Saturday, September 29, 2007

AXOLOTL “Plane of Partials” (Fuck It Tapes)

Predictably mesmerizing and sublime patchwork of drifting vision fog from Karl Bauer’s faultless violin/electronics alias. Hard stuff to describe, and even harder stuff to stop listening to. The A side is perhaps a bit more erratic, with some sharper sonic/tectonic shifts and evolutions, but the composition is always exquisitely paced so as to never break the slithering drones’ bath-trance brain vice. But the B is the manna from heaven’s gate cascade…steam rising from a holy skull on an emerald mountaintop in the center of a sacred isle. Impossibly beautiful and endless. No wonder the edition of 100 sold out in six seconds flat.

GULLIVER “Every Good Path” (Folktales Records)

Folk yeah. Whitman’s Folktales label creeps along with another missive of acoustic lo-fi troubadour-ism, this time from Gulliver, who I believe is connected to the whole Wagon Tongues/Inland Empire teenage folk circle (but don’t quote me on that). “Every Good Path” is a big C60 of intimate, earnest, narrative-based acoustic guitar storytelling all centered around a romance-turned-broken-heart-turned-mended-heart. The tape comes with a big stack of lonely computer-printed photos and photocopied boarding passes and a U.S. map (which seems to indicate he was in California while she was in Missouri?) and some other emo-folk memorabilia. The good things about the tape: odd sonic collages between songs, warm lo-fi audio quality, field recordings peppering the background. Bummer things about the tape: non-stop wistful melancholy sadness lyrically, musically, and vibrationally. Girlfriends living far away is sad, but 60 minutes is a long time to listen to this consistent sentiment. I’d love to hear his next tape once his relationship isn’t on the rocks and he can write about new subjects, because he’s good at guitar (and scheming weird inserts).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

GALLOWS “The White Lodge” (Peasant Magik)

First off: props to Peasant Magik for so quickly achieving a fully recognizable packaging aesthetic. Sometimes it takes labels a lot longer to find their footing in this regard, but just one glance at this new Gallows tape and there’s no doubt it’s a PM product (vellum elements and floral wallpaper J-cards are the giveaways). Anyway. My guess is Gallows is one guy, cause this sounds like one-guy-alone music: slow-drones, minimal arrangements, dead serious. The first track is too sci-fi for my liking (lots of wacky tape-spooling echoes bouncing around), but the second one is stripped as hell, just two similar tones pulsing side by side in a way that makes it seem like there’s more going on than there really is. And the third piece is probably the most focused of all…ebowed drones gently hovering in space for 10-plus minutes. The restraint shown here occasionally borders on the narcoleptic, but I’m not really saying that as a bad thing. Not as essential as the Pillars of Heaven or Blown Doors tapes, but another cool piece of Peasant Magik lore nonetheless.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SHITTY VIBE SMASHER "Bruised Fruit" (Throne Heap)

Shitty Vibe Smasher is the Portland, OR supergroup of Glamorous Pat (Cherried Out Merch label, Moms Who Chop, Alien Zoner Ape), Daryl Groetsch (Pulse Emitter) and Dan Rizer (Geyser, Person Under the Stairs, Yes, Collapse). From the outset, it's obvious the boys have a thing for making homemade synths and oscillators sound like gastrointestinal functions. At other points it's a Vietnam flashback, like trying to find your bearings in a jungle with hideous laughing birds, flying insects the size of your arm and airplanes far overhead offering no consolation. Word to Colonel Kurtz. Actually, "Bruised Fruit" is a lot of fun to listen to, and a few minutes into the first side even the band has some chuckles. One of the best aspects is the dynamic space between the musicians; one element will usually be in focus or sport less effects while another will reside more hazily in the background, then they switch up. I'm guilty of overusage of the word "intuitive," but there's definitely some mind-meld action afoot on this session. Fans of LAFMS and fellow Oregonians Smegma would definitely get a kick out of this release. If all that isn't enough of an incentive, Throne Heap knows how to make a tape look good. This one comes with nice printed labels on both sides (not something you always notice, but it is an anomaly!) and a stellar red-on-yellow silkscreen of hopeless melting faces on the cover. True Devotional Music.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

