Sunday, December 30, 2007

DIAMOND LEMONADE "Transmissions From The Past" (JK Tapes)

Without hearing the actual sounds on this c-20, the 70's Sci-Fi styled title may seem a little gauche. Fortunately, Diamond Lemonade are running the entire race with this music-from-the-future cliché and end up with completely enjoyable results. Too many noise tapes seem desperate in their attempts at having a theme solely through their use of a "meaningful" name. But Transmissions From The Past is an apt title for Diamond Lemonade's sounds that invoke the early-electronic/synth aesthetic that is associated with not the actual future, but the future as a dandified, fashionable utopia. That of course makes these sounds inescapably retro, but by being presented here in rough gem form of spray painted cassette, one has to wonder if this is the 70's sci-fi fantasy come to actualization. More likely made with a computer or some other DIY thrift store gear than an actual fancy modular synth, this is noodley oscillations and bell-manipulations being made from the layman's world rather than about it. Long before the Wright Brothers people dreamed of flying machines. Dreams that became real, but looked much different than the airliners of today. Well, the once dream of music's sci-fi future may have become real on this cassette. It may not be as fashionable as a Buchla dream, but we all love watching the National Geographic channel. Don't we?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

BLANK REALM “Blight Monument” (Barnacle Rodeo)

This Brisbane posse have been disseminating their strange strand of damaged jam/psych DNA for comin’ on a couple years now, but they’re still pretty sub-radar for most folks. This oughta change. “Blight Monument” is a new-ish missive, and it’s a monster. Sprawling, shifting explorations into indefinable architectures. Would be easy to lump ‘em into Donnelly’s down-under MYMWLY beard brood, but BR fashion a far more focused take on unclassifiable psych, it makes them very difficult to describe. The A side pieces together several long-form song fragments carved with ebowed guitar, cavernous voice, and fried percussion, and lets them overlap and sink into one another, creating endless spools of swirling ritual. The B is darker but also possibly deeper, weighted down by stasis-heavy drones and even slower arcs of instrumental mood-reading. A really amazing tape, and highly worthy of a wider audience than this edition-of-50 will likely reach.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

MENEGUAR “Tone Banks 1: Some Downs” (Fuck It Tapes)

Most message-boarders know Meneguar for their tireless touring and tightly honed indie anthems on TMU. But until now there was little to zero publicly available recorded expression of their looser moods. Which is where “Tone Banks” comes in. “Some Downs” is the first volume in what’s supposed to be an ongoing documentation of Meneguar’s practice space explorations and pre-song musical map-making. And it’s pretty fucking good. The A side starts off like a “Strangers In Our House” hit before unraveling into a propulsive instrumental engine room of cyclical guitars and driving drums. The second song, “Fields of Gaffney,” is a sparkling wasteland of chimes and psychic strings that could easily pass for a sweet Shepherds outtake. The whole B side of “Some Downs” is composed of an epicly bizarre jazzy reverb chamber come-down called “House That Home/Over and Over” that sounds nothing like Meneguar or anything else on FIT/Woodsist, and is all the better for it. Comes in a J-card with a typically sick Jeremy Earl collage cover. Probably sold out already, but maybe not.

HAMMER OF HATHOR “Field Recordings” (no label)

Off-the-cuff Portland pair who’s basic approach is to go somewhere specific (a creek in Idaho, a porch in Montana), press record on a Walkman, fiddle around with whatever instruments they’re holding, and then call it a day. The results are as casual as the methods. A couple jams clatter freely, some snare and horn hop-scotching in a field, while a few wander and ponder more folky-style, and a handful just scratch their nose and stare. The variety’s nice, but nothing sounds premeditated, and the laxity of execution keeps things pretty sleepy/sloppy. Also, for what it’s worth, the field recording aspect is pretty negligent. You can’t really discern that these pieces occur amongst scenic prairie winds, or wild bird calls, or running water – it’s just varying levels of tape hiss. Serves as a decent enough diary for the couple involved, but hopefully future statements step up the editing element.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

RUSSIAN TSARLAG "untitled" (Eager Mother Tapes)

Holy shit, this is the motherload. Of the half-a-dozen or so solo Carlos Gonzalez tapes we own, the A side of this C20 is easily the greatest and best recorded collection of his psycho soul songs I’ve ever heard. From the hypno-pop of “Keeper’s Back Glove” through to the languid madness of “Uncovering Many Diseases,” these are crucial Tsarlag gems from the inmost vaults of Carlos’ warped song reservoir. Strangled, ailing guitar notes, robotussin drumming, fucked child rhymes – the combination all hits home like never before. Warrants endless listens. The B side was actually recorded by me, though I had no idea this was even being released. Documenting one of the bleakest, emptiest Smell shows I’ve ever attended, Carlos painted a slime cross on his forehead, wore a cape but no shirt, and set up a cheap strobe light under his chair for the duration of his 8-minute performance. He busted out some classics (“Bleach Party,” “Beach Banquet”) but it was all recorded on a found tape of home-recorded family conversations so there’s this constant vocal babble masking the nuances and deadening the overall audio impact. Too bad. J-card is killer though, tons of Carlos’ beautiful scrawl-figures copied on thick tennis ball-colored neon green cardstock.

