Thursday, November 29, 2007

HORSE HAIR “II” (Hearing Aid)

‘Horse’ has sort of become the new go-to band name animal in recent months (‘wolf’ is finally phasing out it seems) and personally I’m fine with it. Animals are great. Horse Hair is a nebulous Manchester jam gang comprised of Barry Dean of Stuckometer/Hearing Aid plus four other dudes, and I heard something by them earlier in ’07 and I remember liking it but not nearly as much as this eloquent rager. Explosive dual (triple?) guitar kinetics wrapped around restless, compelling percussion propulsion and caked in bristling, atmospheric feedback that grows and thrashes until suddenly the bottom drops out and everything washes up on shore. Fucking great. The B’s a burner too, broken into two parts…overall they’re more drone-driven, with almost sitar-style guitar navigations pitted against warm humming and clattery, rhythmic drumming and lost, open air prayer singing. A really solid pile of psych styles that I’d dig hearing more of. In a classic Hearing Aid swank sewn cloth pocket with a typewritten fabric tag/label.

KITES “Drogue Chute” (Unskilled Labor)

CF’s private Kites tapes always explore a more roundabout/random terrain than his Load full-lengths, and “Drogue Chute” is no exception. Here he delves deep into two sides of overt sound FX worship – stereo-panned zoner drone tones, squiggly synthesizer bubbles, phased mixer blurts, and some tape-looped gong/bell sounds chiming in infinity. The combo is simultaneously goofy and great, like a classic 60s sci-fi soundtrack or something, a weird-haired cyberpunk in a sleeveless lab coat cooking up vials of extraterrestrial matter in an underground bunker. The vocals at the start of side B are hilarious/hardcore, total dying robot slave monologue against a coiling cacophony of blinking lights and operational spaceship technocracy. Very outer space via inner space. Overall, an appealing private trancer. Stellar CF art/layout too.

HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE "Oktoberfest" (Deception Island)

Prankster noise, particularly of the kind that references Top-40, is almost by definition not classy. If the movie Amadeus taught us anything though, it is that manners aren't always found at the heights of human accomplishment. In fact, a complete lack of manners and passion for the crude may be at the center of genius. Who has not heard of the asshole-genius before? And don't all American's love Andy Kaufman by this point? But when it comes to noise, anything with a sample of Paris Hilton turning into a harsh wall of fuck-you is typically chocked up to being some amateurish bedroom project by a 15 year old living in the middle of nowhere, a place that culture has obviously not reached. Well, perhaps Hot Air Balloon Ride will happen change this stereotype and bring noise up to the same wider expectations of American cinema. Beginning with a pitch-shifted baseball game announcement, Oktoberfest shows no signs of being more than dicking around for just long enough to be worrisome. It is at that point, when you start wondering if just how long this nonsense will go on, that a rich, high fidelity, curtain of digital sounds is dropped and a your eyes open wide. While the change from dumb sample to intense noise is nothing new, the complete lack of "fuck you" attitude on this tape makes the experience more than brand new. It makes it classy. So by the time that the Stone Temple Pilots samples begin, one doesn't find themselves listening to a dumb joke, but rather just accepting sound as sound. Only the quality of assembly matters, and here the energy remains at perfect pitch throughout its 30 min. This tape is refreshing and groundbreaking. Band and label having associations to the Emeralds/Beemask/newyoungOHIO camp means that something beyond accidentally hip sounds is happening out there. The future of noise and cassettes will largely be defined by these folks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TRASH DOG “Garbage Eater” (Virus)

Hideous new Iowa City “mongrol core” project from Jeff Witscher, Daren Ho, and Ryan Garbage that sounds like the logical next step in Jeff’s vision/masterplan of playing in an actual hardcore band that gets babes after their shows rather than just scum crew alley loitering. Of course, it’s not a total departure or anything, the songs are still piles of deafening filth but in TD everybody actually bothers playing their instrument (instead of just kicking it against the concrete in a frenzy of hate, Deep Jew-style). “Garbage Eater” has a whole lot of recognizable riffs with legitimate chords, real drum beats, vocals with lyrics (rather than just Alex’s vile primal screaming). Being a Witscher production, it’s still recorded like complete shit with feedback bleeding out of every sweaty pore, but where DJ were so violently punk they broke through the wall into harsh noise, Trash Dog is more of a middle ground rager’s aesthetic. Basically it’s a gross punk band playing gross punk songs with titles like “Punks and Cops” and “Pig Leash.” It’s only a C12 so it’s over pretty quick, but the J-card has plenty of hilarious Witscher slogans like “dreaming of far away/swamps with pizza and/candy” and “dedicated to deviant scrum.” Totally worth grabbing, and there’ll be more from this posse soon I’m sure.