HEAD MOLT / SOCIAL JUNK (Teenage Whore Tapes)

Another whorish outing from the prolific haters at TWT. This one has a fat skeleton holding a cross on the cover and the Head Molt stuff is some of the grossest and least socially acceptable shit I’ve heard from them yet (which is saying something). Lots of repulsive noises and sputtering crap and then negative space zones littered with trash and echoes before the inevitable return to wretched white-faced screaming about hookers and the South Sandwich Islands. Social Junk, here, chase a slightly less aggro dragon. Their jam, “The New West,” is a fried, oddball junkyard of woozy feedback, jittery strings, and bizarre ESP percussion. There’s lots of stops, starts, and quiet parts, all steeped in tension and subliminal dread. Eventually they clatter things up into something like a climax, but it’s not nearly as straightforward-sounding as that. More great stuff from the Junk.

TEETH COLLECTION "Fire Mouth/Smoke Breather" (Longlongchaney)

The mistakes of lo-fidelity recording become the techniques of high fidelity composing on this hypnotizer. The pulsing that drives "Fire Mouth" moves back and forth between overly compressed lo end and peaking the red distortion that is neither loping nor repetitive. The compelling narrative of this interplay then moves into a world of over the top echoing, not to be unexpected from this prolific act that focuses on home-made reverb chambers. Thinking about the landfill of droney cassettes being made these days is one of my least favorite pass times. I absolutely love great drone, but with so much "just plug the delay pedal in and moan" shit going on, I am typically uninterested in checking new acts describing themselves this way. But an act like Teeth Collection is why I remain such a huge drone fan. Not that I expect Teeth Collection to be self-proclaimed drone. The hippy noise world I think has entrenched the word drone in such an aesthetic purity that music this interesting and aesthetically diverse is no longer a part of the club... both by art dogma and well needed politics. But now that I've dragged Teeth Collection well into my own agenda without their consent, I'll get back to why this particular tape rules hard. "Smoke Breather" succeeds in the same way as "Fire Mouth." While the masterful narrative of the piece moves from one world of timbre to an entirely different one (here from near-wall harshness to completely vacant bottom tones), the atmospheric function of the sounds remains similar the whole way through. Despite the great difference in sounds within each piece, the mood is kept uniform. It is in this way that a I argue a true DRONE is created; a hypnotizing of the listener that is just using the right amount of dynamics to keep your ears awake. It is there that so much drone fails, in that is just is beddy-bye music. Teeth Collection will put you under a spell, not just make you pass out completely.

Friday, September 21, 2007

BRI WHITE / JAMES FELLA "When Night Comes" (Gilgongo)

It is rare that a cassette captivates me with it's every moment. Yet here it is, a beautiful little c-10 out of PDX/PHX that succeeds in every way. Bri White's voice fills side A with sad thoughts about having to consider a friend too far gone to save, wanting people back, and other ways to hurt loved ones. The direct life lessons in her lyrics are akin to Edith Frost. Her guitar playing is so well arranged with her voice that they truly become one in the story telling process. If you have even a single folky bone in your body, then this is completely essential. James Fella then reveals himself as a true master of all that is sound, blending noise with ballad melodies in a way that is completely smooth. While the harsh/soothing dynamic is far from unknown in noise (see Pedestrian Deposit, Impregnable, etc) James Fella is a complete outsider to this approach which makes his results refreshing; unlike anything I've heard since Whitman's side of the Whitman / Watching Him Die split cassette. Unlike Whitman though, Fella roots his sounds in nostalgia rather than oddity. Confident layering of rhythms and crisp textures characterize both the harsh and melodic moments of this piece. Again, an essential side here making this tape and absolute must.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

LILYPAD "The Moon and Air Sparkle" (Tapeworm Tapes)

