4.27.2007

Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat - An Interlude to the Outermost ((K-RAA-K)³ CD)


Stef Heeren is probably really tired about reviews starting off with remarks about the name he chose for his musical endeavours, so I'll just say that I don't understand it either and leave it at that. I imagine that a lot of people were compelled to investigate his debut release, 2005's "If the Sky Falls, We Shall Catch Larks" CD also on (K-RAA-K)³, based on the name alone. I, too, heard some MP3s or something somewhere but promptly decided Heeren's brand of brooding, dark folk wasn't to my tastes, and that was that. I tend to have this hang up about any singer-songwriter stuff where if it doesn't grab me by the gonads from the get-go, I don't give it too much afterthought. Call it a character flaw. But when talks about "An Interlude to the Outermost" surfaced this year for the inevitable return of Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat, I was curious all over again, so I hastily accepted the offer to review it from (K-RAA-K)³ boss Tommy Denys. I knew even if I still wasn't hep to the music, at least I could appreciate the excellent cover art, because disheveled cats next to giant balls of yarn that look more like chunks of coal are just cute to me. And there can never be too much cat-centric cuteness.
I don't remember too much of "If the Sky Falls" because it was two years ago and I didn't hear much from it, but I was always under the impression it was pretty standard fare for your dark, brooding, acoustic folk set. Not to a fault or anything, but I just thought that's how it was. Maybe it still is. And that view was further enforced when "Prelude ("The World is in Fear Again and It Has All Been Manufactured")", the acoustic atmosphero ditty that opens "Interlude", finished...but then I was thrown for the loopiest of loops when "The Firesky" kicked in and it turned out to be a brash, poppy, folk rock stomper that probably might not sound too out of place on a given alternative rock radio station, with only the band name and Heeren's snarled, David Tibet-recalling vocal approach possibly holding it back from such a fate. "The Cranes Are Scared of Sunwords" is very similar - led by Hareen's dramatic vocals and acoustic guitar, backed by bombastic drums, accordion, and even a tambourine - this could be the glossiest production to ever grace a supposedly-apocalyptic folk record. It sounds like it shouldn't work at all, and it probably wouldn't if it weren't for Hareen's irresistable talent for writing killer songs. Elsewhere Heeren makes good use of the Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat Big Band (and choir!) but to less raucous effect, such as on the disparate, grey-skied "A Scatterbrain Sings of Christians and the Ghoul Bares Teeth" and the fantastically doom-n'-gloom sensibilities of "Beyond the Tanarian Hills". In reading various reviews and press clippings for this album, I'm surprised it didn't draw more comparisons to several bands from the Constellation label and their related families, particularly A Silver Mt. Zion, Molasses, and Exhaust. Not only is Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat (at least, on this record) similar in terms of instruments and arrangements, and not only do they bare likeness when it comes to explosivity and dynamics, but they all like to riff on, repeat, and generally dwell on choice passages (lyrically and/or musically) until they're certain to embed themselves into your brain for a good while after hearing them. It's especially noticeable to me on the gorgeous "Salt", very much like A Silver Mt. Zion circa "This is Our Punk Rock..." and the wonderfully expansive, violin-heavy "You Will Reap a Whirlwind", in which the title is recited almost exclusively for the entire six-ish minutes. It's not just for effect though, as throughout the album, Heeren consistently demonstrates that he has the uncanny ability to know when enough is too much and vice versa, so nothing here ever becomes annoying or tedious. Quite the contrary in fact, I found myself wanting to re-play even some of the longer songs just as soon as they finished. On the last two tracks, "Cornflowers For Our Brothers" and "All Movements Are Targets in the Minds of Tigers", Heeren's approach is probably at its most direct (and most similar to the material from "If the Sky Shall Fall", perhaps), and even though there are obvious comparisons to me made with Current 93, it still falls in line perfectly with the more wide-reaching sound Hereen has adopted on "Interlude".
Once you come to terms with what "Interlude" is (or isn't), you'll find yourself coming to terms with an intricate, emotional, and delicately-woven shawl of impressive songwriting skill and crisp execution, as joyous and hopeful as it is indeed brooding and dark. It's definitely not for everybody, but for those who it is for will surely be addicts for a long time to come...and will find themselves hoping that they're not in store for another two year wait in between records.

MP3:
The Firesky
Beyond the Tanarian Hills

4.26.2007

The Skull Defekts - Skkull (Release the Bats CD)


Sweden's Skull Defekts only showed up on my radar last year when they shared sides of a 12" with Wolf Eyes on a split called "Yes I Am Your Angel", which I always thought was a great title for an album. I thought they had been around for a while and were only just coming up strong recently but it turns out their discography only appears to date back to 2005. They've been making up for lost time, though, by releasing music in a variety of formats on labels like iDEAL, Kning Disk, Meudiademorte, and Utech, not to mention upcoming actions on Riot Season and Conspiracy Records. For now, however, this recent Release the Bats CD is my first and only exposure to this collective, comprised of Henrik Rylander, Jean-Louis Huhta, Joachim Nordwall, and Daniel Fagerström, the latter of which is absent from the sessions that produced what you hear on "Skkull" (although he's responsible for the album art). Regarding the album title, the digipak inlay has this to say: "THE DOUBLE K IS FEEDBACKING YOUR SKKULL. BEWARE. EXPLODE." I might just have to, thank you.
Apparently "Skkull" is a more stripped-down album compared to earlier releases, and it's also all-electronic which seems to be a new (or rare) thing from them. There's four tracks to be found here, and they total roughly 35 minutes worth of running time. They're also four remarkably unique pieces of drone/noise/"experimental" paraphenelia. The first, "Sex Fracture", starts out so disjointed and stuttery it makes you check whether all your audio equipment is functioning properly, until you slowly begin to pull a sense of pattern from the disrupted, droning shudders. A searing electronic loop and a dark ambient churn interlock and rip apart like rusted gears, with ominous blurts of dramatic organ grinding providing a foundation that threatens full-collapse at any second. Somehow, it's all kept together despite the weight of fragility the entire piece carries. It sounds like the trio played a straight-forward, near-symphonic stretch of sound and then chopped it up and restructured it to be all the more disorienting. It sounds like it shouldn't work in theory, but it does, and does real great at that. It's surely one of the finer noise-as-composition arguments I've heard in an age; some real high class caterwaul here. Elsewhere, the band aren't quite as active, serving up monotonous soups like "Carved in Bones" and "Six Six for Eyes" that concentrate more on black light strobing droneworks and dark laptop/synthesizer tones, repeated and built on. Regardless of how simple the formula may be, the execution is so fluid that it's pretty difficult not to fall into the Skull Defekts' trance. But the group are at their best when they're most far-reaching, which is evident not only on "Sex Fracture" but on the tremendous "Breathing Your Face", by far the best demonstration of the band's compositional skills and their knack for unlikely rhythms, as they work up an insistent, staticky pulse that sounds like an on-rushing ghost train replete with steam engine wheezing and metal-on-metal cla-clacking. Their organic production often sounds downright moist and reminds me a lot of the sinewy atmosphere drawn on by fellow Scandinavians Supersilent, while the morose electro-percussion strikes sound suspiciously like twisted takes on Konono No. 1's likembes. Wait, I didn't know this was the new Bjork album already? Where're Corsano and the Lightning Bolt dude at?
The Skull Defekt's tracks a lot more rigid and structured than their contemporaries' in, for example, Wolf Eyes, and they're all more imbued with a very heavy Throbbing Gristle or Nurse with Wound feel. Maybe an even better, more geographically-appropriate reference would be the Swedish-born Cold Meat Industries label, as I can definitely see these guys taking big time notes from the likes of Atrium Carceri and In Slaughter Natives. Although each member is already an experienced musician in his own right (members have played or play in bands like Alvars Orkester, Kid Commando, Anti Cimex, Trapdoor Fucking Exit, etc), the way they come together as a unit after only having been together for a few years is pretty outstanding. I could've done with a little more invention/inspiration on the two, uh, quieter tracks ("Carved in Bones" and "Six Six for Eyes") but it's not like I was offended by em and the other two were so good that I'm not about to worry about anyone's growth being stunted here either. Though I can tell you I'm now actively looking forward to the "Blood Spirits & Drums Are Singing" LP on Conspiracy, due mid-June.

MP3:
Carved in Bones (excerpt)
Breathing Your Face (excerpt)

4.25.2007

Transhumance - Transhumance (Self-released CS)


Still on that Hototogisu show I was telling you about last time we spoke, I actually did buy something that wasn't Bassett/Bower product. One of the openers was the best little band in all of Montreal, Ste-Sophie (I reviewed a cassette they did a while ago here if you need a reference). After they towelled off from slaying down an atypical "prog" set, they set up shop and sold this tape to me. Unfortunately this is where having a poor memory is a real curse, because I can't even remember if Transhumance is actually one of the Ste-Sophie guys or a friend of the band...I'm pretty sure it's one of the guys doing a solo one-off, but things are pretty foggy upstairs. The tale told about the tape is that whoever's responsible for it took a trip to Switzerland in 2004, and came across a Ampex 1/4 reel recorded "in the early 70's" containing the sounds used for the A-side. The B-side is taken from a field recording made while on the same trip, in La Forclaz of the Swiss Alps. The results were whittled down and put on this cassette (recorded over some sort of new-age Matol recording, god knows what could've been on that) and come wrapped up in a deliriously intricate, hand-drawn sleeve, with insert.
I gotta say though, the story about the "found" reel is just too fantastic for me to buy stock in, especially since it sounds so...current? I dunno man, if it really was recorded in the early 70's, I demand to know by whom and for what purpose because it's predating a heckuvalotuv explorations that went down in the thirty or so years to come. Or maybe what's heard here is a re-working of the original source sound. I dunno. Either way it's a really slick, 25-ish minute romp of reverb-soaked solo guitar calisthetics and equally-fried organ or keyboard tones. It resonates with the kind of glossy, billowy frequencies not usually heard in these kinds of non-percussed zone out. It sounds almost at times like an inverted Michael Morley/Gate excursion, with all the frazzle and none of the punishment - just total mellowed out, acid-riddled, (e)xpressway riding with no real purpose, just a feel for the road. I guess if we're going to be talking 70's reality, one way to think of it would be a sprawling free guitar solo completely isolated from the rest of the surrounding jam, maybe executed by the likes of Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Dead, or Hawkwind. But even then I still think it sounds like something you could pull off a side from the Phil Todd, or Mick Flower, or Neil Campbell. Fuck dude, I'm really bamboozled. What was that Hijokaidan track called, "Bad Character, But Great Sound"? Something like that.
The flip is a bit less interesting with no myth to accompany it, but it's a field recording, basically an eternally-clanging cowbell played over the occasional sounds of outdoorsy chatter, French conversations between a man and a woman, some rustic farm sounds (a cow's mooing introduces the piece), and an explicit amount of tape hiss which could even be the best part. Think Thuja's Loren Chasse at his most in-touch with mother earth, or just a dude in the Alps with an old tape deck. It is what it is, basically. Although with the Ste-Sophie crew, I'm never sure if it is what it really is, if you know what I mean.
No idea where you can even start trying to get ahold of this if you would like to, unless you live in the area. That said, it'll still probably wind up on the Bull Tongue end of year best of somehow. In terms of Ste-Sophie news you need to know, I hear faint rumblings of a 12" split with another Montreal warlord that'll be the bee's knees in the cat's pajamas if it ever happens. I've been saying my prayers every night though, so I'll keep you posted in case it turns up under my pillow one morning.