DRUIDS OF HUGE “Ergotism/Pure Hype” (Arbor)

Chi-town area crush trio drop two live sides on this cassingle-packaged tape with a wraparound photocopy of a generic landscape. Sounds like bass, drums, and electronics, but the proceedings are pretty fucking raw, so who knows. The drums definitely sit on top of the rest of the murk, kinda wish they were recorded heavier-sounding rather than so sharp (the snare especially), but maybe in the live setting things gel in the ear better. The noise element seems best when it soaks into the strings’ distortion rather than warping around in outer space sound FX mode or sampling radio voices (which it does occasionally). The B side gets a little speedy for my liking but then it winds down with some nice throbbing nothingness. Though this tape doesn’t really convince me, I still somehow feel like this band probably rules so hopefully a future tape/release (with a more visceral, balanced instrument mix) will drop soonish and seal the deal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

TREETOPS "When I Was Younger" (Arbor)

For a double C10 release on his own label, Mike Pollard's alter ego works with a grey palette of dry groans, shuddering low-stringed resonance and melancholy Casio brooding to create some of the eeriest grainy soundscapes heard in recent memory. Inspired by a lingering fall, the four sides of "When I Was Younger" are reminiscent of those November days that seem more dismal than the oncoming winter. They also share a distant feel; the second side of tape one, "Pure Grey" resembles a chanting chorus of Buddhist monks as heard echoing down a long stone corridor. During "Youth" and "Reconsider," one can imagine listening to an obscure Lynchian soundtrack off an old television set, struck by an uneasy combination of beauty and foreboding. The chilling effect is downright psychosomatic, although having no heat in mid December can help (or more appropriately, hurt). Pollard's artwork is thoughtfully considered, concentrating on nature imagery in a vein similar to Prurient releases from the past. The cover photograph bears an odd symbolism; trees in the background which haven't shed their leaves, a row of circles resembling metal plates suspended in air, a line of triangles which are either prayer flags or a long forgotten decoration from summer days. Snap this up by all means, but watch for the steam on your breath.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TAIGA REMAINS “Glass Estuary” (Monorail Trespassing)

More stunning, stellar drone-weaving by Students of Decay CEO Alex Cobb. His two sides here are a bit more contained and to-the-point than usual (it’s a C20), but the brevity doesn’t detract from their flying, floating attack on the mind. The A side is a classic Taiga tidepool of tonal levitation and shimmering surfaces, but the B braves harsher terrain, welding together I-beams of radiant distortion at a construction site on the surface of the sun. The volume grows aggressively (which makes you appreciate what a killer dubbing job was done on these tapes, deafening and clear, with no hiss) before finally tailing off in a slow-motion fade to black. As satisfying a drone C20 as you’re likely to find anywhere.

HAUNTED CASTLE / THE DEAD WHITE (Cherried-Out Merch)

I think this tape is pretty old at this point but Dan finally sent us a copy so I’ve only now heard it. Two bands I love, obnoxiously multicolored collage-barf artwork, 31 minutes of droney voids – what’s not to love? The Castle side is a particularly fantastic voyage of percussive mud, event horizon overdrive, and indecipherable echo-filth hieroglyphics, all racing by the window in a holographic parade. Surprisingly well recorded for such a pair of basement lurkers, and full of enough sick twists and turns and tourniquets to keep you re-jamming this side for a number of nights. A real highlight. The Dead White’s side is way more “Noise” than the past few things I’ve heard by him, which is good or bad depending on yr proclivities. Lots of screeching mixer ear-bleed, sine-wave loops, machine rumblings and roars. Sounds like a guy grappling to dig into a deep zone but not breaking through…far removed from the sacred guitar transportation of his “Holy Deprivation” CDR. Hope he keeps recording though, always enjoy hearing new Dead White stabs in the dark.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

DAVID NEWLYN "A Nervous State of Mind" (Abandon Ship Records)

Not knowing much about the relatively new Abandon Ship label, I was thrown off guard by this one by David Newlyn, an artist from Durham, England. "A Nervous State of Mind" is a somewhat misleading title for this collection of decidedly easygoing ambient compositions. Ambient, as in the tradition of Brian Eno's multilayered soundscapes, rather than today's effects laden drones, although the glitches and pops of 1990s-era IDM are present as well. Of the variety of instruments employed throughout the album's nine tracks, guitar, synthesizers and miscellaneous software provide the main structure. However, the compositions flow so seamlessly and share so many similarities that it's difficult to distinguish where one ends and the next begins. Occasionally there are sharper high-pitched tones which cut briefly into the lulling keyboard patterns, less commonly an atonal guitar chord, but this material is focused on traditional harmony and seldom leaves that path. Fans of darker territories might overdose on Newlyn's blatantly optimistic sound, but amateurism isn't one of his faults, as the intricate constructions and flow of every track easily prove. Altogether an interesting release from a promising young label, this c32 comes with a full-color insert. Numbered edition of 100.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