BROMP TREB “Audio-Visual Cassette” (Yeay! Cassettes)

Predictably maddening brain-scrambled rectal messes from this resolutely incoherent Massachusetts weirdo squad. Farting, squiggly electronics (in the Crank Sturgeon mold), chopped/screwed patches of wacko drum programming, and inane/insane alien rap experiments (that sorta echo certain Need New Body tracks I’ve heard) all soldered together into a relentlessly goofy C26 chain letter of dangling randomness. Can say with all honesty I can’t ever foresee circumstances leading me to put this thing back in the deck for a second play, but I guess if yr feeling deprived of the sound of Smurfs being choked to death in a neon bouncy castle, then this’ll be your go-to jam. The art is a photocopy of a basic Maxell-style advertorial J-card with Bromp Treb info typed on top, kinda like those pop-punk bands that re-appropriate the Snickers or Pringles logo/font for their album art or Vans Warped Tour t-shirt.

Monday, November 26, 2007

BRUTUM FULMEN "1000 Suns" (Throne Heap)

"I had my back to the blast, my fists shoved into my eyes. At the moment of detonation there was a flash. At that instant I was able to see straight through my hands."

Brutum Fulmen's first above-ground effort appeared in 2002 with the full-length "Blood of the Moon" CD and more recently the band appeared on RRRecords' "New England" 5 LP box set. It looks as if the band was on hiatus for a while, but thankfully they're back with this gem on Throne Heap and an interesting departure from the group's usual style. A self-described "impressionist audio drama," "1000 Suns" resembles at first glance the kind of soundtrack which might have been played at Halloween parties a few decades ago, or the audio from a 1940s public safety announcement. Reading the list of "instruments" present on this release almost makes it sound like a regular special effects record: "rusty music box, spring night creatures, breaking lake ice, 'fiddle trees' rubbing," etc. I'm definitely missing that volume in the library, if anyone finds it. But as the grand tradition of tape manipulating cut-and-pasters has continuously shown (and BF isn't exactly a small fish in this area), how one ties these elements together makes all the difference. Brutum Fulmen's sound is as far from kitschy and random "weird for weirdness' sake" as you can get. Rather, "1000 Suns" is an intriguing construction of voiceovers, warm minimal tones and obscure sound sources that weaves a narrative of an ominous and paranoid reality. The binding element is a chain of World War II era eyewitness reports of nuclear testing, read by a monotone parade of scientists and soldiers. Most of these accounts are bizarrely horrific, like the quote above. Once these voices begin reporting, accompanied by deep rumbling and subliminally jarring creaks and moans, your attention stays captive until the side is over. What makes "1000 Suns" so haunting is its power in mirroring the spoken word with an emotional response in sound. When the speech is purely scientific, deep oscillations erupt like plumes of smoke from an industrial laboratory. During another segment describing parties being held to watch a rainbow-like nuclear aurora, the music takes on a cold and melancholy beauty. Whereas others might have interpreted this subject matter with blatant violence, Brutum Fulmen employs suggestion and subtlety. The second side of the release offers another methodology of construction, including about fifteen different types of tape degradation involving the original recording on side A. The contrasts are interesting, and it easily holds its own against similar examples of cassette abuse in this genre. But regardless of the insanely complex tape destruction it doesn't quite hold the attention in the same way the first version excels. I've found myself returning to side A about fifteen times now, and although it' s one of the weirdest (maybe uncharacteristic?) Throne Heap releases it's certainly one of the finest and accomplished. The case includes a sweet black silkscreen on brown craft paper that works swell with the "goverment issued" theme. I'm just sorry that it took me so long to write about, and I sincerely hope this one stays in print for a while. RECOMMENDED!