4.23.2007

Hototogisu - Spooked Summer / Live! Cassette (Heavy Blossom CD-R / CS)


Before I tell you about the musics, I have to tell a tale. I picked these documents up when Hototogisu rolled through town as part of a pre-No Fun Fest bash "Paradise is Lost Forever" in Montreal some weeks ago, along with Prurient, Burning Star Core, and Carlos Giffoni. Well, that was the idea. As you may or may not have heard, the latter three all got turned away at the border (well I suppose they were riding together) and had a bunch of merch/gear seized. Therefore, Hototogisu's Marcia Bassett and Matthew Bower were the only ones to make it through. Wasn't the end of the world for me since I'd seen all the others acts at least once before, but it was still a disappointment. And adding to my stress and unease on the same night was the fact that when I got out of the car, the New York Rangers were beating the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 after the first period (this was when the Canadiens were fighting for their playoff lives, you see)...if you can imagine. So no 3/4 of the bands didn't turn up and my team was getting pasted. But, you know, you gotta stick with these things through to the end. So I did some merch table vulturing, watched the local acts who were both quite good, and kept updated with the score in the hockey game courtesy late-comers or the radio at the bar. And would you believe that the night took a full-on turn for the incredible: the Canadiens went and scored 5 straight goals to wind up winning the game, and Hototogisu laid waste to the venue and to my brains. Sweet success! So here I sit, weeks later: the Canadiens didn't make the playoffs and all I have to dry my tears with are these Heavy Blossom jams, which may or may not include the first Heavy Blossom tape ever (at least as far as I'm aware?). I haven't seen it show up on any distros or anything yet so I'm not sure if it's tour-only, but then even it was I'm sure it'll pop up somewhere if you wait long enough.
All I know about the CD-R is that it's limited and, according to Volcanic Tongue, Matt Bower calls it his "shoegazing record". I guess you could say that - the first couple of tracks (all four are untitled) are seemingly steered exquisitely by Marcia on what sounds like flute but could just be her guitar and some kind of cymbal-lic on-stage t(h)rashing, squaring off with the hulking guitar verbiage blasting forth from hers and Matthew's axes (axen?). Sonically, I'd pin it somewhere near the Dead C vs. Theatre of Eternal Music vs. avant/prog/doom-metal cultists Like a Kind of Matador. Later on track three (on what sounds like a different session/show), the duo move into a cavernous, spelunked kind of hollow bellow, sots of heavily-effected guitar scream shooting out into the air like bolts of greased lightning. I think there's even some more gnarled flute de-harmonics slithering out from underneath the ecstatic wail like rusted metal snakes. The final cut is a digital-sounding puke, brighter and spikier than the rest and sounding a little like Matt Bower's "Silver Bear Mist" double-disc as Sunroof!. You can even catch some yowls that sound disturbingly catty, or maybe it's just the most wah-drenched, psych/free rock soloing you ever heard on a noise record. My only gripe is that the last one cuts off just when it sounds like things are getting real heinous, but if that isn't always the way then I don't know what is. I dig this disc on the whole though, it's nice and varied.

This tape is pretty neat because not only is it the first known instance of Hototogisu appearing on cassette, but it's geographically representative too - side A is from a November 10, 2005 show in New York City (where Bassett is, or was, based), and side B is from a December 13, 2006 show in London (Matt Bower's neck of the woods though). The New York City show starts up real nice and drone-y like since all jams gotta start seomwhere, but soon enough the voltage ascends rapidly into suspended animation howl territory, all static and dynamic at once. It's kinda nice to try and follow where they go from the first note although I have to say I lost track pretty easy, even when I was watching them play live. The ending is a broken-down solo guitar scrape from one or the other which is pleasant and skull-emptying. Again, it's a rarity to catch these exorcisms in full flight start to stop, since the usual trick is to just plop you down in the midst of the swamp and let you fight your own way out. The London side boasts a monochromatic, grinding dirge which is pretty consistent in its general menace throughout. So consistent in fact that it becomes a bit of a sleepwalk, paling in comparison to the vibrant "Spooked Summer" and even the other side of the very cassette it's recorded on. I'm pinning this one even closer to the MacLise/Conrad crossed-legs cerebral chess games pushed to eleven. Like guzzling smelted iron, maybe.
If somebody/David Keenan held a gun to your head and told you you could only have one, I'd be more inclined to dance with the tape but you know I'm a sucker for tapes. Although the CD-R is pretty money too. Heck I'm sure if you're a hardcore Hg fan (and I know no other kind) you've tracked em both down and spun em till your spit turned solid by now. The real deal is going to see them play, though. If you have to put up your whole Bower/Bassett collections on eBay to afford the plane ticket I'd say it's worth it, but send me those auction links when you do, all right?

MP3:
Untitled ("Spooked Summer" track 2) (excerpt)
Untitled ("Spooked Summer" track 4) (excerpt)

4.20.2007

Various Artists - Broken Flag: A Retrospective 1982-1985 (Vinyl On Demand 5xLP)