It is said that one teaspoon of sewage can ruin a barrel of wine, but a teaspoon of wine cannot do the opposite for a barrel of sewage. This unfair asymmetry applies also to music: one bad choice can seriously fuck up an otherwise great cassette. After a nice looping ditty, an unnecessary field recording of waves crashing against a shore, and a buzzy square-wavey drone, side A of "The Moon and Air Sparkle," the first release from the solo project of one member of Emeralds, ends with a snippet of Ernie from Sesame Street singing/instructing the listener to wash various parts of his/her body. For a moment I thought I could have been listening to some white rapper from 1998-- this is a total Anticon move. I mean, did Cut Chemist or Peanut Butter Wolf produce this tape? Why would somebody do this? What does it say, other than: "I probably smoke weed" and "I have a lot of records." It's really a shame because the following track, which takes up side B, is a particularly beautiful, shimmering drone, thick with layers of harmonics. The music lives up to the tapes ethereal title, but is dragged down by the Ernie sample into areas far too earthly. But definitely look for more Lilypad releases and any further brilliance from this dude's main project, Emeralds-- always awesome.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ANAKRID "Crash Your Putrid Minds" (Black Horizons)

This was a real change of pace from the usual fare reviewed on these pages. The Black Horizons label is somewhat of an anomaly in noise. Their roster extends beyond the limits of the term "noise" itself, and they have a solid reputation for sound quality as well as a visible art style. That said, I hadn't heard this project before and no idea what to expect popping this thing in the deck. Some of "Crash Your Putrid Minds" has the kind of glitchy IDM ambience of the Medroxy Progesterone Acetate release (also on Black Horizons) that was reviewed here a while back. The dominating presence here, though, is the most ridiculous earth-shattering electro stomp that you haven't heard in years. It's a complex and layered monster of funhouse effects, slow rolling 808 snares, dubbed out synth and sweaty nightmares. Oh yeah, and bass. Imagine DJ Screw and Mannie Fresh tripping balls in a swirling electronic avalanche. It would be ideal if you had a jeep to play this in. The tape is a high-bias chrome affair, so apart from the fact that it's produced well, the sound quality is superb. The packaging is a delirious double-layered collage of psychedelic havoc. It looks as if a good chunk of the Black Horizons catalogue is gone, so best to nab this while you can. Recommended!

Monday, September 17, 2007

SWORD HEAVEN / JASON ZEH AND DAVID REED (Little Miracles/Sick Bliss)

Stark split tape co-released by Mark Van Fleet’s label and Antwerp noise outpost Sick Bliss. Right away: WOW. Exquisite, ecstatic savagery from the Sword Heaven camp that only further sledgehammers into the ground how outstandingly, mythically brutalizing they can be. Their side is a demo version of the song “Tongues,” recorded straight to boombox, and the raw immediacy of the audio only helps it cut into the flesh that much faster. Machines drag across concrete with the scraping rage of victims being hauled to the SAW room while war drums pound out blood rhythms and doomed SOS signals. This is what SH do, and they do it fucking perfectly. The Zeh/Reed piece a live-to-minidisc set recorded in Cleveland and it explores a radically different fringe of the electric musical wasteland. Stretched tones shimmer while phasing clouds of waveforms bleed back and forth across the space…subliminal pan-dimensional rumbling lurches up from below and everything chimes together in a synergistic mirage of zen wobble. Eventually ebowed Oms materialize and some higher notes sparkle in the stratosphere but no element overly rocks the boat…order is maintained and the set closes on a mood of pensive hypnosis. A really stunning showing from start to finish. Neither label has a website (I think) so write the parties involved if you want one (you should).

TREETOPS / CYGNUS (Arbor)

Oddly collaged strings/circuits/keys metamorphosis piece from King Tree of Arbor Enterprises, Mike Pollard. “Wild Beauty” pivots between a few channels of reverb guitar text-messaging, taped-down notes of distant tone, and looping amp growl in a way that reflects the vibe of dim bedroom doodling (if not beauty per se)…then it rolls over and curls into a quiet ball. Cygnus starts off a bit more sci-fi with theremin-y warblings and fried echo and guitar solitaire, then just stops. The second song is similarly up-close and impersonal, fractured guitar therapy manipulation that rambles on like a weird tripped-out anecdote with no beginning, middle, end. Overall, a strange C22 of solo sing-song psych mind games.

