches, Flaten's rubbery bassline and beautifully understated drumming. The band return to exuberence (and reverence) on their jumpy, caffeinated version of James Blood Ulmer's "Baby Talk", steered by Flaten's jittery bassline and decorated with spit-spewing solo sparks from the sax section, but switch back into an aggressive mode for an industrial lurch on a tune by Mats' daughter Alva Melin called "The Nut", featuring more thick sax haywire over a sinus-clearing pounding courtesy the rhythm section, and the supremely languid drawl of the Cramps' "I Can't Find My Mind", which is led almost entirely by the Cato Salsa Experience (with Cato again handling vocals...I assume), featuring interjections from McPhee that eventually close out the track. The two originals, Riise's ecstatic-but-brief "Too Much Fun" and Gustafsson's "Tekla Loo" (notable for some spoken word waxing from McPhee), are perhaps the least engaging, but are still interesting enough so as to not to serve as a downswing in the album's high-octane assault. I defy anyone - anyone - to listen to this record and not have a total blast doing so. To borrow a couple of lines from Thurston, if you can't free yr mind and shake yr ass to this slab...well the sense of audition is wasted on you good sir. So grow a pair and get the fuck down already. Ya heard?

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


(VxPxC) - Stoned to Death / Quetzolcoatl - Living (Leaf Trail CD-Rs)

Hard times for these lovely new editions from the lovely new Leaf Trail label, the Irish imprint run by Irish human Tim Hurley aka Quetzolcoatl. Well, they hit hard times once they got into my hands at least. These discs come in oversized plastic sleeves which is a good thing because I promptly spilled Dr. Pepper (the vanilla berry one, fyi) on one of them. Luckily it was surface damage. Then the other snag came when I put em both in my three disc changer and forgot which was which, even after I specifically instructed myself not to. I think I got it all clean and straight now though, which is more than I can say for you and the group you hang around with.
I'm not really sure if it's divine coincidence or if there's something actually connecting these two names but the last time I reviewed a whack from Abandon Ship (the time before last, actually), (VxPxC) and Quetzolcoatl were two of the three acts involved. What's the deal, brothers? Birds of a feather flock together or what? Well whatever the case is, all I can tell from a surface glance is they're both heavy on nature and panoramas thereof. No complaints.
I thought the first disc was Quetzolcoatl, turns out it's (VxPxC), and you think I'd be able to tell the difference with one being an L.A. trio (Justin McInteer, Grant E. Capes, Tim Goodwillie), and the other being an Irishman solo flight...but that's more a testiment to (VxPxC)'s uncanny knack for sounding like a single solitary unit than my general ineptitude (really!). They pulled the same stunt when I heard "Reticent to Manifest" and I may have remarked on it then, too. A coupla exhibits on "Stoned to Death" (no shit) back up my testimony. Dig, por favor, the excellent way-torched frazzle worked over on the yawning psychedelic tone investigation "Empty Mall" and the harmonica-flecked toil + trouble of "Smoulder Exude", the name pretty much tells the whole story of this destroyed piece of ex-architecture. "Someone is Here" also sounds like it stems from one head, the duality of its razed soundscapes and glistening, bright vocals (maybe?) blending and intertwining as one. And maybe there was indeed only one at work on some of the tracks, who knows. The sounds these guys spew out their wizard sleeves is always so obfuscated, I'll be fucked if I can figure it all out. The next record should come with Venn diagrams for liner notes. Also of note is the amazing mutated dance/pop song "Love Falls" that closes out the record, sounding like something I'd expect to hear crop up on a James Ferraro tape. "Later Than You Think" shakes out heavy full-band action, built around fuzzy, downtrodden riffs that could crumple into dust at a moment's notice and swirling, looped background wash coming off strikingly similar to the more come-down moments of shoe-doom (I prefer Doomgaze, man he was a bastard in FF6) stars Nadja, Goslings, Jesu and similar. Meanwhile "Lower Still" channels the living soul of Terry Riley w/a heavy dose of Eno's bedside manners, all hazy and stumbling and rattling guitar/synth/noisebox fug. The whole disc volleys back and forth some between skyline and sewerpipe, and I don't mean that in a good and bad way. Sometimes you gotta get high, sometimes you gotta start low.

Quetzolcoatl's "Living" is a set of ten untitled tunes clocking in just under an hour, and all "crafted by piano artifacts". Which is to say that yes indeed most of these figure loosely around a charming/haunting piano refrain, drenched in a healthy helping of fuzzy ambience, distant creaking, the sound of howling wind, holistic breaths from heavens above, fragile heartbeats amidst low mechanized hums - all kinds of glorious, chest-swelling aural pleasures, really. Absolute tits is track number six - a dizzy piano tangle off in the sun-blinding horizon smothered in angelic drones and choir-like refrain emitting from who knows what. None others stood out as much as that one, but it's not to suggest the rest are bad. Quite the contrary. The entire albums bleeds together so seamlessly it's really one endless dunk into shimmering lakes and warm summer days without a touch of the irony or cheesiness you might expect to go with it. "Living", as the Leaf Trail jabber states, is "a personal, meditative, moving journey, through time, mind, worlds and dreams" and I'm a believer. No way is this music created by someone not in touch with the other and I'm convinced Tim is roommates with the other as of hearing this outing. Valid comparisons would be to the lighter moments of the Skaters (again!) and Double Leopards but moreso early John Cale and Tony Conrad (and Theatre of Eternal Music, it must be said), Charlemagne Palestine, Florian Fricke and Popol Vuh, more Eno...shoot I don't know, but don't take my word for it...pick one up and air out your skull yourself.
Not only do these jams come in oversized full color glossy sleeves (the (VxPxC) one is even stitched together!) but there's sexy inserts to match and cool, watercolor-style disc labels. Definitely a one to watch, especially with new blather en route from hooligans with names like Bonecloud (x2), Ghost Brames of the Cerf, Ixchel, and another Quetzolcoatl.
Samples available here because I don't have the time to do em myself tonight. Do forgive me.