First I couldn't believe it existed, then I couldn't believe I bought it. I never thought I'd see the day come when the Broken Flag vaults were thrown back open and people got a chance to sample the treats without paying sky-high prices on eBay (if you even found any at all). In case you need a history lesson for some reason, Broken Flag is the legendary U.K. noise/power electronics label run by Gary Mundy (Kleistwaht, Ramleh, Male Rape Group, Skullflower) and responsible for some 80 crucial tapes and LPs by the likes of the aforementioned Mundy groups, as well as Swastika Kommando, Maurizio Bianchi, Un-Kommuniti, Controlled Bleeding, Giancarlo Toniutti, Total, Con-Dom and Putrefier as well as releasing tracks on compilations from future legends like Whitehouse, the New Blockaders, Sutcliffe Jugend, Consumer Electronics. Sadly, just about everything they were responsible for has gone long out of print and with no real reissue program in place, today it remains more of one of those labels you just know is gonna change your life if you weren't around to experience it back in its heyday - if only you could get ahold of their fruits. So thank fucking god for Germany's Vinyl On Demand, then. Their reputation for quality precedes them, and as this was my first ever VOD purchase, I was not disappointed. The packaging on this set is lovingly executed, from the stark n' sturdy box, to the individual glossy sleeves for each record, and the incredibly informative and detailed booklet. Not only does the book provide a full Broken Flag discography WITH tracklistings for all albums (!), but it includes an introduction from Mundy as well as his comments on many of the releases. With all the mystery that tends to shroud this stuff, I was almost taken aback at how clearly everything is laid out. Just having all this info in one place for the first time ever is worth a decent sized chunk of the decent sized price, although I have to admit I'm slightly unnerved by the 1982-1985 tagline here. Seeing as how this box cuts off after Ramleh released the 6xCS "Awake!" in 1985 (which Mundy notes was to signify the end of a particular era in BF/Ramleh history), am I gonna be ponying up in a year's time for the 1985-1995 retrospective? Mind you, the three years covered here are from the label's most productive years and definitely contain more than enough meat to chew on for a long while, but you know. Inquiring minds need to know. Anyway speaking of meat to chew on, every side in the box contains about a half hour's worth of music (so the grooves are slim but the tippin's slow); we're really talking about five hours worth of music when you get out the pocket calculator. Fuckin' sold, man. Obviously, or you wouldn't be reading this.
First I spose it would be logical to talk about the sides that Gary Mundy himself is responsible for. "Extracts from Early Ramleh Tapes" is exactly what it says - five tracks from BF01, BF08 and BF37, and essentially the Broken Flag beginnings. Ramleh started as Mundy solo before being joined by Bob Strudwick, and later Jerome Clegg. I believe all formations are represented here. The self-titled track from 1982 opens with some ancient-sounding spoken German sample before moving into severely broken tape/guitar/amp destruction mode, high-end fissures spreading like cracks in a newly-shattered bay window. There's a dense layer of lo-fi skree (ostensibly from the limitations of the initial recording devices) that thickly permeates tracks like "Deathtoll" and "Throatsuck", allowing a disorienting poison mist to seep through the speakers. "McCarthy" is the highlight though, dousing psychedelic spectral cinder blocked noise with Mundy's venereable howl, while "Purge" alone could be directly responsible for Masonna's raison d'etre. Kleistwahr was also a Mundy solo project, and it too visits the early days of the label. The first piece, "Myth Part 4-6" from 1983's "Myth-Tape", is a lengthy synthesizer drone/noise beast, destroyed to the maximum. What makes it all the more unsettling is the sample of what sounds like somebody struggling to breathe, or at least struggling to do something. The other half of the side is "Fuck You All (Arsonicide Parts 1 and 2)", something that I'm assuming is largely-guitar based, but it's mostly dedicated to forcing stakes of white-hot feedback through your chest while Mundy screams some mega-distorted proze at you, keeping in the same range of depravity with the other Kleistwahr piece...Prurient made a career out of this brand of pain-bringering (I'm only half-serious). Finally, Male Rape Group is Mundy's project with Philip Best (later of Whitehouse and Consumer Electronics), and their side reproduces the entire "On to 83" BF05 one-sided cassette here. Crumbling, shrieking electronic ferocity and mangled vocals (from one or the other) rip black holes in the cosmos with high-intensity, in-the-red flaring, not that you'd expect any less from a session involving these two maniacs. But when you consider the dead machine garble spewed forth, and the high-tone, ear-punishing conclusion, it's hard not to be impressed - "On to 83" indeed. And then some.
The Italian power electronics contingent has been of interest to me lately, so I'm glad to see they were of interest to Mundy and Broken Flag back in the 80's - three members in particular are well represented here: Giancarlo Toniutti, Pierpaolo Zoppo's Mauthausen Orchestra, and Maurizio Bianchi. Others had released tracks and albums on the label (Roberto Marinelli's Laxative Souls and Pietro Mazzochin's Swastika Kommando, to name a couple) but couldn't be included here for whatever reason. Tonitutti's "A Selection of Broken Flag Tracks" is most welcome because he's a tragically under-documented figure who deserves more exposure than what he's been getting. His "Paroksi-eksta" with Massimo Toniutti, Giuliani Stefani and Daniele Pantaleoni is particularly impressive, sounding like a P.E.-informed take on the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza and featuring a wealth of colorful noise-makers including piano, violin, percussion, glass, voices, magnetic tape, and "objects". The other the three tracks ("Some Fibres" and "Neocortex" from the 1983 "Trial by Ordeal" compilation and the previously-unreleased "Postsarkom") are Toniutti solo and bring about a lo-fi bedroom quality improvisations based largely around synthesizers, tape loops and voice, totally bent and stuffy and alienating and everything good n' holy about music. Mauthausen Orchestra's "Extracts from "Conflict"" is a 30-minute side containing the A-side of a tape Pierpaolo Zoppo released as BF29, also in '83. The first bit sounds exactly like what Neurosis sampled to create the intro to their "Through Silver in Blood" track; dense, shapeshifting, static-layered miasmush and the remaining 20-ish minutes are filled with heavy, industrial rain space-outs liable to leave your jaw on your chest and your eyes bloodshot, though the windtunnel oscillation taking place here is enough to leave you snowblind on it's own. Best part about it? The gentle birdsong that comes through every time Zoppo takes his foot off the gas. Real sweet-like. Maurizio Bianchi's contribution probably needs no introduction whatsoever, as it's "Excerpts from "Symphony from a Genocide"/"S.F.A.G."", one of the few documents on here that can actually be purchased in some form (although maybe not right at this moment). In case you're not already boned-up to the gills on this noise/power electronics staple, well this side is a nice help containing side B of "S.F.A.G." and "Belzec" from "Symphony". The former is an ominous, disparate Symphony indeed, like the quiet churning of a steamboat engine in dark waters at midnight as storm clouds roll overhead. I never really realized until hearing it again here how hard Bianchi has been copped in his absence (heck, even in his return)...the float he brings to the dock is like none other though, even 25 years later or whatever we are. "Belzec" is much shorter and somewhat more harsh, boiling in a lot of choppy voice transmissions as if you were listening to a "War of the Worlds" broadcast a notch or two away from the right station on the dial. On your knees.
Three other sides are dedicated exclusively to various associates of Mundy's who contributed en masse to the Broken Flag history. Paul Lemos' Controlled Bleeding project (about to receive a 4- or 5-LP treatment of his own from Vinyl On Demand) appears here with "Extracts from "Distress Signals", BF39. "A Human Invention" is an amazing slab of harsh noise, wild-ass whoops and yodels, slipshod musique concrete strikes, and freaked out operatic samples...totally messed up, haywire, scorched jargon insanity and it's damn great, way too far ahead of its time. The percussive belting that puts a stilted beat to the rest of the frenzy is just sauce serving as an achor. "Only Obeyed Orders", meanwhile, is apparently a loop of sheet metal banged incessantly while low synth drag and guitar flutter fill out the background. It's rhythmic in an almost minimalist manner, and ends with the kind of world's-end fade-out approach that's like a camera zooming out on Tokyo after Godzilla reduced it to dust. I wish it wasn't so good so I wouldn't even consider buying the CB set, but now of course I am. Shit!
Before doing Stereolab, Tim Gane was in a band called Un-Kommuniti (or Uncommunity as it was to become) that surely made him richer than his other venture ever would. Not sure why he gave it up, because he's pretty good at it too! "Destroy the Spectacle" is a dense horror splatter pitting searing effects against distant, disturbed vocals while "Mindretch" sounds like a mutilation of one of those "sounds of the rainforests" CDs, all sentient life being replaced by creeped chirping and screaming machinery. The machine gun/napalm archival disaster of "Dead Whistle Stop" is as horrifying as anything else you'll find in its own subtle way - well okay, maybe not as bad as this. Nyuk nyuk. This entire side consists of extracts from 1983's "Mindretch", Un-Kommuniti's debut.
Le Syndicat are a still-going French duo of Ruelgo and Veidt Mjolnir who had a pretty long-lasting relationship with Broken Flag, allowing for the release of "Rectal Struggle" and their contributions to the "Riposte" compilation, which is where the seven tracks on their side are culled from. On "Rectal Struggle - Soudain une Deflagration" and "Tongue of Shit" they put together lengthy basilisk-gaze-like loops and beyond-the-grave vocal blather, totally weird like a B-grade sci-fi movie shot in Esperanto minus Bill Shatner. "Black Blood", on the other hand, combines harsh sounds (tapes?) in a straight-laced industrial/kraut/Kraftwerkian fashion, totally predates any "Merzbeat" type groove. On the other hand, the clanging, foundation shaking going on with "Rectal Struggle - Shrague Tanz" reminds heavy of Neubauten's architectural deconstructions, so I don't really know what to think. I think I should see a doctor about the blood leaking from my ears.
As if all that wasn't enough (and god knows it should be), the final side is "Allies - A Broken Flag Compilation". Which is to say it's a compilation of tracks that appeared on other Broken Flag compilations like "Axis Sally", "Collaboration", "Riposte", "Le Couperet" amd "Ex - The Backlash". Besides tracks from Falx Cerebri (two) and Toll (Mundy's post-Ramleh group), the stand-outs include Sutcliffe Jugend's "Bloodfucking", Consumer Electronics' "Filthy Art" in which Philip Best shows himself to be in fine (screaming) form, Vortex Campaign's wonderfully gauzy electronic suffocation and and early showing of the New Blockaders' feedback scum rattle via "X-Nihilist Assault" - TNB's one and only "official" appearance on Broken Flag.
I know it's not what you want to hear, but if you have any interest in the slightest in the 80's power electronics and noise scene (and any interest in bands that spawned from it and continue to hang around today like Whitehouse, Skullflower, Sutcliffe Jugend, etc), you pretty much need to own this set. No more eBay trawling and Soulseek wishlisting - a huge portion of what you need to know has been put together tremendously by Gary Mundy and Vinyl On Demand's Frank Maier and is just waiting for you to sink your teeth in. Heaven will never seem further away than it does after spending 5+ hours with this monster. Let the angels wait.

4.19.2007

(VxPxCx) - Reticent to Manifest / Spectre Folk - Papa Smurf Smiles Down On Us From Heaven / Quetzolcoatl - Vast Eternity Bridges (Abandon Ship CSs)


Too long ago, Nate of the upstart Abandon Ship record label sent me his three inaugural releases. I only got down to listening to them today, despite the fact that not only do they look like sure winners but they've been recepients of major praise all across the lands. I guess you can toss my hat in with the other praisers, although I'll be the first to tell you I was pretty smitten as it was when I found out it was all tapes. But then when you take into consideration the artists, the packaging (the cassettes match the colors of the sleeve art! Sweet sassy molassy), and of course the sounds...well it's a recipe for lust and love where I come from. Recent - as in, two days ago - updates on the Abandon Ship website indicate even more sluggers around the bend: tapes on deck from Nonhorse (G. Lucas Crane of the Vanishing Voice) and CJA/Smokehouse with a 3" CD-R from the Futurians. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First and foremost, what about theez?
Well. I started with (VxPxC), a band I know absolutely dick about because I was always under the impression they were some sort of no-wave/hardcore outfit, and with a name like that can you really blame me (and if you haven't noticed by now, I basically stay away from anything that even hints at latter-day no-wave)? I'm sorry I didn't investigate earlier because "Reticent to Manifest" is pretty darn great. Side one's "Swooning" boasts a ragged, accordion-lead shirtless bloodfeast that goes down a lot smoother than you might expect from these crude dudes - as if you haven't had enough back woods/backwards harmony in your life and record collection yet. "Down to Nothing", the other half of that side, reps still more accordion (or maybe harmonica? I lost the plot somewhere in there) and syrupy guitar loll, but the addition of deeply-echoed vocal drawl beckons easy the ghost of Led Zep's "No Quarter" near throughout - and anything that brings me back to the finer minutes of "Houses" is thumbs up for me. I noticed on this whole side and moments of the second, an almost dub-like haze permeating every nook and cranny of this recording, make it even thicker and weightier than it really ought to be. Which is great. "Icy Spectral Fingers" on the flip is a brilliant out-rock piece with an arcing piano wail (electronically generated and/or mutilated, perchance) in line with mounting, choir-like death chants. It's beautifully structured, subtly majestic, and hits all the notes you never knew you wanted to hear so badly. I could throw out some kinda New Weird blender mix to give you an approximation but that really wouldn't be fair to (VxPxC), they're better than that. Like Alan Watts once said, "this is it!". The last of the four songs is "Hard to Stand", and it really isn't, as a voice-wrangled contortion like something the Skaters might attempt at their most lucid and listener-friendly...which still sounds super sloshed.

