Thursday, May 31, 2007

TEETH COLLECTION "Sloth Movement" (Peasant Magik)

Teeth Collection is the alias of one Matthew Reis who also runs a label from Dayton, OH called Epicene. "Sloth Movement" offers a slew of obscure and dark electronics, low end crunch and assorted synthesizer material. A foreboding, claustrophobic touch seeps through everything. The first listen seemed drawn out, but on repeated plays the variety grows on you. The heavily atmospheric starter on side A is a favorite, featuring eerie and somber drones that unexpectedly jump to higher frequencies only to crash immediately back into the muck. On the flip, loud metallic scrapes (prepared guitar?) make way for an echo heavy oscillation jam and a harsh, psychedelic conclusion. The clouded industrial landscape on the cover sums it up pretty well. Edition of 50.
www.peasantmagik.net
www.epicenesound.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MEDROXY PROGESTERONE ACETATE "Supplications" (Black Horizons)

Popping a 78 minute epic such as this into a stereo takes a dedicated listener. Make no mistake: this is an Album (note the capitalization). Like many good collections which range over the hour mark, "Supplications" tends to drag on if the listener is not ready to commit the time. Fortunately, the immense work put into this project shows, and even if some of the material could benefit from minor edits a dedicated pair of ears will recognize worth in this painstakingly constructed fabric of weird machinery. "Supplications" is made up of a seven-part stream of high-pitched synthesizer tones, bubbling incantations of bent electronics and buried vocals, all of which are subject to shifting in and out of focus or mutating from sublime static tar into sinister chemical-addled oblivion. In a strange way this could be a darker, more abrasive and arrhythmic version of what Schematic was releasing in the late 90s and early 00s, specifically Richard Devine's work maybe? Could be way off, but considering this material was originally recorded between 2001 and 2003 (originally released in 2004 as an edition of 5 copies-?!?) that's the closest reference point I could think of. Every composition offers something different, and there are more elements present than one could detect in a single listen. The magnitude of the project and the tonal and textural differences between tracks make it near impossible to sum up this entire thing without breaking down the whole of "Supplications" track by track, which I will leave to future generations. What really seals the deal is the incredible packaging job, as has already become the norm with Black Horizons over the course of just 7 albums. Wrapped in heavy, dark shimmering paper and including an insert with black print on silver paper and text screened onto the cassette, this release could not ask for more proper attire. (Edition of 56 / http://www.black-horizons.com)

KNIGHT RIDER "Lightning Gun Zoltar" (Barf Records)

Neon, short, confusing. Knight Rider once again bring it hard with Downs Syndrome vocals, freetard guitar, arrhythmic drum machine. Also meshed into this mess is some kind of cheap keyboard tape recorder jazz. They start the tape off in a spiritual manner Freon-based organ solo, then take it straight to the jugular with deep thud contortions. Whatever. No one is ever gonna understand this band unless they watch their music videos. They are second only to Captain Ahab in their ability to perfectly capture the idea of their band visually. So watch them. And buy their records.

Monday, May 28, 2007

VILLA VALLEY / TREETOPS (Arbor)

This is a weird pairing. VV offer up yet another 20 minute headache of Michigan frequency shrapnel. Sounds like this was recorded in the engine room of a steamship when the hull busted a leak and a dozen sailors started brawling about whose fault it was. Shrieking metal scrapes, numb rumbling, angry voices buried in static. Ugly stuff. Flip the tape and yr in a new world. There’s hushed thumb piano meditations, new age drone loops, reverbed cymbal shimmers, keening whale-song guitar delay, all chopped up into little meandering short stories. One of Treetops’ better outings. Rad “meeting of the minds” cover art too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

COLOSSUS "Tar Heaven Wonders of the Ancient World" (No label)

Colossus is the New Hampshire based project of one Ryan LaLiberty, who according to his website (www.myspace.com/collossusnh) is involved with another NH group called Only. The bulk of this project lies on delay and loop-heavy guitar melody. "Tar Heaven" more or less follows well-tread paths of 90s-00s western indie psychedelia (Growing, Tom Carter and bits of Earth come to mind) with a few exceptions. "At Giza" is one of the more engaging tracks, a low end crush of what is probably guitar but sounds more like synthesizer. Hopefully the project will come further into its own with future releases.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

