Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TERENCE HANNUM "Obelisk" (Self released)

CG readers might be familiar with Terence Hannum through the Chicago groups Locrian (who have a forthcoming 7" on Mark Solotroff's Bloodlust! label) and Unlucky Atlas. A Locrian tape previously reviewed in these pages was a hazy, overall guitar heavy dronescape which borrowed from contemporary Japanese psych such as LSD March or Suishou no Fune. Hannum's solo entry carries the same feeling, but here it's melodica and harmonica that carry the melody, buoyant on waves of bass and vocal drone. There's something about a melancholy melodica sound processed through delay and echo that's too classic to ever be wrong. (Admittedly, that's coming from an Augustus Pablo fan.) "Obelisk" isn't nearly a dub track, although its wide influences could also include ambient, psych and noise. Shimmering and lulling at first and darkly caustic towards the end, "Obelisk" consistently focuses on a subtle, drawn out interplay between harmony and atonality.
The single eleven minute title track carries across both sides. It's a bit of a downer to hear the gradual buildup cut off at the halfway mark, but the material is enticing enough to flip repeatedly. As with the self-released Locrian tape, this is wrapped in a letterpressed slip of thick black cardstock. From a glance at Hannum's Myspace page it looks like there are still copies available, so connoisseurs of today's underground Chicago sounds take note. RECOMMENDED!

http://www.myspace.com/terencehannum
Or: P.O. Box 220651 / Chicago, IL 60622

Monday, January 21, 2008

EMESIS / SCISSOR Split (Trapdoor Tapes)

Trapdoor Tapes have been emitting various strands of hiss cultures from their Sunshine Coast, Queensland domicile since 2005, from what I could gather. A batch of five tapes arrived a while ago, so more information as it develops. The Emesis side is dubbed quietly but hits the spot with some hellish manipulated tape, delay and feedback maneuvers, possibly captured in a live setting. It's static, despondent and hallucinatory stuff with a machinated, almost industrial tone. The Scissor side is dubbed about ten times louder. Whirring drills grind away at harsh noise territories, bludgeoning the signal into obscured crackling at some points and chugging into phaser-heavy repetition at others. There are some interesting textures created with polyphonic signals, but the gadgetry feels overloaded. Eventually the signal totally dissolves into shards and pops, and the side is over. The casing for this split is probably the most grotesque of the whole batch, with a paint job straight out of finger painting hour and a sticker of Paris Hilton in all her irony, staring you down. I wasn't able to find info online about either of these groups, but check the Trapdoor Tapes pages below:

www.myspace.com/trapdoortapes
www.trapdoortapes.tk/

Saturday, January 19, 2008

C-SECTION 8 "Mounds" (Trd W/D)

Not quite in the vain of noise that references pop culture, C-Section 8 is more a legit DJ act that would appeal more to the psychedelically aligned than any pants sagger. Coming from the same New Orleans camp that Load's Impractical Cockpit shoots insanity from, this dude thrives when adding his own drum machines to carelessly looped and abusively effected samples of oldies, pop, and rock n' roll. The result is a combination of lofi textures, sly progressions from one compelling yet sideways rhythm to another, and a dominance of beats and catchy melodies. For those aware of the Fat Worm of Error/Bromp Treb dichotomy, this plays out in a similarly as Impractical Cockpit/C-Section 8. Ultimately, great pop music for the trippy minded.

MOSSY THROATS / SCISSOR SHOCK Split (JK Tapes)

The combination of artists on this tape could be as unusual as it gets for your average split release. On one end there's Mossy Throats, Daniel Dlugosielski's solo project. Dlugosielski is probably better known for his Exitebike Tapes label as well as being half of Detroit's Haunted Castle. The untitled track on this JK Tapes offering kicks off with low, pulsating oscillations punctuated by high end squelches. The first section maintains a dismal, oppressive feel fed by grating low frequencies, tape manipulation, feedback and heavy delay, heightened by occasional bursts resembling animal distress calls. The second segment, though only lasting a few minutes, is more subdued and composed with periods of silence to allow sounds to appear and dissipate.
On the flip, Columbus, Indiana based Scissor Shock (Adam Cooley et al) lay down a cutting room floor's worth of styles. Ranging from yelping thrash to blast beat mayhem to nonsensical sound collage to spacey acoustic interludes, it's hard to discern what the band was aiming for. In any case Scissor Shock plays the most original- possibly the first- combination of trombone, drum machine, acoustic guitar, 303 acid loops and chimes heard yet, anywhere. The end result is such an affectionate homage to music that one can't help but admit that Scissor Shock succeeds by being wholly themselves. Perhaps if Half Japanese was reincarnated as Sissy Spacek this band *might* have some competition, although fans of Realicide might get down with it. Includes full-color insert with restrained but surreal photos (and no spraypaint this time, unfortunately).