Friday, September 14, 2007

CLIMAX DENIAL "Bodies Broken By The Weight Of Time" (Ekhein)

I never really understood Climax Denial before. I thought the way he switched styles all over the same tape made it seem as if he was dabbling, so that none of his work (in any style) was at all convincing-- you know, kinda like Ween, or something. I figured that his popularity had something to do with people's interest in his extra-musical themes, his cassette art, web presence, track-titling schemes. Climax Denial has synthesized the early Merzbow/Haters sexual fetish aesthetic with the unforgivable misogyny of Power Electronics, and, somehow, the pathos and male-as-lonely-victim themes of Pedestrian Deposit, Impregnable, etc. And then there's the whole foot-fetish thing, right? Well I'm not going to say that all that isn't compelling, but until I heard this tape, I was pretty sure it didn't make for a compelling listen. However, "Bodies Broken By The Weight Of Time" is a very good release, especially considering the potential for disaster-- it's a c50! On side A, Climax Denial begins with a spooky horror-movie doom track. It's slow and cavernous and very satisfying. The second track (and normally I'm totally against multiple tracks per tape side) begins as a wall that eventually evolves (devolves?) into a pretty believable Power Electronics piece, complete with ridiculous vocals. Side B is an incredibly patient wall-ish track that creeps along through several different areas of sound. It's like watching the hour hand on a clock move for twenty-five minutes. Fucking awesome.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

HIVE MIND "Ashen Geometry" (Throne Heap)

You could probably release a Hive Mind recording wrapped in a plastic grocery bag and sell out of all copies. The work of Greh Holger is practically synonymous with rock: not as in ripped Maiden shirts and hair but igneous, sedimentary and volcanic. There might be more HM tapes this year than last, but since the runs dry up as quickly as they're filled it's a hard tally. "Ashen Geometry" is a bit more effects-saturated and disorienting than the recent tape on Hanson Records. It might have more in common with the "Bade Mecum" 3 inch CD on Holger's own Chondritic Sound imprint (I might be talking s**t since I haven't listened to it in a while). The textures have become more complex and dirtier at the same time, with a glacially slow movement that takes a few turns to really comprehend. While side A covers some familiar but enjoyable deep bass territory, side B introduces a high-pitched buzz that becomes embedded in the rotting sub-tones until it's all grit and silt. The last minute is about as harsh as a bass-driven track can get, as if Holger was going to segue into a Cleanse set. This one has a black cardstock insert with a killer silkscreen job in silver, a perfect accessory for misanthropic creeps running devious errands. Impressive veteran release from one of the best new labels.

WATERSPORTS W/ AARON ROSENBLUM “More” (Arbor)

Russ and Lea’s pre-Blues Control ambient outfit Watersports has always been a choice source for trickle-down electronic hum and non-human mystery purr but it’s been a while since they’ve slid something out into the public domain, and I’m glad they did. “More” is just a brief C20, but maybe they wanted to leave us wanting “more”? (That’s my theory). The A is actually without Rosenblum, just Russ/Lea playing live in Livermore Falls, Maine, and it’s all aquatic blur and gentle shapes and then Lea starts tickling the ivories with an eloquent ascending fugue of notes, real classical-style, and she does that for a while and then the scene fades to silence. Damn nice, but too short. The B is where Aaron gets into the mix and his presence is hard to detect, but that’s ok…the whole piece is just a far-away sounding lava lamp of melting halos and galaxy clusters dissolving into translucent narcotic blobs. Fantastic and, again, bummerly brief.

HEAD MOLT / DEPRAVED HEART CRIME VS. LOUIS L’AMOUR (Teenage Whore Tapes)

Got a few tapes in the mailbox from this Hampton, Virginia-based scuzz label, and you could probably guess by the name that their fetishes lie on the hostile/filth side of things (their Myspace website lists the label’s influences as: “People who still buy tapes, Noise, Sluts, Whores, The AIDS Pandemic, Primitive Analog Equipment.” What this love of paid sex and tragic incurable viruses (and not-so-subtle Hole allusions?) translates to on cassette is, of course, the sound of teens gargling fecal matter. Head Molt’s side is allegedly split into 4 “parts” but I didn’t notice a break in the electric puke bubbling outta the speakers. Heat Molt, here, is 4 folks, and people are credited with playing instruments such as “cell phone” and “game of life turn spinner” and “coffee cans” but good luck identifying anything as such. Lo-fi bile, squeezed out of a putrid hose, and put in a pie tin, and thrown in your face. Laugh and lick it up. The Depraved Heart Crime vs. Louis L’amour side is two dudes who record under those names jamming together and it’s way more noise than junk. Just a steady stream of sputtering circuits, unchanging and numb. Like sticking yr head in a waterfall of hot mud. If that sounds like yr idea of a good time, get on board the Teenage Whore train.