RV Paintings - Trinity Rivers / Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood - Preying in Circles (Root Strata CDs)

Two new beauts from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's Root Strata, eternal purveyors of the new weirdness. RV Paintings is a new offshoot of the Starving Weirdos gang, featuring Starving Weirdo Brian Pyle, brother Jon, and their brother Spencer. No idea if we're talking actual siblings here or what, but it's not really important. But speaking of siblings, Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, whom you shouldn't need any introduction to are definitely the real deal. The bro/sis tandem of Kristina and Michael Donnelly erupted out their native Australia back in 2004 via the Musicyourmindwillloveyou label, and Shirley, you've heard one of the gazillion records attributed to their name in that short span of time. But earlier catalogue number always goes first, so let's talk RV Paintings.
The three cats on this disc play a wealth of noise makers, standard and non-standard: electric and acoustic guitars, drums, loops, field recordings, yes. Fog-like layers, glasses, African slitdrum, wha. The biggest pratfall to avoid then is making noise for the sake of it (something I think the Starving Weirdos are guilty of at times) but nay, not on this disc. On the three tracks that make up "Trinity Rivers", RV Paintings nail it. "South Fork Trinity" and "North Fork Trinity", 10 and 15 minutes apiece, featuring glistening, shimmery guitar floating over black, watery graves, the result of whatever these loops and possibly even fog-like layers are. "South Fork Trinity" dips into a bubbling, steamy, swampmuck trench of churlish voodoo creep and frozen blurs culminating in a subtly euphoric, organic, and Buddhabox-esque ascension to the split heavens above. "North River Fork", the closing piece, takes things in the other direction by way of perfectly dealt percussion sloshing and strained, Partch-ian slitdrum tones. Just as quick as the track reaches its ebullient apex, all sounds are swallowed by stormcloud channels and seagulls crying, the perfect embodiment of the words "trouble at sea". "Mad River", the trinity-completer sandwiched in betwixt, is a beautiful ebb-and-flow piece with swirling, darkly psychedelic electronics and ominous drums, with a great patch of Tim Hecker/Machinefabriek droney ambient whuzz at the spiral's tail. This one too resorts to birdsong by track's end, but with actual waves to match, all frothing up against a dull cosmic hum. Basically a great album that not only lives up to its slick cover, but manages to sound exactly like it. Step inside...

"Preying in Circles" presents the duo of Kristina and Michael Donnelly, but this time joined by the mysterious EON (anyone know?) from sessions that took place between 2004 and 2006. The seven tracks on the CD feature the general BotOS (as we call em down at the station) sound, consisting mainly of acoustic guitars and hand-belted percussion, along with chimes and bells, occasional vocals, miscellaneous bowed and plucked string instruments, and anything else that happens to me in the toybox on the day of recording. Despite the expanded lineup, the songs are, for the most part, as restrained as I've ever heard em. "Ornamentum Dust Raga", "Thought Flickering Eyes Swallow the Forest" and "Insect Orbiting Shadows" feature sparse, languid acoustic guitar amidst constantly-shifting droplets of junky cabin floor instrumentation, while "April" and "Harp Fragments Drank Syrupy Blue Squid Blood" play off an exoskeletal form so as to resemble a vague take on coherancy. Best of all is the 11-minute finale "Ragged Pyres in the Night", a kind of summation of everything the disc has to offer, moving through multiple acts showcasing the group's knack for eerie Americana wordless folk prayers, No-Neck Blues Band communal slipshodal moves, British psych folk riffing (I swear I hear a meditation on Comus' "The Herald" in there), and Tower Recordings/Bummer Road campfire noodling. Root Strata's text posits this one as sounding like a "Sunday morning jam with your best friends outside in a garden just after tea" and they've got the Sunday morning part down pat at least...this is one of those quintessential records you throw on when you wake up early and shuffle around the house with the day ahead of you and sunlight pouring in through the windows. Unfortunately it's 1:30am as I type this so I'm Not Feeling the Rainbow so to speak, but I know when I come back to this one in the morning it'll hit me like gangbusters.
In the event that these two are old hat for you already (which is possible), there's a couple of neat sounding Root Strata LPs in the works to feed yr need. An amazing/insane sounding Gregg Kowalsky LP ("For his Graduate thesis at Mills Collage, Gregg translated, scored and conducted one of his electronic compositions acoustically for the 25 person Contemporary Performance Ensemble featuring Fred Frith on violin.") and an LP reissue of a long gone Jyrk silverback which saw the minds of Axolotl, Gerritt and Yellow Swans coming together for general ne'er-do-well-ness. Always summat to look forward to, then.


