Monday, August 22, 2011

John Zuma St. Pelvyn "Ampex, Stolaroff, Dogwood, Rain" c41 (Lighten Up Sounds)


Incredible debut release from solo guitarist/experimentalist, John Zuma St. Pelvyn (an alias that rolls right off the tongue), that came out a few months back, but is so deserving of more attention. Reportedly recorded while the artist was living in a water tower in Northern California, “Ampex, Stolanoff, Dogwood, Rain” has a highly personal and meditative sound, as though St. Pelvyn was trying to unlock some hidden tone from his minimal set-up of modified acoustic guitar and theremin. His playing over the sidelong “Balboa Spits Towards the Motherload” recalls the ghostly industrial blues that the late John Fahey was exploring at the end of the nineties on his Table of the Elements releases. The Fahey comparison is, of course, one of the more overused references in describing any solo acoustic guitar slinger with experimental leanings, but there are indeed similarities in the overall approach and sound here. While St. Pelvyn’s extended technique draws on similar blues motifs, he also has these interesting quick runs that fill in some of the empty spaces between notes. And on the closing track, “The Wreck of the Pacific Garden Mall”, he shapes squelching theremin sounds around his clanging slow motion acoustic strums, which is the point where you realize that this is an emerging new talent to keep an eye on. The tape comes housed in a fetching oversized package with the curious inclusion of a small baggie of wood shavings. Still available from Lighten Up Sounds.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

BLANCHE BLANCHE BLANCHE - "Songs of..." c32 (Night-People)


Blanche Blanche Blanche are a duo out of Battleboro, VT, and Songs of..is their first official full length for Night-People.With some very pleasant reactions to their recent single on Feeding Tube, along with a handful of fun videos popping up on random blogs, etc, this release is being hyped all over the place as of late.This is no flash in the pan, or accidental hit, though.This thing is really quite fantastic, and worth a hundred listens..I'm probably close, too.It's got a heap of Young Marble Giants' brilliant simplicity, with barely a single beat to be found anywhere on the album, and couple it with 80's new wave and post-punk stylishness.They make these ultra catchy, nearly perfect electro-pop ditties, carefully crafted from minimal synthesizer melodies and bare boned vocal harmonies.Their beauty is so pure and simple, that it almost drives you completely insane.The male/female duo sing pleasantly out of tune, as their voices rise and drop with ease, and it's painfully charming and easy to listen to.Parts of this remind me of Stereolab's more minimal arrangements, with a few nods towards Broadcast, with the prickly synth tones and layered vocal parts.The lyrics are smart and affectionate, with a clever delivery, somewhere between romantic poetry and comedic wit.BBB do tend to go on a bit of a noisy jazzed up tangent a times, letting the keys and analog machines do the talking, but for the most part, Songs of.. remains a refreshing and unpretentious jaunt into minimal pop music.Highly Recommended!
Get one from Night People.

Friday, August 19, 2011

COUGH COOL - "Clausen" C28 (Not Not Fun, 2011)


I was really excited to see that NNF had released something from this great band.They have a handful of releases out there, on various labels like Beko and Bathetic, and all of them are worth checking out.Clausen is their most recent album, and also their most diverse.A nose dive into cavernous pop songs and minimalist gloom.Their sound has always been rather dark and looming, with their hushed, haunting vocals and foggy instrumentation.They often dip into big riffs, with walls of shoegazey guitars and swelling synths, but also make good use of open spaces and barely audible tones.Clausen has it all.Each song is completely different from the last, but they all carry this dense and hazy tone, and it makes this a pretty cohesive listen overall.Here we go.
Acid Classics starts things off with a swaggering drum machine groove, joined by layers of bluesy psych riffs, and a faint, distorted sample loops on in the background.It sounds like two men talking into a fan, in a giant metal room.It's easy on the ears, and a nice introduction to the album.Stolen is next, and this is the Cough Cool that I remember.Layers of gentle guitar melodies sneak into your ears, with a bit of wah sprayed over them, and it reminds me a bit of Real Estate.There's a quiet shaker keeping things at a laid back pace, and the vocals are pleasant and almost whispered.This one has a really loose and easy vibe, and I must have played it three times over.Things start to go dark on track five, Sucker, a slow and heavy tune, that barely changes key at all.The whole song is led by a single blown out chord and a syrupy, thudding beat, and the atmospheric harmonies just kind of build up around the two.This one reminded me of Earth's tamer moments.The vocals are again, just a notch above a whisper, but with a much dark and more serious delivery.It's quite hypnotizing, and probably the most addictive track on the album.
Clausen comes to a end with a hissy, daydreamer disco tune called And Nothing Happened.It's almost too perfect of an ending, with the ultra slow bump of the kick and snare, and the ethereal synth delays that sound like they will disappear at any second, but somehow find their way back before completely withering away.It's kind of like blowing bubbles, and just before they burst, you blow a few more to keep things moving.His voice is soothing and gray, and this could be a real bummer, if it weren't so pleasant.HIGHLY Recommended.Get a copy here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dick Lickerer "Title????" (Friends & Relatives)