Monday, September 10, 2007

CHRIS COOPER BILL NACE DUO "I'm Fucking In A Sitting Room (For Nmperign)" (Night People)

Okay. So the title presumably refers to Alvin Lucier's composition, "I Am Sitting In A Room." And it's dedicated to the Boston EAI duo of Bhob Rainey and Greg Kelley, Nmperign. Listening to the sides of this tape, I cannot glean why either of these extra-musical references is present. The music does not have the space, subtlety or focus of Nmperign, nor does it have the purity of concept associated with Lucier's piece. And it certainly doesn't try to. These are not criticisms. In fact, I point them out only because I expected a much more literal tribute after reading the title. The tape is quite good, really. Bill Nace (of Vampire Belt) teams up with Chris Cooper (of Fat Worm of Error) for a blistering double guitar freakout. Imagine the moment-to-moment logic of a Spontaneous Music Ensemble improvisation with the aggressive guitar histrionics of a 1970's Glen Branca group. (For fellow Los Angeles dwellers, it's like a less prissy version of Open City.) The music is a little too dynamic, I fear, for the cassette medium. There's a lot of loud-then-quiet-then-loud stuff where the changes are too drastic. It goes from way-too-distorted to eclipsed-by-tape-hiss all throughout. (A CD or fancy vinyl reissue would be phenomenal). Also, there's a lot of fun play with the stereo spectrum-- towards the end of side A, there's a section where percussive sounds conjure images of a cartoon construction site, ping ponging back and forth from speaker to speaker. And how can you not be charmed-- the B side is dominated by hilarious laser sounds.

LOOSERS “Sidelights” (Fuck It Tapes)

Fantastic. “Sidelights” is a beautiful, revelatory shuffle into the psychic periphery from this long-running Portuguese triad, and it’s a step into the ether away from their past audio documents. The A track was apparently recorded live on a radio show, and it unfurls with a hazy grace and soft touch not often seen/heard in previous Loosers albums. Sidewinder percussion spirals around fluttering rhythmic electronics while chimes jingle on ropes…free spiritualism soaks the microphone in Sun Ra gauze until all hard sounds cease and only the echoes of outer space resonate and pan and morph in the studio air. Things veer damn close to so-psych-it’s-goofy at a certain point, but then they pull back, and coax the majesty into quiet. “Banyan Fig,” the flip, is more easily recognizable as a Loosers chemistry, with restless “world” drumming weaving webs into ringing island steel, communal voice exercises, and dub fragments. Deep in the zone they pivot and drop the beat, replacing it with fried, wild cymbal shimmer and joyously mangled saxophone that escalates into a epiphanic frenzy before suddenly dying. Then the song’s afterlife drifts on with an odd palette of loops, murk warble, and buried pulse, like a dreaming corpse. A quiet masterpiece in the Loosers discography, no question.

BLOWN DOORS (Peasant Magik)

Heavy objects crash slowly in an endless underground corridor. A black storm rains and thunders on the earth above. Gradually the lights dim and hateful wraiths float up from the concrete and start battling with axes and morning stars. This is the basic gist of what the A side of this Blown Doors tape sounds like. Mythic/mystic undead violence. No idea on the who/what/where/why of Blown Doors but it’s on the consistent Peasant Magik label and definitely fits in with their dark age drone/noise aesthetic. The B side is shockingly good too, building from some plain resonating tones into an orgy of pulsing, crushing rapture. Focused and to the point. With a typically vellum-heavy wallpaper-inspired PM J-card. Oh wait, just saw it’s from an edition of 25…you’ll probably need to download this one online. You know how to do that, right? (Post-script: SICK dubbing job on this guy…the audio is BLASTING out of my speakers. Nearly zero tape hiss, impressive!).