Nocturno Culto - The Misanthrope: The Existence of...Solitude and Chaos (Peaceville/Tyrant Syndicate DVD/CD)

I was originally sposed to discuss this one an age ago, when it came in mail from Aquarius. Unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, the spindles that hold the DVD and the CD in place broke in transit and as a result, the CD rubbed against the shards all the way to my home, scratching it up beyond playability. So, you know, it was exchanged, the new one came today (in perfect health) and we're good to go. See the package for "The Misanthrope" is a bit of a delicate thing. It's basically a DVD-sized jewel case, which looks pretty swanky but manipulates rather finickily; I almost broke the "door" off this new copy. Then again, no one ever accused me of having the softest of hands. I digress. "The Misanthrope" is Darkthrone singer/guitarist/bassist/misanthrope Nocturno Culto's directorial debut, a "unique insight into solitude and metal" (how often those two do go hand in hand), accompanied by a 20-ish minute bonus CD featuring music specifically composed and performed by Nocturno for the film's soundtrack.
The film itself is only 56 minutes long, and Nocturno himself describes it as "a strange documentary/fiction piece...a totally weird film with no actual information, but with atmosphere and self irony". That tells about a fraction of the tale, in the sense that "The Misanthrope" isn't really a coherant film at all. It's more or less a collection of a few different scenarios broken up and spread out over 14 chapters...sometimes referencing eachother, but usually not. It's shot almost entirely by Nocturno with a handheld camera, and covers a lot of disparate ground: from opening with footage of Nocturno, Enslaved's Cato and a Metal Hammer scribe ice fishing, to shots of Norwegian forests, towns, and, uh, snowboarders, to "behind the scenes" clips of Darkthrone's "Sardonic Wrath" rehearsal sessions, Aura Noir's contract signing and record release party, and Japan's all-female blackened doom wastelayers Gallhammer playing live (!), it's all over the map. The best way to describe it is part tour documentary (see: Nocturno's trip to Japan), part home movie (see: Nocturno and Darkthrone cohort Fenriz's musings on technology and reality), part black metal featurette (the aforementioned bands and scenes), part art flick (lengthy shots of forests, waterfalls, fallen snow, cross-country skiing)...but mostly anything that Nocturno saw fit to include. There's no denying that this is pretty much a vanity project (as the man himself cautions in the liner notes, "some will find this DVD totally pointless") and ways away from both the black metal exposé and the black metal arthouse juggernaut one might've been expecting, it's still makes for a neat viewing at least once or twice for the more curious observer...Darkthrone nuts, on the other hand, should be all over this. And I almost forgot to mention the coolest part of the whole thing - the black and white scenes of Fenriz tugging a coffin through the snow interspersed throughout the film's duration. What makes it even better/stranger is that I was unwrapping my newly-purchased copy of Django at the very same time I was watching those scenes unfold...
Also worth mentioning that the DVD comes with some bonus features: rare Darkthrone live footage, promo video for "Too Old, Too Cold", and a photo gallery. I lost my DVD remote and can't access anything other than the main movie, but I'm sure they're swell.
The soundtrack, featured sporadically in the film, features 20 minutes of brand new Nocturno Culto (read: not Darkthrone) music created specially for "The Misanthrope". About the only song that even bears a shred of semblance to black metal is the hilarious/bizarre "Necroposers", sounding like a cross between 70s psychedelia, 80s industrial and 90s black metal riffs with Nocturno slurring "Yeah! This is groovy! Let's kick it!" and hacking up a lung through a vocoder. The solo features some serious shredd though, I must say. Other tracks like the opening "Battlehorns", "The Will to Deny", and "The Solution" are guitar-based promenades through dark ambient/CMI furnace rooms, while "The Bastard Son" and "Stay Away" hint at a love for 70s prog and krautrock, the former reminding of King Crimson's "Industry" or "Dig Me" while the latter seemingly inspired by Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream/Kosmiche spaciousness with a little Goblin/Argento-style Moog/synth shadow. All of it sounds better within the context of the film, though I wouldn't balk at all at hearing a full album's worth of solo Culto aktion.
Darkthrone themselves have a new album due on September 10th, "F.O.A.D.". If you can't wait till then, "The Misanthrope" in conjunction with the band's recently-released "N.W.O.B.H.M." EP should be the horn o' plenty for you to toot on while you wait.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the bonus CD


Various Artists - A Nice Noise Evening Vol. 1 ([&] CD-R) / Various Artists - D.R.M.K. Kronika Vol. 1 (No Label CD-R)

Got a couple of cool CD-Rs in the mail the other, er, month from Matjaz Galicic, Slovenian everyman who has a noise outlet called Gen 26 and a label called [&]. He used to run a couple of classic labels dating back to 1994, Abnormal Tapes and Fuck-U-Tapes (not to be confused, of course, with Fuck It Tapes). [&], as you can see, are responsible for "A Nice Noise Evening Vol. 1" which is recordings taken from an evening in Ljubiljana, Slovenia in 2005 featuring the aforementioned Gen 26, A.U.B. (also from Slovenia), Man Manly ("artistic nomad state") and Justice Yeldham & The Dynamic Ribbon (Australia). I don't know if Matjaz did the "D.R.M.K. Kronika Vol. 1" CD-R too, but he appears on it, along with A.U.B., Propalitet, Sist En 343, and Minimal Bastard. The D.R.M.K. is the Ljubljana-based "Collective for Development of Youth Culture" (the acronym is Slovenian you see), who put on all sorts of "youth actions" (concerts), exhibitions, art workshops, etc, featuring Slovenian and non-Slovenian acts in a "non-profit, non-commercial way and involve young people who otherwise might not have a chance to perform and take part in events such as these". Sounds like fun!
For a soirée that brought together four acts from potentially disparate locations, I would've expected "A Nice Noise Evening Vol. 1" to be a bit longer than the pithy 25 minutes it clocks in at, but hey, works for me. Each act contributes about 7 minutes of noise. Most immediately enjoyable are A.U.B. and Man Manly. The former does up a strange brew of sizzling feedback and xylophone/toy gamelan virtuosity topped off with the addition of a melting karaoke version of Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go". Sounds gimmicky, shouldn't work, but it does! Kinda like Japan's Thirdorgan, with more of a sense of humor. The latter, Man Manly, uses homemade instruments to bleed out a seriously head-emptying droning throb that only increases in both pureness and intensity as the track wears on. I thought my sinuses were going to erupt towards the end, so I liked it. Now the other two "sets" were nothing slouchy either - Gen 26 dredge up a nice haze of basement-birthed feedback swirl, guitar (?) crunch and spiked blasts of supercharged oscillation while Justice Yeldham & The Dynamic Ribbon Device belie their goofy name with menacing static gamma rays and spectral crystallizations steeped in abused pedals and synths. Sprechen sie sassy? It's worth mentioning this "Nice Noise Evening" comes housed in a sexy foldover sleeve made from what appears to be a thicker wallpaper-type textile, in hand-numbered editions.