www.jktapes.com/

various artists "NEON COMMUNE" (Not Not Fun)

Available only at Not Not Fun's Neon Commune Fest at the Echo Curio in LA, this set of four c-20s and three 3" cdrs (gasp, mentioned in Cassette Gods!) are the essence of the rare gem release. So, while ebay and human greed will eventual turn these into something else, for this very moment (because as I write, the fest still continues) they are a true treasure from the vaults of passion. Each of the items shows Not Not Fun at their most daring in the sculptural packaging realm that has been such a pivotal characteristic for them. The most successful of these risky bets is the Uneven Universe cassette that presents the tape in a mock impulse-buying bag, the same style that peanuts near the cash register of a gas station are packaged in. Two little plastic doggies, both on a lease tied to the cassette, and more than just "thrown in," but presented with a perfect balance that flatters the feng shui gods. On the other hand, when one takes a lot of risks, one must also expect to fall short. Hence the Metal Rougue 3" that is sort of just slapped onto a piece of wood. An artisticly loved piece of wood, but still raising that WTF factor with its loose ends. As a set though, everything is elevated and having a range of successes and failures just adds to both the immediate charm and to the fact that these are basically party favors for a fest not just of NNF bands, but commemorating a landmark in the NNF time line. Since these party favors can only be purchased while standing in room full of every release that the crafty duo has put out, the love that Britt and Manda put into everything they do is personally injected into these items in a way that transcends the normal music collecting experience. Enabling Britt and Manda to create this experience is the cassettes (and yes, cdrs) themselves. While the immediacy and tenderness of home-dubbing is always a part of any cassette release, in the Neon Commune setting it is put on a pedestal. Or is it NNF on a pedestal made of home-dubbing tenderness? In any case, it wouldn't have worked with a pro-pressed format. Also, don't worry yourself so much about if you can get these tapes for yourself, because honestly, they are worthless if you buy them on ebay. The lesson to learn is that there is a power and love to be harnessed in cassettes that Not Not Fun has shown only gets stronger, more meaningful, and groundbreaking the longer you nurture it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

VESTIGIAL LIMB "Headless Supplicant" (Husk Records)

It's like "My First Harsh Noise Tape" spelled all wrong in cute backward letters. This may sound totally arrogant and condescending, but this guy's real young right? Or he just started making noise? 'Cause it sounds like it-- but that's not a bad thing. Everybody started out sounding just like this. I'm serious. But there's promise here, no question. About twenty five percent of the choices Vestigial Limb makes on this tape kick ass. Another half are fine, totally acceptable. And the last twenty five percent are things an artist learns to avoid as he matures and masters his instrument. If I'm wrong and this guy's been at it for years, then I guess I'm an asshole. (I'm probably an asshole either way...) But youthful enthusiasm comes through in these recordings, even if technical virtuosity does not. And that's the stuff you can't learn, right? Everything else just takes practice, but without the passion, your music will end up sounding as soulless as Yngwie Malmsteen's. Total support.