WEAK SISTERS "Untitled" (Abhorrent A. D.)

Weak Sisters is the new project of Will van Goern, former member of the legendary teen heartthrob outfit, Other People's Children. Side A of this tape, titled "Freckles," is a cut-up, and is pretty all over the place. It is brutally harsh and covers a lot of territory, mostly rhythmic pedal noise/feedback with occasional screamed vocals. What makes the piece work so well is van Goern's truly mature sense of composition. Every choice is very deliberate and logical. The listener gets the sense that one movement follows another for a very specific reason, and that reason, while not translatable into an intriguing written description of the sound, is communicated clearly nonetheless. In other words: this stuff is serious and well thought out; it's not lazy or wanky. Side B is a very satisfying Wall Noise track. It sounds pretty much like two giant pieces of velcro splitting apart for five minutes. One of the best Harsh Noise tapes I've heard in a long time. And it totally comes with a bonus business card CDr in the cassette case, but since that's not a tape, I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about it here. No props, though, to the label for the hideous pixilated artwork.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

WARMTH "Death As A Young Child" (Arbor)

So this was the first promo tape I picked up from the CG editor almost four months ago. It was a selfish act. I knew I wanted the tape because Warmth is a project whose music I really enjoy. It seemed serendipitous that it was sent to us for review because earlier that week I had considered buying it from the label myself. But then there was a problem. I listened to it, and loved it, but didn't really have anything to say about it. It's beautiful, perfect. Twenty minutes of exquisite glassy tones, swelling and weaving and churning... But how interesting is that to write? It's so much easier to write a negative review. There are so many funny ways to say that something sucks. I explained this to our editor, Brian, and he just laughed at me. For months, whenever we'd talk about the site, he'd bring up the review I couldn't write because the tape was "too good." Anytime I'd slack off and not write anything for extended periods (which was/is often) he'd ask if all the music I'd heard recently was, like the Warmth tape, "too good." Eventually, I decided that explaining all this was as good a recommendation as anything could be. The tape is flawless, inspiring, though perhaps not to write.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

"Despairing Summer / American Ulterior" (Iatrogenesis)

Though not credited to any artist, this cassette is a collage of field recordings assembled by Iatrogenesis label head, Gordon Ashworth (Oscillating Innards, Caen). The source material is collected from tape recordings made by Ashworth and Jon Borges (Pedestrian Deposit, Emaciator) on their last US tour together. Almost anything recognizable from the original tapes, however, has been obscured by layers of processing, most noticeably a heavy, smeary reverb unit. Side A opens with a melancholy looping melody over a distant hiss and muted conversations. The whole tape has a very dreamlike feel, a half-remembered travelogue. Despite the relatively calm feel throughout, the music moves rather quickly through different areas of sound. And while it could be described as "ambient," the music is not without teeth. In fact, at times it gets rather hairy and there's enough crackle and crunch to disrupt any meditative vibe. The inside of the j-card depicts a loving tribute to the scene-- cut up photographs of friends and noise dudes from all over the country, presumably taken during the tour. It warms the heart, truly.

Friday, September 7, 2007

NORTHAMPTON WOOLS (Bonescraper)