The "D.R.M.K. Kronika Vol. 1" compilation, issued by D.R.M.K. themselves, brings together five acts all with ties to the collective: Gen 26, Propalitet, Sist En 343, Minimal Bastard and A.U.B., all contributing between 4 and 15 minutes of exclusive music. All five are pretty diverse (though all with noise roots...well almost all) so this compilation makes for an entertaining listen, especially since all the tracks are mixed around and no artist's tracks play consecutively. Like the Slovenian noise mixtape you always wanted! Gen 26 plays the most straight-forward, brutist noise on the whole compilation, approaching Masonna/Prurient terrortories with single-minded feedback assaults "Še En Komad Brez Naslova" and "Incubator of Death", while A.U.B. returns with his/her/it's brand of junkyard mechanical percussion, drones and feedback joined up with keyboard quirks, same as the ones I played around with on my brother's Casio circa 1990 or thereabouts. Awesome blast from the past! Of the remaining artists, Sist En 343 contributes just under 4 minutes of sound in the excellent "Merzfuk (Live In Swenak 26.10.2001)", sounding equal parts hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, and other world-ending visions of apocalypse, and Minimal Bastard also goes the single-track route, only with an 11-minute barrage of mutated drum machine beats and what could be a guitar begging to be put out of its misery. It has a lot more in common with some of the more severely bent black metal than it does noise, like a weird meld of the Battlecruiser label's bedroom simplicity, the production values and the distortion of early Anaal Nathrakh, and the militant head-down stomp of Bone Awl, all without a single word uttered or (possibly) a real note played. Weirdest, however, are the four tracks from Propalitet, none of which contain a bit of noise at all. It sounds like one guy belting out fairly rockist tunes on an electric guitar, devoid of any other instruments, imbued with a strange punk rock feel despite Mr. Propalitet's mid-paced, slightly-nasal, somewhat-bored sounding speak/sing voice. Somewhere in the midst of Frank Zappa, Ludo Mich, Bruce Russell, Keiji Haino and J. Mascis sits this guy. Quite a curious and cool disc, and it comes with a boss 80's DIY-style fold-out collage containing pics, info, tracklists, etc. "D.R.M.K Kronika Vol. 2" is on the way and is slated to feature a couple of the guys mentioned here in addition to people you might already know, which is to say Merzbow, Crank Sturgeon, George Cremaschi, and Molkjebka Pvlse.
If you're bored of the steady stream of Californian or Japanese noise discs you keep buying, it might be worth it to take a flyer on these, as you're sure to hit on something that tickles your fancy amongst the seven different acts featured. The D.R.M.K. disc is available throught their website while you can get "A Nice Noise Evening Vol. 1" from Matjaz Galicic right here.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums


Terry Riley - Reed Streams / Les Yeux Fermés & Lifespan (Elision Fields CDs)

More reissues! I couldn't pass up the chance to tell you all about two records you surely must've heard or heard of by now. Elision Fields have undertaken the task of reissuing long-gone slices from the Organ of Corti's Terry Riley Archive Series, I believe the first was "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band: All Night Flight" (which I reviewed last year or whenever it came about) and these are the two newest. "Reed Streams" is a reissue of Riley's first record from 1966, originally containing the "Untitled Organ" and "Dorian Reeds" pieces, remastered here and joined up with a 1970 performance of "In C" by Montreal's L'Infonie. Must've missed that one. The latter record reissues two 1970's Riley soundtracks on one CD: 1972's "Les Yeux Fermés" and 1974's "Lifespan". It's the first time either has seen a CD release, and Elision Fields have remastered everything from the original tapes.
The two "Reed Streams" tracks ("Untitled Organ" and "Dorian Reeds") were recorded on November 4th and 5th of 1966 in Riley's New York City studio, and both feature the use of his time lag accumulator. Over the 20 minutes it takes "Untitled Organ" to unfold, Riley creates a whirlpool of subtly-shifting sound via constantly reverberating, well, reed streams. His fingers move across the keys with almost alarming speed, channelling intense flares of organ phrases that after a while start to sound like they're looping back over eachother. Of course, because the piece is so rigidly executed with an almost mechanical precision, any misstep on the part of Riley's hands is almost like being jolted out of a hypnosis-induced dream, but luckily (and amazingly considering the accuracy required to make this piece work) it doesn't happen often, and it isn't too long before Riley's echoey undertow swallows you whole and the track is over before you know it. "Dorian Reeds" works a similar pulse but uses soprano saxophone and tape recorders instead, allowing Riley to actually loop sounds instead of just creating the illusion of doing so. The foundation of the piece is a series of fluttery and dizzying saxophone spirals, with Riley using strategically placed notes to punctuate and create a skewed rhythm to work off of. At times the saxophone drones melt together and take on an almost harmonic nature, other times they're so brash and vibrant it almost stings. Despite using similar techniques, "Dorian Reeds" isn't nearly as heavenly as "Untitled Organ" (owing largely to the differences in instrument) but still an overwhelming, inspiring listen. For the bonus track, Quebecois psych/prog colletive L'Infonie, led by Walter Boudreau, perform their take on Riley's legendary "In C" (here retitled "In C (Mantra)") and risk stealing the spotlight altogether. Utilizing a big band approach and combining everything from the aforementioned psychedelia and prog rock to jazz and funk approaches to post-rock and that Animusic stuff I always see on PBS, the group morph "In C" into an incredibly catchy and certifiably weird rock journey. I swear if you hear this and don't want to start air drumming along to the insane xylophone-cum-gamelan beat or rocking out alongside the sludgy bass line and effusive horns, you've got no pulse. Imagine a completely ecstatic (and likely stoned) version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor meeting Acid Mothers Temple (whose own version of "In C", while fine in its own right, pales compared to this one) playing a Terry Riley tune, maybe by way of the Forever Bad Blues Band, and you've got L'Infonie, at least on this track. The Riley pieces on their own would make this CD good enough, but the "In C (Mantra)" pushes it into the realm of the must-own.