Spectre Folk is The One Pete Nolan, of the Magik Markers and GHQ and Valley of Ashes and other such ventures. Spectre Folk is the name usually given to his solo releases and "Papa Smurf Smiles Down On Us From Heaven" (the album is dedicated to a friend of Nolan's who passed away, so I'm assuming the title is somehow inspired by it in some way as well) does a tip-top job of demonstrating his diverse musical interests, to say the least. The first half of this 40-minute tape is a cover/ode/interpretation of a bootlegged appearance from Don Cherry on a 70's Italian television show (got all that? I don't) and it's a long side of dual acoustic/electric guitar noodlings matched with Pete's wasted, stretched vocals. The restrained psych guitar ramble here sounds almost like something you'd hear on an Edip Akbayram record, with Nolan holding it all in till it sounds like he's about to bust at the seams. Definitely a heavy Eastern slant here but the vocals make this one sound straight offa Planet X. I'm all the more curious to hear the source material, too. Elsewhere, "I Hate This Shit" (credited to No Fun Fest in the way that "Italian TV 1" and "2" were credited to Don Cherry) is a noise blowout of the highest degree, with Nolan generating amp feedback, laying guitar noise on top of that, and then programming drums to boot. All in all it's a searing, lo-fi riptide and the drumming is so below everything else it sounds like somebody's in your garage playing an empty gas can. All the harshness of that track is balanced out somewhat by a smokey cover of Gene Clark's "You Showed Me", which appeared in poorer form (Nolan's words, not mine) on the Three Lobed release of "Requiem for Ming Aralia". He doesn't have to do anything extreme with the song because listening to Pete's version reminds me just how haunting the original is. I think I prefer the "Requiem" version myself but it works in any form because it's such a great song and it's done all the justice in the world here.

Quetzolcoatl is another act new to my ears but I've learned it's Ireland's Tim Hurley behind the sounds, and at least half of "Vast Eternity Bridges" is a rolling stoned slayer. I'd tell you about the other side, but I fell asleep listening before I could get to it and had to dash off this review before it got too too late. The good thing is that the first side is so great that you don't even need to know about another side before I tell you that you need to own this if you're into any sort of weird, phantom hover like I know you are. Quetzolcoatl's music here is a brely-there sleepwalk through misty, dew-eyed dreamworlds: tribal drumming drops in like a brief rainstorm only to congeal back into the dense fog from which it came...lilting, druid-ed vocals float through and threaten to take you up by the seat of your pants all the way to the skies...the yawning, cavernous synthesizer/mini-disc/whatever-generated soundpool slowly incapacitates you from the ankles on up, like the opposite of a night terror where you can't move but everything's still blissful. The kinda thought going on here hits up Fennesz at his absolute dreamiest mixed in with the fuzzy, cinematic scope of Supersilent and the all-encompassing warmth of a band like the Vibracathedral Orchestra, or Ashtray Navigations. But it's way more, and way better than that. Tim Hurley, man. Remember the name now because you'll be mumbling it in your sleep later.
Even for an easy-to-please cowboy like me, I wasn't expecting Nate and Abandon Ship to go 3-for-3 in the first game of the season, but he's certainly exceeded my expectations with these three jewels. The good news is that the (VxPxC) and the Quetzolcoatl tapes are still available at a rock-bottom price direct from the label. They're out of Spectre Folk so you'll have to try your hand elsewhere for that one, although I'd consider the other two top priorities...not because Pete's was bad, but because the others were such nice surprises, at least to me. Gee, maybe if I can finally pull my head outta the sand I can stop being so darned shocked and be on the ball for once...naw.

MP3:
(VxPxC) - Swooning (excerpt)
(VxPxC) - Icy Spectral Fingers (excerpt)

Spectre Folk - Italian TV 2 (Don Cherry) (excerpt)
Spectre Folk - I Hate This Shit (No Fun Fest) (excerpt)

4.18.2007

Nadja - Touched (Alien8 Recordings CD)


I rarely listen to albums recreationally anymore, as horrible as that may sound. Usually when I listen to music it's for this site, or to investigate a new download, or what have you. Lately though I just don't have enough free time to revisit past favorites. Enter "Touched", the zillionth album from Aidan Baker's Nadja (now a duo with Leah Buckareff on bass/vocals) and their second for Alien8 Recordings. I haven't stopped playing it since I first put it on a few nights ago - I was actually supposed to review it last night but I fell asleep listening to it, so I was able to squeeze in a few more half-plays tonight. Despite being a fan of what I've heard, I've only casually kept up with Nadja's voluminous output, and I even missed their last Alien8 disc ("Truth Brcomes Death") so forgive me for being slightly behind the curve. I'm mega-glad I caught this one though.
With the addition of Buckareff, Baker appears to have refined (riffined? Sorry) his vision of doom metal into a whole 'nother realm, the kind of realm nobody else has even got on their maps, let alone presently inhabits. With "Touched", the duo have hit the perfect meld of punishing doom/sludge six-string fuzz, endless militant drum machine bludgeon, and chest-swelling shoegaze/post-rock/ambient-influenced catharsis. Nowhere is this better evidenced than on the tremendous second track "Stays Demons", pairing up Baker's mumbled poetry and Buckareff's low-end drizzle with effect-heavy guitar work that absolutely soars through the ears. About the only contemporary comparison one can draw would be with Justin Broadrick (clearly a major influence on Baker)'s Jesu project, but I have to say that anything on "Touched" out-duels Broadrick's current game in all facets. I like Jesu, but "Touched" already sounds like the album Broadrick's hoping to create with that outfit.
On a track like "Incubation/Metamorphosis", Nadja even nod (and nod and nod and nod) in the direction of Skullflower circa "Infinityland" - beautifully damaged riffs piled to toppling heights over perpetually devastating drum machine caterwaul. Baker's voice ends up almost completely buried beneath the din, reciting evocative lines like "I burst out of the ends of your fingers/like a thousand blind larvae..." - total perfection. The opening track "Mutagen" is as dominating a salvo as I've ever heard from the Nadja banner: Baker drives a monstrously fuzzy/blurred riff home for 13-ish minutes as the rhythm section swirls up a down-trodden miasma of sludge only to pour it down your throat, like guzzling spoiled honey - and honey don't spoil. "Flowers of Flesh", the last lengthy track before the brief closing coda, is the most formless action of the whole LP and still remains a gloriously hypnotic menace, mutant vocals (Baker's and Buckareff's) stick and pull apart in the best post-post-metal scream I can name since, uh, maybe the time when Boris dropped "Flood" so many moons ago.
If you couldn't tell by now, I really can't say enough positive things about "Touched". I'm thinkin', though - when was the last time you ever heard such snarling aggression and heaven-sent gorgeousness and gorgeosity from the same genre that regularly births bands like Prostitute Disfigurement? Think of the absolute best moments of corruption from early Godflesh, Cathedral, and Sleep sides mixed in with the purities distilled from modern-day head-hangers ala Pelican, the Angelic Process, and Isis...and you're gone, brother. And if this is where the 21st century is taken us, I'm gone as gone as you. I haven't heard probably even a quarter of Nadja's output (and this is actually a totally re-worked/re-recorded/revised version of a 2002 album of the same name), but this surely tops em all along with any other doom/sludge/stoner/whatever-metal schmozz you're liable to run into in the remainder of the year.

MP3:
Mutagen (excerpt)
Stays Demons (excerpt)
Incubation/Metamorphosis (excerpt)

4.16.2007

The Emerald City Debacle Vol. 1 Subscription Series #2-4 (Debacle Records CD-Rs)


Seattle-based Debacle Records seem like a pretty newish outfit, but they've already got the Emerald City Debacle Vol. 1 subscription series to their name, which furthers my notions that someday in the future, everybody will have a subscription series on the go. This is volume one of the series, consisting of 12 full-length CD-Rs dedicated to "show[ing] that the Seattle underground is one of the most beautiful and bleak music communities around". Seems like a pretty heady venture if you don't have any of the Big Names as selling points; at least, most of these names are pretty unfamiliar to me: Red Squirrel, Physical Demon, Dull Knife, Walrus Machine, (A) Story of Rats, Broken Penis Orchestra, and more. I'm no geographer either though so I'm not about to suggested who outta the Seattle area they could've included instead, so I'll just let it be. Sam Debacle shipped me editions two, three, and four which is to say Physical Demon, Wind Swept Plains, and a split from Ivory Lid & Wesley Borden. The first one (Red Squirrel) is sold out, and the others are available for $6.50 each PPD if you just want a taste instead of a subscription. Neat.
Physical Demon have this and a self-released 3" CD-R to their name, and they're a trio of Gordon Greenwood, Dustin Kochel, and Tim Nelson. This, that is to say, is called "Anklyosaur Generator", and is a single 41-minute experiment in computers, electronics, effects, and the like. The first notions include thick, droning subcurrents undercut by choppy, amphibious glitches and hiccups...then synthetic thunder claps and static bolts rain heavy grit over industrialized sound swathes. Elsewhere, there's a roaring lo-fi drill colliding with the sound of exploding comet fall-out and even some thinkspots that don't put the boots to your ears nearly so much. Unfortunately for the most part the sound they've come up here is largely faceless - nothing ever sticks and impresses for too long. It's all just kinda "there". Sonically it lands somewhere between Maurizio Bianchi's "S.F.A.G." and the American Tapes/Heresee crews (particularly Nautical Almanac I find) at their best moments. I'll even grant them a few moments of what could be considered musique concrete-inspired splash. On the surface there's a lot going on, but I'm not convined it's gelling.