PILLARS OF HEAVEN “Silver Tusks Vol. 1” (Peasant Magik)

Know nothing about this band/project, and next to nothing about this label, and I don’t have the internet right now so that’s not gonna change. But I do know I could listen to this shit all day long (or at least until I pass out). Spaced and melancholy and hazy, like doing drugs in the early afternoon. Upswelling strings, blissed vocal clouds, slow dives into silver memories. P of H cut the psychedelic crap here, and go straight for the NEW AGE jugular. This is music for people with rainsticks. Lots of them. Maybe even a rainstick keychain. And those people are great, really into tripped out shit and nature imagery, just like most good psych bands. In fact, the only bummers about this tape are: 1) one-sided, and 2) the art is just plain floral wall-paper, like the kind used in bathrooms at snobby French restaurants (theory: maybe that’s where Pillars of Heaven played their first show?!).

Friday, May 18, 2007

GOD WILLING "Normal Pool" (I Just Live Here)

God Willing’s Ren Schofield pours beer on his head. It’s a kind of trade mark. His live performances play on the tension between potential chaos and total pandemonium. It is for this reason that I can imagine people might overlook the fact that Schofield’s recorded material is totally unique and really fucking good. This double tape, “Normal Pool,” betrays the softer, stonier side of God Willing. Seemingly fueled more by pizza and weed than by beer and adrenaline, the first cassette, a c15, is a “psychedelic guitar” jam. However, it would be an amazing feat to recognize the sound source as a guitar unless told so beforehand. The instrument is denatured by layers of warm fuzz and the attack of the pick is disguised in such a way that we hear only the ringing of strings. The actual sound is more like a pulsating drone, interrupted by swells of crackling distortion. The whole thing has a very calm, expansive feel-- the scope of the piece is like that of a wall-sized landscape painting, with incredible attention to detail. The second cassette is a c32, built from super crunchy, totally blown out, four-track feedback manipulation. Schofield avoids obvious balls-out harshness for a subtler performance. Low frequency oscillations are clipped square by overloaded magnetic tape while a satisfying crackle churns around them. Though, in a sense, more traditional, this cassette use the signifiers of Harsh Noise to drag itself into the sound world of it’s accompanying tape to become a completely coherent release. (Also: “Normal Pool” is totally sold out, but God Willing’s new 3”CD, “Awkward Tub,” on EMR Records, is very similar and fucking incredible.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

CIRCUIT WOUND/PULSE EMITTER "Split" (Swampland)

So: I’m feeling a little guilty about my vitriolic review below. Swampland is a totally decent label and the other tapes in the new batch are really quite good. I hope that the Werewolf Jerusalem + The Rita collaboration was just a minor misstep that we can all forget about and move on from. And this split c28 from Los Angeles’s Circuit Wound and Portland’s Pulse Emitter is helping me do just that. The Circuit Wound side, titled “Dismal Beauty,” is divided into three movements. The first is a delay-heavy metallic wail. The piece is calm and atmospheric, but not ambient in the you-forget-you’re-even-listening-to-something type of way. It’s not really Circuit Wound’s strong suit, but it's nice enough, and the next two pieces bring the crunch. The second is a little jammy, but the sound is good with a lot of abrasive high end. The last piece is great, though-- much clearer compositional logic. Harsh noise and digital delay sounds almost like a landslide or a hailstorm, thousands of tiny pellets pummeling your roof. The Pulse Emitter side begins with a long buzzy saw-tooth drone. It’s eventually decimated by the howling resonance of a particularly nasty filter. This begins a dramtic build which eventually explodes into a bloopity twittering synth murk. The remainder of the piece is almost proggy and sounds like the best audio sample for a piece of crazy analogue gear you’ve ever heard. Surprising material for Pulse Emitter. Not nearly as sweeping and cinematic as his work usually is, but a whole lot of fun, regardless.

