Tuesday, October 6, 2015

AMALGAMATED “Solvé et Coagula” C60 (Aubjects)

“The world is ending!”

How many times have you heard that, in your life? In the last year? Today? Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to listen to anyone saying that anymore, because there’s only one collective voice saying that who matters, and they’re spot the frick on. That’s right gang, your old pals Amalgamated are back with sixty minutes of viciously dour power electronics, shining the ugly mirror of our own human existence back at us and rubbing our diseased faces in the horrific reflection therein. Got hopelessness? Check. Anxiety? Check. These feelings are presented in vast, bleak postindustrial landscapes, punctuated throughout with all manner of synth stabs and ebbs and flows and embellishments, and the combined result is a monolithic head rush of impossibility. It’s like the aural equivalent of the MK Ultra experiments, but with your ears pried open instead of your eyes.

Here’s the deal, though – the point is that Amalgamated does “not [accept these things] as inevitable or irreversible.” Somehow, in the gunk and grime, there’s, dare I say, hope that we as human being can reverse this shitty course on which we’ve placed ourselves. It’s going to take a lot of work – Amalgamated thinks it’s going to be quite a dirty process, I think – but even the darkest clouds can clear, if I can get all Hallmark-y on you. But who wants that – you want the synth! You want the danger, the darkness, the meat, the gristle, the rush! You got it, mate – please for the love of god listen to this.

The Latin term “solvé et coagula” is associated with Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus, a “Swiss German Renaissance physician” whose main goal was to study alchemy in order to find medicinal benefits.  He believed that “sickness and health in the body relied on the harmony of man the microcosm and Nature the macrocosm. “ Anyway, the idea is to “[analyze] a substance into its components before synthesizing the desirable elements into a new substance.” Also, it seems that the term has deep occult connotations. Who knew?

So that’s what Amalgamated’s done here – their intent is to tease out what little good is left in humanity and hang their hats on it, hoping against hope that it can overcome the other, worse stuff. I hope it can. In the meantime, we can all experience the universal struggle by listening to Solvé et Coagula, and figuring out what we can do to stop the encroaching darkness of our own selves. The world may not even end, if we can fix it. And hey, look how much I learned along the way, even if it was through Wikipedia and a black magic website!

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, October 5, 2015

DANG OLSEN DREAM TAPE “Just Roll” C33 (Constellation Tatsu)

If I had the money, I’d love to make a sound instillation with this tape playing on various boom boxes every fifty feet along a lazy beach, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s an instant mood elevator and nervous system calmer in one. The word ‘dreamy’ gets over-used, but this tape should be pictured in the dictionary above the definition.

Myriad synth mantras amble in and out of step with crisp, minimal beats that somehow hang out in the foreground without dominating, the moods varying from oh-man-I-slept-through-the-alarm-but-it’s-all-good-groggy to woke-up-to-piss-and-caught-a-shooting-star! This tape is good fucking times and I may just buy another back up in case I wear this one out! Hot damn!


- - Jacob An Kittenplan

Sunday, October 4, 2015

CAR PHYTE “Decade Lost” (Brain Plan Records)

I was really excited to listen to an artist called “Car Phyte,” because what’s better than the epic battles between robotic vehicles than those brought to glorious life on the big screen by Michael Bay? I’m talking about Transformers, of course! And it doesn’t matter which of the series is your favorite, because they all have that one key element: total combat. And sometimes on the moon! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve popped in a Transformers DVD and just let it overtake all of my senses. The colors, the clashes, the sounds, the excitement! It’s just the greatest thing I can even think of right now. It’s almost impossible to think of anything else.

And then I realized that “Car Phyte” was actually just a homonym for “car fight,” and I admitted to myself that I was just trying to pad my word count by bullshitting about Transformers. That’s an impressive 118 positive words on Michael Bay and the Transformers franchise. Have there been that many positive words written on the series in general? I’m not sure about that. I’ll have to look it up.

Car Phyte’s Decade Lost, then, is similar to Transformers in that it’s the “final installment in [a] trilogy,” and Transformers has at least three movies, I think. It’s experimental bedroom noise/punk/scree/lofi/alt/beatbox with some actual rap lyrics somewhere in there. Does that sound good to you? You should check it out then. It is definitely not my bag. But it might be somebody’s.

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, October 3, 2015

“Horse Helpers of the High Country”

Vitamin Pets are a weirdo garage rock band from Boone, North Carolina. Oddly enough, although I got this tape to review at random I lived in Boone up until last year while attending school. They were just getting started as I was on my way out of town, so I never saw them play a show. Now I kind of wish I did. Not all college town bands are created equal. Some are better than others. Vitamin Pets are one of those that makes the “better than” side of that statement.

Side A starts with a theme song that is heavily indebted to Southern gospel and Appalachian folk music but soaked in irony. It’s a fun, lighthearted way to start the tape. They later revisit their folk influences on the side B song “Dig a Hole” in a much more sincere manner.

In general, the whole tape felt like a tale of two sides to me. Side A featured a lot of talking, spoken word, and distorted audio over the instrumentation and singing. Sometimes multiple voices were layered on top of each other in a way that made it hard to keep up with. While that is probably what they were going for, it got even more untenable to keep up with when samples and original audio were spliced into sound collages. These were somewhat amusing but didn’t really do much else. The highlight of side A was the song “Forrest/Mountain”. It was unspoiled by the audio catharsis occurring around it.

The B side felt like a reward for getting through all of that. Vitamin Pets prove they can be a serious band when they want to be. “Ya-Ya-Ya”, “Cement Shoes”, and “Dig a Hole” are all extremely solid. The closing track, “I am Ed Sullivan”, was a bit weird but felt a lot more structured and deliberate than the weirdness from side A.