Chad Allen is the man behind Wind Swept Planes (or, ...Wind Swept Plains... if you're as dramatic as he is) and "The Rose; Prickliest of Thorns" is his contribution to the Emerald City Debacle set. My initial impression from careful study of Chad's photo in the liner notes was that he'd be putting together a set of home-recorded folk jams and I don't think I could've been more right and wrong. These seven tracks are certainly home-recorded, and they've certainly got some folk lick to them...but shit it's a weird album. For instance, Allen spends nine minutes on "Thorn of Salt" absolutely massacring something that I don't even think qualifies as a legitimate musical instrument...it sounds like he's playing barbed wire with a hacksaw more than anything. What's even more curious than the "music" is the gibberish vocal work Allen lays down throughout "Salt" and on the one-minute "Home" - something of a cross between Capt. Beefheart, Mike Patton, Tom Waits, and Lord Worm. Despite these double-take inducing oddities, he can also lay out a real charming - if not slightly off-kilter - sonata as proven by the accordion(?)-led "Sweet Red" and closing "Pool of Petals". This would undoubtably be your favorite weirdo outsider record if it was released in the 70's, but since it came out some forty years after the fact you kinda have to adjust downwards for, uh, musical inflation...but I wouldn't be ashamed of slotting "The Rose" alongside loneliest, weirdest solo records like those by Gary Higgins, Mark Tucker, Ed Askew, Bill Holt...worth an investigation, if not into the music then at least into Allen's present state of mental health. And that should be a compliment.

Ivory Lid & Wesley Borden are equally responsible for the fourth and final entry (from my batch, at least), "Feeding Friendsy". In fact, they're so equally responsible that they alternate tracks here, which I always felt was an underrated method of arranging a split. And despite having never heard a note from either of these guys before, this split works in the strangest of ways. "Feeding Friendsy" combines Wesley Borden's despondent, post-rock-influenced electronic ambience with Ivory Lid's take on IDM-or-whaddeveryacallit-these-days that gets downright poppy for a good part of the time. Dig especially tracks like "English Never Felt So Good" and "Interactions with a Perfect World", which chops and contorts the female-spoken title against a fuzzy, dreamy electronica (dare I say) beat with much success. I have to question whether or not this Ivory Lid person (one Demetrius C., apparently) is famous yet and I'm just living in a bubble. I know that the whole ambient/techno ship sailed in the 90's, but his tracks are just absolutely flawless, if not the most original thing in the world. And Borden's tracks are just as competent, offering brief snatches of gentle, Kompakt/intr.version-type crinkly, warm, glitchy, electronica wash - "Lazy Not in Love" and "Cephalic vs. The Organ" are great examples of this. I guess the two (or two of the) sides of current-day electronica/techno/what have you are on display here: the formless and the not-so-formless. It might not be exactly my bag, but I can't deny how incredibly well put together the whole thing is. If this was on a label with better distribution, it'd shift a dizzying array of units. Or, at least, more than the mere 100 it's been alotted. If the description (and MP3s below) sound like your game, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
In fact, it'd be pretty tough to be disappointed from any of these at $5-6.50 a pop. And as the "vol. 1" would imply, there are indeed plans for a volume 2, which means twelve more samplings of the strange Seattle sound that's around these days. Stay tooned.

MP3:
Physical Demon - Anklyosaur Generator (excerpt)

Wind Swept Plains - Twining Twixt
Wind Swept Plains - Aphids of Blood

Ivory Lid - Interaction with a Perfect World
Wesley Borden - Lazy Not in Love

4.13.2007

Wolf Eyes/Failing Lights/Spykes/Nate Young - Split (Troubleman Unlimited 2xLP)


I got to the point of wondering how many more Wolf Eyes releases I actually needed quite some time ago. As opposed to many people who've already hit their cut-off point and simultaneously hopped onto the "their old stuff was better" bandwagon like we were talking about Metallica. Even though I could probably stick to the Sub Pop Wolf Eyes releases and not miss too much of the whole picture, every now and again I can be bothered to shell out the dough for another one. This one was of particular interest to me because the individual members can often produce work more interesting than when they're functioning as a whole, so I had to figure this Troubleman Unlimited double (a reissue of a 2xCS on Mike Connelly's Gods of Tundra) would keep my attention at the bare minimum and not break the bank if it didn't. I believe it's the second double LP ever for the band, with the other one being last year's "River Slaughter" on Hospital Productions. It's also a picture disc, so that'd make it their first ever double LP picture disc for anyone out there who's keeping score. All you really need to know going into this one (as if you didn't know it already) is that Failing Lights is Connelly, Spykes is John Olson, and Nate Young is Hatred but that's irrelevant here since he's using his real name. Why would you even bring that up? Sheesh.
First off, I'll preface this by saying that the way the sides play out is not in jive with the way they're listed on the sleeve sticker (the only information included anywhere with the record). I know this because my excellent sleuthing skills detect Wolf Eyes as the D-side and not the A-side as the cover would imply. As for the other three solo sides, I don't have nearly the bibliography required to make a case study for who's who, so I'll just wing it and hope I got everything right.
I'm thinking Connelly's Failing Lights goes first, because it's a super spaced side of sparse synth semantics and droning, flipping loop scare that somewhat fall sin line with like the one other thing I ever heard him do on his own. Connelly evokes a sound fully reminiscent of a dimly lit, abandoned industrial warehouse...buzzing of faltering fluorescent bulbs and creaking of massive steel doors all included. Sounds like the kind of dark matter I'd pin on Connelly but I couldn't pick out his axe in there for the life of me, don't mean it wasn't there though. Or not, whichever.
The flip starts with some of the most horrible screams I've heard ever coming from the trio, and that's at least part of the reason leading me to believe it's John Olson's Spykes project. Of all the solo releases I've heard from the three, no one's noise can get more ragged on a routine basis than Olson, and it sounds like he's in fine form here. Because a scream is just what it is, birthed/aborted from some junky tabletop gizmo, looped onto itself three hundred times over and embedding itself into your subconscious. I don't doubt that this is what it sounds like inside the head of, say, Leatherface. The latter half plays out in similar repeato fashion, although muted in comparison.
Nate Young was pretty unprolific for a while, but he seems to be catching up these days with his Hatred and Demons projects, not to mention the great A.A. Records label. Deductive reasoning holds him responsible for side C, a dense, gnarled, scraped sequence that threatens full-on cerebral hollowing. With all the wavering pulses and scrambled machinery pulled apart throughout, it's something that'd surely cause vomiting played through headphones after a night of not-so-heavy drinking. The deteriorating basement drones are blue shock-style waste-laying; that drool's gonna be stone cold by the time the coroner find you.
As is customary for any three people sharing a double LP, the last side is the Ceremonious Jam Session although as one might've expected from the relatively subdued nature of the other three sides, the band aren't exactly firing on high here. In fact, this is a lot more in the vein of the subtle viscosity "River Slaughter" stirred up than any fist-pumping rock out you could think of. It's still pretty nice and it's got a little of everything (except vocals) - from saxophone down to the gong strikes and general guttural, burnt harshness. Definitely a more pensive (nay, streamlined?) approach but if you were a fan of "Slaughter" or any of the group's previous, er, quieter moments, you'll dig it. I wouldn't call this an essential Wolf Eyes release, but it's an interesting one. And you could do worse if you're a fan.
The packaging is ultra-minimal, and I meant it when I said the sticker on the front was the only info you're going to get because the gatefold is plain black through and through, "Smell the Glove" style. The picture discs themselves look great though, a whole lot better spinning on your deck than in that picture. As of this writing, the split is "pretty much gone" from TMU, although with 1000 copies pressed, I'm sure you'll find it elsewhere for a long while.

MP3:
Failing Lights - Untitled (excerpt)
Spykes - Untitled (excerpt)
Nate Young - Untitled (excerpt)

4.12.2007

Cahier - Jour Ouvrable III / Oubliette - A Grey Cylo Winter (Cut Hands CD-Rs)


Cut Hands started out as a great blog penned by a great fellow named Joris (see link to your right) and has now moved on to bigger and better things. Namely, the road to becoming a great record label. It's obviously named after the Whitehouse song, so right away it's a winner in my books, not to mention Joris is into all kinds of hep jams himself. These here are two of the first three releases from his label, the other being a Machinefabriek release that came and went before I could get a claw on it. Newer releases include a heavy-praised Psalm Alarm (Graveyards) disc as well as others from Filthy Turd, Love Letters, Heavy Winged, Fossils and Poor School (Brian Ramirez/Ex-Cocaine), with bands like Starving Weirdos, Sword Heaven, Lambsbread, Emeralds, and more on tap. Soitenly one worth keeping an eyeball on, despite the fact that neither of these two blew me away. Cahier is Tampere, Finland's Marko Neumann, and you may know his work from previous releases on Audiobot, Sloow Tapes and Foxglove. Not that I've heard any of these past records but apparently he's taking the Finnish flush out into a whole 'nother spiral than the ones constructed by countrymen and women in groups like Avarus or Kemialliset Ystavat. Oubliette is Seth Oubliette from Clyo, Georgia and he's got an astoundingly prolific recorded output to go with the label he runs, Obelisk Sounds. I think he's been at it since 2004 or possibly earlier, but again, this is my first exposure to the sounds he's making. I'm such a sloth.
Cahier may be cut from a different cloth than that of his free-folk hippie brethren, but there must be something generally in the water over there because they can still cut a weird record like no one else on the globe. And "Jour Ouvrable III" - the third and final entry in Neumann's "Jour Ouvrable" series - is certainly that much, at least for the first four tracks (the seven tracks are titled "Sin Fe I" through "Sin Fe VII"). They're all dedicated to an erratic electronic murk with Neumann adding in some kinda Aphex Twin windowlicking vocal blather, with parts even reminding me of a more obscure Residents. At "Sin Fe V" it starts getting into more typical noise fare, a melted-amp type dread that's not so wild and unpredictable but decent and well put together all the same. Imagine world-ending abandoned TV static post-atomic fallout broked into digestible 6 minute chunks. "Sin Fe VI" is the stand out of the set, on off-kilter folk/pop ditty strangled by the sound of droning effect pedal burn and other various plugged-in batterings. It veers off into a locust-swarming territory that brings the aforementioned Whitehouse to mind again, though the closing postlude sounds like a beautifully damaged snippet of Birchville Cat Motel's "Chi Vampires" (the track; all the piano and none of the metal). There's one thing I'll say without reservation - all over the map and nearly impossible to pigeonhole, this Cahier.

