Friday, October 21, 2016

CHURCH SHUTTLE “Zone6 Chiller”
C47 (Irrational Tentent)

Damn, the bus is late, and I have to walk or I’m not going to make it. Trust the process, they said. It’ll get there, they said. Now I have Southwest Detroit to contend with, and I’m not too keen on it. Have I been to Southwest Detroit before? Not on your life, which is why this bus, which has not arrived on time as I was told, was such an important element to this afternoon. But see, it’s overcast, it’s chilly, and I’m probably going to get drenched by passing vehicles (because, let’s face it, why walk on a sidewalk if you’re not treating its edge like a balance beam?). I’ve got places to be. I’m a drum machine.

My beats lance through dystopian noise like a hot scalpel through lesions. I make tones suffer until they no longer resemble sound sources at all. Southwest Detroit is a gutful of grand funk ambience, and I’ve got a date with it. Here it comes – the overcast sky becomes a drenching rain, and I’m still plugged in, my infinity-foot extension cord trailing through rivers of asswater down gutters choked with refuse. What bus? Irrational anger at nothing but general circumstance overcomes this gray-out, and we’re better for it anyway. Zone6 is about to get shifty, and I haven’t even begun to short out. Oh wait, maybe I have.

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, October 20, 2016

SARIN “Just Beat the Devil Out of It” C45
(5cm Recordings)

Yes! Sarin’s imperative to “Just Beat the Devil Out of It” (the title of this album, you wretched person) is as timely and legitimate today as it was in the “satanic panic” heyday of 1980s Evangelical Christianity that still, somehow, mindbogglingly, pervades to this day, in 2016, on this very planet. Far be it from me to suggest a Catholic alternative – bah, exorcism! – when a good ol’ beating is just as good. Because if the devil’s in ya, you did something to get that devil there. It’s your fault, you sinful slice of unfortunate meat pie, and we love you so much that we want to save your ever-living soul by beating the shit out of you. Let the festivities commence!

Commence they do, and Sarin, named after a chemical weapon that does as much physical damage as the church does psychologically, is a poison cloud of improvisational noise rock, enveloping listeners to cleanse, in a burn-y kind of way, all spiritual and physical limitations in order to better their kingdom here on Earth. I cannot be more clear – listening to Sarin is the aural equivalent of inhaling sarin gas. You will probably die a painful death after listening to it. But on the other hand, it’s pretty pleasant listening from an improv group – everything is coherent, and the players feed off each other and move from one passage to the next with ease. They’re clearly of one mind here. Add to that the fact that they’re playing this music at the highest stakes possible – to save your life, and your soul – and you’ve got a recipe for unmitigated success. Let’s replace all our hymnals … no, let’s toss our hymnals out the window and go with our gut. Let the spirit move us, let’s speak in tongues. Or play guitars and drums in tongues. Either way, we’re all doomed. Or saved! Or doomed. I can’t figure out which is which.

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

“Shakes/The Noise of Wings” C27
(Very Special Recordings)

The ghosts of King Crimson and Yes – at least of the members who have died, I guess (can you be alive and still be a ghost in some way? I wonder) – haunt Dustin Carlson, permeating his ideas for how music should be composed and presented and inspiring in him practices for maximum technical and melodic output. Put another way, DC likes his prog weird and woolly, and we as listeners should not want it any other way. I mean, I wish I would’ve written this descriptive copy: “[This tape] wouldn’t sound out of place … if an imaginary gospel group ate a tub of LSD and holed up in the studio with Brian Eno.” A whole tub of LSD! Could you even imagine…

Each of the two sidelong suites winds down different paths, changing course and cohering as they progress. Trombones and voice begin “Shakes” before gradually decaying into electronic chaos. A voice and guitar emerges at the end (yes, there’s the King Crimson comparison) to bring it on home. “The Noise of Wings” follows a similar pattern, this time beginning with guitar, banjo, strings, and voice before devolving into a low-frequency bass/spoken fragments middle section. Carlson’s voice returns with heavily treated echoing guitar, ending on an angelic note of transcendent beauty. Did I say transcendent beauty? I did. I’m not kidding. Dustin Carlson’s take on prog and experimental composition is way more refreshing than it has any right to be – anybody digging up the dinosaurs of 1970s excess should be overbearingly dull, shouldn’t they? No – no they shouldn’t. That’s what contemporary American society would have you believe. I say get back in there and fall in love with prog all over again. I sure love it like a crazy person.

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

JACOB KIERKEGAARD “Munk” C90 (Phinery)

Munk’s ninety minutes consist of field-recorded Buddhist chants and the ambient spaces where these practices occurred. Sound artist Jacob Kierkegaard spent time in Thailand in 2007, and this cassette functions as an aural document of the people and culture he encountered. Kierkegaard loops these recordings, manipulating them as needed but allowing the natural beauty of the ritualistic mantras to stand almost solely on their own. The result is as mysterious as it is magical, a transportational device to locales on the other side of the planet. What we may not, with Western ears, hear on a regular basis is presented here to enlighten and educate those of us who are unaware of these rich cultural traditions. Is Jacob Kierkegaard the Alan Lomax of Southeast Asia? Find out for yourself.

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, October 17, 2016

“Free World Music” (Very Special Recordings)

Brooklyn. Dali. Put them together and you have what sounds like the female offspring of Salvador Dali were he alive today to appreciate my humor. Or maybe he wouldn’t appreciate it – I have a feeling he’d spend a lot of time in a chair, over/underwhelmed by modern society. “Brooklyn,” he’d mumble, hand shading his eyes from reality, “bring daddy his Rick Parker and Li Daiguo tape. Daddy needs to feel emotions again.”


Probably best to leave that flight of fancy where it is for the moment because I’m feeling all kinds of feelings right now, crazy feelings, feelings that leave me clamoring for more feelings because I can’t properly process the ones that are overwhelming me right now, so yeah, sure keep ’em coming. Some semblance of context is needed, though, or else Free World Music is going to submerge my attention like the perfect storm in that movie The Perfect Storm, if you imagine my attention is a fishing vessel foolishly setting out to sea with, ahem, the perfect storm bearing down on it. Not to suggest that these two experimental musicians are akin to a natural disaster, they just happen to demand your attention as they do their thing, which is making music, not ginormous waves.

And to bring it back around to location, side A was recorded in Brooklyn, and side B was recorded in Dali, because c’mon, duh, keep following here. Rick Parker and Li Daiguo are a dream duo for those who are desperately in love with experimental music – I mean, they use an instrument that I’ve never even heard of before, for goodness’ sake, and I’ve heard of a lot of instruments! (For the record, it was the pipa. I know what a trombone is.) And then, to stick with one of my various themes, I feel absolutely unmoored when experiencing Free World Music, as if sinking into the depths as the tunes envelope me. But then I evolve gills, and I’m saved from my fate, and I scold myself for not realizing this would all happen in the first place.

The cohesion of these pieces should have tipped me off, even though they sound far-out when you start to describe them. Different traditions emerge and adhere to one another, those steeped in jazz, traditional Chinese, and other paths of experimentation. There’s power in the movement of these pieces – nothing stays still for long, pretty much ever. The exotic and the familiar merge and become a great new thing, weird and special, like a present-day Salvador Dali or a planet-wide tidal wave churning the futuristic and the modern together before enveloping humanity in its chaotic passage. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the track titles, which are amazing! My favorite is probably “Research Has Shown That Casting Spells Using Contemporary Social Media Is Just as Effective as Chanting over Cauldrons.” See? You’re not even ready for Rick Parker and Li Daiguo, are you. You should prepare yourself.

--Ryan Masteller