This release is part of a great new batch from the ever reliable Friends & Relatives Records run by Justin Clifford Rhody, currently of Ypsilati, MI. I just had the pleasure of meeting Justin for the first time and he was a wonderful host and a great guy all around. His label has never been one to latch onto any trend or have any pretensions of "hipness" and has released some of the best truly underground music of recent memory. "Dick Lickerer" is a trio collaboration between Rhody, Logan Durgen (formerly of the band Sports) and Mark Williams (formerly of DigShovelDig). These sessions were recorded whilst hovering over a mic late into the night. The whole thing was done without trying to wake up the roommates who were sleeping in quarters nearby. I'm not sure if these boys were successful in that regard because it sounds like they were making quite a ruckus, but the tape certainly is successful from a musical standpoint. The closeness of the sound really helps bring you into Dick Lickerer's world. There are a few noisy four-track jams that sound like guitars of basses being struck by metal objects, but most of the tape is made up of the sound of moving various objects together or across the floor within the close proximity of a microphone. The assorted instrumentation includes packing tape, dust brooms, plastic bags, paper and silverware. Sort of like a more snotty modern day Group Ongaku/Taj Mahal Travellers. I would describe the approach of these folks as "anti-technology". I think it's great that more and more artists are mining this rich vein of music and that there are people out there all over the county who are willing to put it onto a cassette or record. Hopefully you'll be willing to listen. Contact friendsandrelativesrecords@yahoo.com for a copy of this and other fine releases.

The group was only around for a brief period in Asheville, NC about five years ago. Here is their inactive myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/dicklickerermusic

GREAT SLAVE LAKE - "Untitled" C30 (Teen Action)


GSL makes their Teen Action debut, with this dazzling cassette.One looonnng movement fills each side, and they are both pretty compelling listens.Al does the notorious Scotch Tapes label, and Derek has been involved with various drone projects over the years.With their Great Slave Lake project, the two lay down some seriously slow roasted loops, layering an endless collection of found sounds, deep synths, and minimal percussion, creating warm and textured landscapes."These Storms Could Have Been Avoided" begins with a subtle metal clank and a bit of tape hiss, and sounds something like a high school shop class played through a busted tape recorder.As things patiently build, random noises, possibly nature sounds and other field recordings make their way into the pot, and things really start to take shape.A giant synth chord starts to emerge, and you get the feeling that something is sneaking up on you.Without completely drowning out the percussive clicks and machine sounds, it grows slowly and becomes more present, filling in the open spaces.By the end of Side A, the synths are sounding HUGE, with the countless layers of random sounds ticking away like clockwork, and this one big chord pushing through them all.Pieces of it reminded me of Pine Smoke Lodge, but only for a minute or two.
Side B offers a similar dirge, but this one has more of a damp, murky vibe, sounding something like OPN and Belong jamming in an underwater cave.There's a howling wind blowing constantly in the distance, along with what sounds like tiny drops of water trickling down onto acoustic guitar strings, in no particular key.There's a bit of whispered conversation that lingers for a minute, and then the atmospheric synths start whirling around it all for a big finish.GSL seem to have this shit down, and as "right now" as this kind of stuff sounds, they are doing it better than most.Highly Recommended for fans of drone and sound scape type of bliss.Edition of 50 from Teen Action.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

COLOUR BUK "Our Favorite Fucking Day of the Goddam Year" c30 (Weird Forest)


Weird Forest, after delivering top-notch vinyl issues for years, has been making a splash in the world of cassettes recently. This tape is one of three excellent tapes released early Summer (the others were by Kevin Corcoran and The Preterite). While those two explored a certain sound over the length of the album, Colour Buk is all over the the place. With tracks ranging from 10 minutes to less than a minute, the crew covers strange junk-skronk, messy tape collage, gnarled electronics creepage and a couple lethargic and/or catchy songs. They wear a few different hats over the course of the tape but they all look pretty flattering.
"I Got Thought" is a sprawled little number consisting of various layers of shimmering organ, guitar loops and drum machine. A sleepy voice sing-speaks over the collage. The stand out though is "Magic Keys to Conv." which could seriously pass for a lost Ben Wallers track. A few intertwined melodies pump forth pushed by a couple rhythmic sources. There's plenty of tape collage gibberish smeared all over and the vocal delivery is spot on. Really awesome track, I hope they got some more in them.
The markered insert doesn't provide much info as far as personnel goes (just that the tape is presented "in true Hi-Fi.") This seems like it could be one weirdo or a few. It would be cool if this was a full-fledged "band" as the world could use more weird, totally-out rock bands.
Definitely a promising tape, I'm gonna have to investigate Colour Buk a bit more and see if I can uncover any more gems.