Brutum Fulmen's website: http://www.noisician.com/
Throne Heap's website: http://www.throneheap.com/

Sunday, November 25, 2007

JAMES FELLA "D888" (JK Tapes)

Tempe, AZ based artist James Fella has been releasing a steady output on his own Gilgongo Records imprint for a while. This time, the offering emerges from the eternally paint-gooped Illinois leviathan JK Tapes. The whole of "D888" only runs to 10 minutes, which means more temptation for multiple plays just to try and solve the puzzle of "what is it?" After meticulous research and consultation with Fella's generous liner notes, it makes sense on paper but is still hairy on the ears. The sound sources- guitars, loops, microphones- have little to do with the outcome here. Tape music, in the traditional sense, seldom has much to do with an original performance as much as the sequence of events which transform it into an entirely new work. The content of "D888" lies in this tradition of taking live material and through tape manipulation, processing and remixing, conceiving an entirely different sound which cannot be performed live. Not a new idea by any means, but it still sounds damn fine. The mix comes through chunky and loud, stuttering and hissing like a dying amplifier (fittingly, one track is described "broken speaker sounds") but racing through ideas and textures at a steady pace. Live mixing on some segments blurs the distinction between mixtape and musique concrete. It's rude, inconsistent and perfect. The painstakingly constructed but amorphous sound on "D888" sums up what I love about cassette music. The effort put into its packaging (two-tone spraypainted tape, gunked-up jewel case, confounding neon symbolism) is why I love cassette releases. No doubt this has been sold out since before it was made, so you might find more success in clamoring for whatever *is* available from these sources:
http://www.gilgongorecords.com/
http://www.jktapes.com/

Saturday, November 24, 2007

DROWNER YELLOW SWANS (Tape Room)

Fucking impressive. Yet another mesmerizing and masterful set of sprawling new songs from the boundless Pete/Gabe union. Most who’ve heard the latest Y Swans Load opus, "At All Ends," haven’t hesitated in declaring it perhaps the crown achievement of their already no-filler discographical career. But "Drowner" is easily up there with it, at the caliber/strata of poetic mood sculptures like "Deterioration" and "Descension," eloquent guitar mantras, shifting clouds of reverb tape loops, weighted drones levitating in a harmonic sphere. Some B side passages boil with the vein of blistering, blinding noise that used to more frequently be considered their forte, but the bulk of Drowner’s 62 minutes are given to rippling waves of charged communal ambience and pensive, psychedelic undertow. Phenomenal, and worthy of an instant reissue.

UNEVEN UNIVERSE “Weighted Ghost” (Excitebike Tapes)

Epic C20 of doomy sax-scapes by EXBX main man Dan “Dude” Dlugosielski’s new horn-blast beast project. Both sides are stripped, ripped, and tripped out. Enough echo and grey reverb to satisfy even the most red-eyed of psychic upsetters. Less loops than the “Privacy Vol. 1” CS but no less sprawling and hypnotic. Sick skull-on-vellum dual-layer J-cards, nice tape labels, and a quality dubbing job all work together to elevate this tape’s status to the “keep permanently out on the mantle next to the voodoo candle and “Don’t Mess With Texas” ashtray” tier of crucial objects perched in any great free-soul hound’s dimly lit apartment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SWANOX / SCRAPS OF DOGS "untitled" (Caligulan)

Never heard or even heard of either of these bands before so here goes: Swanox does slow-picked guitar against heavy stalker breathing and absently tapped tambourine, real miserable and disturbing. It probably wouldn’t work as well as it does if the guitar notes weren’t played with such hypnotic depression…but they really spiral into yr brain, and then this heavy bass rumble plummets on to the scene deep in the track, which seals the wasted alchemy for me at least. Points too for calling yr song “Forests of Pluto” like a real maniac. Scraps of Dogs puke in a different kennel, more indistinct and recorded down the hall and lapsing in and out of consciousness. Blurry, roiling noise with some occasional keyboardtones poking through the haze. Not bad, but not too memorable either. Tape looks killer though, Caligulan puts a lot of effort into every packaging detail and it makes a world of difference in this underground era of flimsy Photoshop J-cards and thoughtless spraypaint.

16 BITCH PILE-UP “Seeping Reaper” (Hung Like A Horse?!)

These ladies have been burying strangers and magnetic tape deep in their cavernous industrial lair for years now and their cathartic predatory improv mode still freewheels leagues above the limbs of lesser drone broods, so it was great news/fortune to have this hot pink C60 show up one day. HLAH?! has a habit of sitting on material for years before releasing it, which could be construed as frustrating for some but in this case the delay transformed a basic raw noise document into a semi-crucial historical artifact, as both sides here showcase the original and long-dead 16 BPU pentagrammic five-piece line-up in action. What’s strangest is that despite the extra players the sound is almost sparser than the current trio formation, with tape crawl and metallic creaks ringing inside basements of negative space. The A side is swampier, swelling with gross heat and green-eyed drone bog, recorded live in Columbus, OH in ’05, while the B was tracked at the Flywheel in West Mass the same year, though it’s far bleaker and emptier…sampled voices echo against numb banks of hiss and silence. Weird stuff, and comes with a classic killer cover of deranged faces getting knifed repeatedly. More freaky bloodletting from the Bitch Pile.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DEEP JEW “Find a Way” (Callow God)