-- Roy Blumenfeld

Friday, October 2, 2015


I gotta hand it to these two folx, they’re covering a lot of ground, trying to pull from the multiple underground disciplines of black metal, industrial, noise, ambient…& what I can only call a heavily distorted jam band sound (sorry, dudes), and, for that, I am grateful for the experience of reviewing this tape. If I had any sway, I’d strongly urge they stick with the drone/noise mixed with black metal vocals (at times, they sound just like Sutekh Hexen would if they played at 1/4th the speed) and definitely avoid the loosey-goosey delay’d jamming. The constantly shifting effects-pedalwork makes for some really engaging stuff and, as far as black metal goes, those shrieks are dead on ringers for tortured Scandinavian souls.

Considering these two Midwest metropolitans, “Cru$t” and “Rage”, both played, recorded, mixed, mastered, dubbed, painted, and designed these cassettes, I’m wondering if they even went so far as to hunt and skin the animal whose pelt came wrapped around my cassette. Talk about DIY!

Note: link below is not what’s on the tape I received.

- - Jacob An Kittenplan

Thursday, October 1, 2015

FITNESS “Fitness” C15 (Wiener Records)

I’ve had two distinct reactions to this self-titled EP by Fitness. Before I break it down, I should clarify – I’m into it. Yeah, I like it, a grungy guitar-led throwback to the late 1980s and early 1990s when everybody could get away with looking like Jimmi Simpson on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (seriously, the one guy in the band looks like him). This style’s not usually my bag anymore – it was in high school, but that was ages ago. I’m old.

My initial reaction wasn’t, “Yeah, I’m into it.” It was, “Holy crap, what is this awesome sound?” Because the double-guitar strangulation of “SSRI” leads off the tape, easily recalling a psychic mashup of Drive Like Jehu and early Dinosaur Jr. I was thrilled, like, I haven’t heard American hardcore bordering on that type of accessibility in who knows how long. Everybody: “SSRI” is a super awesome song. Listen to it.

But then “YEAH, this is cool!” becomes “YEA…oh, uh, yeah – that sounds like Descendents and Dead Milkmen doing something together. That’s still OK, I guess.” That’s “Good Company.” But then “Julie” sounds like Weezer. WTF, you guys.

It’s not bad, it’s just that when there’s so much promise in a leadoff track like “SSRI,” it’s disappointing when it’s not followed up in the same way. That’s my second reaction.

Then I blew through side B, and more bile is expelled from the infernal depths on “NES” (thank you!) although it’s still a bit Weezerish for my liking. “Fitness” is back in Drive Like Jehu land. “Moon” is super Weezery. Tape, end.

Maybe I’m just being too picky, because Fitness the tape is fine for the most part. Fitness (the band) seems to be much more interested in jamming middle fingers in faces everywhere, so maybe they perform around their native Chicago with much more reckless abandon on stage than Weezer ever would. I sure hope so. They sound like a bunch of guys who are ready to melt faces if it ever totally comes together. This is a promising start.

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

“Noosphertilizer III” C62 (Aubjects)

“[Holland] Tunnel construction required workers to spend large amounts of time in the caisson under high pressure of up to 47.5 pounds per square inch (328 kPa), which was thought to be necessary to prevent river water from entering prior to completion of the tubes. "Sandhogs", as they were termed, entered the tunnel through a series of airlocks, and could only remain inside of the tunnel for a designated time period. On exiting the tunnel, the workers had to undergo controlled decompression to avoid the bends, a condition in which nitrogen bubbles form in the blood from rapid decompression.[27] Fortunately, no workers died as a result of decompression sickness: the work involved "756,000 decompressions of men coming out of the compressed air workings," which resulted in 528 cases of the bends, none fatal.[28][29] Completion of the tunnel took nearly seven years and claimed the lives of 14 workers.” ~Wikipedia J

I’m pretty sure that STRNGLV’s side of this split, a half hour’s worth of layered, ever fluctuating textural synth loops, a la Alessandro Cortini, could give anyone who worked on this project an immediate flashback. Whenever I listened to this tape (a good full ten times before writing this review), I kept imagining myself several stories below a major metropolitan cityscape, exploring tunnel after tunnel of hissing, gurgling pipes, scurrying fauna and the faint tribal echoes of vehicles passing over distant, loose storm drains. Somehow, the passages were all well lit, never feeling overtly ominious, nor commercially polished. This is an excellent soundtrack for dreaming big time weird shit.

A great pairing for this split, the Pelktopia side feels somehow not quite fully out in the open, but definitely in open air, communing with the great elements. Imagine taking a long stroll along a busy pier, but, defying gravity, you get the whole underside to yourself, gentle waves lapping just inches above your head. Pelktopia trades synths for heavily processed electric guitar effects that stretch patiently plucked single notes into infinity.

The mental space provided by each sound artist alone is its own worthwhile journey, but doing so while looking through the beautifully curated 16-page color art booklet provided by Aubjects, the fostering DIY label, is thrilling. Busily squirming pictures of organic chaos are juxtaposed with the spirit of cold-hearted order, unrealized blueprints of ambition. I’m pretty excited to look more into this progressive label.


- - Jacob An Kittenplan

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MILK PEOPLE “Vintsvon” (Electric Kite Records)

Alternate pop-music universe superstars Milk People dropped a two-fer of high production tunes. Sure, the “Sultans of Swing” and No Doubt comparisons are legit, but there’s something more for the attuned listener, as the Milk People lived through the 80s and 90s and aren’t planning on making the same mistakes. I have no idea if this is true.

Electric Kite Studios in Nashville looks like a fine place. I especially like the wood paneled sauna/drum room. Vince Vaughn really needs to check this out.
--Adam Padavano