"Les Yeux Fermés & Lifespan" represent two of Terry Riley's earliest attempts to move away from tape manipulation and composing and into keyboard cycles and improvisation. The first of the two 18-minute tracks that make up "Les Yeux Fermés", "Journey from the Death of a Friend", uses electronic organ phrases in a bubbling, pre-industrial (think Coil circa "...And the Ambulance Died in His Arms") tonal excursion. For the most part though, the near-synthesizer tones of the organ sound somewhat cheesy and dated, almost bordering on the (gasp) new-agey stuff that I usually find Riley so deft at avoiding. I'll freely admit I've never heard the track in conjunction with the movie, though, so I've no idea how well it works from a soundtrack standpoint. The other track, "Happy Ending", uses organ and saxophone loops (akin to "Dorian Reeds"), moving through lengthy stretches first of the former (in charming, slinking tones) and the latter (in soulful, almost jazzy mode). The result hints at surrealist film noir drama up until the terrific, piano-induced catharsis that slowly draws the proceedings to a close. "Lifespan" features six shorter tracks, all of which see Riley whittling his minimalist stylings down into more digestible morsels, and represent certainly some of his most varied work I've yet to hear. "G Song" and "The Oldtimer" combine electronic organ with jazz sensibilities, while "M-Music I-Inside C-Curved E-Entrances" and "Slow Melody in Bhairavi" and imbued with a Middle Eastern aura as evidenced through the use of tabla on "MICE" and the languid, hookah-tinged harmonies in "Slow Melody". Curiously, the two longest tracks are the stand-outs. The six-minute ambient vocal/organ phrase loops of "In the Summer" are pure euphoria, surely as equally influential to Fennesz as they were to the Who on "Baba O'Riley". The 12-minute "Delay", using lower-register organ dronings and icy, paralyzing drones reminiscent of Hermann Nitsch's Harmoniumwerks, slowly builds to a frenzied pitch that once again sees Riley's fingers dancing mischeiviously across the keys, similar in spirit to "Untitled Organ" and bringing the whole set back around full circle.
If you were picking between the two I'd give "Reed Streams" the clear nod, especially to the curious listener and not the full-blown Riley (or school of minimalism) devotee to whom "Les Yeux Fermés & Lifespan" would appeal more directly. Either way, it's great to have more and more of Riley's seminal work in print and available once again. I for one can't wait to see what other fruits Elision Fields are busy digging up and dusting off for our collective consumption.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums


Baby Grandmothers - Baby Grandmothers (Subliminal Sounds CD)