Northampton Wools (shouldn't there be another "H" in there?) is the furious double electric guitar project of Bill Nace (from the always magnificent Vampire Belt) and Thurston Moore. Even before listening to this, I have to appreciate it soley on principle. Plenty of people in the underground resent Moore for being (easily) the wold's most famous fan of noise/experimental/weirdo music, and therefore theee major tastemaker in the culture. It's him and The Wire, really, and even that magazine mostly cows to Moore's taste when it covers music made by Americans. However: I believe this should be viewed as a positive thing. The system may seem a bit hegemonic, and no, that's not really healthy, but at least the weirdos have some representation in (what could be considered) mainstream music. How many noise artists have played for the largest crowds they've ever seen because Moore invited them to play one of the All Tomorrow's Parties Festivals he curated? How many total freaks have been allowed to open for Sonic Youth over the years? And nobody supports DIY music as consistently as Moore. Label heads will tell you: he's often the first person to order a new batch of tapes; his cassette collection must be fucking epic. Having said that, Moore should be appreciated also, not just as a consumer of weird music, but as a producer of it. The dude is on Geffen. His basement vanity label is distributed by Universal. And yet he still puts out tapes on labels that nobody's ever heard of to help them get a leg up. Such would seem to be the case with this double c24 of free skronk firemusic. It sounds pretty much like you would imagine: not much subtlety here. Both tapes have the structure of Dynamic Harsh Noise with the sound palette of Psych Rock. Lots of string scraping and feedback, not much interaction or variation. Not sure why they needed to put out two whole tapes of this stuff, but it's nice enough-- certainly serves its purpose. Plus the packaging is totally sweet-- one of those compact double cassette cases like from the old days, with cool drawings of hair on it.

HARD DRUGS "Borrowed Means" (Cavelife)

Debut tape from Los Angeles newcomer (er... new to harsh noise, at least) Hard Drugs is a wretched little chunk of pessimism. The tape is simply filthy, a c16 of rancorous disappointment. The first track on the A side is a noodley oscillator jam in a tornado of fuzz and static. The second track begins with a highly questionable sample of what sounds like a Nico song, quickly overtaken by sheets of distortion and squealing mic feedback-- I'm not quite sure what's being said there. The second side is slightly more aggressive but less distinct. There's a roundness, a softness, perhaps, to the character of the sound; the music was clearly recorded live by a microphone in the room. The issue I have with this, though, is that it ends up sounding like absolutely ANYTHING would if recorded onto a cheap tape player. Actually, for all I know, this could be a walkman recording of traffic, a wood shop or of a basement punk show. Which is not to say that that's unpleasant. In fact, the tape's blurry anonymity is rather charming. It's definitely worth checking out if any of the thirty copies in existence are still available. The artwork is super solid, too. The front cover bears a creepy line drawing of some squiggly beast by the Haircut Mountain Transit and Deep Jew lead vocalist, Alex Twomey, and printed in large elegant type on the back is the evocative phrase: "You can't win; game is rigged." Heh. Die young and poor, homey.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

AIR CONDITIONING “The Ocean” (Callow God)

Unbelievable/unsane. Callow God only rarely lifts its gaze from the local table-of-pedals pond, but Pennsylvania wrecking crew Air Conditioning are one of the few non-noise “bands” sonically hostile enough to warrant temporary inclusion in CG’s honorary scum crew. And “The Ocean” wastes no time in proving AC’s belief in the old Witscher truism: “Savagery’s No Vice.” The A side bleeds into sight with a misleadingly restrained spell of guitar feedback and amp hiss…the tape spools by and you wonder if anything’s going to happen. It does. A few minutes in the drums drop out of the sky and crash out a Sword Heavenly death march and vocals scream from the speakers in a smear of cold hate…total Deep Jew misery but without the street/scum obsession. The B side is just as good, but far more freaked out and deranged. Misanthropic guitar riffing plods out chunks of in-the-red wall-noise while cavernous reverb tumbles in the shadows, occasionally shifting into the foreground and shaking the speakers. Crushing depression, rattles and moans, a slow escape into the distance. A fucking amazing tape, and dubbed so deafeningly loud it’s beautiful.

STONEBURNER “Abydos” (Abandon Ship)

Smoky collab project between Grant Capes (of VxPxC, Thousands, Phantom Limb Recordings, etc), Brad Rose (of 9 billion things, plus Digitalis Industries), and Nathan Young (of Ajilvsga). Don’t know if this is a one-off or just a “whenever we’re in the same city” kinda thing, but this Tulsa, OK meeting seems to have gone down pretty smooth. The A jam, “Boxgrove Inferno,” finds tonal organ notes laying out on the dirt for jangly guitar and electronic farting oscillator noises to somersault on top of. Random and rambly. On the flip, Brad (one assumes) riffs some picky/strummy acoustic guitar for the opener, then the trio close the C38 with a…bleak banjo dirge? Or something like that. Dead country blues for sure. Gotta say though, the ASR cover art is pretty outta-left-field to my eyes: a cuddly seal’s head emerging from water? A bit more SeaWorldburner than Stone, but oh well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