More classic end-of-the-world thrash filth from this undead cum screw. No matter how many buckets/C15s of this shit you fill up, it’s still potently wretched and hostile and not-for-you. The A side sounds like a homicidal harsh noise teenager, pure devouring screech, no flicker of deliberate motion or thought. This is the first Deep Jew recording I’ve heard that actually doesn’t sound like Deep Jew. Some might appreciate this fact. I like the B better, a miserable head-over-heels fall down concrete stairs into a cellar of dead rats. Drums and broken guitars pushed far past the breaking point. For a second you can catch a snippet of Alex say something about fixing cables but then the riot re-erupts. Good stuff. Endless, meaningless, merciless.

UNEVEN UNIVERSE “Privacy Vol. 1” (no label)

Dan from EXBX Tapes/Haunted Castle semi-recently scored a saxophone and shit’s not ever gonna be the same. While HC lays low for a bit, Uneven Universe floats up from the ratty basement in a cloud of looping sax blurts and claustrophobic horn noise, not unlike fellow Michigander brass-abusers Slither. But Uneven Universe’s creep-scapes are way less free jazzy and way more private tarpit meditations, bleeding into ragged sections and then diffusing back into separate saxo-tone groans. Long, hairy jams that don’t leave the house for weeks at a time and trace smoggy constellations on the asbestos ceiling rot. A new no man’s land for old ragers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

OUT THERE DUDES “Black Spot On Jupiter” (no label)

Another stone thrown into the bottomless depths of a black hole by this fried Ohio twosome. Of the 2 Out There Dudes tapes I’ve had the privilege of investigating, this is the more “ambient” of the pair, almost verging on Son Of Earth-style glacial narcolepsy. Like a tape recorder left ON and then jettisoned into space on an orbit around the dark side of Pluto. Slow-motion isolation, lightless drift, cold as fuck. Bleak planetary free-wheeling for drug addicts and mummified astronauts. Great passages into the sound of passing out to the rhythm of yr own no-gravity heartbeat. Track this down and lie down for good.

CJA / SMOKEHOUSE “Whisky & Freedom” (Abandon Ship)

Another entry in prolific NZ strangeling Clayton Noone’s bottomless lexicon of side projects and sideways psych glances, this time from his CJA alias. Confessional guitar ballads, dead space, and gravedigger rock and roll minimalism collide in a slow-burn fashion that feels deceptively traditional until you allow it to seep in for a spell and work its odd charms on yr bones/brain. Basically he strums a couple chords over and over and louder and louder and weirder until you realize there’s sometimes even lyrics being mumbled in the din and so you look at the song title at it says “Let Her Go” and you go, “Whoa.” Serious shit. But then you look at another song title and it says “Vegemite Eggs on Toast” and you go, “Oh, what a Men At Work down under jokester!” The truth lies somewhere between the two. Pick your own path through this stuff. There’s a picture of a rusted truck on the cover if that helps explain anything.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

KNIFIGHT / BLACK SANTA "untitled" (no label)

Mysterious no-label split tape between two bands I’ve never even heard the names of. The Knifight side halfway reminds me of super early Yellow Swans CDRs, roiling in that purgatorial turf between industrial, noise, and ambient. The main difference is the violent, looping black metal growl-vocals careening back and forth in the speakers, which at first threaten to overshadow everything else but eventually back off until they’re just another instrument, pitching about in the negative energy along with the drum machine pulses and stuttering feedback blasts. Pretty cool overall (except for this one sample of some Hitlerian dictator orating that pops up in the middle), and would definitely appeal to a solid faction of Cassette Gods readers I bet. But it’s the Black Santa side that hits deeper for me for some reason. A real bedroom horror movie of stalker bass riffing, slaughtered shrieks, plodding doom grooves, metal brooding, bad vibes, etc, all executed in a really raw, DIY “heavy” way that’s sort of in the ballpark of Sasqrotch or something. The distortion vocals could be scaled back a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Both dudes/bands should definitely soldier on though, there’s promise here.