Seth Oubliette's got a pretty impressive noise manifesto on his MySpace where he comes across as both intimidating and self-effacing, and he's also got some snaps up where he's got sparks flying out of his armpits and chariot wheels chained to his back. No shit. "A Grey Clyo Winter" (an ode to his hometown, one would suppose) is a legitimate mixed bag if I've ever heard one, and I have heard some. There's some fairly straightly-squiggled noise jobs on rounds like the stormy "The River Field" and "Grey Theatre", and real out-there untunes in involving a slew of disparate soundscapes that ain't electronic and ain't pummelling no one's ears - think somewhere between Crank Sturgeon, Caroliner, Neubauten and Aaron Dilloway. Examples of such would be heard on "Hill Scabs", or the borderline-irritating "Ravine" and "Drink My Shame", the latter two being stuttering feedback-channeling workovers. Nothing here sounds mighty exceptional, though I did remark that it would probably come across better seeing it live - something those MySpace live shots appear to prove true. Which is kinda weird because you'd think with all the releases in the bank, it'd be down to a science for Oubliette by now. Maybe it is and I'm just not hearing it right. Nevertheless. Even if I don't find the results to be bang on, it's hard not to get behind a guy (uh, don't take that out of context) with a manifesto outlining personal rules like no digital sound sources, no hi-fi recording software, no mixers, live recording with little editing, and so on. I think he needs to worry a little less on the ethics though and a little more on the proverbial hard n' low, just my two cents.
Both these plain Jane CD-Rs come slipped inside milky chalk paper sleeves with cover screens worthy of keeping hid under your bed (seriously, how rad/terrifying is the Oubliette cover? Well it is to me, anyway) and color inserts. I was kinda disappointed to see the new Cut Hands discs not in these unique sleeves, but they look slick all the same. Joris is rocking a tight leash on these cemetary psychedelics especially: Cahier is limited to 60 and Oubliette is limited to 40, while others are selling out right under your nose.

MP3:
Cahier - Sin Fe II
Cahier - Sin Fe VI

Oubliette - Doom Inspector
Oubliette - The River Field

4.11.2007

Long Legged Woman - The End of False Religion / Various Artists - Deeded to Itself: Athens Southernoise (Thor's Rubber Hammer CD-Rs)


By far the best thing about this little gig here is hearing sounds from people and organizations I never in a million years would've ever thunk to check out. Or maybe I would've seen their goods shopped on a disto site somewhere and thought "yeah that sounds okay, but I just can't afford to take the chance" or what have you. That's the case with Thor's Rubber Hammer, a (largely) noise label based out of Athens, Georgia (edit: it's actually based out of Washington, D.C. but was in Athens for a time!). I must confess I don't always keep my ear to the ground of the current U.S. noise scene so I was somewhat surprised to hear the Athens stomping grounds were fertile enough to not only start up a label but to release an entire compilation of like-minded artists from the locale (featuring names I've never heard before in my life). This would all be for naught if, you know, the records stunk. But the exact opposite is true. Both the Long Legged Woman and the compilation are great stuff and wholly welcome entries into the old CD rack, although they might not fit. Both these sprayed discs come in oversized cardstock fold-overs sealed in mylar plastics, each hand-numbered.
Long Legged Woman is a duo featuring two dudes named - somewhat obscurely - J. Flowers and G. Vodicka, with Flowers operating electronics and bass and Vodicka on guitar. Their MySpace portrays them as a kind of psychedelic-tinged noise/rock outfit and maybe that's their bag in the live setting, but "The End of False Religion" is a different beast entirely. Two long (twentyish minutes) tracks, the first of which is "No Notes, Just Ghosts", and it generally invokes the kind of rumble typically in line with what you hear on Earth's "Earth 2" and Sunn O)))'s "Flight of the Behemoth", but with a bit of a harsher burn. There's also some curious sounds to be heard underneath the dull, raging groan, almost like vocals that I can't quite make out. Anyhow it's no Prurient-esque shouting so I can't tell you for sure. Whatever it is, it lends somewhat of a halcyonic vibe to an otherwise imposing aural structure. It's a good listen though. If I'm doing the blender/jam session thing, I'm thinking Sunn, Kevin Drumm, C.C.C.C., the Rita and Hair Police breaking off into pairs, squaredance style. Kinda weird since the only person credited for this track J. Flowers on tapes. He musta been busy. Anyway, the soup's good and I'll have encores, thanks. Which works since there's a second track, "Drone's Not Dead". It's got a bit more space to maneuver in butm despite crediting both members for guitar and bass, it still sounds suspiciously like the last piece. Who's to say just what's being manipulated here. Like the quasi-vocals in "No Notes", there seems to be more submerged treasures here beneath the surface, this time a weird, haunting, keyboard loop. Something the Skaters might've tried if they put down the pipes and picked up mean streaks. Anyway all these comparisons to people you already know are just reference points and nothing more. Long Legged Woman, depsite the unfortunate moniker, have hit on a sound all their own and it is indeed a surprisingly great, fresh, organic sound. Fully recommended.

"Deeded to Itself: Athens Southernoise" is a compilation put together by Thor's Rubber Hammer label boss Lars Gotrich, and as the title suggests, it showcases the fertile noise gardens of Athens, Georgia. Noise compilations can be sketchy, because no one wants to be bludgeoned for seventy straight minutes (well okay that's not true), but this one does a great job of spreading itself out and putting forth a wealth of different sounds. Long Legged Woman make their return with "It's the End of the World (And We Didn't Know It)", a totally unexpected acoustic guitar riffing/oceanic atmospheric session with some lilting male/female (female-sounding??) vocals, like sleeping on the beach in August. It's downright baffling compared to what was heard on the disc just above, but it's also stark and beautiful and real great. Somehow I knew they had it in em to impress me once again. Definitely a highlight of the set. Other goodness comes from Sailor Winters' bizarro loner synth/vocal mutter séjour that'll have you questioning your own well-adjustedness just by listening to it, and Killick's curiously addictive watery loop slosh, zeroes and ones all over the place and Jesus Jones ain't even behind the deck. Sounds like an anything from the American Tapes crew. Real helpful, right? Altruizine's "Poem X" is a strange slowed/sped tape manip and found instrument freedom that threatens full-blown song, something I'd normally chalk up to Finnish spirits Fricara Pacchu and Amon Dude. Also most enjoyable is Garbage Island's cymbal/guitar drone skiffle like playing the opening to "Riders on the Storm" and cycling it upon itself till it turns into this great free-rock churn. The drummer's got serious kicks too man, whoever he/she/it is. Telenovela's "Green Mountain" starts off with a foreboding synth drone but is quickly overtaken by a heavenly flute and a cleanly strummed acoustic guitar. I was thinking maybe an Amps for Christ type folk/noise aria but this is more dirty Six Organs/Charalambides style, a fantastic way to close out a sincerely interesting/intriguing set. The hip thing thes days is regional LP sets, as seen with New England and Portland and California...well if Lars ever threw down for a 5xLP Athens box, I'd be seriously contemplating shoving a suitcase full of money into his hands in exchange for one. And I didn't even know any of these guys existed past yesterday!
Looks like Thor's Rubber Hammer have an Owl Xounds CD-R in the works, so when that's the Tip of the Tongue upon its release and they list the rest of the T.R.H. catalogue, you're gonna thank me for this advance heads up should you act on it. Long Legged Woman's record is limited to just 70 while the compilation runs out at 200 and you're still trying to figure out which Magik Markers album is gooderer n' th'other. Clock's ticking, Nancy.

MP3:
Long Legged Woman - No Notes, Just Ghosts (excerpt)
Long Legged Woman - Drone's Not Dead (excerpt)

Killick - Stormdrum
Garbage Island - Heart Skins

4.10.2007

Earth - Hibernaculum (Southern Lord CD + DVD)