I first heard Sweden's Baby Grandmothers on the great "Psychedelic Phinland" compilation, with their excellent "Being is More Than Life" tune. I guess a bit of an explanation is in order: Baby Grandmothers' first and only single (and indeed only recorded studio artifact they ever put out) was recorded and released in Finland, hence the Swedish band's appearance on a Finnish compilation. Subliminal Sounds, who have been responsible in the past for excellent reissues/compilations of Trad Gras Och Stenar, Parson Sound, and more, have collected that single and a host of live cuts dating from 1967 and 1968 to put together this excellent, long overdue tribute to Sweden's unsung psychedelic rock warlords.
The trio, featuring guitarist Kenny Hakansson, bassist Bengt "Bella" Linnarsson, and drummer Pelle Ekman, started out as an R&B band in Stockholm circa 1965, going by the name of T-Boones, with a couple of other members. In a couple years time they "turned on" as so many other R&B bands of the era did, slimmed down to the power trio format, and were the house band at the psychedelic club FILIPS, something akin to Sweden's answer to London's UFO Club. M.A. Numminen of Finland caught a Baby Grandmothers set at FILIPS and asked the band to record a single for his Eteenpan! ("Forward!") label, hence the Finland connection. The single was limited to 300 copies and scarcely distributed outside of Finland, and not long afterwards they welcomed new member Mecki Bodemark into the fold, eventually changing their name to Mecki Mark Men where they enjoy a degree nowadays as being Jimi Hendrix's favorite Swedish band. MMM split in 1971 with various members forming the excellent Kebnekajse (readying a new album, with Pelle Ekman still behind the kit!) and others drifting off into the great unknown. For now though, with the aide of this compilation, we go back to a simpler time. A better time. At least, that's what they tell me, because I was still in my dad's balls when it occured. Hiyooo!
The opening two tracks are from their aforementioned single, the (nine minute! A-side of "Somebody Keeps Calling My Name" and the flip, "Being is More Than Life". The former opens with a chiming, haunting guitar line, a softly pulsing bass rhythm and Ekman's insistent drumming...Hakansson intones the title a few times (one of the rare spots featuring vocals on the entire album) before sending the rest of the track off into a loose, Grateful Dead-style jaunt propelled by and centered around searing, jagged guitar solos from Hakansson. "Being" opens with more isolationist guitar notes and sparse cymbal skitter before taking on the kind of blues-mangling psych improvisation along the lines of Les Rallizes Denudes. The two longest tracks on the compilation come from a single show at FILIPS in October of 1967. The 16-minute "Bergakungen" is a hulking slab of snaking psych/prog moves flowing thick and heavy via Linnarsson's moody bass lines and Hakansson's restrained approach to the guitar - rather than lay waste to the stage and its surroundings with feedback-soaked shredding, he remains content to eke out only slight hints of that kind of ground-zero destruction, while also playing fluid, R&B-informed monologues. The other track is a 20-minute meditation on "Being is More Than Life", starting out almost exactly like the single version, then ratcheting up the speed and intensity, and then coming down and playing out the remaining half in a fashion reminiscent of Quicksilver Messenger Service's takes on "Smokestack Lightning" and "Mona" or Pink Floyd during their "Ummagumma" and "Atom Heart Mother" stages. Unfortunately it's not entirely captivating 100% of the time and probably could have been trimmed down some, but I guess it was the age of excess after all. The remainder of the album sees two versions of "St. George's Dragon" - one the full version of the song and the other a truncated, minute-long intro to album closer "Raw Diamond". "Dragon" is a high-energy rock number bolstered by racing percussion from Pelle Ekman, over which Hakansson's guitar pushes out fast-burning fireworks and electric shards before everything comes to a standstill...only to lurch back with a great pre-metal Hawkwind/Blue Cheer type assault led by Hakansson at his most frantic. The second version of the track and "Raw Diamond" are both taken from a Finland date, March 1968. With both tracks totally about two and a half minutes, it's hard to get a bite on where the band was at, but there's a meaner, dirtier, super-charged feel to them, and it's more than just the production talking (which is excellent on the whole, excluding a few sketchy jumps here and there).
Safe to say that if you're a big fan of the International Harvester/Trad Gras Och Stenar/Parson Sound lineage (and Kebnekajse, of course), this set is a must-own. I know I am, and I know it was for me. Baby Grandmothers aren't quite as freaked out as Parson or Harvester, but still incredibly enjoyable nonetheless, especially if you like your psychedelia barebones and driven by diamond-cutting guitar riffs. Subliminal Sounds releases don't usually come cheap, but they sure make em worth owning - in addition to the fine music you get here (cleaned up masterfully as well, considering) the CD booklet is packed with rare photos and extensively researched liner notes (in English, don't worry) from Dungen guitarist Reine Friske.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


Sunn O))) - Oracle (Southern Lord LP)

I like to envision a world where I hated this album and would spend the rest of my days slagging it off with a variety of comical puns. I had em all thought up - Snore-acle, Bore-acle, Chore-acle, Rather Listen to Gang of Fouracle...I woulda been king, at least on the internet. But then, you know, responsibilities intruded and I thought "well maybe I should actually buy it and hear it first", but I wasn't in no hurry. It was only when I felt compelled to order Southern Lord's 2xLP reissue of Velvet Cacoon's "Genevieve" (oh yes) that I decided to take the plunge. $17 for a gatefold-ed 180g LP ain't so tough, not to mention the free CD it comes with (more on that later). If you keep up at all with Sunn O))) or Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic website, you surely recognize the "Oracle" art from the installation the group did with New York sculptor Banks Violette. In June of last year, Biolette created resin and salt casts of all Sunn O))) related equipment and epherma - amplifiers, instruments, the like. The B-side of this record, "Orakulum", was composed especially for the installation ("to generate a feeling of absence, loss and a phantom of what once was") while the A-side is the "experiment" "Belulrol Pusztit" which I'm assuming was recorded at the same time since the same line-up is pretty much the same - the Sunn core of O'Malley and Greg Anderson with featured players Attila Csihar (Mayhem) and Atsuo (Boris). Joe Preston (Thrones) plays only on the first track.
The experiment behind the A-side "Belulrol Pusztit" is that it's origins lie in Sunn's contribution to the "Jukebox Buddha" compilation, featuring artists manipulating FM3's Buddha Machine to produce new mutant hybrid works. The group had them run through their backline at maximum volume, slowed down to produce gaping ghostly tones that only vaguely share skeletons with their original sources (and actually kinda sound like the bell/gong that rang in "Bathory Erzsebet" on "Black One"). Above the icy ambience, the guitar duo of O'Malley and Anderson spreads additional grinding drones, bleak and drenched with bile and viscera. Atsuo's drumming contributions are kept to a minimum at first but as the track crawls along his cymbal twinkles shine through more and more until he's actually hitting the snare and bass drum in a helter-skelter rhythm similar to Dale Crover on the Melvins' equally monolithic "Divorced". However it's Preston and Csihar who steal the show, and it'd be pretty hard for them not to - Csihar's incredible vocal breadth dominates any time it's used to its fullest potential and "Belulrol" is no exception. Through gasps, shrieks, howls, and guttural belching, Csihar single-handedly conjures up spellbinding visions of abyss and apocalypse. Lyrics are included for both tracks, but I don't speak Norwegian. Preston on the other hand is a focal point due in large part to inevitability - it's hard to ignore a guy playing a jackhammer. This isn't "oh it sounds like a jackhammer", this is Joe Preston playing a jackhammer, at least if you take their word for it. It's certainly the unmistakeable sound of a jackhammer, which is more a problem than anything else. It doesn't really mesh with the churning pool of desolate sound everyone else worked so hard to summon - it just really sounds like someone playing a jackhammer over a Sunn track. But hey, that's why these things are called experiments, right? Anyway it's not used enough to ruin the track, though I much prefer it when Atsuo re-enters to bolster Attila's demonic inhalations as the quintet swirl downwards and finally hit absolute zero, with the faint strains of the Buddha Machine filtering back in as the guitars drift off.
"Orakulum" is stripped down in comparison to its predecessor, and more traditional live Sunn fare. O'Malley and Anderson's sludgy guitar filth forms the constantly-shifting basis the track, piling riffs mountain-high. Their sustained power chord drones at times seem to osmose into pure electricity, at least until the fingers are lifted and the next rumble is pushed out. Atsuo abandons the drum kit entirely and focuses on adding extra shading via ominous gong strikes as Attila, in slightly more restrained but no less vitriolic form, spews out more word-destroying incantations with the aide of an echo pedal. Like I said before, no idea what's being said, but he's still preaching to the choir. Less to say about this one because it's pretty steady the whole way through, but it's definitely the better realized of the two tracks, if not the more memorable. In fact I always feel lousy reviewing Sunn records so recently after hearing them, because even years after their older records came out, I still find myself going back and hearing new things. I can easily see myself doing the same with the tracks on "Oracle", because I get the feeling both require repeated listens if one has any hope whatsoever at getting to the heart of either.
It wouldn't be a Southern Lord release if I didn't mention something about the zany pressing/editions this one's available in. The band says the "official" release is the vinyl version - limited to 7777 copies, 2000 of which are on clear vinyl. If you order the LP through Southern Lord (as I did), you get a free CD version of the album. There was also a tour-only (of course) edition of the CD, with a bonus disc featuring a 46-minute track called "HeliO)))Sophist". I'm assuming this edition is long out of print by now. What complicates things is that the single-CD version (the free one) has the 2xCD tracklist on the back. Or at least mine does. So for the Ultimate Sunn Collector out there, that's four editions to my knowledge - clear vinyl, black vinyl, single-CD and double-CD. But any way you slice it, 17 bones for an LP and a free CD is a great deal (even if the CD is kinda superfluous), so don't even front with the whole greed thing this time around. And get the Velvet Cacoon reissues while you're at it.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album