SUDDEN INFANT “Dark Sperm” (Teenage Whore Tapes)

Having seen the Sudden Infant name pop up on hundreds of harsh noise tours and proceedings amidst presumably like-minded artists with names like Filthy Turd and Bubblegum Shitface, I was fairly apprehensive about a C30 called "Dark Sperm" with a drawing of an ailing fetus on the cover. But hey, books, covers, the judging thereof…I learned that lesson a long time ago. Which is good, cause this tape is a solid spin. The opener, “Eye Box,” is almost like a punk/no-wave song, with really tight riff-blasts of noise punctuated by high pitch shriek-stabs. Totally focused and un-random and more overtly musical than a lot of noise stuff floating around MySpace. The other 2 A-side pieces move into a more trad “sputtering junk/walls of distortion” noise realm, but they still seem controlled and deliberate in a way I can dig. The B kicks off with “Varicose Vienna,” which lurches with Industrial clang and reverb wreckage in a cool Neubauten mode, before morphing into various other savaged landscapes. Despite the darkness of the sperm at hand, there’s a lot of shades and subtleties Sudden Infant’s world. It’s much appreciated.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

CHANGELING “Primeval Breath” (Twonicorn)

Chief Changer Tatum recorded these two sides right at the dawn of his project, mere months after “Light Cones” and the aborted Spiral Jetty venture. So naturally these outings sound slightly more tentative and abridged than his current forays into bummed bedroom headphone voids. But really that’s just splitting hairs, cause both tracks here carry the same fog-walking power and memory bloodletting of later statements like “The Truth of the Blossom” and “Five Hundred Nights.” The A is pure sleep paralysis echo, sweeping into a slow lonely comedown, while the B piece is even hazier, with less melody and more cloud tapestry latticework. Too bad it took Twonicorn 17 months to release this C20, but at least it’s finally available. An illuminating early stepping stone in the evolving Changeling saga.

OUT THERE DUDES "untitled" (no label)

Dudes from Ohio trek into some gonzo voids on this vague chunk of no-fi wanderlust. Recording has a really distant quality to it, like they set down a mic on the ground 40 yards away and then faced their amps in the other direction and just jammed. Reverbed drones mesh with blind bass chug and mossy machine movements. Lots of OM zones to wobble your head within. Kinda reminds me of Virgin Eye Blood Brothers in their unflinchingly numb (but literal) approach to sleepwalk psych-stumble. Even after 3 listens I’m useless to drop a more accurate description than “out there.” A fresh Midwest mystery. Hit up Tom Derwent if yr intrigued.

Monday, November 5, 2007

WIDENING HORIZON "S/T" (Arbor/ JK Tapes)

Widening Horizon is the brainchild of two Illinoisians Mike P. (of Arbor) and Peter F. (of JK Tapes), and since they both run labels it was bound to be a co-release. Icy torrents of feedback sludge, greasy cymbal clattering and alien voices emananting from subterranean tunnels are held together with an odd lack of progression as if frozen in time for scientific viewing. Even so, the sound seems bursting forth from the cassette, as if a simple plastic shell might not be strong enough to hold back such a chaotic expanse. This thing shrieks, and I hope at least one knowledgable ghoul had it on deck at Halloween this year. The stellar design packs full-color nature collages onto every surface, just to remind the unintuitive where these guys are coming from. The bad news: the edition of 40 has, of course, long sold out. The good news: there are (apparently) more on the way in this promising series. Another solid release from two great midwest labels.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

LOCRIAN / DALETH Split (No Label)

I wasn't sure what to expect of this split but was impressed with the packaging, which included a white letter-pressed wraparound cover and a cool as shit Locrian button. Buttons, if you didn't already know, are a surefire way to get on the good side of tape reviewers. Locrian is a Chi-town duo consisting of (Terence) Hannum and A. Foisy, and their offering "Visible/ Invisible" is a slowly drifting haze powered by e-bowed guitar and shimmering melodica (or harmonica?). The guitar takes precedence over the last half of the track but overall this stays a minimal affair, which works to its benefit. Daleth's "We Will Live Forever" starts out with dueling guitars plucking a somber reverb-drenched melody before drums pick up and plow the whole thing into a riffage fest. It ain't easy to assemble a one-man band on an 8-track and keep everything in sync, but J. Merrill is credited for everything on here and plays the part admirably. I'm no expert on this type of stuff, but if I were to say "Florida-style Hydra Head band sans vocals" you might get an approximation. No contact info on here other than emails, so here ya go:
Locrian- locriannoise@gmail.com
Daleth- asthmatics@hotmail.com