Last year before Earth's "Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword" came out there were stickers and logos and banners everywhere proclaiming that "this is not the new Earth album" (because that of course was to be "Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method", which came out a few monthers afterward). Yet new or not, it still came out and ruled. Now those same warnings are preceding the release of "Hibernaculum", because even though it's comprised again of new recordings, it's not a "new" album per se - the first three are old Earth songs and the last one was released last year as the B-side to a Sunn O)))/Earth tour split 12". The lure here is that those three Earth classics have been re-done under the new Earth style (circa "Hex"), which in plainest of terms can be summarised as a sort of country/drone/dissonant approach. And what do you know? This album rules too, and rules so much so that part of me wants to say I like it even more than "Hex" though I don't know if that would be technically fair. But shit. It's close.
"Hibernaculum" opens with a truncated take on one of Earth's best-known songs (if that can even be said), "Ouroboros is Broken" from 1991's "Extra-Capsular Extraction". It would almost come across as audacious to not only reinvent a literal standard from the guitar drone/occasional percussion glory days of Earth, but to also shave off a good 10 minutes from the original running time. However - and this cannot be emphasised enough - the resulting "new" version is so fucking good. I mean, really. Not even exaggerating. The '91 version was/is great and Dylan Carlson's endless guitar menace may be forever ingrained in the heads of any heads who nodded out to it more than once, but the "Hibernaculum" version takes the rather simple melody into a whole 'nother stratosphere...Carlson's clean guitar tone glides alongside the twin low-end provided by Don McGreevy and Greg Anderson (bass and synthesizer, respectively), the latter of those two guesting from you-know-where. Adrienne Davies' rigid, almost militant percussive thump is down to formula by now and Steve Moore's trumpet, which worked to such great effect on the last Earth and Sunn O))) live albums, demonstrates his uncanny ability to conjure up the perfect creeping aural haunt. The thing that kills me about the new "Ouroboros" is that is straddles the line between ominous despair and weather-breaking hope that it's like my heart is in a constant battle between staying in my ribcage and bursting out all over the floor. The same struggle occurs again in "Coda Maestoso in F (Flat) Minor", specifically when the piano comes in to replace where the effected-guitar stood in the version from 1994's (unfairly) maligned "Pentastar: In the Style of Demons". Thankfully the world-beating conclusion is still in place, just "Hexorcized" if you will. Like the band invited Neil Young in to finish it off. "Miami Morning Coming Down" is a chiller led by Steve Moore on piano, and is the only track to feature the basic Earth quartet exclusively (Carlson, Davies and McGreevy being the remaining three). It's also quite a bit more disparate than the others, with Carlson's searing guitar shots bolted to Moore's dramatic piano line, and Davies and McGreevy coaxing supporting tones from their respective instruments. Carlson's wrangles the riff until it's ever-so-slightly torn around the edges before he lets it and the rest of the track face off. "A Plague of Angels" is practically an act unto itself, being almost as long as the three previous tracks combined. It features another plodding rhythm from Davies and McGreevy while Carlson adds a contemplative, endless-desert type riff that grows more urgent as the minutes go by. Moore works in the shadows again, this time adding wurlitzer to his arsenal, and album producer Randall Dunn checks in with synthesizer. What's most compelling about "Plague" is the story Carlson tells with his guitar, using the rest of the song as a backdrop. It's like listening to a story where you understand none of the words and all of the feeling, like it's being told to you by Ewoks or something. I've got no idea how that can be but listen to "Plague" and you'll be on my side, I'm sure of it. On an album level, "Hibernaculum" can't really compete with "Hex" because "Hex" just works so fluently whereas this one does not as much (for obvious reasons)...and maybe I'm just giddy at hearing old favorites re-worked in a new, equally-brilliant light, but there ain't nothing on here that can't go toe to toe with anything else from Earth's back catalogue. "Earth 2" included, motherfuckers. I said it.
"Hibernaculum" also comes with a DVD by Seldon Hunt called "Within the Drone", which details the inner workings of the band through interviews and conversations with Carlson and the other members. It also includes footage from their 2006 tour of Europe. I wish I could tell you what I think about it, but unfortunately I've lost my DVD remote and can't figure out how to watch a DVD without it. But from what I hear, the tour footage is great, and the interviews not so much (apparently Carlson says "you know" too much, in case that's a problem for you) but who cares. Even if it is the first Earth footage to be released since their return, the CD is where the goods are at, and the bonuses are just that. And if you feel the same, well you can buy the vinyl version that just came out, since the DVD isn't included with that edition. Whatever course you take, just make sure you hear "Hibernaculum" sometime before you die. Here's praying "the new Earth" is planning on being around for another ten years or so.

MP3:
Ouroboros is Broken (excerpt)
A Plague of Angels (excerpt)

4.07.2007

Yellow Swans/The Goslings - Bored Fortress Split / GHQ/Ex-Cocaine - Bored Fortress Split (Not Not Fun 7"s)


Saturday review because I fell asleep before posting on Friday! And since I'm killing time before the Great Hockey Showdown tonight, I figured it's time to put my Not Not Fun backlog to bed for good, no pun intended. If you could read through all the brackets and slashes in the title (and you can view pictures) you might've seen that these two 7"s are from the Not Not Fun Bored Fortress 7" subscription series. The first two, in fact. Usually I'm not one for subscription series' because there's usually a dud in the bunch, or the first few sound great but then the quality takes a noise dive, or the price is too insane...but the year two line-up of Bored Fortress was too crazy and too cheap to miss out on: in addition to these two, we can also expect treats and treatises from Birds of Delay/Dreamcatcher, Hototogisu/Hive Mind, Deep Jew/Mindflayer and Heavy Winged/Blues Control...are you serious? Where do I sign? Wait, I already did, which is why I got these two a couple weeks ago. Nevermind. Each 7" features brainwork from a variety of artists on a fold-over glossy sleeve with insert detailing track info and the like. And if you're one of the first 200 subscribers, you get free gifts too (like the "Spire Ground" Bored Fortress compilation I reviewed a while ago). What, I ask, is not to like?
Yellow Swans start everything out right/outright with an untitled, astonishingly harsh harsh noise workover, as furious as I ever done heard him and it sounds like I say that with every new (D)YS document that falls into place. There's a bit of "Psychic Secession" type blur here but for the most part the duo are so in the red here I think got my period. Call it an aural slab heavier than the wax it comes on. Call it cement mixers covering the complete collected works of Hijokaidan in the span of about five minutes. Call my mother so she can identify the body. Florida's the Goslings are a band that have yet to be mentioned in this blog but they've been getting a pretty thorough once-over from just about everybody else on the planet. Maybe you heard about their incredibly popular "official" debut CD on Archive, "Grandeur of Hair"? Well if you did that's good because it'll make explaining their sound a lot less of a chore. For those who don't know, the Goslings are a sort of shoegaze/sludge/doom metal meld with a frontwoman (Leslie) who always sounds like her voice is digging upwards against the mountains of riff/noise/guitar wall heaped on by whatever bandmembers have donned the stripes on that particular go around. I think Max S. and Brendan G. are the only constants if I'm reading their MySpace correctly. I'm not as hugely into their sound as some other folks are but the track they contribute here ("Saw-Horse") is pretty fine, essentially a continuation/deeper investigation of the aforementioned genre synthesis they've hit on. "Saw-Horse" feels like being dragged through filthy black waters at a kilometer an hour and it sounds like the degradation of a bunch of Boris, Sunn O))), Monarch, Corrupted and (it must be said) My Bloody Valentine records. About the only salvation in here are the weightless vocals, everything else is black hole sun depression...the way you and I like it.
The first side on the second 7" belongs to GHQ, the folk/drone/haze unit consisting of Marcia Bassett (Double Leopards, etc), Pete Nolan (Magik Markers, etc) and Steve Gunn (Moongang and various solo outings). Theirs is an excerpt from a Seattle show and presents a really great side of all that folk/drone/haze gloss and schmozz smoothed out to perfection by way of carefully coerced percussion, sitarish effected guitars, loadsa pedal dizzyness, chimes, incense waft, and holy water. If Pran Nath ever formed a band in '00, he might've called it GHQ, and though nobody's throat is splitting open and pouring out sound like the Pandit himself, it still rocks the same kind of ritualistic prayer rug come-down shake. All packed into however many grooves are fit onto an EP. Heavily heavenly. The crucially underdocumented Ex-Cocaine duo (feat. misters Mike C. and Brian Ramirez, he who used to kill kits in the awesome Universal Indians group with John Olson) contibute a horrifically lo-fi motorboat stutter and tin can, back alley percussion clatter here with both men jumping on drums. Gone are whatever "song" forms you may have come to know from their Killertree LP "Keep America Mellow" and in their place be the sound of a thousand aluminium foil plates being blown around an abandoned shack in a windstorm. Think a mangled, stoned, pared way the hell down take on Drum Circus or Master Musicians of Jajouka without all the Brian Jones. Well okay, maybe some of the Brian Jones. More of the Keith Moon though. Without all the death. Well okay, maybe some of the death too.
If you missed out on subscribing and you're kicking yourself as well you should be, there's still time to sign up (and I have to assume you'll receive the ones you missed retroactively of course). Check the NNF website for info on that. I also think some of these are being sold individually by the bands in case you have other, more pressing commitments like paying rent or eating. But that's kinda like buying a few packs of O-Pee-Chee baseball cards when you know all your bros at school have the full set. Mull it over!

4.05.2007

Itto - Sound on an Empty Road / Psychic Space Invasion - Pendulum (ECR CD-Rs)


It would appear that I'm so far behind in listening to the stuff I get that record labels are changing their names by the time it takes for me to listen to their stuff. At least, that seems to be the case with the Wales-based ECR, who now go by Quiet World. I'm not really sure why that is, but I have to say the ECR coffee cup logo (from "Elvis Coffee Records" apparently) wasn't doing much for me anyway, no offense. Anyway these are a couple of the last two releases before the switch, with the Psychic Space Invasion disc being the finale. Psychic Space Invasion is the solo vehicle for one Ian Holloway, who also plays in Itto with Neil Rowling, and who I'm guessing also has a hand in steering this ECR/Quiet World ship. Both these discs feature pro-printed labels and come housed in a fold-over color/glossy sleeve, nothing too fancy but it does the job.
I played the Itto disc first and within a few minutes my nose started to bleed, which is really weird because I never get nosebleeds...wasn't because of any sort of harsh noise fury though. Au contraire. "Sound on an Empty Road" is a single 38-minute piece that's largely guitar oriented, although there are the occasional rumbling effects and grey cloud style ominousity. It really never goes anywhere and that's the best thing about it - Holloway and Rowling have constructed a piece that really seems to exist outside the boundaries of time. It's prehistoric music inasmuch as it's 41st century music and it feels like the two somehow plucked it out of the atmosphere, set it to tape, and called it a day. The soft tones that either one or the other coax from their guitar are pushed straight out into the rolling tide created by the synth/effects-heavy miasma, with the two mediums locking and unlocking to generate a beautiful, gentle, pensive track that I could see myself falling asleep to forever. Even though they take a basic approach to drone music as it is, they're still pretty tough to nail down...Aidan Baker would probably be a decent approximation, with a little bit of Black Boned Angel and Charlemagne Palestine's "Strumming Music" thrown in...I enjoyed it though, minus the nosebleed. That was an inconvenience.