CJA/Smokehouse - Whisky & Freedom / Nonhorse - Xol Mic (Abandon Ship Records CSs)

I'm behind enough that I can't call these hot off the press, let's just say lukewarm off the press perhaps. At least Abandon Ship were kind enough to hold off on any new releases until I reviewed these final pieces from their last package (see last month-ish for mention of the Futurians and Buck Paco 3"s), so thanks to them for that. The rest ain't for long though, as they've got a whole slew more in the werks: 6majik9, Thousands, Stoneburner, David Newlyn, Fantastic Magic, Nessmuk, Crow Feathers, Capricorn Wings, and Starving Weirdos (a 7", first vinyl for the label!). Sheesh, what ever happened to sleep? It's not like these two monsters won't tide you over for the rest of your days either - the collaborative tape between CJA (Clayton Noone of the Futurians) and Smokehouse (Kaaterama Morehucan) is a healthy c30 deserving of multiple/endless plays while Nonhorse (G. Lucas Crane of Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice) spreads out over a c90 (!). Like I said, these could be the last two tapes I ever buy and I wouldn't kill myself, least not for a little while.
I had a hard time grappling the CJA/Smokehouse tape because if you're like me, you've come to believe that a forward slash seperating two artists' names on one release implies a split, but it ain't so - this is a real meeting of the minds (and bodies, none of that snail mail collab shit). Smokehouse is a new name to me but I knew CJA's brand of skewed apocalyptic folk/singer-songwriter/what the fuck am I hearing from PseudoArana's "Pink Metal" 2xCD-R issue. On "Whisky & Freedom" they gang thegither on vocals, guitars, organs, and drums each, and produce a selection of ten tracks split five aside. The first side is filled with hazy afternoon loner blues/jam ramble, with a the dissonant, guitar-led numbers sandwiched in between lengthy hangs of tape hiss and general silence, adding still more to the off-the-cuff air that already imbues most of these lazily strummed numbers. All the songs bleed pretty well in together like the cigarette smoke that filled the New Zealand basement where these tracks were laid down so it's pointless for me to try and break em up for you. Think a stripped-down form of early 90's Dead C. dirges like "Helen Said This", replete with Michael Morley's bored, languid vocals and Bruce Russell seemingly aimless strums. Mix that up with a touch of Syd, Skip Spence, Sky Saxon (insert S-initialed acid casualty here), and some varnish-stained floorboard shuffling blooz and you're all set. The second side doesn't play it quite so straight, the first couple of tracks ("Sunshine Stream", "In Bed") being instrumental guitar pieces and owing more to the trembling psychedelics of, say, Keiji Haino. There's a couple more pieces that seem to meet between the solo acoustic and experimental guitar flavors, using repetitive chord rhythms, stuttering organs, and wordless incantations to achieve maximal stoned psychfolk ecstasy. The record closes off with a so-called "traditional arrangement" of the cassette's namesake, sounding like a busted, semi-sober take on a poppy, Fahey-ish bluegrass ditty that deserves to be, like, a side and a half longer than it actually is. Overall "Whisky & Freedom" (the tape, not the song; okay maybe both) is a total masterwork and I wish I had the right words to do it justice. In part it's because these cats know what the hell they're doing and in part because it's just the perfect August record and hit at the right time. Seriously, you need to own this and if Abandon Ship's reputation for quality release after quality release was ever in jeopardy, well this tape slams all doubts. They could stick to putting out strictly Nickelback tapes after this one and I wouldn't lose an iota of respect. They've earned the right to do whatever they want.