APPLE SNAILS/THE MIGHTY ACTS OF GOD (DNT)

Oh great, just what the world needs: two random acts thrown together on a red C40. Just kidding! That IS what the world needs. Apple Snails’ side is pretty freaky. Muffled nothingness oozing into waves of hissy tar. Haha…what a phrase! I can’t imagine that helps much. Ok, it’s basically four obscure pieces of dark ambience, edited on a computer and layered with scary/gothy sound effects. The M.A.o.G. is apparently a lady from Austin I believe, and her stuff is on the folkier end of the spectrum, lots of acoustic stringed things being plucked and fucked with. It sounds like there’s autoharp playing on most songs…plenty of flute and shakers too. Could be confused with a few of those Finnish folk-drone bands from back when. Or not. Some nice sparkling meadow-lolling vibes that would be cool stretched across her own full-length. Cover has a sweet Jeremy Earl drawing of what looks like a basketball backboard-and-hoop ringed by feathers.

SHIFT / ROMANCE split "Gateshead Sessions" (Unrest Productions)

Shift's "Gateshead 1 & 2" starts out deceivingly with a staticy radio blaring a "Top of the Pops" style crooner. Soon enough this dissolves into a more predictable wall of distortion that continues with some change-ups for the duration. The sound quality is great, as per usual for Martin Willford's work, but weighs thin compared to Romance's offering as well as the rest of the Shift discography. While not on cassette, I heartily recommend Shift's excellent recent full-length "Unable to Abide the Silence of the World," also on Unrest, to anyone with interest in this project or modern UK power electronics in general. But back to "Gateshead:" on the flip, Dean Glaister's "Organ Builder's Manual" begins with a distant orchestral sample and bit by bit a low crackling gives way to the trademark arrhythmic cut-up blasts that Romance is best known for. Solid head-banging material! The overall package has a crisp offset design and is housed in a handmade slipcase. Fans of either of these projects would not be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WEREWOLF JERUSALEM + THE RITA "Skin of Coarse Hair, Skin of Coarse Hide" (Swampland)

A one-sided c58? What are we supposed to do with this? This is not acceptable. One-sided vinyl is fine because in order to hear the record again, you don't have to flip it over and listen to, or fast forward through, a blank side. Part of the appeal of cassettes is their pseudo-endless quality; if your tape deck flips tapes automatically, you can listen forever. However, when one side is blank, and especially when that side is twenty nine minutes long, the listening experience is severely hindered by the mandatory pause while you get back to the beginning.
Having said all of that, I was expecting to talk about the problem of collaboration when it comes to an artist like The Rita (whose project is based on the dogmatic adherence to a very specific aesthetic/ideology) but there’s no point. This tape is dubbed so poorly that there is barely material on it at all. When played at top volume, the tape hiss is so much louder than the music a person could mistake it for the blank B side. In fact, when I tried to listen to this in my car, my tape player didn’t even recognize that there was content on this tape, and tried to “seek” through the entire thing. The question one has to ask herself then, is: what the fuck? Is this label so cynical that it knows these two artists are popular enough that this tape will sell out too fast for anyone to warn other potential purchasers of its incredibly poor quality? Or is my copy an anomaly and the rest are dubbed much louder?
It’s really too bad. These are two artists whose work I purchase without hesitation and believed to be, until hearing this, pretty consistently interesting. Perhaps I have missed the point. Maybe this is a conceptual release, whose artistic goal is to present noise-floor tape hiss as musical material, and therefore both sides are meant to be listened to with equal attention. If this is the case, then the tape succeeds impressively. But I still prefer the Reynols CD on Trente Oiseaux.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SOFT OPTION KILLING "Rogue State" (Unrest Productions)

"Rogue State" is a more recent offering from the reclusive SOK which shows improved production values and a lean, focused methodology keeping in line with a history of lo-fi feedback prone power electronics. This time the politically-oriented project focuses on Iraq. The expected hiss of machine overload is still present, but there's a great variety of texture and attention to space in the opener "Roadside Devices" which never lags or gets boring. The B-side, "The Hearts of My Brothers Still Resist," produces a foreboding tension with murky samples of a somber middle-eastern song and an Iraqi discussing American occupation both buried in hissing distortion. The evocative design of the artwork - a silhouette of a lone soldier standing in the middle of a dust storm - suits the music perfectly. This one is limited to 60 copies and available from Martin Willford's Unrest Productions site (www.unrestprod.com), a great source for current UK power electronics and noise releases.