ORPHAN FAIRYTALE “Big Bear” (Puik)

Another neon-silkscreened 1-sided recycled CS of plinky-plonky Casio ping-ponging from the lovely Ms. Fairytale on Jelle Crama’s label. “Big Bear” has been out for a while but it’s as relevant as ever because no Orphan stuff sounds dated cause it’s all spooned from the same bottomless bowl of fantasy porridge. This OF outing is as SK-heavy as ever, but instead of keys the primary audio source is muted drum sounds, which her sampling style transforms into near tribal-levels of polyrhythmic pitter-patter, like a million tennis courts of bouncing balls. Near the end of the A side she does a weird sound FX piece that sounds like someone playing a harp inside a helium balloon floating above a rush-hour freeway. Kinda reminds me of recent weird LPs on Ultra Eczema. Which of course is a good thing.

RATTLE “Drip Drip” (Eager Mother Tapes)

Spend ten minutes with Carlos Gonzalez and it’s no surprise that the dude’s an immediate archetypal perma-tour vagabond cultural underground hero, but it is a little stunning to imagine anyone attempting to mimic his invincibly inscrutable Russian Tsarlag musical persona/approach. Which is why Ryan from Dreamhouse’s Rattle project is kinda surprising, cause it’s pure Gonzalez in form, instrumentation, and mood (though maybe slightly more hyper). Nonsense lyrics rambled over minimalist anti-music – kindergarten drums, 2-dollar guitar, random tape-manipulation jokes/concepts. R Tsarlag regularly elicits a “what’s wrong with this guy?” audience reaction, and Ryan clearly wants the same thing. And he gets it. Pretty positive the A side was recorded at Echo
Curio last December and it sounds just as purposefully meaningless on tape as it did live. J-card looks good though, scrawled art on purple cardstock.

POD BLOTZ "Agents of Froth" (Hung Like a Horse?!)

To set an obvious bias out of the way, I could listen to Pod Blotz for years. If they never release anything else, Soozee and Loachfillet's slimy trails of sci-fi shenanigans will long be remembered as musically and visually unique, and an essential component of California's modern bizarro contingent. So when the new batch from HLAH?! arrived on my dilapidated doorstep I freaked out. Fans of the Blotz will be happy to know that this pre-"Swamp Command" stunner includes nearly an hour of live material from their Chicago and Oakland tenures spanning 2003-2005. At some points spacious and drifting, others anxiously claustrophobic, washes of gurgling synths and mangled cries wrestle with dirty bass frequencies and creeping static throughout the three sprawling performances. The band's hallmark use of echo manipulation for high-pitched squalor is as hallucinatory as ever, and effects box fanatics will find no shortage of indescribable wierdness to baffle over. While a Blotz record makes a perfect accompaniment for an evening of Something Wierd videos, I cannot stress how astounding this band is live, as these sets attest to. Consider it imperative to catch them now while they're ON TOUR. Originally issued in 2006, this second edition of 50 is probably going to disappear quickly, so head on over to the HLAH HQ and snap it up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

PRURIENT & KEVIN DRUMM "All Are Guests In The House Of The Lord" (Hospital Productions)

Kevin Drumm has been laying low for, like, five years now. Compared to other artists of his age, talent and near-mythic stature, his music is vastly under-documented. In fact, the only truly satisfying, large-scale work he has released since 2002's Sheer Hellish Miasma was 2007's remastered rerelease of Sheer Hellish Miasma. Hopefully, his forthcoming cassette, Purge, on iDEAL can satiate the masses, because All Are Guests In The House Of The Lord does not. In 2007, Drumm release two high-profile collaboration albums with other A-List noise dudes-- this one with Prurient, and the disappointing Gauntlet with Daniel Menche. Both suffer from the same problem: the dominating aesthetic is that of his collaborators and not his own. There is almost nothing recognizable of Drumm on this tape. Presumably, he provided Prurient's Dominic Fernow with the creepy droney pads which sit under Fernow's embarrassingly histrionic vocals. But did he really need to? This sounds just like a Prurient tape-- a little doomier than some of his other stuff, but if I hadn't seen the cover to this tape before I listened to it, I'd have thought it was Fernow solo, no question. I don't mind artists I love playing second fiddle to artists I only kinda like, but if Drumm's going to keep doing collaboration tapes as favors to his friends, where all of his own input sounds completely usurped into the other's style, he needs to at least give his fans a new (solo!) masterpiece every once in a while.