I'm gonna have to venture a guess that Ian Holloway, the man behind Psychic Space Invasion, is also the man behind most of the synth/effects work on the previous disc (I wrote the other review before hearing this one). "Pendulum" is much more steeped in electronic/dark ambience than "Sound on an Empty Road", maybe even adding a touch more of electronica and straight-up ambient feel than one might expect. There's six untitled tracks here clocking in at about 50 minutes, and each is built around cold, mechanical loops that expand and grow like amoeba in whichever direction Holloway sees fit. I read a review of another Psychic Space Invasion album describing it as "static minimalism" and if you can't top it you might as well adopt it so that's the course I'm taking. Pretty accurate if you ask me. Track four is a definite favorite, with a convulsive un-rhythm carefully prodded forward, lapsing into a guitar (?) driven pulse like the Floyd on "One of These Days", and tracks three and six could be the best things Tim Hecker left off his "Radio Amor" album. Holloway doesn't do too much to shatter the mold here but it's all pulled off with the skill and precision of a seasoned vet (which he may well be as I don't know his backstory in the slightest). If you like your tones cold and your moods bad, then you'll get along fine with "Pendulum". Especially if your bag already consists of gents like the aforementioned Hecker, Lustmord, Bjerga/Iversen, Machinefabriek, early Daniel Menche, Dick D. James, and the like...
ECR/Quiet World seems to be largely an outlet for the guys who run it and their cohorts, but I'm assuming expansion can't be too far off in the future. Probably one worth keeping tabs on for the future, as these folks definitely know what they're doing at least. They also run the Wonderful Wooden Reasons blog which reviews just about everything under the sun (albums, books, comics and DVDs) so better snoop around there too while you're at it.

MP3:
Itto - Sound on an Empty Road (excerpt)
Psychic Space Invasion - Untitled (track 3)
Psychic Space Invasion - Untitled (track 6)

4.04.2007

Machinefabriek - Slaapzucht (Root Strata CD)


RS-21 already came and went from the label so you're going to have to start making the rounds of the shops if you want to procure this. But then again it's not like there's any shortage of Machinefabriek product out there to peruse. Aside from the self-released 3" CD-Rs he puts out about once a month on his own Machinefabriek label, the Man from the Netherlands also known as Rutger Zuydervelt has releases to be found on Cut Hands, Lampse, Type, Anima Mal Nata, and probably many others. "Slaapzucht" compiles two previously-released 3" CD-Rs ("Slaap" and "Zucht", both self-released) as well as adding the brand new 20-minute track "Still", all adding up to over one hour of Machinefabriek drone gloss goodness. This one comes all wrapped up in those spiffy cardboard fold-in cases RS seem to favor, with silk-screened art.
The story behind this reads that these recordings made between April and August 2006 feature "electric guitar, e-bow, tuning fork, file, an electric tooth brush, a minidisc recorder, a little iron rod, loads of effectpedals, a melodica, a loop pedal, a cheap mixing deck and a laptop". Truth be told it's pretty hard to distinguish those esoteric items from what sticks out the most (guitar, laptop, effex) but whatever methods used to acheive the final result are cool with me. I guess if you wanted to you could divvy this disc up into three movements: the first three tracks are "Slaap", the next two are "Zucht", and the last is "Still". It's a pretty good way to think of things because, whether it was intentional or not, the three makeshift movements get increasingly melodic, increasingly loud, increasingly symphonic, and increasingly kajunga. Take the first few tracks. "Slaapdronken" darts around in the shadows like a warmer Wolf Eyes jam, with grainy electronic sounds filtering through softly before they're swallowed back up into the silence. Seems to be indicative of more epic things to come, but not just - "Slaapwandelen" is practically completely submerged in silence for all 8 minutes, slowly building up a swell church organ/hollow cave/Charlemagne Palestine type drone that lasts for too short a time. Only on "Slaapmiddel" does the garbled electro/drone melody hang around for a bit and it's quite rewarding when it does. Think a post-rock influenced Tim Hecker DAT tape left out in the summer sun and you've got two tickets to paradise. The two tracks from "Zucht" are far more linear and both total dream/bliss pageantry. "Zucht 1" spends a long while building a glacial, shimmering guitar drone into a mini explosion of electronic crinkle, fuzz, and gleam. Doesn't sound at all removed from Palestine or La Monte Young either, perhaps reinterpreted by Fennesz or like-minded Swede Jasper TX. "Zucht 2" is even more remarkable for how much it sounds like bigband post-rock ala Godspeed You! Black Emperor (indeed one of Zuydervelt's influences, apparently), particularly circa "Skinny Fists". The whole track is like a restrained, even muted symphony, to which Zuydervelt adds multiple layers of star-flecked guitar and other such dazzle (maybe this is where the electric toothbrush comes into play?!). It never erupts like "Storm" did for Godspeed but it's enjoyable all the same. But the real money is to be found on the bonus track "Still" which I don't think has ever been available up until now, though I'm not sure if it was created specifically for the release. Whatever the case, it's a real barn burner. It starts off in familiar, low-slinking guitar/electronics drone turf Growing style, grows somewhat ominous with this heavy radiator hum introduced at the midway point, and threatens to kill your children in the final 5-7 minutes. I'm no Machinefabriek pro but it's as aggressive as I've ever heard him before and it's an absolutely perfect way to conclude based on the way each preceding track smokestacks itself into something bigger and more grandiose. Well it doesn't get much more grandiose than "Still", at least not for one guy standing at a workbench. Even if the other tracks were snoozers I would say that the slow-burning, sky-tearing finale is worth it alone but the fact that both "Slaap" and "Zucht" are great in their own right makes "Still" all the more special. Like I said, I don't know the Machinefabriek discography inside out, but I have to think that this would be one of the more valuable documents in the whole equation and a must in no uncertain terms if you're a fan. I'd also recommend it especially to those with an interest in more ambient/drone-oriented post-rock type groups like Godspeed, Mono, Stars of the Lid, Efterklang, Labradford, and so on. It slaaps my zucht, no two ways about it.

MP3:
Slaapmiddel (excerpt)
Zucht 2 (excerpt)
Still (excerpt)
Courtesy Root Strata

4.02.2007

Starving Weirdos - Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic (Root Strata CD)


Second installment of recent Root Strata transmissions, first was Pete Swanson's CD-R of a few days past and next is Machinefabriek, just so you know what page we're all on. And I'm still not up to date because label honcho Jefre just recently set loose a Grouper LP, not to mention the Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood disc in the works. Can't stop him, can only hope to contain him, etc. I guess the same can be said for the Starving Weirdos themselves, who've gained a lot of notoriety in a very short period of time with a glut of CD-Rs, a 12" (also on Root Strata) and another actual CD that came out not too long ago, "Father Guru", on Azul Discografica. I haven't actually heard "Father Guru" but I remember digging its BYG/Actuel mock-up sleeve. What I don't remember digging too much was the last Weirdos effort on Root Strata, that being the "Eastern Light" 2xCD-R. I guess I felt it was a few good ideas spread over way too much recording time, either that or I just don't have the amount of proper patience required for the task. Nevertheless, onward and upward. "Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic" features the core duo of Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay alongside like-minded, possibly hungry weirdos Phoenix Rath, Steve Lazar and Anthony Vrsaljko. I have no idea if those are real names or not because they seem way too American Gladiators to me, but hey, I'm not about to launch an investigative probe. Jefre has, as usual, done a bang-up job with the packaging. The hot pink CD is slipped inside a thin cardboard gatefold with psyche-annihilating dream doodles on the front and back. Monochromatic Cromagnon/"Orgasm" for the Next Generation? Well, maybe. If only it was in the full glory of a record sleeve though! Someday. Probably.
The label bills this as "by far the most coherent one to date", which might be true as I haven't heard enough to tell, but it's still pretty nonlinear all things said which is just where you want it to be, really. One of the two tracks to really feature any sort of guiding light out of the five is "From the Northwest Swells". A steady, krautish pattern is slowly birthed from a droning scrabble of guitar noise and various other inflections, allowing a whole sort of ominous, tribal slant to overtake the back half of the brief (by their standards) jammer. The other bite-sized morsel is the opening "Crewell" which serves as an invocation to the remaining fifty-ish minutes...at times the blinding bright rays shining from the speakers remind me of the introductory rousing from Lightning Bolt's "Hello Morning" (believe it or not) but I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the Starving Weirdos don't exactly go in the same direction as the Providence duo. Although the tune that follows ("Droned & Poned") kicks off in aggressive, blustery fashion, it quiets down pretty soon and sets a path similar to "Northwest" in that the duo's various noisemaking improvisations are grounded by another plodding rhythm. If you had Mouthus drummer Nate Nelson sitting in with a pared-down Vibracathedral Orchestra, the results might sound something like what's heard here. The album's title track occupies the ten middle minutes of the album and is a surprisingly quiet number with a glowing drone shimmer conjured up against a backdrop of seagulls and crashing waves - a fully engrossing and hypnotizing ten minutes indeed. Makes me think of an aquatic take on Drunjus' great "Thick Winds Off the Sargasso" track or a bunch of Fennesz records melted down and dragging your needle through the goop you're left with. Either way it's gorgeous and dreamy and worthy of one's immediate attention. The trick is replicated to a degree on the closing epic "Wartime Sunrise", except with a more ragged approach to dreamy and droney sky-dappling. The pieces moves with the slow precision of a Dario Argento horror, with sounds rising and falling and a heavy sense of tension being stirred throughout...it erupts briefly like a sunshower but slowly recedes back into the cosmic/basement crawl synthesis of the previous ten or twenty minutes, and I think the track (and album) is all the better for the tease. Besides, the chase is better than the catch, right?
I liked this disc quite a bit more than "Eastern Light" but there are still moments where I wish the two were either doing more, doing less, or doing something better. Sometimes it seems like they're content with resting on their laurels and playing along to a simple rhythm that was beaten out thirty years ago than constantly pushing in the direction that they hint of being capable of taking their sound to on a consistent basis. But I guess when you're working off ten or twenty albums of unreleased material, it's not all going to be stone cold classic. If you know what you like and you like Starving Weirdos, then you really have no reason not to pick this up. This tempts me even more to check out their "Harry Smith" 12" on the same label - just the name/premise/art alone were almost enough to persuade me into it when it was first released and that was back when I thought I didn't like em. Anyway whether you get this or you get that, be quick about it because Starving Weirdos documents are always limited and are typically gone before you can say "boux".

MP3:
Crewell (excerpt)
Shrine of the Post-Hypnotic (excerpt)
Courtesy Root Strata