TONGUE AND TEETH "What Have We Done To Your Quiet?" c30 (Skrot Up)


I've really been digging on SUT's last few releases, and this one only continues my obsession with this fantastic label.Tongue and Teeth are a young band from Copenhagen, and they make quite an eclectic brand of noise.This thing is pounding, confrontational and overtly brash from the very first note.It's vaguely familiar, and yet totally fresh, with more than a few nods to Penis Envy era Crass, and your favorite Riot Grrrl bands, only a bit weirder, as it teeters on post-punk's deep grooves and no wave's clever absurdity.The powerful female vocal attack is equal parts pissed and woozy, as the words just seem to spill out of her mouth quite effortlessly, creating heaps of unexpected, and possibly accidental vocal hooks.The rhythm section is loose and jagged, sounding like they could fall apart at any second, but never quite get there.Funky, crawling bass lines slither throughout tight and rigid guitar scratching, and the dizzying drum patterns are hanging on by a thread.It all seems to work out very well for them.T&T's timing falls somewhere between flawless execution and pure luck, sounding air tight and improvised all at once, and it makes for a very interesting contrast.Their stumbling, yet witty sound isn't so different from The Fall, or more recent post-punks Divorce, but it's hard to pin them to any one genre.They are doing wondrous things to your quiet, and I will definitely be keeping my eye on this band.Edition on 100.Get one from Skrot Up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MUTWAWA - "Mayan Mutations" cs23 (AEN/CNP Records)


Gary Stevens and Jason Hodges are Mutwawa.They both abuse those amazing ribbon synths, samplers, and a slew of other machines and deep noisemakers.Mayan Mutations is their most recent kick to the face, and it's been on constant repeat here lately.It reminds me of a more dance floor friendly Merzbow, with it's HEAVY synth jabs and pummeling low end gurgling.Harsh 808 beats are blasted out at full volume, bringing with them an arsenal of spiraling synths and buzzing modulations.This stuff is no joke.They've got their analog toys so beefed up and their presence is crazy and unavoidable.Pure dance party trash, coupled with Industrial's forgotten sleaze and muscle.This stuff seems to play extremely loud, not matter what volume level you have it on.Some of the songs sound like they were pulled straight out of the seedy electroclash scene, the one that flooded NY's underbelly almost 10 years ago, and then given a much needed adrenaline shot and waaayyy bigger amps.Mutwawa wants to play techno, but it's not in their nature.Their music is listenable and familiar, but unkind.If you like your club jams dripping with glowing green blood, and your power electronics to bump, then this is what you have been waiting for.Killer black light poster artwork to boot.YES.Get it here.

CRAZY & THE BRAINS - "Don't Need No Snacks" 6 song cs (Baldy Longhair)


Baldy Longhair is a fairly young cassette label out of Rahway, NJ, and if this surprisingly fun release(their third)is anything to go by, it looks to be a very promising punk imprint.It comes from four talented weirdos called Crazy & The Brains.This thing is packed full of insanely catchy pop and punk jams, all very well crafted and tasteful.It's all here, tight and jangly guitars, swaying bass lines, popping drums, and countless vocal hooks.Not to mention the fair amount of xylophone harmonies sprinkled atop, for good measure.The description from the label says "for fans of: The Black Lips, Moldy Peaches, Vaselines, and Dead Milkmen", and that statement pretty much describes this tape perfectly.There's an especially noticeable Dead Milkmen vibe, with all the messy acoustics and light-but-speedy delivery.All the elements of a good pop punk album are here, and then some.The vocals are goofy, yet crisp and confident, half shouted/half sung, hanging somewhere between the teenage angst of David Byrne and maybe Adam Green, but with much runnier noses.The lyrics are playful and fun, with song titles like "Lindsay Lohan" and "Snacks", but the overflow of solid songwriting makes it a less comical listen, or listens.I'm not sure who is Crazy, but he and his Brains have restored my faith in weirdo punk, and I hope we get to here more SOON.Includes digital download link.Four different covers and tape colors, one with each member of the band on them.They fun.Get them HERE.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SAND CIRCLES - "Midnight Crimes" c18 (Not Not Fun)


Another shiny diamond from the amazing Not Not Fun label.Instant gratification from a talented young Swede by the name of Martin Herterich .Midnight Crimes is his newest venture into minimal synth strays, Casio bleeps, microscopic drum machines, and fuzzed out tape loops.Late night bedroom party jams in miniature.The songs are completely free of vocals, but chock-full of content and personality.Flirtatious psych pop masked as elevator tunes, made from fragments of dubby smoke-outs and unpopular micro-house cuts.Layers of deep synthesizer chords nuzzle up against each other, creating lots of open space the for sharp, glittery keys and bright scales to flourish.Things really open up on "Subaquatic Highway", a semi-robotic bounce that comes off like some kind of scrapped NEU!/Tangerine Dream collaboration. Slightly doused with ping-pong delay, the 808 stomp never lets up on this one, carrying some rather stiff keyboard hooks and scattered blips under it's arm.This one is just screaming for a remix or three.Moments of Midnight Crimes carry a hollow, and deeply ethereal vibe, similar to a more club friendly OPN, or a beat driven Emeralds.You might pick up on a touch of Hype Williams' more recent joints, too.All positive.A pleasant surprise at every turn, and I look forward to hearing lots more from them.Get a copy here.