SWAMP HORSE [S/T] (Husk Records)

Reverb mix = 100% wet. Gloomy and awesome. Swamp Horse is, apparently, Josh Lay and Morgan Rankin. But seriously, who cares what sounds are going into this cavernous processing chain? You could play a Steve Miller Band CD through this much reverb and it would probably sound cool. Well, perhaps not. But this is some serious dank cave shit. Real dank. And it's good. There's a lot of this kind of stuff popping up nowadays-- the kind of stuff that sounds like the soundtrack to an unrealized horror film script. A bunch of people are playing with that theme lately, and I'm usually very suspicious of it. The doom fetish really does nothing for me, but this Swamp Horse tape works, despite its participation in the sub-genre. It does so through simplicity. The pieces never leave their homogenous soundworld, nor do they attempt to manufacture any narrative. There's no payoff to the suspense they build, Swamp Horse just leaves you hanging. (And I like weird tape lengths-- a c21? Weird.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

LAISSEZ FAIRE "Asylum" (Abandon Ship Records)

Peter Friel's most recent offering on the Abandon Ship label makes up his sole output of last year, which is interesting considering the steady torrent of releases from his own JK Tapes imprint. Then again, the amount of time the man must spend painting his product (he's one of the most committed devotees of spraypaint as a commercial medium, in my opinion) has to account for many a missed recording opportunity. "Asylum" is full of the same psychedelic and chilly gutter resonance that would entice any ears particular to Mike Pollard's Arbor label. Appropriately too, since Friel and Pollard have previously collaborated in Widening Horizon (an earlier review of which can be found here). As with Pollard's recent Treetops cassette "When I Was Younger," "Asylum" deals with oncoming winter with a meditative but somehow ominous outlook. The first of four tracks, "Afgan" drops with an icy thud into percolating ambient loops and blurry melodic distortion which is most likely from a guitar or synthesizer but mashed beyond faintest recognition. Most of the album sticks to the same formula, but during the most frantic moments of "Platypus" and "Pomegranate" the churning scrapes and drones take on a unique animal-like tone. The dynamics range from lulling bass swells to harsh grainy obliteration, and although the sound is heavily layered it retains a live feel. One could gripe about the single sided c40 format, but it's a minor (and arguable) objection to an otherwise solid album. Nice iceberg motif on the full-color insert as well.

Abandon Ship: http://www.abandonshiprecords.com/

Sunday, January 6, 2008

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

(Disclaimer: Being an idiot, I wrote the review below totally oblivious to the fact that it had already been written about. Sorry Brian! Well, it's Mr. Schütte's lucky day, apparently.)

Ulf Schütte is a German artist who runs the Tape Tektoniks label and has recorded numerous albums as Shivers (solo) and Aosuke (duo with Tobert Knopp). This Diamond Lemonade thing is pretty confounding; it reminded me of the scene in "Akira" when the stuffed animals came to life in gigantic proportion and destroyed Tetsuo's hospital room. "Transmissions From the Past" consists of two tracks which repeat on the opposite side. The first is a disorienting loop collage of backwards bells, swirls of toy sounds and minimal synth refrains. Track two is an acid-soaked nightmare of whirling bleeps and what might as well be the Teletubbies theme played with microphone feedback. Each composition lasts only a few minutes, which works to its advantage. Both take full use of stereo effects, so headphone listening is essential. Imagine Hans Grusel's jarring early work and you're not far off. The packaging is classic JK Tapes style with some of the best artwork seen yet, depicting a totem pole figure in a Gary Panter-meets-Mat Brinkman mythological dream field and washed over with watercolor. The cassette itself is a sweet sea foam green and goops of grey paint line the inside of the case. Lovely.

http://www.tapetektoniks.de
http://www.jktapes.com/

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

CENTURY PLANTS "Without Mercury" (Abandon Ship Records)

Century Plants is a duo of Eric Hardiman and Ray Hare who hail from Albany, NY. Judging solely from pictures on their Myspace page, this looks to be a predominantly guitar-based project. There's kind of an underwater psychedelic ambience permeating the twenty minute long "Floating Elemental," which starts off minimal with chopped and screwed cat mews before shifting to more discernable repeating guitar lines and controlled feedback loops. It might linger too long for some ears, but if you're in the right mood it's a nice meditative backdrop. "Photosynthesis" is heavier, and there's a nice texture created with the juxtaposition of bass-heavy drone and blurred vocal recordings. It can be difficult for a group like Century Plants to find a unique sound in a scene saturated with guitar-heavy psych, but "Without Mercury" isn't lacking redeeming moments, such as an unexpectedly ecstatic harmony appearing in the tail end froth of "Photosynthesis." Plus there's an opaque yellow tape involved that screams "educational." How can that possibly be a bad thing?

Abandon Ship Records: http://www.abandonshiprecords.com/