Gabriel Lucas Crane has done a bit of work now under the Nonhorse name, but I've only heard "Haraam, Circle of Flame" from Release the Bats last year (this year?) and it was quite good. A weird mess of noisy blats, skronks, whirrs cut up and reassembled, nine untitled pieces each lasting exactly three minutes and fourteen seconds. "Xol Mic" contains two enormous tracks, "Torquqe Binder" on the first side and "Tony's Room" on the second, both somewhere around 30-40 minutes each. There's a detailing story from Crane behind both of these tracks, which you can read on the Abandon Ship site and then explain back to me since I have no idea what to make of em. Nevertheless. "Torquqe Binder", Crane's "ode" to Xol Mic (I told you, go read it), is pretty much the perfect Nonhorse track and exactly where I hoped things would go after I heard "Haraam". Some 40 minutes of total imnmersion in the briny depths of Crane's bottomless soundpool. Through the use of (I'm assuming) turntables, field recordings, tape manipulations, reel-to-reels, and likely a host of homespun gadgets and other instruments, Crane conjures up a continuous stream of slowly shifting sounds coming together in blurred swirls of nearly-identifiable waves. When you listen to "Torquqe", it's like trying to find something to grab onto while floating in outer space - reach your arms out all you want 'cause you're not finding anything. What you hear on "Torquqe" hardly resembles music, but don't misconstrue that as "oh this is a noise record" because it's anything but (well, this side at least). You hear plenty of sounds, but they're mashed together in such a totally abnormal fashion, it's literally unlike anything you've heard before - imagine picking up on an alien satellite whereby music is made using methods never before heard by the human ear. Maybe it's a slight exaggeration but it's also an apt way to describe the total alienation and disorientation brought on by the way Crane strings his sounds together. Imagine some crazed combination of AMM, Christian Marclay, Philip Jeck, "Revolution No. 9", Boyd Rice, John Oswald, Le Forte Four, Vodka Soap...I dunno, help me out here. Whatever, that's the easy way out, hearing it for yourself is the only way and I strongly recommend it.
The second side "Tony's Room" (this being a tribute to a guy named Tony whose room Crane moved into) was recorded with Foxy Pink Gloves (?) on bass clarinet, and it doesn't quite live up to the expectations set by "Torquqe Binder", but that's a tough gig to follow up. It's a side of scratchy, stretched-out drone hollowings and synth rumblings, bordering on a less straight/more fucked version of John Olson's Waves project by way of Putrefier, heavier on head-emptying drones broken up by Richter scale squiggles and disruptions than the all-out noize assaults though. It ain't harsh or anything, just not particularly fascinating...maybe it should've come first? Apparently Crane had to put out a fire in his sock drawer as this piece was being played. Intense!
I think I said plenty at this point, anything else is gonna be overkill. The CJA/Smokehouse tape is a necessity and the first half of Nonhorse's is absolute top shelf. $6 U.S., $7 Canada, $9 world for each and both are still available. Don't be a dang fool - stick that landing. Oooh yeah!


Rust Ionics - Moving/Pictures (Colour Sounds LP)

More snuff jazz purveyors led by drummer Adam Kriney who seems to be all over the place as of late. You read about La Otracina a while back, then Owl Xounds not too long ago, and now the final piece of the package sent my way in, fuckin', October. Rust Ionics is a rule-busting jazz unit akin, certainly more Owl than Otracina, featuring Kriney on drums (natch), Ed Chang on saxophone and Doug Theriault on electric guitar, the latter two which play together in DUAL. The blurb over on the Colour Sounds page (Kriney's label...natch) tells the tale of this being quote "the most insane recording [Kriney] has ever recorded". Don't know if it's been bested since then since I'm not terrifically up to date with all of Adam's happenings, but it must be at least a contendor if not at the absolute top of the list. Don't know if it can hang with the Borbetomagus, PainKiller and Fushitsusha references dropped in said blurb, but I'm sure all three served as strong influence. And besides, this ain't no pissing contest.
I spose I could say that Rust Ionics are a bit less, uh, esoteric than Owl Xounds, but they make up for it in gusto. Side A joins the trio in progress, with Kriney already beating out a Neanderthral no wave stomp and Chang blowing high-spirited, upper-echelon alto snarks and twists. Theriault's guitar contributions are surprisingly minimal at first, limited to solely background shading via wrenched groans. Later when the group settle in, Theriault pushes out muted, plucked undercurrents with Chang still splattering endless nodes of vibrant horn work and Kriney sticking to cymbal-glancing splashes. The saxophone sounds almost processed around this point as Chang drops chemical cluster bombs of mutant howling, scooped up by Kriney's now-thudding declarations. It all comes to a head in the span of about six seconds and closes off the side sweetly. The flip features similar charges of assault and battery highlighted by an excellent solo spot from Chang who, if he wasn't before, is definitely running his saxophone through something now, or he's gotta be channeling the breath of the beast from iron lungs. Theriault's guitar only scrapes center stage once, and it's in partial duet with shortform gasps with Chang, so he may while he may not be encroaching on Sonny Sharrock's turf, the group sound mustered up is still very much Last Exit (or, to be still more precise, Peter Brotzmann's recent "Full Blast" record with Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmuller), if for no other reason than the shared punk rock/heavy metal ethos. This whole Adam Kriney/Colour Sounds axis is proving to be a satisfying addition/alternative to other current jazz form destroyers c'est-a-dire Graveyards, Chris Corsano's various skirmishes, Daniel Carter/Test, Steve Baczkowski, Bill Nace/x.0.4., and all the rest. "Moving/Pictures" (Rush?!) is limited to a paltry 311 (311?!) pieces and can be available for $12 U.S., $16 world. Comes in a clear sleeve on sexy, transluscent blue vinyl (as you can see) too. Head on over to Colour Sounds to score MP3 samples and what are surely final copies at this point.