THOUSANDS “Skinless/Boneless” (Abandon Ship Records)

Another bottomless chicken bowl of fried psych-outs from this restless Glassell Park posse. As usual, a Guitar Center’s worth of instruments tag-team in and out of the spotlight – SK1 warbling, reverb bummer guitar, slow horns, more melodica than a lotta dub records, jazz bass strutting, mouth breathing, wood blocks, etc. With such a melting pot of ingredients, the plated recipe is naturally stuffed to the bursting point with radically varying vibes and flavors. A good chunk of the A side is heavy on the groovy/jazzy tip, with the rest of the skin hanging loose off the bass. But much of the B trip has a lonely post-indie guitar reverie atmosphere. Then there’s a long finale section laden with clanging bells, swaying organ, flutes/whistling/panpipes (??), and a prominent keyboard “waltz” drum setting. Welcome to All Over The Place. For better/worse, the cover art opts for a highly literal interpretation of the title (a “skinless” cow skull next to a “boneless” jellyfish). A photograph of a rotisserie chicken stand would have worked pretty well too.

TIK///TIK “Glacier Skars” (Big Monies Tapes)

Inaugural outing by Rob’s 10-years-coming LA label, Big Monies, is a purple C10 of classic TIK///TIK atari teenage rioting: crunchy digital shred pulverized by choppy sprinklers, mixer rocket launching, and aimless voice fragments. It’s easy to picture a monochromatically-clad Cano thrashing around on the ground to this sound. The B side has more of his Deathbomb dance music attack/approach, a numbly pulsing beat buried under waves of looping nasal talk/yelling (Erin Allen style). The closer, “Grandmess Up Close,” is a storm of overlapping air raid chaos, UFO buzzing, and robot explosions that works like an energy drink on the ears. My only question: what’s a “skars”?

Monday, September 3, 2007

OAK / A SNAKE IN THE GARDEN “The Enchanted Forest” (Grimeology)

Sweet split/collab tape from these two East Coast best fwend gang/projects. A Snake in the Garden (one dude, apparently) is definitely the hater of the pack, starting the CS off with a gross phasing mixer rumble stacked with background lurk noise, against which he growls echoing Malefic-style vocals. Totally theatrical but great…yet when things kick into pure screech attack mode somehow the intensity lessens. The frequencies are compressed and mid-range, which seems to gate the violence from breaking out into total amp fury. Still, a good offering. Oak go the more steady/static route with “Rods From God,” which burns like an antique incense urn of slo-mo e-bow, drifting jangle, and water-treading sitar accents. Doesn’t really go anywhere, but the trip is plenty pleasant. The B side is the collab, “Sacrificial Wizards,” and it seems like nobody wanted to play leader. Snake holds in his electric venom, but the Oak posse keep their hippie hair trimmed kinda close too, so nobody really ever steps up and pushes things one way or the other. The outcome is a quiet, tentative tip-toe through gently tapped metal, nature hiss, and softly plucked single strings. Which, personally, is a path I dig treading. More heads are better than none.

BIG NURSE “Alive II: No Youth Movement Left” (High Density Headache)

Tennessee’s Big Nurse ripped through the West Coast a couple weeks ago playing the sort of mass-mind 6-piece communal art-punk that it seems like most folks out here have given up on (in favor of solo/small projects or song-based stuff). The 3 drummers, 2 guitarist, 1 bass crew shredded one endless, pounding, deafening car crash of glorious noise for 12 minutes, then threw their shit on the floor and were done. Perfect. This tape, however, ain’t really like that. “Alive II” finds BN experimenting with every nook/cranny of their arsenal, resulting in a strange collage of blown out rock wanderings, sparse practice-taped vagueness, and overt noise wastelands. The live unity/cohesion vision has been ditched in favor of endless homeless amplified teenage puke. Which, suffice to say, has a different charm all its own. Maybe not essential listening, but definitely an authentic slab of unedited weirdo southern psych-trash, appropriate for many fucked/desperate occasions.