Monday, May 14, 2007

SLOWLISTENER "Bad Coffee Day" (Peasant Magik)

"Bad Coffee Day" marks the impressive first release for this UK group of moldy-circuit misfits. Another winner in the Peasant Magik packaging department with quirky b&w drawings by illustrator James Ulmer on thick textured paper, a notice you're entering a foreign village. "Terrible Down" starts off with melodic static filled humming and evolves into a slow jam with harmonious kitchen appliances. There's a mid-to-late 90s ambient-IDM vibe on here, only much grainier and lo-fi. "Ondras" is like HAM radio with a meditative dryer and organ duet in the background. Slowlistener is most likely a synth group, but they must have some affinity for incidental machine noise, which is a good thing. My nomination for best track title this year is the closer "Holidays Are For People Who Hate Their Life." Fans of Family Underground, Frozen Corpse or similar outfits would dig this for sure.

JOSH LAY "Hater of Life" (Peasant Magik)

One half of demonic sludge duo Cadaver in Drag on a solo tour of the abyss. The serpentine beast surrounded by inverted crosses on the cover tells you everything you need to know. Seriously, this is one of the most evil things you could listen to right now. The two long tracks which make up "Hater of Life" (appropriately, "Hater" and "Life") make no attempt to pull your head from oppressive torrents of bass and feedback unless it's to shriek with inhuman cacophony. Someone must have slipped a recorder into the middle of an epic subterranean battle where an ax-wielding Neanderthal was chopping giant snake heads with a vengeance. Attempting to pick out individual sounds in this river of horrid mud is pointless, and even if you succeeded you wouldn't feel good about it. Fans of CID or any Chondritic Sound releases should consider this mandatory.

RYAN GARBES - "Endless Bummer" (Night People)

Wow. Really beautiful debut curveball from Raccoo-oo-oon’s drummer. The A side sounds exactly like a Mindflayer cover, which I mean as a compliment. Garbled noise chaos puked all over fierce free percussion attacks, recorded really raw so the speakers buckle under the audio assault. Then a baffling acoustic slide guitar overdub bleeds in and fingerpicks around while the drum kit gets hyperactively brutalized in the background. The B track continues with the rambling acoustic guitar weirdness, but the percussion here is sparser, and harsher. Slowly everything frays into a brambly briar patch of spiky noise and muffled metal. I don’t quite get what Garbes is hoping this sounds like, but whatever fucked psych-improv-hybrid this is, I think it rules. Another radical question mark from the Night People camp.

GOLIATH BIRD EATER "Brahmans" (Nurse Etiquette)

Back in the slaughterhouse, and it feels AWESOME. Existential riff death from Eagle Rock’s reclusive metal oracle, Bobb Bruno. Brahmans picks up where Blood Venus let off, burrowing down into thick inner earth magma, erecting amplifier sludge into portentous doom monuments. The A side (“Lanzarse”) builds from bleak, wasted guitar gauze into a thundering, tectonic, the-sky-is-falling riff-crescendo, before pitching into the void, slowly falling into black infinity. And that’s just the A SIDE!!!! The B (“Brahmans”) zone is another slab of visionary electric heaviness, dead pulsing gravity splatter-painted with subtle free/tribal percussion. This would totally be on my “Best of 2007” list – if I ever made one of those (doubtful).

NONHORSE "Drone Moral" (DNT)

Cinematic mechanized soundscapes/soundtrack for an emotional documentary on a run-down appliance repair shop in east Brooklyn? Esoteric, but strangely moving. Gabriel Lucas Crane’s solo tape hiss enterprise forgoes the circuitry vignettes of Haraam, The Circle of Flame and Rigor Lore in favor of a single 23 (symbolic like the Jim Carrey movie?!!?!) minute disembodied drifter. Warbling murk loops, echo clatter, stuttering tape delay…Non-Horse speaks the language of sound effects. And, on Drone Moral, he seems to be saying something pretty deep. Only downsides: 1) same jam on both sides, 2) illegible insert, 3) dubbed cheaply, so you have to CRANK the volume to hear what’s going on.